Saturday 31 October 2015

Still blooming through Halloween ...

We've come to stay with my parents in South Tyrone. My mum's a Halloween baby, and we're helping her celebrate with a birthday weekend to wrap up Emi's half term holidays. One of the many amazing things to impress us over here in Ireland is how her garden is blooming late into the autumn.

I am deeply envious. I garden on not-very-wonderful London clay, where I have to work really, really hard to get the good things to flourish. The weeds seem to do just fine for some unfathomable reason, but I struggle to produce all the wonderful colours that seem to appear almost effortlessly over here.

Thursday 29 October 2015

The Gothic Temple at Stowe ...

As it's almost Halloween, and, as I'm getting into a really spooktastic vibe, I thought I'd share some photos of one of my favourite Gothic buildings, the Gothic Temple at Stowe. Isn't it a gem?

Gothic architecture and Halloween go together like Fred and Ginger or crackers and cheese in my book. And this little beauty from the 18th century looks like it was created as the backdrop to some blood-chilling tale.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

The haunting of Corfe Castle ...

Have you ever visited a place, and come away with the view that it really ought to be haunted? Well, for me, Corfe Castle down in Dorset is just such a place. The splendid ruins of a once grand royal castle look like the perfect habitat for a legion of spooks from the other side of mortality. Now I'm not saying that I totally believe all of this stuff, but I do enjoy a good ghost story for entertainment's sake if nothing else.

Just feast your eyes on the romantic ruin, and I think you'll agree that it takes very little imagination to conjure up a host of ghostly goings on that might take place here.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Fungus fetish ...

It's been a good autumn for Fungi down here in the not-always-so-sunny South West of England.

Yesterday morning I spent a happy hour out in the garden taking macro shots of all the fungal goodness nestling in the grass. Now I'd be lying if I pretended to know the names of these beauties - or, even more importantly, whether I can eat them without poisoning myself. So it's probably just as well that my interaction with them remained one that was channelled exclusively through the lens of my camera ...

Monday 26 October 2015

Halloween tombstones ...

As Halloween draws nearer I've been enjoying some macabre tomb carvings. The carving below used to adorn a grave in St. Lawrence's Churchyard, Exeter. Today it lives in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. It dates from the 1600s when such tomb ornaments were very much the vogue. They lived through some pretty tough times back then. There was the English Civil War (1642 - 1651), followed by the religious excesses of Cromwell's Commonwealth and Protectorate, the Black Death raised its deadly face in 1665 and, after the Restoration, there was considerable apprehension as to the direction in which the House of Stuart was leading the country. It was a time of intense religious debate and radical politics. And normal folk, convinced that they were living in the last days, and that the end of the world was nigh, took to the macabre to underline their own fragile mortality ... .

Sunday 25 October 2015

Like the sunshine after rain ... a spiritual journey

Isn't it wonderful when the sun finally appears after the rain? We've had a succession of  grey, wet days, down here in Devon. We've hunkered down and nested indoors, but yesterday afternoon the sun came out, and all of sudden autumn turned into something glorious again.

Only a day ago the field of stubble over the hill was a maze of maize. There's a ramblers' right of way that runs right through it, and it felt a little bit like hiking through a jungle. What a difference a day makes ... .

Saturday 24 October 2015

Forde Abbey, Dorset ...

Forde Abbey, Dorset

This is undoubtedly one of the prettiest houses in England. It's grand, but not in a draughty, haughty, pretentious way. No, on the contrary, this is a place with a cosy congeniality that invites you to linger longer. And the gardens ... well, don't get me started on the gardens unless you've got a good long time to listen whilst I tell you how much I liked them ... .

I often find with historic houses that there's one strand, one story-line from their past that speaks more loudly and more eloquently than the others. Now in the case of Forde Abbey there are many to choose from. This is, after all, a property that's got 8 centuries of history to boast about. But for me, the defining tale is that of Edmund Prideaux, who lived here once upon a time in the 17th century.

Friday 23 October 2015

Dahlias ... the stars of the autumn garden ...

I've fallen seriously in love with the dahlia. Sadly I don't have any growing in my own garden, but I'm beginning to feel very envious of all the other folk who do.

The other day, down at Forde Abbey in Dorset, I was very taken with all the colour and cheer that they brought to the perennial borders in the drizzle of a grey afternoon. It was a dreary day that had little to recommend it (other than the splendid company of the good friends with whom we were passing the time) but through all that dismal weather the dahlia stole the show and shone its colour through the gloom.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Beech hut ... Dorset style ...

And, nope, I haven't forgotten how to spell beach!

This beech hut is so named, not because of any close proximity to a beach, but because it's made of beech saplings, cleverly pleached and grown together to make the funkiest garden house I've ever seen. Apparently it was planted back in the 1930's.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Autumn's bounty ...

There's a lot to be said for starting your day with a stroll before breakfast. Here in Devon the farmers are ploughing the fields to plant their winter crops and the rich red earth looks as though it were chosen from a palette of perfect autumn tones to blend with the leaves.

And the very best bit of all this early morning shenanigans is picking an apple, fresh and crisp, straight from the tree. No other apple tastes anything like so good as one that's just been picked.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

An autumn afternoon stroll ...

There are few things in life that can compare with an autumn stroll in the countryside in that magical hour just before sunset. Yesterday I set off in the late afternoon as the sun was dropping low in the sky and throwing long shadows over the grass. For me it's an unusual thing to go for a stroll on my own. Normally I have Emi in tow and the Wonderdog at my heels, but Emi was busy doing his history project, and the Wonderdog was busy having an afternoon snooze along the back of the sofa. He was stretched out with his paws in the air, snoring gently as though he hadn't a care, and it didn't seem fair to disturb him.

So I set off on my own with only the birds for company.  And right now we have some very fine birds running around under the trees.

Sunday 18 October 2015

Somerset's Bookbarn

School's out for the half-term hols and we've blown town for a week in the country. En route we visited some friends in Bath, and on our way back to the M5 stopped off at the Bookbarn International, one of England's largest second-hand bookshops.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Doggy Bandana ...

And here we have the Wonderdog modelling this season's must-have fashion accessory: the Argyll doggy bandana ... the last word woof in canine cool ...

He's watching me with rapt attention because I've got a doggy biscuit balanced on top of my camera, and he's absolutely determined that next door's pesky cat, who's always lurking on the other side of the garden wall, isn't going to get her paws on it any time soon.

The Wonderdog is a miniature schnauzer, but this size of bandana would work for any small dog of similar proportions.

It's been knit with double knitting wool on 4 mm needles, which gave me a tension of 17 stitches x 27 rows on a 10 cm x 10 cm/ 4" x 4" square, and it can be made with scraps of wool from your stash.

Just read on for the pattern:

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Chocolate week ...

I've only just realised that we're in the middle of  London Chocolate Week. Eeek! Why haven't I heard about this wonderful celebration before? It overlaps with the London Rumfest, billed as the World's biggest 3-day festival of rum, and the two are being paired in a chocolate and rum tasting event on Friday at the Chocolate Show in Olympia. The Chocolate Show is running from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th October, and features an impressive array of London's top chocolatiers. Top billing, however, has to go to the chocolate fashion show. Let's hope the spotlights on the cat walk won't melt the couture or things could get really messy ... .

Well it all sounds suitably bonkers, so I thought that I might as well join in. And, let's be honest, if there's chocolate involved I don't need much persuading. So I'm off to rustle up some of the very best Chocolate Brownies for the troops over here at Talk-a-Lot-Towers. You can find my recipe here: The best chocolate brownies - ever!

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Stash-busting knitted basket ...

If you're looking for something to use up some of the chunky wool in your yarn stash I've got the solution. This little basket eats yarn. I've made it using 4 strands of Hayfield Bonus Chunky, worked together on 15mm circular needles (80 cm cord) using the magic loop method. It's really easy, and with yarn of that combined thickness you can easily make it in under an hour from start to finish. My knitting tension averaged about 5 stitches x 10 rows on a 10 cm x 10 cm/ 4"x 4" swatch.

Just read on for the pattern:

Monday 12 October 2015

12th October, 1582 ... the day that didn't happen ...

Now here's a random thought for you ... this date, the 12th day of October, the 285th day of the year - or 286th if we're having a leap year - didn't happen in Italy, Poland, Portugal or Spain in the year 1582.

Exeter Cathedral's 15th Century Clock

Sunday 11 October 2015

A busy week in October ...

It's been a bit manic over here at Talk-a-Lot Towers this week. I've been really busy with work, but I managed to sneak off on Wednesday for a look around the wonderful Knitting and Stitching Fair up at Alexandra Palace. I came home laden with goodies. There were so many irresistible yarns and yarn-related gizmos and books. It was amazing, and now I'm all fired up with a hundred ideas for projects that I'd love to get right down to making.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Rainy day roses ...

And one of the rainy day silver linings that I'm enjoying this morning is the excuse to save these glorious blossoms from the weather.

Aren't they marvellous?

I found them lying face down in a puddle on the terrace. The rain had weighed them down and they were kissing the floor. I wouldn't have had the heart to cut them otherwise, but now that I have I'm loving their wonderful scent as I work. Happy rainy days!

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Sunday 4 October 2015

It's a dog's life ...

I've cracked it! I've got the answer to the prickly problem of how to make friends if you move to a new neighbourhood. All you need is one of these:

Friday 2 October 2015

The bewitching Ms. Witch ...

So how do you like Ms. Witch?

I cast her off yesterday, and then showed her to Emi when he came home from school, thinking that she would be of no great interest to a nine year old boy like him, but he immediately fell under her spell. I love her, he said. Can I have her? She can sit beside Swampy, and keep him company when I'm at school.

Now I should explain that Swampy is the latest addition to Emi’s growing menagerie. Swampy is a carnivore, aVenus Fly Trap plant, who hangs out on the mantelpiece in Emi's bedroom. We got Swampy a few weeks ago by way of a Sunday afternoon bribe for doing a heavy weekend of homework. And every day since then Emi has been very conscientious about giving Swampy a drink. The plant label told us that he liked to live in swamps – hence the name, and the zealous watering regime.

Anyway I digress: back to Ms. Witch. She’s made using Worsted weight yarn. I’ve used Sublime Extra Fine Merino Worsted, which is a truly lovely yarn to work with: really soft with little tendency to split. I chose autumnal colours to match the season: Wicker (061) for the skin tones, Jet Black (013) for the black bits, Mole (056) for her brown hair and Marmalade (478) for the pumpkin orange bits.

When I’m making toys I like to use smaller needles than they recommend for the yarn in order to get a nice tightly woven knit. To my way of thinking it wouldn’t look good if we were able to see Ms Witch’s stuffing through her dress. For this weight of yarn you’d normally use 4.5 mm needles, but I chose to use 3 mm needles to get the desired result. This produced a tension of 25 stitches x 30 rows for a 10cm x 10 cm/ 4" x 4" swatch.

If you’d like to make her, she’s pretty straightforward. Just read on for the pattern.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Hello October ...

We've been cooped up for far too long, the Wonderdog and I. I've been crazy busy with work for several days now, tied to my computer and unable to go outside and enjoy this lovely late summer/ early autumn weather. Sadly the weathermen are telling us that after today we're in for a change, so we seized the initiative this morning and headed out into the elements to embrace the season.