Monday, 30 June 2008

On the home front ...

There is nothing like an impending visit from friends to bring about a sense of extreme panic in me and become uber critical of my habitat..
With the knowledge that others will be seeing my home for the first time I have started a home improvement exercise in the same vein as a military manoeuvre... Well I am trying to gather my troops but they have all gone A.W.O.L and so this task has been left mostly to me to complete.
It involves vast amounts of rubbish removal and a lot of tweaking and re-arranging..

There are areas of my home that I love.. probably not what you would consider the best features but just little corners that speak to me in some way .. ..I have had my fair share of homes having moved 5 times in the last ten years due to some of life's unforeseen upheavals but now I feel I have settled ... for the time at least.. I don't think I will ever cease to fantasise about life in a cottage on Dartmoor or a rural idyll tucked away in the darkest depths of the countryside.. I still avidly scan the glossy pages of our local magazine 'Bath Life' looking for that perfect home, at a perfect price, in a perfect location, with a perfect interior and preferably a lottery win to accompany it!
When we moved to our house two years ago it was a decision that was made in the first two minutes of walking through the door despite the acres of cork tiled floors that greeted us and the double glazed windows.. I am a bit of a traditionalist and love old sash windows.. but having lived with force 9 gales whistling through the rickety window panes of previous houses is actually a godsend to have a draught proof house.. forget the aesthetics of wooden sash windows. I can take some comfort that our house is the only house in a terrace of 42 Victorian houses that is not draughty!

In the Beginning
We spent the first six months in our new home taking shelter in any corner of the house that wasn't being ripped apart.. floorboards were taken up for the total rewiring.. something that the building survey had failed to mention despite the rather dodgy wiring that looked like a map of the London underground.. oh and the Bakelite plug sockets.. circa 1950's...


Not only did we decide to dive in head first with our hands tied behind our backs.. by having the kitchen knocked through into a study and the old fire place opened up.. having masochistic tendencies.. we had the garden landscaped at the same time.. So nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.. madness. Expensive insanity!
The daily cuisine of microwaved meals soon took their toll and the constant dust cloud did wonders for my hair and complexion.. more Catweezle (without the beard and tash) with every passing day.
I think that I can say our home is almost finished but when will it ever be finished.. as thanks to my constant neurosis about finding perfection.. I want to take up the paint brush and start all over again.
It's all your fault you see.. If I hadn't started blogging I would be content with my lot..ignorance is bliss and all that.. but seeing your beautifully styled and serenely painted interiors I know that some things HAVE to change and our living room will be the first to go under the brush..It is more like an Indian restaurant circa 1970's than a haven of pastel good taste..
I would love your tips please on where to begin..

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Life on the high C's....

Please forgive me the dreadful pun title but today my post has a bit of a nautical theme..
The high C's being the doses of said Vitamins that I am taking to try and rid myself of a tenacious head cold...
Feeling stuffy and with a throat like sandpaper I will not be saying very much today...
I would like to show you what I have been up to whilst sneezing and sniffling..
My latest vintage nostalgia box frame was inspired by a memory I had of messing about in boats during my childhood Cornish holidays... endless days of sandy feet and a sun burnt nose...
and as I grew older and far from wiser... holiday romances.. one that has lasted 35 years..
I would like to present to you


I must try and find a way of photographing my work without having a camera lens reflection in each frame..!
I will be off now to pop some more pills and seek lemon and honey..
In the meantime.. thank you so much for all your lovely comments re: my garden..
I get so much pleasure from my plants but after all it is not I who should receive the credit for my garden .. it is dear old mother nature who does all the hard work!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Fireworks in June....

Midsummer's Day.. passed with a distinctly autumnal feel about it... grey skies, low misty clouds hugging the skyline and a damp dour air about the day . Not the heady heat of a summer's day, nor the Lapis blue skies that I had hoped for, to mark the summer Solstice.
Yesterday evening, I watched from our lofty bedroom window to see the garden sway and dance in the wind and I prayed that the delicate blooms would survive the lashing and buffeting of the relentless wind.
Today we have a return to something more pleasant which drew me out into the garden to survey the damage and to admire the new arrivals of which there are plenty..
These gorgeous rich ruby flowers of the Penstemon look so pretty against the mellow stone walls of the house..
Pastel pink Penstemon sing out amongst the tangle of acid green Milly Molly Mandy our affectionate name for this plant, otherwise known as Alchemilla Mollis..and the feathery leaves of the Cosmos.. grown from seed as part of Monty Don's Cosmos trial.
.. poor, dear Monty... I do hope he makes a speedy recovery. Friday nights are not the same without his charm and passionate approach to gardening on Gardener's World..

This is my.. "When I grow up I am going to be a bottle of Wine" vine... Ever the optimist.. Grow faster, faster...!
Speckled throats of Foxgloves.... one of my favourites that have self seeded with gay abandon around the garden....It must be hard to resist if you are a bee..

This amusing character has grown the most absurd hairdo this year... but I love it and judging my his/her expression , they are rather pleased and smug about it too!

I am so happy with this Clematis Rouge Cardinal that has been smothered in these outrageous blooms for the last two weeks.
And here we have a fine example my hybrid Tabby showing off... in true Pickles style...You can almost hear him saying "Look at me, look at me"... I think we might send him off to join the circus with these acrobatics skills.
My beloved Alliums have done me proud this year and this specimen looked stunning against the dusky leaves of my Cotinus 'Smoke Bush' .
I want to preserve this month in the garden.. capture the moment and make it last.. for after the firework festival of flowers in May and June.. the plants have peaked and start to fade and go to seed..But then again... there is always next year and the fun of planning and re-arranging.
Views to die for...over the hills and far away..

An ant's eye view of the main border..
The foxgloves do remind me of firework rockets with their endless plumes of flowers exploding in one final crescendo of colour...
Nature is pretty amazing and my love affair with my garden continues with a passion...

**** Monday.. How could I forget my mother's favourite rose.. Ferdinand Pichard.. a heavenly rose with a heavenly scent ..
Astrantias .... beautiful little pink pin cushion flowers..
And finally.. the cascade of clematis Viticella... better this year than last..
How does your garden grow this summer?

Monday, 16 June 2008

So far so good....

After the events of last week, this week has kicked off to a good start and buoyed along by your lovely comments (thank you so much one and all) I felt much happier in my heart yesterday and vowed to use this to my advantage ploughing this feelgood mood into being crafty and creative... as not forgetting... Cowboys and Custard was always meant to be just that and not a monologue about my woes...
So feeling in another 'Blue Peter' mood.. I dug out an assortment of ephemera and vintage miniatures to make a 'Garden' themed frame.. one I had given much thought to over the last month or so but hadn't felt confident to tackle until now... 'Onwards and Upwards' was my motto of the day so before the mood had time to think twice.. I started cutting and pasting and painting and Voila... may I present to you...


I printed a black and white floral border onto some ink jet linen backed paper.. Currently my fave material of the month, to give it a vintage flavour and used a vintage seed packet for the central decoration.
The small vintage garden roller was once part of a toy garden made by 'Britains' a toy manufacturer of fine lead, then plastic models..

I think I am pleased with the results but then again if I start to think about it for too long I am sure to find fault as I always do... ever the Virgoan.. never 100% satisfied.

While still on a creative roll .. I decided to make a lemon drizzle cake to welcome my boys home from school as there is always the inevitable dive for the larder to raid anything sweet and toothsome.
So engrossed was I in my garden frame, that I forgot to remove the cake in time and here we have Lemon Drizzle Cake... 'Well done' or is it Flambeed, or maybe just Burnt!!

I shall call this latest creation .....
Burnt Offerings

I did manage to salvage the cake and save face by carving off the charcoal layer and dousing the cake in a thick lemon syrup.... They will never know... and you won't tell will you??!!!

P.s An update on my mother in laws' health after the awful scare of last Friday...
Being a frail woman of 86 years of age.. we feared the worst on Friday night when she was admitted to hospital in a desperate state.... 24 hours later she had come through and though a shadow of her former self.. she continues to fight on...
Her husband of 93 years of age.... is her raison d'etre.... reason for being!

As for my stressed out son.. he came home triumphant with an 86% grade in his French exam results... Oh he of little faith!

Lastly.. my big boy... beloved man of mine.. has gone down with a horrible cold.. not surprising after his gladiatorial week...
I will leave you with this.... enjoy!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

A new chapter & a new friend...

I was sorely tempted to delete my last post. It played heavily on my mind for several hours .. 'Should I have written such an indulgent post'?.. I enquired to Mr Custard..
"Well he said.. what is done is done and wait and see how people react".... That was my principal worry... what would you think about my rather desperate chapter in the life of Cowboys & Custard. Well I should have known that my dear and empathic blog friends would offer words of support and sympathy... but it is tempting to hit the delete button of life sometimes and in blogdom it is possible to do this and try and erase some of life's more challenging moments....

Having written my post yesterday we promptly went out to try and find an antidote to the woes of the last week and we succeeded in having a brief, but wonderful time and putting the worries of the last 48 hours behind us for a while.

Dear Annie from Saucerful of Secrets had sent me an invite to the Stroud Valley Open Studios.. an event that spans many artistic households and venues in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside in and around the pretty town of Stroud. Very similar to the Brighton Open House event that I visited a few weeks ago where I met my dear friend Kim from Ragged Roses.

It was a perfect distraction and the journey to Stroud was awash with rural splendour... fields of ripening corn and poppies, quaint little Cotswold villages of mellow stone houses and leafy lanes cloaked our journey to meet this lovely lady who I had spoken to on the phone on two occasions and had promised that we would attend her open house exhibition.

I knew it was the right house the minute we drew up outside... a pretty Cotswold stone cottage with flowers abundant in the front garden and the very handsome Rufus to greet us at the gate..Rufus being a cat of Abyssinian less!
On reaching the back of the house I had a sense of deja vu... here was the 'oh so pretty' balconied house and winding cottage garden that I had seen on Annie's blog.. and it was such a charming sight bedecked with knitted bunting and flowers..
There were four artists displaying their fine crafts in the small converted 'Little Wren House" that Annie had written about recently on her blog.

Stepping inside her tiny but perfect emporium made my heart swell with a mixture of admiration, awe and envy.. it was absolutely delightful inside and crammed full of the most wonderful felted pictures, jewellery and Annie's very special trademark vintage textile dolls...(see photo of doll above) and why oh why did I not take a photograph of all this!!! I must have been mad to miss this opportunity..Lovely knitware and bunting

We stepped inside the kitchen to chat to Annie and my eyes were on stalks.. spanning the small but bijou room that was testament to another era.. one of a Victorian doll's house full of decorative arts and crafts... To have an idea you must go and read Saucerful of Secrets and see for yourself... It truly was a sight for sore, tired eyes and an absolute delight to see.
Mr Custard and I sipped coffee from pretty chintz china tea cups in the sun soaked garden and chatted briefly to the lovely ladies who were also exhibiting there.. The moment was perfect.

Thank you dear Annie for your friendly hospitality.. it was such a pleasure to meet last!

I am so glad that we made this journey and we came away with much happier hearts having shared some lovely moments with Annie and fellow friends and artists her enchanting home and garden...
I look forward to seeing her again one day and am more convinced than ever that a collective Blog Bonanza is long overdue .. something I would like to organise one day to bring all you lovely people together to chat and share the friendships that bind our blogs together..

This visit taught me a valuable lesson... not to sit on my backside this week feeling sorry for myself.. but to make the most of every moment and use the experiences of late to inspire some more craft projects..
It remains to be seen what I come up with but I will be sure to share it with you if it is worthy!

The Eye of the Storm...

Sunday has arrived to huge sighs of relief in this household..
It has been one hell of a week and I am so glad to put it behind me..we all are.. even the cat!
I knew it was going to be a challenging time with my workload and a week crammed full of end of term exams for my son..I didn't however realise that the crescendo would arrive on Friday night just when I had hoped it was safe to breathe out..
Monday.. my son arrived home from school in floods of tears having " messed-up"his exams that day.. Maths proving to be impossible and normally one of his strongest subjects.. I fear that panic took over and my poor boy had a temporary meltdown in the exam room despite me sending him off to school in the morning liberally doused in Lavender oil to calm his nerves and with a lucky heart charm in his blazer pocket. It is hard to reassure our children when they face these hurdles in life.. but I tried to bolster him up for the next onslaught of exams on Tuesday and this pattern continued until Friday when a worn and weary lad returned from school feeling as though he had been put through the mangle.

Kitchen Industries

My pile of Christmas card orders hit the production line and lurched along with a few punctuations for tea breaks and a brief nose outside the back door to take some air.. All finished and packed on Friday afternoon up and ready to leave the premises on Monday.. courier permitting!
Oh what a wonderful feeling that was to put the last cards in the box... but always shortly followed by an uneasy feeling that maybe 'that's it' there will be no more orders..
as I need to keep the cogs oiled and turning to keep the wolf from the door..

Cassius Clay aka Pickles

Pickles had another of his close encounters of the 'punch up' kind this week and has been sporting a rather unpleasant cut to his handsome face.. Thanks to Nurse Custard.. I have mopped and swabbed the offending area and thankfully he has escaped another costly and traumatic trip to the vets.. where we have become a regular fixture recently and were even given loyalty points on our last visit. Maybe we will get a season ticket and front row seats if Pickles continues to take on the local moggy population. Really to look at him you would never think that he is capable of being an aggressor.. he is such a 'pussy-cat' at home.. unless you happen to be another tom cat on his territory!


Friday evening had been our carrot all week.. a time to unwind and relax, put the ills of the week behind us and eat copious amounts of chocolate washed down with some nice plonk.. Well.. t'was not to be..
Mr Custard has had a very stressful time commuting between work (running a busy primary school) and a very frail and worryingly ill mother. Friday evening he was due to host the school's P.T.A popular quizz night having spent the day attending to his mother who had taken a turn for the worse. After being reassured by a doctor that antibiotics would cure all ills... he returned home wrung out and in desperate need of an early night..
Well to cut a long short..... he spent the rest of the night in A & E with his mother until she was finally admitted at 3.a.m whereupon he came home and fell into a long deep but troubled sleep..

We are all taking stock today and re-charging flat batteries to face another week..

It is not my style normally to write about the nitty gritty of life on my blog... but today I blew caution to the wind.. though I know it is probably very self indulgent..

I promise to be back with something more Cowboy and Custardy next time....XX

P.s How could I forget... Happy Father's Day to all you Papas out there.. have a wonderful day.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Notes from the boudoir ....

That title might suggest something a little racy but I can assure you that this post is anything but..
I am just grabbing these few precious moments of peace and tranquility at 6.30 a.m whilst propped up in bed, to clock - in and say hello to all of you.
My time has been hijacked again, not only by the usual domestic chores but also by a rather large pile of Christmas card orders that arrived with a heavy thud in my mail box last weekend.
Oh.. sorry to mention the ' C ' word in June!!
Now I am on the proverbial conveyor belt churning out smiling Santas and frigid looking snowmen whilst the temperatures outside soar and I slowly melt at my kitchen table workshop....standing a few feet from a cynical Aga that pumps out a steady temperature..i.e HOT! No.. I know that it is not very eco friendly but to compensate.. I recycle just about everything... cardboard, tins, newspapers, all junk mail (that hardly makes it through the letterbox before it is thrown ceremoniously into the recycling bin) ..rainwater for my plants, plastic bags, bottles, compost etc etc....
I get a little panicky when I can't keep up with my acquaintances in Blogland.. but I will hopefully come up for air (literally) next week and wade through the many neglected bloggers who have visited me and that I intend to respond to..
I live with one ear carefully trained so that I can hear the ping.. whenever mail comes in and it is always such a pleasure to hear from you so please bear with me..
The factory will close this weekend to restore some sanity and to give me some time to don my 'domestic goddess' hat in order to tackle the mountain of shirts that need washing and ironing...

( I can assure you I do not grin like this whilst ironing)

Rant over.. work resumes in one hour.. so Au revoir mes amies..

A bientot..

Enjoy the sun!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

6 of the best...!

Isn't it amazing how life can be lived in a day.. or so it seems..
Yesterday was one such day when I felt that I could happily have turned down the volume and slowed to a 78 r.p.m tempo..

Today the day has a sense of calm about it and though it is early in the day.. I have a feeling that maybe some sanity will be restored... now that's tempting fate!

I have been a bit of a latent blogger recently and the frenzied determination to write a daily post has waned over the last few weeks and now I have comfortably settled into the slow lane and don't feel so pressured to keep up the daily musings..

This however has led to a very belated post... one that I promised dear Dana at Calico Cat Press that I would write last week... a tag!

So sorry Dana... Here I am .. and here are 6 unimportant facts about me..
I would just like to add that most facts about me are unimportant but how I struggled to come up with six this time!
Those of you who can't face another Meme.. look away now.. as the sports commentators often say when announcing the sporting results..

1. When I was a wee lass.. one of my darling brothers thought it was a great wheeze to take a blackcurrant Rowntrees fruit gum, and place it in his cupped hands. He would approach me with the words.."look what I have found".. with a slightly menacing tone.. I, with my fertile imagination, had a quick glimpse of the clutched sweetie and convinced that it was a big black beetle... ran screaming around the house being pursued by my amused brother and a very innocent fruit gum.
It took me a while to cotton on that the object that I had feared so much was actually a delicious confection and ironically is now my favourite flavoured fruit gum..

2. Returning to my early years.. one of my earliest memories is standing at the kitchen sink... perched on top of a chair, washing my brand new white and red leather shoes with copious amounts of washing up liquid. I have always had an unhealthy obsession with washing and cleaning and my mother recalled that I would spend many happy hours washing my dolls clothes.. a favourite toy of mine was a Chad Valley washing machine...
I can't say I feel that enamoured towards ironing!

3. I have always yearned to be able to dance well but having a poor sense of coordination has kind of scuppered my dreams of being Isadora Duncan or Dame Margot Fonteyn...
I had ballet classes when I was five years old and I think my motives were purely to wear the costume... I loved my little red ballet shoes and the whole ritual of putting my feet in the resin box to stop me skidding in an ungainly fashion across the parquet dance floor..
My dance career was short lived and by six years of age.. I resorted to riding bikes and wearing dungarees..

4. I love maps..
I enjoy studying the contours and little symbols on a map especially if it is unknown territory
I would love there to be virtual maps where one could see miniature cars travelling along the roads and birds flying over the landscape...
I have become a huge fan of Google Earth and though it seems voyeuristic.. it is great fun to visit favourite haunts to have a birdseye view... it gives a whole new perspective to our world and defines armchair travel.

5. One of my favourite all time books is 'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak.
It is a wonderful book and one I got to know intimately when my son was very young and would love to curl up in the crook of my arm and listen to the story of Max sailing .."off through night and day, in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the wild things are"... I can just about remember it word for word..

And finally...

6. Faces fascinate me... (other than my own)
Of all the subjects that I have painted and drawn during my artistic years.. faces are the the most satisfying..
As my memory is on the wane and I am forever trying to remember names .. it is some comfort to know that I never forget a face..!

Well there we have it... 6 of the best... or worst.

It is safe to look now.. those of you that turned away..