So, What’s Up?

I have fickle muses – when I do a lot of art my writing falls by the wayside and vice versa.  Thus, because of a recent spate of artyness, my blog has been somewhat neglected.  Typically, this has happened right at the time we’ve actually had quite a bit going on ;)  Given the picture-spam which would happen if I threw everything off my camera into one post, I figure I might split this over a few posts – so expect my posting drought to end in a small deluge.

The biggest change around the place has been the addition of a small, furry, meowing monster – Sam.

We got Sam from the Cats Protection shelter in Alloa.  We picked him because the minute we walked into his pen he head-bumped us and was eager to be friends!  Getting him from there was an adventure, especially since he did not like his carry case and hid the moment it came near his pen.  Despite a shy start – he hid behind the sofa for hours –  he now loves being petted, belly rubbed, chin tickled and generally pampered.  Behind the sofa is still his ‘safe’ space for when visitors are over, but the rest of his time is spent perched on top of it, or on the old pouffe, which is now covered in a layer of kitty-fluff.  He has an odd way of lying – he loves to stretch his neck out as you can see in the last photo.

Although he’s a pretty large cat he doesn’t eat much, though he’s not above mooching for anything in your hand:  grapes, bread, tomato soup… He doesn’t actually want them, no, he’s just enamoured with the idea of food which other people have, it seems.  He loves treats, too, of course, and tuna is great bribery material.

Being as we’re now official cat-people, you can probably expect many cute pictures to grace the pages of the blog ;)

Just before we got Sam, we finally finished our back bedroom.  In winter, a tile had been knocked off the roof and left a small hole.  Come the heavy spring rain we had, we noticed a leak which became a huge and very noticeable damp patch.  Once the rain had abated, and the roof was fixed, we decided we’d actually do the back room up entirely – something we’d wanted to do since we moved in.  In true changing room styles, we have before and after shots:

I’m quite proud of the results – although I’d painted before, neither Andy or I had papered.  We decided to go for thick lining paper under the paint to make sure the walls were nice and smooth.  It was a bit of a pain to work into the corners, but once we got the hang of it, it became a lot easier.  All in all, I think it took us several weeks to get it all done, though most of that was procrastination due to wanting to do it right and not being quite sure how to.  The fact it was scorching hot didn’t help either, as rollering, papering or even glossing the skirting boards became arduous in the sweltering heat.  It now has a tonne of bookshelves, a comfy couch, a lava lamp,and a reading lamp – the perfect den / study.

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Yorkshire

Yorkshire was amazing!  It really felt like a grown-up holiday (yes at 25, I still don’t feel like an adult, haha).

We were staying at Brimham Rocks Cottages in a 6-person cottage which was really comfy, cosy and well stocked with kitchen equipment and entertainment items.  The owners were really friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. It was a lovely place to stay and a really good base for the weeks trips.

Every night, someone took a turn to cook – with one night being used to eat up leftovers.  Andy cooked pizza, I did lasagne, Mishi: Risotto, Chris: curry, Mike: a roast and Euan made a spicy red tomato sauce with pasta.  Every meal was damned delicious – it really is nice to know a bunch of people who cook ;)

We visited York (duh?), York Dungeons and Jorvik;  Harrowgate and Harlow Carr, Helmsley Walled Gardens, The Black Sheep Brewery as well as exploring the nearby countryside on the bikes –  Brimham Rocks being the first place we ventured.  Harlow Carr was probably my favourite place of the week, though the York Dungeons were really fun, too.

Andy and I are both keen on taking pretty pictures, so we were both grabbing for the camera as much as possible, but even so – we didn’t get any decent pictures whilst in York (too busy!) and our overzealousness with the camera meant that we ran out of battery at Harlow Carr- meaning fewer pictures than I’d have liked of that beautiful garden.  Sadly for both gardens, I think we arrived just after the best of the spring blossoms had passed and just before the best of the summer had started showing, but even so there were some spectacular plants on display!

For the first couple of days, the weather was scorching – reaching 30°C! However, by midweek we were getting drizzle and rain – a bit more of what we expected – but it didn’t put us off traipsing round gardens and was a good excuse to go indoors to the brewery ;)

Brimham Rocks:




Black Sheep Brewery:

Helmsley Walled Gardens:




Harlow Carr:


Saying Goodbye:

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At Home in the Garden

On Wednesday I spent several hours in the shed.  I didn’t mean to, but one task led to another and I ended up in there for longer than expected.  Standing in the shed, with the spring rain pattering down outside, wrist-deep in compost and surrounded by many small pots I really felt at home in my garden.

Wonderful fuzzy feelings aside, I did manage to get a lot done!  After our holiday last weekend, I got a cheap mini greenhouse / coldframe.   It’s one of the plastic ones which can’t take too much of a beating, but it’s already made a huge difference as I’ve been able to take outside many small plants which weren’t getting enough light but still needed a little protection.  Strawberries (normal and alpine), some of the smaller comfrey plants, some mint and purple sprouting broccoli are all nestled cosily inside as well as leaving the windowsills free for more delicate plants (like my not-so-little-any-more pelargonium and some miniature chilli plants).

Talking of which, I’ve had a really terrible time with the purple sprouting broccoli – every time I re-pot them, they die :( None of my other seedlings have had the same problem and, before potting them on, they seem to have been healthy enough.  It’ll soon be too late to plant them, this year, so I’m hoping the ones I’ve sown now will make it all the way through to proper plant stage, this time.

Other things which I’ve re-potted and will also, hopefully, have better luck with are the aforementioned alpine strawberries (they seem to be pretty hard to kill off, thankfully), mint which I’d had sprouting from cuttings, and some baby cabbages which were at the two-leaf stage and getting too big for their seed tray.  I also started off some radishes, rocket and sprouts in the now emptied seed tray.

My cauliflower’s are at the two leaf stage now, too, and I was tempted to re-pot them but they seemed a little runty.  Out of 8 seeds, only 3 germinated and they are rather stumpy and short compared to the other brassica seedlings.  Hmm.

Lastly, I’ve added more herbs to my windowsills – all of the seedlings I’d grown in an egg carton were transplanted into yoghurt pots and the egg carton refreshed with new soil and planted up with more seeds.  I forgot to take labels down with me so, as you can see in the second picture below, I ended up marking which was which by shaping vermiculite into letters on the surface, hehe.  C for coriander, D for dill, B for basil and T for thyme – the unmarked ones are parsley.  I’ve now got a miniature herb jungle on the kitchen window, but I hope to have a decent enough pile of them to be able to use them without killing off one single plant.  I’d also like to make up a few herb boxes as gifts and I just really like sage as a decorative plant, too.

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Cameron House

Cameron House, Loch side Dressed for dinner

kelvingrove museum organ

(click to enlarge)

Our Christmas Present from Andy’s parents was a night’s stay at Cameron House – a beautiful hotel on the banks of Loch Lomond.   We stayed over from Sunday night to Monday, treating ourselves to a meal at Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond.  It was a beautiful quick getaway and something I could happily get used to ;)!

Whilst we were there, we nipped up to Arrochar, enjoying some beautiful loch-side scenery on the way.  It was a bit overcast and cool, but we took a walk around the ‘tip’ of Loch Long.  There was seaweed up on the trees,  two or three feet above the ‘current’ high tide level and mussel shells scattered on the pathway – scary to think how it would have been when flooded.

Dinner was wonderful.  Six courses of tasty little treats and many ideas garnered that I want to try at home – including the hazelnut and maple coated smoked salmon canapés and goat’s cheese gnocchi (which accompanied butter-poached langoustines).  I was also made aware of chlorophyll as a cooking (garnishing?) ingredient.  Very cool, though my parsley’s five leaves are not adequate to try making any yet ;) The service was great and the wait-staff really friendly, a lovely evening.

Given the horrible weather on Monday, we decided we’d head over to Kelvingrove Art Gallery / Museum.  Neither of us have been there for years and we were lucky enough to stop in just as the organ recital was beginning.  By the time our parking was running out we’d only managed to get through about 1/3 of it and were shattered – we’ll need to go back another day.

A really enjoyable weekend.

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Weekend in Edinburgh

We spent both days this weekend in Edinburgh for part of the day – Andy had a samba school performance not far from Waverley Station and Sunday night we visited for an excellent performance by Sons of Fionn – the band his sister plays in.

On Saturday, we decided to head in a little early and have a wander before he started playing and, since I had my camera along to take video of their performance, I used it as an excuse to take some photos.

Andy Nate

pink flowers

purple and white crocus purple and white crocus

The crocuses were really gorgeous – a late display this year because of the cool weather – but they seem to be doing well, nonetheless.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of the samba group as I videoed all of the performances :(  Maybe next time!

Sunday night, we were back in Edinburgh again – this time, at The Forest Cafe to see Sons of Fionn and some really tasty tea.  The gig was brilliant – but unfortunately, we forgot to charge the camera battery so didn’t get any photos! :(  We didn’t get back until around 12, but it was completely worth it.

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Finishing Touches

As spring draws nearer, and my double-dug ground finally defrosts after that second burst of cold weather and snow, I’ve  gotten around to doing some of the last ‘big’ things before planting begins.  Armed with some bamboo canes and a large roll of twine, I’ve created some trellis for my peas and support for the raspberry, blackcurrant, and gooseberry canes that Andy and I bought for Valentines.  I think the canes for the peas might be a bit short, but I only had shortish pieces of bamboo;  if need be I’ll find some way to add height later if the things actually manage to grow!  Information I’ve been able to find tells me I won’t need large poles for my french dwarf beans if any support at all, so I’ll need to ‘wait and see’ before creating any structures or stakes for them.

trellis for canes

At the base of each of the poles on my new pea-trellis I also added some cloches.  I’m hoping to stick one or two peas out earlier than the others and this was recommended to warm the soil beforehand and give them a fighting chance.   My cloches are leftover irn-bru bottles, stripped of their labels and bases, and pushed down into the soil.  So far they’ve made excellent lidded ‘pots’, so I’m hopeful that they’ll be a useful, recycled gardening tool.

trellis for peas

Another thing out in the garden under ‘bru bottle’ is one of the comfrey plants grown from the root I bought.  It managed to spawn about 5 large plants and I have another pot with two smaller ones just coming up, too – not a bad ebay purchase!  It’s residing up the back of the garden, near the fence which has pretty sad soil on top, but nicer stuff deep down and is a bit shaded for most plants.  Comfrey likes shade and sticks its roots deep – so I’m hoping it’ll like it there.

comfrey

I’ve been pondering building some sort of vertical unit to plant things in which need longer periods of sun, or will not fit well in the garden itself.  An idea based on this bottle herb garden has come to mind – I still have some huge slats of timber threaded with holes from a unit which has since been ‘recycled’ to make the plant table we have in the kitchen.  I just need to find some way to make it stable, and I’ll have a mobile, vertical growing wall.

I think I’m going to need to do a post with all of the recycled materials used in my little garden :)

Another cool thing I’ve gotten for the garden is coffee.  After hearing of the many wonders of coffee grounds and, serendipitously, having Andy mention his works new coffee machine and how much coffee they drink, things came together wonderfully and I now have my first bin-ful of used coffee grinds.  It’s a little 5-litre tub of garden-goodness and it smells lovely!  I’ve mixed it into the compost heap, and am looking forward to more – apparently you can use it as up to 25% of your heap so long as you make sure to add enough rough brown material alongside.  A big thanks to Andy’s work for letting me grab this cool stuff.

I really am loving how the small plot has gone from covered with stones, to flat soil, heavy dug-up soil and finally nicely raked, fertilised, fine soil. I finally feel like my garden might actually work.  It’s been a relatively long-term project for me, given we moved in right at the end of last years summer season and it’s since been too cold to do much until recently.  I’ve planned the garden layout, set things up, gotten seeds, made a calendar for planting and a garden layout plan to ensure I can fit what I want to grow.

Now I just need some sunlight…

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This was going to be an email…

…but it got too long!

Plus I wanted to add pictures.  So if it seems a little rambling / random, that’s why – e-mail is a terrible format to write a ‘letter’ in, which is why I like blogs – you can write something as though it was a letter and put photos in the ‘envelope’ and more besides.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree ~♫♬

xmastree

I’ve just put up the xmas decorations – still got all of Mum’s old ‘music’ themed ones – parchment paper with printed christmas carols, hymns and tiny instrument models, red and silver drums, and those random tartan ribbons.   Every year we lose some of the ribbons though – not intentionally, I swear!  We started out with the tartan, a light red and a wine coloured set and now have only 2/3 of each.  I also would like to know what in the world ate all of the tinsel – I’m sure we had more than three short pieces!  Also still have the 12 days of christmas baubles  and those glittery snowflakes – they always remind me of granny and grandpa –  it’s a nice way to remember them at this time of year since Christmas as theirs was always the best.

Presents Before Christmas?

tvndecorations


We got a new tv!   The big old one (from way back in WK!) was starting to go – you could barely hear it for the tube buzzing unless you had it up really loud, so when Andy’s bonus came through we decided to get a 32″ LCD. I know they’re old news, now, but we’re always so slow to upgrade.  It’s such a difference – It’s HEEUGGGGEEEE.  I can  now watch  the tv without my glasses on and the sound is amazing :)  It only just fits on the unit we have, though, as it’s not a proper tv stand but one of those chunky, 4-slot ikea bookcases –  Can plug the laptops into it, too, and watch DVDs from them so we didn’t have to go buy a player.

We got a new hoover, too (bit more boring, but just as useful) – a dyson.  Totally amazing after having what used to be a carpet vacuumer for the last two and a bit years – the old one from WK never recovered in Dundee once it stopped working.  No excuse to not hoover more often now :( oh no!

Plant Conundrums

The Chilli plants we planted almost exactly 2 months ago are about an inch and a half tall, now – I think I’m going to leave them in the propogator until I really have to re-pot them – we’ve been dipping into negatives at night and that seems to have killed almost all the salad leaves I had outside the propogator, even though they were in the kitchen.

Any tips? Could they maybe not be getting enough light? Some of the ‘winter’ lettuces are just about hanging on, but 95% of the mixed leaf died and the spinach just wasted away completely… Window is west facing, I think – but we’ve got windows on all sides except south so I can try to move them to another if that would benefit them at all.

There’s a sheltered corner in the garden, too,which gets the sun most of the day and is protected against the wind on two sides, – was thinking of maybe trying the winter lettuces tucked in there, in one of the containers Mum sent us*, to see if that maybe would suit them better?  Could they be suffering from being too warm inside, if they’re winter lettuce? They’re a bit spindly and pale and barely seem to be able to hold their own leaves up… though they’ve all put out at least 4-6 now after 2-3 months  (which is more than can be said for the mixed salad leaves, the few still living seem to be stuck at 2 baby leaves and about 1/2 an inch in height until they inevitably die off).

Not much I can do in the garden in this weather – miserable rain then cold and rain again.   I had just gotten Andy into trying a bit of planting for fun after weaning him onto planting with the chilli / lettuce seeds, but he hates being out in the wet, so now I’ve no chance until spring again ;)

* I mentioned in the last post that mum had sent us some planters, seeds and a cool gardening book but a few days later a very, very large box arrived and divulged a weather-proof container for the garden!

If You’re Going to Do Something, Might as Well Do It Right!

Had a bad athsma attack whilst (haha) sitting in the docs surgery and got put on the nebuliser for 10 minutes – first time I’d ever had to use one, but normal inhalers just weren’t kicking in.   Apparently I had a bad chest infection but I hadn’t noticed because I hadn’t started coughing…  Means they’ve put me on all sorts though – 9 pills at once in the morning!   One annoying side affect of the tablets to calm my chest is insomnia.  Given how badly I sleep normally you can imagine how this might be affecting me *zombie stare*.

Only one more day and they’re all done, thank goodness.

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House Update

Andy wrote a detailed account of our move here,  so I won’t reiterate. However: when we moved we also ordered a new camera – something we’ve been wanting for ages and sorely needed.  Thusly, I have a pile of pictures of the new place – of everything except the second bedroom… since it’s where everything that’s not been ‘put somewhere’ is at the moment.

kitchen bedroom livingroom

bathroom garden

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What A Week… (and a bit)

Exhausting, boxes everywhere, gallbladder-killing diet… but we’re in now and starting to settle down.  Moving is something I don’t find that unusual and the new place has such a homely feeling that I’ve taken to it instantly – something which I didn’t feel so much in our old flat.  It probably helps that the style of the house is very alike to some of the places I’d lived in when I was younger.

We’ve ordered a new camera, so hopefully I can have some pictures of the new flat up by the end of the week after I’ve tidied a bit.

Highlights of the week:

Not being able to fit the couch we’d gotten from the BHF into the stairwell.  We ordered another and, thankfully, it fits and is pretty darn comfortable and looks good!

We also got ourselves a rather cheap sofabed which just fits across our second room and is oddly comfortable.  Thusly, we have a ‘den’ instead of a ‘back room’! Woohoo.

A Clio can hold a surprising amount of stuff in it.  We moved everything except the double mattress in it.

You can never, ever find something you’ve packed if you’re actually looking for it.

Oddly… I’m actually looking forward to finishing the tidying up tomorrow – it’ll be something nice and small-scale and ‘normal’ after the ‘epicness’ and ‘large scale’ of the move.

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