27 August 2011

wisley wander, take three

Heading out to Wisley on Wednesday, it seemed cool enough to wear my new wool socks,

knit in madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Nostalgia, a glazed, semi-solid colorway mixing purples, beiges, and grays.

But luckily I wore my cotton socks, as Ali and I soon warmed up, wandering up Battleston Hill, through the woodland gardens, and out amongst the trial beds,

where we discovered fabulous fields of dahlias. While not normally a pink person, my heart is now set on pink pompoms for the plot:

Because surely everything (even weeding) is more fun with pompoms! And hopefully after their course, Ali and Tracy will be able to tell me just what to do, because I'm definitely more skilled with yarn pompoms than floral ones.

20 August 2011

chalk cliffs and charleston

Early Friday morning, under the brightest of blue skies, G and I escaped to East Sussex. We made a brief detour to the Birling Gap, where the chalk cliffs drop dramatically

to the long pebble beach below,

then doubled back on the A27 to Charleston, the country home of the Bloomsbury Group:

Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant moved to Charleston in 1916, and over the next 50 years transformed the dilapidated farmhouse into a home and gathering place. Clive Bell, David Garnett, and John Maynard Keynes all lived at Charleston at various times, and Virginia and Leonard Woolf, E.M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, and Roger Fry were frequent visitors.

Vanessa and Duncan, inspired by Italian frescoes and the Post-Impressionists, painted nearly every wall, door, and piece of furniture: there was a nary a blank surface to be seen on our tour. And the painted decoration was complemented by objects from the Omega Workshops, the Bloomsbury Group's design business in London.

© Pia Tryde

© The Charleston Trust

I fell in love with Vanessa Bell's paintings when I was an art student in London many moons ago, and there were works by Vanessa (as well as Duncan) throughout the house:

Vanessa Bell, Iceland Poppies, c. 1908-09, © The Charleston Trust

The tour finished in the walled garden, which was planted with flowers, fruit, and vegetables,

enclosed by box hedges, and ornamented with mosaics and statuary in the southern European style:

G would like a classical head for our plot too, which is fine by me. But he's also suggested livening up the flat with some sponged and stenciled decoration, which is where I think I better draw the line!

16 August 2011

waterlily walk

Even after a year of monthly visits, Tracy and I still don't know what lies behind every door at Kew,

but on Monday we did manage to sneak into our favorite secluded (usually gated) garden:

While there were lots of fiery reds and oranges, there were a few purple flowers too,

including purple waterlilies in the outdoor pools:

I'm still marvelling at Alice's balance as she leaned way over the water with her camera!

And there were even more amazing blooms inside the Waterlily House,

where, as Alice pointed out, the architectural reflections were nearly as spectacular as the plants themselves:

G is campaigning for a pond on our plot. I wonder if we could have waterlilies? But then of course I'd want a Waterlily House too, which I'm sure would contravene shed regulations. Probably better to stick with waterlily walks at Kew!

15 August 2011

basic boy socks

And here are the anniversary socks I knit for G,

using madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Cider (which I now see perfectly matches our front porch!) and the Basic Boy Socks pattern from Purls of Wisdom.

I made two mods to the pattern, replacing the stockinette heel with a slip-stitch heel and lengthening the foot by three rows. But next time, I'd also use smaller needles for the ribbed cuffs to make them a bit tighter.

G says they're quite comfy, and he's already worn them once. I worry it might be a bit hot for wool socks, but as long as he isn't wearing them with sandals I won't say a word!

09 August 2011

on parade, take two

G specially requested a pair of brown hand-knitted socks for our anniversary. So it's rather hard to explain how I ended up with a pair of brown hand-knitted socks:

Obviously the pull of the Parade pattern and Quince yarn (in Driftwood) was just too great!

But G did get a pair too. And it was actually quite nice having two sock projects on the go: no second sock syndrome. Though I suppose you could develop third or fourth sock syndrome...

08 August 2011

paletas, parte cuatro

The weather was not-so-great this weekend: showers both Saturday and Sunday. But cantaloupes were on special at Waitrose, so I stuck to my plan to make Paletas de Melón (Cantaloupe Ice Pops):

One small cantaloupe is pureed with sugar syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a pinch of salt, then poured into the molds to freeze. The result is sooo refreshing! Paletas has definitely been my best book buy this year.

And now that the sun is back, I'm eyeing the Paletas de Coco Fresco (Fresh Coconut Ice Pops). But I've never tackled a fresh coconut. Do I need a machete? Or perhaps I should just play it safe (in more ways than one!) and do the rápidas version with tinned coconut milk...

04 August 2011

rocky and rosy

It was a week of succulents and roses: first at Wisley, then at Miller Harris, where Rachel and I popped in for birthday tea and cake.

Outside the shop, there were fabby rock plants on sale:

And inside the shop, there were roses in the perfumes and roses in the tea.

We ordered a pot of Miranda's favorite Thé Pétales, blended with rose absolute from Turkey. It had just the right hint of rose--not at all overpowering--and after two cups each, we concluded it really is the best tea on the menu.

While it was tempting to bring home a little something rocky or rosy, I was very good. After all, it wasn't my birthday--not quite yet! Happy Birthday, Rachel!

02 August 2011

wisley wander, take two

Here's a less melty Yogurt Pop with Berries,

a quick treat before heading out to RHS Wisley. It'd been quite a while since our last visit, when we made the mistake of going on a jam-packed Grow Your Own Weekend. But despite the overflowing car park, it didn't feel too busy this time round.

We admired the succulents in the Model Gardens and Glasshouse, which seemed appropriate on such a scorching day.

I thought the rose season had ended, but we strolled past bed after bed of amazing blooms:

And there were more humble flowers too:

But my favorite part, as always, was the 'allotment', showcasing the best methods for growing fruit and veg. There were awe-inspiring espaliers of apples and pears and nectarines and peaches,

as well as a shady grape arbor to shelter from the midday sun:

We're now considering adding apples, pears, and grapes to our plot too. But without a sunny wall or greenhouse, I'm pretty sure we won't be growing our own peaches...or pineapples!

31 July 2011

paletas, parte tres

The weather has turned super-steamy, and the blackberries have ripened super-early, so we celebrated both this weekend with Paletas de Yogurt con Moras (Yogurt Pops with Berries) from Paletas.

Greek yogurt is blended with a lemon-infused sugar syrup, then poured into blackberry-filled molds. Very easy and very tasty.

The only disadvantage of these otherwise fab pops is they seem to melt faster than the others:

But it's only really a problem if you're faffing about trying to take the perfect blog photo!

14 July 2011

paletas, parte dos

The weather is very hit-and-miss now. But when it's sunny, we dive straight into the freezer for more pops from Paletas, this time Paletas de Pay de Limón (Lime Pie Ice Pops):

These are super lime-y with 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice and 2 teaspoons lime zest. They should be rolled in crushed graham crackers (American) or Maria cookies (Mexican), but with neither available in Teddington, we're having ours nude.

Very nice, but my favorites are still the Avocado Pops, which I reckon might just be unbeatable. Will keep trying though!

07 July 2011

jolly hockey socks, take five

While we were in Norfolk, I finished two new pairs of sKNITches socks, this time in Denim Fade, a variegated colorway custom-dyed for me in stripes,

and Breathmint,

which I'm hoping will keep my feet smelling minty fresh! Though in this heat, woolen socks probably aren't so conducive to sweet-smelling feet...

01 July 2011


Super sweltering weather last weekend provided the perfect opportunity for making more ice pops, this time Paletas de Aguacate (Avocado Ice Pops),

the creamiest, dreamiest ice pops yet! Ripe avocados are blended with sugar syrup, salt, and lime juice for a burst of Mexican flavor. The recipe is in Paletas, written by Fany Gerson,

author of the amazing My Sweet Mexico (for which she spent an entire year traveling through her native country researching and gathering recipes) and owner of La Newyorkina, a Mexican frozen treats and sweets business in New York City.

According to the recipe introduction, when Fany decided to make avocado paletas for the launch of La Newyorkina, she wasn't sure how they'd be received. But they quickly became a customer favorite, and now I can see (and taste) why. Chido!

25 June 2011

tea tasting

There are so many good reasons to pop into Petersham: the chicly distressed displays,

the fabulous flowers,

and of course the cakes and croissants! But on Tuesday, Sarah and I went for the tea, specifically an oolong tea tasting with Jennifer Wood, founder of the Canton Tea Co:

Oolongs are my favorite teas, and having sampled the Canton Tea Co's Anxi Rou Gui with Bee a few months ago, I was keen to try more of their offerings.

Oolongs (semi-oxidized teas) range tremendously in flavor from fresh and light to rich and dark. My top teas at the tasting were the Tie Guan Yin (Iron Buddha), Mi Lan Dan Cong (Honey Orchid, a 2010 Great Taste Gold Award winner), and Xing Ren Dan Cong (picked from a single 200-year-old bush).

It just figures my favorite would be a 'Connoisseur's' tea and the most expensive of the bunch! But luckily the Anxi Rou Gui and Tie Guan Yin are a lot less pricey. So now perhaps teatime at home will be nearly as exciting as teatime at Petersham!

23 June 2011

holiday next-the-sea, part three

While my favorite Norfolk walks are round Cley, I do love the long walk through Sheringham Park too, which passes through dense woods into rolling fields then onto steep cliffs dropping down to the sea:

And we timed our walk just right to see the North Norfolk Railway come steaming through:

A bit of old-time train spotting was followed by a bit of Old Town shopping in Holt. Old Town Clothing produces about 50 garments per week in its quirky yet understated 'British workwear' style.

Each item is individually cut, sewn, and finished, so you must order 4-6 weeks in advance. Luckily this year I'd thought and ordered ahead so was able to pick up two new Jaywick Smocks, one in Bermondsey in Bloom (blue floral) and the other in Mrs Wilberforce:

© Old Town

So I'm now appropriately attired to channel my inner 1940s housewife. But thank goodness I have a modern washing machine to deal with our holiday laundry!

20 June 2011

holiday next-the-sea, part two

While our holiday included two stately homes, we didn't actually enter either. We made a quick stop at Audley End on the way up, where we toured my favorite bit, the restored Service Wing to the side of the house,

then headed out for a very wet walk round the Organic Kitchen Gardens:

Sadly the glasshouses, where we'd spotted such amazing tomatoes and figs last year, were closed. But luckily the Blickling Orangerie was open when we stopped there the next morning:

The Blickling gardens were lovely--we particularly liked the hazy purple catmint borders--but we were really there for the food!

Last year, the National Trust failed to renew the lease of my favorite food shop, Samphire, taking over their beautifully done-up space at the estate entrance to run their own mediocre cafe. Bah. But after numerous protests and petitions, the Trust is allowing Samphire to run a summer weekend pop-up shop in the grounds. So we stocked up on my favorite quiches and pork pies:

And the big news is Samphire is now selling their pork pies and other goodies at farmers' markets too. So maybe if I keep my fingers crossed they'll open a stand at Maltby Street. Then I could do all my bread, meat, cheese, and ice cream shopping in one go!