I used to be very good at blogging about garden updates but like the lack of green fingered posts on here, there has been a lack of actual horticulture too. I’ve nothing to write about! Unlike other years, no seeds have been planted, I’ve barely weeded, and only this morning did I dig over one of the veg beds. Time is more of an issue these days. I’m working more and don’t get the chance to pop outside to keep apace with the plants. But do you know what? It has sort of been looking after itself! I suppose I’ve given it enough attention in the past, that there is still beautiful stuff to see now. It’s OK too because I haven’t completely missed the boat. This coming weekend is the Easter bank holiday and I believe there might be some kind of law which dictates that one must do gardening during all day light hours over this four day stretch. I have time to catch up.
In the meantime, here’s what has happened so far this spring…
So despite having done nothing at all, things aren’t looking too bad. Yes, there’s mess but I’m not fussed about a neatly manicured lawn or the composting mountain of last year’s runner beans and courgette plants. But I will be worried if I don’t get my arse in gear next weekend. I’m gonna blitz it. Probably.
This time last week I was in Venice. It is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. It was awesome, I was literally in awe. Every five minutes someone heard me say “this place is amazing, I love it!” The husband started getting annoyed, “you’ve already said that.”
Have you been to Venice? It’s amazing, I love it! I went expecting to say goodbye to a lot of cash and, if necessary, sell my soul. Yet, our budget didn’t burst its banks at all. This wasn’t actually going to be a post about how you can do Venice on a budget, it was just going to be my usual thing of whacking up pictures and saying what a nice time I had. However, I want you to go to Venice too and I don’t want you to dismiss it because you think it’ll cost the earth. It doesn’t have to.
We did Ryan Air on the way there and Easy Jet on the way back. This wasn’t my job. Another person in our party of six sorted out flights. He found the best times and prices. It didn’t occur to me to choose two different airlines but this saved us money. We booked in November/December so I can’t remember how much it was, around £100 pp return from Bristol. Just over, I think.
Once you’re at the airport you can get a water bus but it’s half the price to get the train. We wanted to be fancy so we got the bus. A private taxi would be even fancier and they really zooom across the water!
Where to Stay
It’s Airbnb all the way for me. My job was to find accommodation and I didn’t bother looking anywhere else. Seeing as we were three couples, we needed a three bed place. This was also booked in November/December and I think that was too late. Many suitable apartments had already gone and there wasn’t loads of choice for nice places. The best bet is to leap on flights as soon as they’re released and book somewhere to stay at the same time. Don’t dilly dally. However we did manage to find a clean place with a nice view out the back and three bathrooms. It was right near a stunning looking hospital in a pretty square with plenty of bars. Nowhere took longer than fifteen minutes to walk to. Unless you got lost, which we did. Frequently.
What We Ate
Oh my goodness! Everything I ate was fabulous. The only thing I didn’t care much for was the gelato. I don’t know if I had a duff one or if it’s because I’m normally all about umami but I didn’t like the dense texture. It was sturdy ice cream! If we’d have had time (and emptier bellies) I would have gone to the Boutique del Gelato; apparently it’s top notch.
Cicchetti!! Wowsers, I loved all of it, even the salt cod and pickley fishy things! Cicchetti is a bar snack a bit like tapas and you need it in your life. We went to several places to get our fill and each time we also ordered prosecco. Yuuuum!!! Stand at the bar and eat or you can sit too. You might have to pay extra to sit though. Cicchetti is cheap and you can easily fill up on it for a few quid. Try All’ Arco for traditional/local and also Acqua e Mais for a cone of deep fried calamari and shrimp. If you’re on a super tight budget, this sort of thing is great and you don’t need to go mad on the drink, which bumps up the cost. Having said that, a bottle of prosecco is pretty much the same price as a pub here, so much cheaper than I thought it’d be. And so much tastier.
Waiters will tell you that you must order seafood. They’re not wrong. It’s what I ate both nights and it was delicious. The first night we went to a restaurant we’d found on Trip Advisor. In we went, winding our way through tables whilst chatting to the restaurant guy about reservations. As we talked, he escorted us right past all the diners, through the kitchen and out into the alley at the back. We thought we’d been kicked out but actually we were waiting for a table. Others were already there, snacking on chilli pesto gnocchi and little glasses of spritz. We were given the same and told how to hold our plate and glass (!). A few minutes later the guy we’d spoken to introduced us to a bemused looking man in blue gloves and an apron. We were told to follow him. We did and ended up in another restaurant a two minute walk away. At the Tratorria Alla Scala there were no tables for six so they got some other diners to budge up and in we squeezed. We got complimentary glasses of prosecco, grissini and gorgeous garlicky tomato bruschetta. Main meals were around 18 euros, which I think is ace, especially as we paid that much for dinner in Amsterdam last year and didn’t get any extra stuff (not even a smile).
I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we went to the second night but it was a lot of sharing platters and ours were delicious. Oh man, I ate way too much in 48 hours. I haven’t even mentioned, the sneeky chips, pizza, sweets, pastries or any of the other things I stuffed in. I couldn’t sleep the first night cos my tummy was so full. Yet I still didn’t spend that much money! Honest! And I bought yarn! (Not from the posh wool shop though as I had Pretty Woman experience in there, so… big mistake, huge!).
Stuff to do.
I think it’s safe to say that this was very much an eating holiday. I’m a big foodie and my bestie’s husband is a chef so it was always going to be about food. That means we didn’t have time to visit other islands or go into any of the touristy places you’re supposed to visit. If you wanted to go up the tower in St Marks’ square though, I think it’s only 6 euros. The Basilica di San Marco is free to enter, as are a couple of other places. Just standing in St Mark’s square is breathtaking, you don’t need to spend money there! You don’t even need to go there at all. The whole of Venice is amazing to just walk around and gawp at.
One thing which was total bucket list territory was a ride in a gondola. It was made cheaper by the fact that all six of us squeezed into one boat. It was essential that our tour included a goggle at the Bridge of Sighs but the bloke we chatted to said it didn’t work into his 30 minute route. We wangled a 45 minute trip for 120 euros. Usually they’re thirty minutes for 80 euros. The alternative was spending more on an hour or finding another fella who was nearer to the prison. Whatever, it was worth every penny. We all loved it, I even got over excited when I saw a little crab perched on the side of a canal! If you want the gondola man to sing you have to pay extra but I would probably pay for him not to sing. Luckily our guy only came out with interesting facts about what we were seeing. He even knew where George and Amal got married and had their do. Real Venetian culture!
Things I wanted to do but didn’t get the chance? There’s a market by Rialto bridge. I’d like to go there. Next time I’d go to art galleries too and time it with Carnevale! That sounds like an alright weekend…week? There is loads to do and I did what I wanted to do, saw the things I wanted to see and came home happy.
Basically, if you want to do Venice on the cheap don’t spend money in the San Marco area and you’ll be fine. Eat cicchetti and get the train over. Also, you don’t have to have your accommodation on Venice itself. Burano or Murano would probably work out cheaper. There you go. Boom. Bargain holiday in one of the most beautiful destinations in the entire world.
All pics are my own or the husband’s, taken on our phones. xxx
Oh, how I wish I’d thought of these designs a wee bit earlier. There is literally just one week to go before Christmas Day for goodness’ sake! Better late than never I suppose and now they’re here, they’re here forever!
It was this big boy that popped into my head first (a couple of days ago). I didn’t like my other crochet Christmas hat very much as I’d not made much of an effort in the design stakes (see me talk about that disaster Here). Instead of fiddly fine fluffy mohair (yeah, that’s the other hat) I decided to go for a rush job and choose the chunkiest yarn my LYS had. In the last two days I’ve made three versions to get the result I’m really happy with (the first two I was quite chilled about frogging; this hat takes no time to work up!). Yesterday we had a lovely Christmassy lunch at a pub with friends and I sat there and worked on the mini versions!
The big hat uses just over one ball of the red and left me with about half a ball of cream. I felt bad at abandoning all those leftovers and mild to moderate guilt resulted in this collection of mini jobs. They are pretty cute in my opinion and perhaps, deserving of being called “modern” (although, does that make me sound old and clueless? Hope not).
Regarding the biggun, one size fits all. We tested it on our after-lunch walk yesterday. It fits beautifully on all heads, in different kinds of ways. The boy has it so that it is slightly oversize-in-a-good-way, it fits me like a normal hat, and it perches snuggly on a giant nut, like the one my mate’s got (cheers Paul!).
The minis can be tree decs or a garland thingy. I love both (which surprises me as I’m not a bunting person), so versatile!! Today I’ve typed up the patterns for both hat sizes as a 2 for 1 thing. The pdf is available as a download from Ravelry. More technical talk is over there so do please pop over and whilst you’re there, maybe you’ll be tempted to buy a copy! There is still time, honest!
Anyway, I hope to see you here at least one more time before Christmas as I’m hoping to record a vlogcast on Thursday (see YouTube Here). I didn’t think I’d have anything to talk about but actually, it turns out that I do. Fancy that!
Autumn. We bypassed summer, did we!? My outdoor space is in tatters, which is why I’ve not shared much about it recently. I have become most accomplished at being blind to the work that needs to be done; these days I just seek out the pretty.
This is the morning glory that has climbed up the canes intended for sweet peas. Did I mention that I forgot to plant sweet peas? I’d forgotten that a keen gardener must start planting in the autumn and winter to have pretties for the following year. I did plant sweet peas in the end (bought them!!), they just never flowered. Well, I got a single bloom, which is absolutely ridiculous. Still, the morning glory is a beautiful flower and it makes me happy.
And I’ve got alyssum, which was planted from seed. They remind me of the eighties when I was little. Mum planted them in the borders with lobelia. I think that’s why I like them now. I used to pick the petals off lobelia and eat them. I’m not sure they’re counted as edible flowers. But you know, I’m not dead.
Everything has gone wild. The natural look is a good one but when it’s actually neglect …er, I’m not sure one can argue that it’s intentional. Every now and then I make the effort to dig up a dandelion but other stuff, like the nasturtium gets left because it’s lovely. But then it drowns everything and turns to sludge underneath the weight of itself. Any way, I’ll stop with the negative spin (although moaning is brilliant fun). Let’s have a look at the rest of it. What’s good…
I’m still getting veg and other edibles. That’s pretty impressive. We had roast lamb on Sunday, so I picked loads of mint to make sauce. With it we had those beans (the very last of this year’s lot). And I am amazed that it is the courgettes that are the last thing to hang on in there. I’ve got loads in the fridge and I’m tempted to make the 121st cake of the season (courgette cake is the best – try the zucchini bread from Rachel Allen’s Bake).
I went round the garden trying to find summer’s leftover flowers too. It’s slim pickings but they are there. And if they’re not then the vivid blue of slug pellets adds a touch of the exotic.
And in desperate times, one can always try arty shots of random stuff. I thought that peg pic was going to be better than it was. Maybe I should have taken twenty more than the twenty I took. Of pegs!? Pegs!
And there we have it. Another season gone. Another season where I didn’t do what I said I’d do. Whatever, I’m giving myself a pat on the back anyway cos last weekend I planted bulbs.
Do you know the Find your Fade? A knitted shawl with glorious colour play, a spectrum of tones and speckled variegated yarns. I absolutely love the Fade but I’m just not a knitter. I was so excited when I discovered that a very clever crochet designer had come up with a crochet version. The best thing of all is that the Blurre is a completely original design. It isn’t a rip off of the Fade, it is its very own thing and it’s totally fab!
I stumbled upon the Blurre whilst watching a fellow crochet podcaster. Claudia of Crochet Luna was talking about it and I told her how beautiful I thought it was. A few days later I found a copy of the pattern in my Ravelry inbox! Claudia had bought it for me, for my birthday!! How lovely is that?!
I got stuck in straight away! I knew that I wanted to use the yarns I’d found at Stephen & Penelope’s in Amsterdam. That was my starting point. At the time, I was making a different shawl with some neon yellow I’d bought in Edinburgh. That was also going in too. I needed two more colours so looked for stuff that would blend the neon with the dusky blues from Amsterdam. The Wool Kitchen’s Nebula sprang to mind pretty quickly. Then a spot of time, trawling Etsy gave me Made By Jude’s When Dye Pots Attack. See here for the links to yarn. That’s also the link to the vlog/podcast episode where I talk about the shawl too!
The pattern is awesome. It’s super easy but creates something really sophisticated and modern. I didn’t know Deanne of Addydae Designs before. Well, I’d seen her work before but not properly registered in my head that one person was linked to all the pretties. Check out the Three Springs shawl. I lurrrvve it!! Deanne also has a podcast, check that out too.
I’m in love with my Blurre!! It’s awesome! However, it has been a bugger to photograph. The neon blows out no matter what I try. It makes the other colours look lacklustre. In real life it is all superb, I promise. If I were to be picky, I’d say that I’d like a few more rows of the first colour (the turquoisy one) and more rows of the Nebula (the dark one with rainbow flecks). I think that would have helped to balance out that crazy neon. For the most part, I’m well chuffed. If I didn’t have so many other things to make, I’d definitely make another one straight away. I know others have said the same too.
I got the camera out the other day and took some snaps that didn’t work too well. I asked my four year old to take some pictures of me too. Initially I just handed him the camera and asked him to click away. It didn’t go down well. I ended up with about twenty blurry Blurres. I got the tripod out but still couldn’t see exactly what was going on (not until I remembered to flip the viewing screen). Anyway, here are a few reasonably acceptable photos so you get more of an idea about how the Blurre looks.
It was fun to play around and the boy enjoyed some “responsibility” as my photographer. His favourites were when the cat got in on the action. She didn’t like being a model much.
What do you reckon? Fancy having a go at your own Blurre? I’d love to see other versions!
It’s bluebell time, come on grab your friends, we’re going to visit bluebell lands…etc
I don’t know a single person that isn’t impressed with a sea of these. Let’s face it, even a single bluebell sitting on its own is pretty good. Bees especially agree.
At the weekend we had an impromptu adventure to our nearest gathering of knock your socks off bluebells. Blackbury Camp is situated on the Ottery St Mary to Seaton road and it’s beautiful and interesting at any time of the year. I wrote about it last year when I was seemingly a bit mardy. Check out my grump here.
Photographing outside views is a lot different to product photography. I’ve had more practice at the latter but not much else. This was one of the things that was upsetting me last year. I’ve improved since then but I still don’t fully understand how to get the best shot. It’s not just about clicking away and hoping that one will turn out OK. Every picture you take should have something going for it. That’s what I think. Believe me, I totally click away and hope for the best but I also try and plan stuff too.
I wasn’t thinking about it at the time (hence the non matchy matchy) but these two pics are the left and right of the same view. We’re in an oval bowl of an iron age fort. You can run around the top “walls” or amble through the centre. What is not seen to the left is the lane that brings you here. To the right; an exit, a series of trenches and stunning views of the valley beyond. The pic above this one shows the other side of the wall and one of the trenches.
Do have bluebell woods near you? Anyone in Devon know of other pretty woods? What follows can only be described as Bluebell spam. It’s worth it though!
Spam over. And by the way, I cheated. The bumblebee shots aren’t from Blackbury Camp at all, I took them in my garden a few days before our jaunty outing! Sorry about that. The fun will never end.
I feel like this is the beginning. Doesn’t it feel like the beginning of the gardening season? Hardcore gardeners have probably been at it for weeks but cliche that I am, I did most of it over the Easter weekend. Even squeezed in an obligatory garden centre visit. Anyone else stereotype themselves this weekend?!
My outside space was neglected last year and I made a promise that I would be more attentive by the time spring came. So I chucked on old trainers and tatty jeans to spend a couple of days in the garden. (If my mistreated anemones can make the effort to flower, I can make the effort to green my fingers).
If I’m being honest, the bank holiday weekend wasn’t my first time out there, I’ve done rudimentary weeding and pruning, stuff like that, oh and planted some pea seeds. But it was the first weekend where I’ve spent a considerable amount of time doing organising, tidying and planting. Alchemilla mollis was growing in the gravel, so I scrabbled around and got those in pots, I popped out to the front and gathered lots of baby foxgloves and put those in pots too.
Mum had given me a heuchera and a pulmonaria, so in the borders they went. I’m hoping the foxgloves and alchemilla will join them to fill up all the gaps I’ve got. Some cat mint died last year and left a hole. I didn’t split it when it was at its best a few years ago, I could see its demise coming and wasn’t proactive in saving it. Eh, I’ve never actually split any plants, even though the gardeners on the telly do it all the time. I get a lot of my plants from Mum cos she does what she’s told! Maybe I should chop apart the geraniums this year.
It doesn’t matter how weedy things are in the borders. As long as “weeds” bring colour, they’re welcome. Look at the delicate blue of the speedwell, I love that colour. My mum must too, it’s another one from her. Do you love forget me nots too? They make me extremely happy indeed. Those white anemones are the first plants I ever introduced to that patch. I’m amazed that they come up every year.
At the end of the season last year, I collected some seeds from the aquilegia. I planted them in a tray this weekend (along with many other seeds in many other trays) and I hope to give the ones under the fig tree some friends (not that you can see the fig tree in the photo above – it’s that blurry trunk in the background).
I’m so excited to see all the buds on the clematis. We had to chop loads back last year as it was clogging everything up. Buds mean flowers! We didn’t kill it!
And you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve been eating purple sprouting with nearly every dinner. There’s flipping loads of it now. I needn’t have worried about it at all. Just had some patience. But now it needs to get over itself, my runner beans will need to go in that space.