Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Organic veggie box...

Riley wasted no time investigating the veggie box!
All excited this morning as my organic fruit and veg box arrives courtesy of Four Seasons Foods - www.fourseasonsfoods.org . Four Seasons Foods are a local company running an organic box delivery scheme. Started up by some friends of mine - Glenn and Kishe Redwood a few years back now they have gone from strength to strength and now deliver all around the forest. I had boxes from them a few years back but had to stop due to a number of factors but now Riley is eating pretty much what I do and the cost of our local supermarket fruit and veg is ridiculous I thought it was time to go back to basics.
So what have I got for my £12? lets see... some lovely mushrooms, onions,carrots and potatoes still in dirt jackets! (the best way to keep them fresh), lots of lovely curly greens, nice head of broccoli, some dwarf french beans, a couple of corn cobs, a handful of cherry tomatoes, some apples, kiwi fruit, a lemon and a bag of red grapes!

Now I need to get planning meals so none of it goes to waste....Any excuse to get all my cookery books out!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some news...

A hectic few weeks have finally ended with an exciting and busy Saturday with the Newent Onion Fayre bringing thousands of people into the town of Newent and lots of new visitors to Lara's Den. It also marked the grand opening of the other half's new shop Biker Dean (second branch - he is creating his empire!)

After all the hard grafting and late nights that he's put in, with the help of friends, staff and family, it was good to open the doors to customers for the first time - Amazing considering we only took the shop on 4 weeks ago! Check out the website - http://www.bikerdean.co.uk/ for more piccies and news on the Biker Dean blog (to be completed later today!)

Also this week my brother has finally got his own website showcasing his photographs up and running - http://www.antsphotos.co.uk/ . He has been a hobby photographer for many years and has produced some amazing and unusual pictures. We will be selling a selection of mounted small prints at Lara's Den and maybe a few larger framed pictures at a later date but if there is anything you like on the website you can contact him by email for a quote.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Play date...

Another gorgeous late summer/early autumn day and another trip done to Nannie's house to feed the cat this time with my friend Claire and her little girl Paige.
Riley was a little reluctant to share Nannie's garden to begin with but I put that down mainly to teething misery as there is more than enough space for everyone!
As you can see he soon let his adventurous spirit take over and had a great time exploring!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Autumn bounty...

I love this time of year. The summer - such as it was - is having it's final fling, with glorious blue skies and fluffy white clouds encouraging us outside - although the brisk breeze and the nip in the air reminding us that colder times are not far off.
I took Riley down to his Nannie's house for a romp around the garden yesterday, approximately a quarter of an acre of cultivated wildness complete with little pathways that disappear behind shrubs and apple, plum and hazel trees. Not forgetting tangles of bramble bushes over flowing with luscious blackberries!
Of course we couldn't leave without a bag full of apples and blackberries as Riley got his first lesson in foraging for food!

What I love most about Autumn is that a lovely pile of goodies like this...

...can be turned into a luscious pudding like this...
...a bowl full of sumptuousness like this...

...to be enjoyed like this!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lara's Den Poster

Above is a basic publicity poster I have just knocked together for Lara's. Everything going fairly well, obviously it is early days yet and as the street is tucked away behind the main street with access only through the Newent Association for the Disabled charity shop you really have to kind of know it's there - though they are doing an admirable job of pointing people in the right direction!
I have taken several orders for personalised fabric bunting and we have all sold a couple of items each plus we have a big wool delivery expected in the next couple of days which should boost the stock and, hopefully, the interest.
Also happening at the same time as all this is the other half opening a second branch of BikerDean in the shop next door! (it was too good an opportunity to miss). He is having to put in a lot of hard grafting, on a very tight budget, to get the building up to standard - concreting floors, new wiring, plasterboard, painting etcetc. - as well as continuing to keep the shop in Coleford ticking over - which means he's been doing 14-16 hour days. But thanks to the help of staff members and willing volunteers it is all coming together and he hopes to be opening for the Onion Fair (Sept 12th).
What with all this going on I have barely had time to breathe, let alone blog but hopefully, once all the hard work has been completed and both shops are established we may be able to relax again!

Friday, August 21, 2009

A suprising combination...

My attempts at vegetable growing have not exactly been 100% successful - I've lost three of my tomato plants to blight and a lot of strawberries to slugs and the promised heatwave gave way to rain, rain and more rain so what tomatoes and peppers I do have are still quite small and nowhere near ripe. One plant, however has done spectacularly well - my courgette has been producing in abundance so we have had courgette in stirfries, courgette soup, roasted courgette etc etc. In my quest to find something different to do with courgettes I found a recipe for courgette muffins - I kid you not!
And suprisingly - they are yummy!
So for those of you who also have a surplus of courgettes - here it is. If you grate them/chop them up really fine nobody need ever know they are in there...
Pre-heat oven to 190-200c/gas 5-6 and prepare muffin tin.
In a large bowl sift together 280g plain flour, 2tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda. 1/2tsp salt, 2tsp ground cinnamon and 3tbs cocoa powder.
In a medium sized bowl beat and egg with a fork. Add 125g soft brown sugar, 90ml milk, 2tsp vanilla essence, 90ml vegetable oil and 350g (approx 3-4 medium sized) finely grated courgette - no need to peel unless you want to avoid green flecks in the finished muffin. stir well.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until combined. Batter will be lumpy but no dry flour should be visible.
Spoon into tin - should make 11 or 12 big muffins - and bake for approx 20mins.
mm mmm mmmmmmm!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Well, here we are, the day before official opening day for 'Lara's Den'!
Yes, I know this is all a bit sudden but the unit on the street only became available last Friday and we decided to take a chance and go for it! We don't have masses of stock for it - remember the original 'opening date' was the middle of September but there is just enough to give the punters an idea of what we are doing. We still have the room upstairs - which, incidentally, is looking amazing now, all painted with the floorboards stripped and varnished. That will be my workroom and further display space and also a bigger room for Riley to run around in!
I think the street looks lovely - next door to the left we have 'Pins and Needles' run by a lady called Bron, selling wool, haberdashery and cross stich kits plus a few of her own handmade items (includng gorgeous little knitted mice). Bron spins her own wool and hopes to do classes as well.
To the right we have 'The Cake Box' selling homebaked yummies - looking forward to trying them out, think the diet might suffer a bit though!
We also have 'Sweet Memories' - an old fashioned sweet shop - more temptation, darn it.
Upstairs (next to my workroom) is 'Granny's Attic' selling collectables and jewellery.
We will also have an artist displaying and selling her work.
A few of my stitched items along with some of my jewellery in the window and on the old bookcase.
A selection of handmade items for sale in 'Lara's Den'

Thursday, August 13, 2009

New books...

Very excited as I have two lovely books by Tilda full of gorgeous designs by Tone Finnanger. The photographs used to illustrate the books alone are wonderful inspiration and that's before I've even got to the projects themselves. Oh happy days....

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Busy, busy, busy...

Well the last week has been a little hectic as the reality of running a home, keeping on top of the paperwork for Biker Dean, designing and making stock for the shop and keeping a small child entertained kicks in! Thankfully the sun has come out the last couple of days so I can let him out into the garden again which eases the tension somewhat.
We are lucky to have some handy volunteers who have got stuck into the shop, ripping down old wall paper and painting so when we paid a visit on Saturday the transformation was quite something! Light flooded through the windows now the dirty old nets have been removed and the horrible dark brown wall has had it's first coat of paint. Riley had a whale of a time stomping around in the dust and flaked paint, even grabbing the broom to 'sweep' the floor!
There is still a way to go but it's getting there...
The 'much improved but with still a way to go' interior!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Full Moon Fever...

This picture was taken a while ago but not bad for a 5mp point-and-shoot!

I have just noticed, thanks to my little moon phase gadget at the bottom of my blog, that it's a full moon. Which probably explains why yesterday was such a disaster!

Getting carried away...

Did not have a good day yesterday! After getting on with housework early so I would have some time to make things for the shop I managed to drop a whole bottle of extra virgin olive oil on my nice clean kitchen floor - cleaning oil off the floor is hard enough but it becomes really difficult when there are shards of glass to contend with as well.
Then, later on my angel of a son managed to tip a cup of tea over himself (it was nearly cold, fortunately) and a pile of clean, freshly ironed clothes I was just about to put away.
Well, I'm not ashamed to admit, I cried. Which made him cry. So I gave the rest of the day up as a lost cause and, as a result, got nothing made for the shop. D'oh.
I did, however spend a little time surfing the net and discovering a new online bead shop that I absolutely love - http://www.jillybeads.co.uk/ and got a bit carried away ordering things for my new jewellery collection - inspired by the Forest in Autumn. I am lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country and the magnificent view from my conservatory/workroom is so inspirational.
But today is another day and, thankfully the sun is shining (although the garden is still soaked) which means Riley can play outside and hopefully I can get on with something a little more constructive than crying over spilt tea!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lara's Den

So - we went to see our new shop. I say 'shop', what it is actually is a room in an old (and I mean old!) town house in Newent that in it's previous incarnation was an 'olde worlde' shopping street/museum. The room we have been allocated is at the front of the building directly above the Newent Association for the Disabled charity shop. It has two huge sash windows complete with original, slightly bubbly glass and a very quaint wonky door frame with door cut to fit!

To say that it needs a bit of work is probably understatement of the century - but it is basically sound and all the electrics are being sorted this week so we can get in there and clean up.

We are going to call it 'Lara's Den' and it's going to be a wool shop/haberdashers and hand crafted gift shop. We are sharing the floor with an artist and a lady who sells collectables. Downstairs is another crafter who does spinning and hopes to do workshops for children.
The whole 'Shambles' area is tucked away behind the high street and is a warren of very old buildings, many of which are falling apart, and, sadly, destined for demolition. It really is like stepping back in time...

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Back from holiday.

Back from a week at my mum and dad's place in Gilwern (nr Abergavenny). We had a lovely time with Riley's first trip to the seaside (Mumbles, nr Swansea) and a lovely walk along the canal path that runs all the way to Brecon - we didn't actually walk all the way to Brecon but I would love to cycle it one day...

The garden was looking fab, and the little arbour that dad has added was a lovely place to sit when the sun did show its face (albeit briefly).

Riley had great fun being the centre of attention of a posse of adoring relatives and I enjoyed not having to worry about the washing, cooking etc for a few days.

Now I have got to start thinking about our new venture. We are going over to Newent tomorrow to see our new shop for the first time. I am so excited about it I can barely wait....

Sunday, July 26, 2009


We have been offered a shop unit in a former museum in Newent, Glos. It is 1st floor room in a grade 2 listed building that in it's former life was dressed as a Victorian drawing room. There are several other shop units around a central courtyard and so far it looks like there will be an old fashioned sweet shop, a cake shop and a couple of other artists/crafts people there.
I haven't actually seen it yet but mother-in-law, who has always dreamed of having a little wool shop, has signed us up for it so it's go, go, go!
The aim is to get it all ready for a grand opening in time for the Newent Onion Fair in September, which usually attracts huge numbers of visitors to the town.
This means that I am not just crafting to fill a small table stall but to stock a small shop! In less than 6 weeks. Never let it be said that I don't like a challenge.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Are you scared of the Dark?

Anyone who is interested in the darker side of fantasy artwork and photography should check out this book 'Twisted Pixels' http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/715584 - it's full of stunning (if a little twisted) photographs by a very talented (creep creep) friend of mine Matt Frederick. You can also see his work in exhibition at the Summerfield Gallery, Cheltenham running from the 31st August to 18th September.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The world in tiny.

Thanks to a friend I have discovered one of the best freebie photo editing tools ever. This is a method called tiltshift photography that basically alters the focus of your picture and tricks the eye into thinking that it is seeing a 'miniature'. In the old days you needed special lenses to achieve this effect but now, thanks to the wonders of digital photography EVERYONE can have a go!
Obviously it works better with some pics than others but if you want to have a play visit tiltshiftmaker.com

Be warned though, it's addictive!

Me and the little man!

Here is a piccie of Riley and mummy that was taken at the Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre by nanny! It's so rare for there to be a: a photo with me in it and b: a photo of the two of us together (as it is usually me taking the pictures) I thought it worth posting!
Plus Riley looks as adorable as ever!! :-)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Getting down to it...

Now the initial excitement of the new fabric consignment has passed it's time to get cracking and actually make something! My plan is to get a stock of stuff ready for the Sheppard House Summer Open Day/Fete - a well attended event held every year in aid of Sheppard House and Newent Dial-a-Ride - on the 29th August. Sounds ages away but it is, in fact, only 6 weeks! (Gulp!)
I am hoping to get my website up and running at the same time so that I can get cards/banners etc printed up in time to promote it at said event. It's gonna be touch and go to get it all done but - Riley willing - the basics will be in place in time.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I am seeing stars (and stripes and spots and checks and paisley) - the fabrics I ordered last week have arrived so now it's time to get crafty!

I am just too excited to blog anymore...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Things to make and do...

Now that the Biker Dean financial books have all been packed off the the accountant I finally have my hour or so of me time while Riley naps back again ( I am getting better organised - hopefully it won't take nearly so long to sort out next year!). This means that - in theory - I should be able to get cracking on making things again.
I have just ordered a whole bunch of fabrics in stripes, polka dots, stars, paisley and gingham with which to make bunting and other fancy things to sell on my website - when I eventually get it up and running. Oh, I am getting all excited about doing these things again - it has been such a long time since I have a: had the time b: had the energy and c: had the inspiration. It's amazing how tiredness saps your creativity.
Riley is beginning to occupy himself for a bit now as well which leaves me a little freer to get on with stuff - although I still can't refuse when he wanders over with 'The Gruffalo' for me to read to him - he is already showing a passion for books which I want to encourage as much as possible!
So I have plenty of things to make and do and the motivation to make them and do them. And if it keeps raining like this the website could be up and running a lot sooner than you think - 'Gruffalo' breaks taken into account. Watch this space...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's Raining...Again.

I know - it's July - this is what it does in July. Musn't grumble too much as the garden is loving it, so much so that the poor excuse for lawn that we have out the back is actually looking very lush and green...and in desperate need of a mow. I just hope it dries out fairly soon before it gets too long for the little hover mower and I have to beg/borrow/steal a strimmer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Pics from Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre...

A few more piccies from the day! Just click on a pic if you want to see it bigger.

All the fun of the Fayre.

We had a lovely day yesterday at the annual Tewkesbury Medieval Fayre - complete with battle of Tewkesbury re-enactment, pig roasts, ale tents, kiddies play area and lots and lots and lots of great shopping!! Riley got let off the leash for the first time, running us all ragged trying to keep up with him and obviously loving it. He particularly enjoyed the Morris dancers, taking it all in and shaking his little handmade wooden rattle along with the music.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see much of the battle itself as there were so many people turned out to watch but the noise was quite something!

Loads of artisans selling their wares; gorgeous hand blown Medieval style Glassware from Germany, little wooden drums, pipes and rattles for kids, jewellery, leatherwork, sheepskins, pottery and hand woven willow baskets from Greenwood Futures who also make gorgeous cradles and environmentally sound coffins (http://www.greenwoodfutures.moonfruit.com/). I'm afraid I splashed out and treated myself to a lovely willow washing basket. The cat hasn't discovered it yet...but it is only a matter of time!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rain doesn't stop play!

Well it's raining again! But never one to let a little bit of water get in the way, Riley has been out in the garden getting damp while I did a quick check round the greenery for the other big fans of rain; slugs and snails! This chappy was clinging on for dear life and, as he wasn't really doing any harm I decided to leave him where he was (the ones on the veggies/fruit were not so lucky!)

The rain is getting worse though, so it looks like an afternoon indoors - I am knitting a cute little bag for the other half's sister's birthday in a couple of weeks so I will probably do a bit of that - as long as Riley doesn't have other ideas!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer is here...and gone again!

Love this time of year! The garden is starting to look half decent as the plants lap up the alternating sunshine and (heavy) showers.
This is the first year I have had any time to spend in the garden and it shows with the newly added border running down the side fence brimming with lavendar, sage and chamomile and smelling heavenly in the hot sunshine whenever I walk past.
I am growing tomatoes outside for the first time and so far every plant has set at least one truss of fruit. My single courgette plant is also producing like its going out of fashion. We have a couple of raspberry canes and a forgotten about strawberyy plant that has the biggest flowers I have ever seen - can't wait to see what fruit that produces!
Unfortunately the pea plant (kindly donated by a friend as a seedling) has not faired well in the strong winds that hit us over the weekend and broke clean in half - we salvaged half a dozen almost full grown pods, which were very tasty. Definately want to grow more of those next summer!
Riley is enjoying being helpful in the garden - although more mud seems to end up in his mouth than in the pots! But it is so nice sharing freshly picked raspberries on a warm, sunny morning with an appreciative person (the other half doesn't 'do' fruit!). At 14 months he is already showing signs of being a proper little outdoor bunny - when the weather is dry he is in and out the backdoor all day and when it's raining he sits by the door pointing and obviously wanting to be out there!

My own little cabbage patch kid in Grandma's bean patch

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What to blog?

I was lying in bed last night trying to get to sleep whilst a million and one ideas for blogs buzzed around my head. One recurring thought was 'Why bother spending a good hour or so every day constructing a few paragraphs on nothing in particular that no-one is going to read?'
Well, I could say something about how I always wanted to be a writer and that the best way to be a writer is to write.
Perhaps it is a subconscious effort to keep the grey matter from turning to mush (it happens, apparently, once you have kids! All intellectual thought is replaced by the IgglePiggle song.)
Actually what it boils down too is that there is absolutely nothing of any value on daytime TV to watch and I've got to fill the little man's nap time with something or I will just eat biscuits and that is not good.

Obviously if anyone else does read this and gets some degree of enjoyment from it then that IS good and proves that this is not a complete waste of time.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A woman's work is never done...

When I were a lass the decorating was always done by the man of the house. My Grandad spent most of his retirement repainting the kitchen and Mum always had a grand redecorating plan for my poor Dad whenever he was lucky enough to get a few days off work.
Unfortunately in these post-feminist days of equal opportunities that traditional way of doing things has fallen by the wayside.
Or at least it has in my house.
Don't get me wrong - I don't begrudge this. I actually enjoy slapping a bit of paint on the walls and transforming a room. I get bored looking at the same colour on the walls for too long and I lived on my own long for so long that I had to do these things myself. The problem is now I have so much else to do, and, unlike my partner who, admittedly, goes out to work six days a week but has Sunday 'off' complete with lie-in, I am up at 6am and still 'working' at 9pm pretty much every day of the week (anyone with young kids will know what I mean). I know I could poke and prod and get my dearly beloved to have a go but, honestly, he is to DIY what Jeremy Clarkson is to environmentalism. If I want these things done I have to do them myself or they will simply never get done.
A case in point is our hallway. Actually 'hallway' is a generous term - 'lobby' would be more accurate, 'A bit of space connecting the front door to the living room and kitchen' is about as close as I can get. When we moved into the house about four and a half years ago it was decorated in dark. DARK grey and silver wallpaper in a kind of Art Deco fan pattern - actually quite nice in the right place but sadly this was not the right place. So this came down and the scrappy bit of carpet on the floor came up revealing ...mmm nice pockmarked concrete. I bought some flooring (just cheap, sticky backed 'wood effect' planks) and somehow managed to find a million other better things to do...
Four years down the line and with a very mobile one year old on the loose, I have decided that enough is enough and the flooring is going down - I hate it now but that is beside the point - it is better than bare concrete and we can't afford to get anything else. Of course that means I will have to repaint the walls and skirting and keep my little darling entertained at the same time, not to mention all the other jobs that have to be done to keep things ticking over so please excuse me if I seem a little crotchety over the next few days...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nothing better to do...

What with Myspace (waste of time, too many random spam friend requests), Facebook (nice to catch up with some old buddies but far too many questionable 'applications' and 'find your true identity' type quizzes), and Windows Livespace (not sure what I'm supposed to do with that one!) you'd think I just wouldn't have enough space in my diary to cram in yet another pointless exercise in talking to myself via a keyboard and computer monitor.

But here I am talking to myself again....

You'd think I had nothing better to do.

You couldn't be more wrong.
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