Rocking Dog Creative Huddle, Weds 28th June

Come On Let's Get Creative!,Rocking Dog

Come On Let’s Get Creative!

Yes the months are whittling away, we’ll be onto Christmas makery before we know it! You are warmly welcomed to come along to the Rocking Dog Creative Huddle tomorrow. Rocking Dog is very friendly and won’t bite, even though the Real Live Rocking Dog is just ever so slightly grumpy! Come to think of it that’s a pretty fair description of Rocking Dog if temperatures rise above 29 degrees!

Lovely homemade cake, something cold to drink, gentle chat and if you want to “make” that’s lovely too.

Donations into the teapot for Fine Cell Work encouraging and supporting prison inmates to sew & embroider, £60 collected thus far. Thank you.

Don’t be shy, come along. Contact me if you need further details or directions.

Love Rocking Dog x

Rocking Dog Loves Frou!,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Loves Frou!

Glitter Shoed Gardening In Umbria

Hanging The Hammock,Rocking Dog

Hanging The Hammock

Good morning from Rocking Dog. I had good intentions of continuing to garden at 5.30 am on my return to the kennel, but alas….! To escape the piercing heat of the Umbrian sun I did indeed choose to garden as dawn arrived in the garden. I was awoken by my own dawn chorus of naughty chattering birds flitting busily on the ancient olive tree outside our bedroom window. I gardened in linen nightie and glittery sandals and as a result my legs are in a scratched and sorry state! The Italian version of Sticky Willy is coarse, barbed and unforgiving.

Umbria has had no rain for a few weeks now and the land is parched. It has been unusual to have such high temperatures so early in the summer season and there are real concerns for this years olive crop. The little olives have had no chance to develop before being hit by temperatures nearing 40 degrees. For those of us who pick olives as a pleasurable hobby a poor crop is sad but not an economic disaster. Meanwhile for those who depend on the crop for their livelihood a poor harvest is a severe body blow. Of course a poor crop trickles down to whole communities (pickers,olive oil pressing facilities, bottle & can suppliers,retailers etc…) Olive oil really is a way of life in Italy.

It is not only olives which have been affected, we witnessed vineyards blackened by fire and food crops struggling in the earth for moisture. A huge field of sunflowers have been planted over the garden fence and we hope that in a months time there will be a blaze of yellow on the horizon. Sunflowers are a rotational crop, so it may be a few years before the cheery yellow field reappears so close by.

Our grass resembles cattle driving prairie land. We hope rain will come soon. It was too hot to plant anything new, so leaf clearing and tidying was the order of the day. Planting will be done in October when we will assess what needs replacing after the sweltering summer.

We hung the hammock, added pretty lights and watered the thirsty geraniums. I found the most exquisite little nest on the path. It was truly an architectural masterpiece with grasses and soft pulpy seed heads. It was so soft, so delicate and tear jerkingly beautiful. I didn’t get to sit in my oak tree’d reading nook, nor use my telescope, the swinging chair remained un-sat in .. but getting close to unfamiliar plants was enjoyable.

And Suddenly it’s Evening by Salvatore Quasimodo

Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth
Pierced by a ray of sun:
and suddenly it’s evening.

It wasn’t all about work in the garden, we managed to fire up the ancient pizza oven after some remedial internal grouting. Of course the pool provided delicious respite from the unrelenting heat, and Michele’s provided the perfect escape for Prosecci and cake!

So, it’s back to verdant woodland management back at the kennel and I think wellies may be rather more sensible than glittery shoes!

Have a good week and at least the rain is on the way here.

Love Rocking Dog x

Watering The Geraniums,Rocking Dog

Watering The Geraniums

Garden Treasure,Rocking Dog

Garden Treasure

Unpromising Crop,Rocking Dog

Unpromising Crop

Lighting to Hang,Rocking Dog

Lighting to Hang

View To The Village,Rocking Dog

View To The Village

Early Morning Dip,Rocking Dog

Early Morning Dip

Escape For Cake,Rocking Dog

Escape For Cake

Fire Up The Oven,Rocking Dog

Fire Up The Oven

Back To Woodland Gardening,Rocking Dog

Back To Woodland Gardening

Gone For A Cooling Dip!

Cooling Pool,Rocking Dog

Cooling Pool

Signing off for a really wee while to go for a cooling dip. I will hopefully be signing back in soon with a batch of creative Rocking Dog bloggery!

Love Rocking Dog x

PS Next Rocking Dog creative huddle Weds 28th June. Please come for chat, cakery and makery!

Checking Our Olives,Rocking Dog

Checking Our Olives

Lunch Alfresco,Rocking Dog

Lunch Alfresco

Detour To The Shop,Rocking Dog

Detour To The Shop

Rocking Dog Antipasti,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Antipasti

Salami To Buy,Rocking Dog

Salami To Buy

Sunset,Rocking Dog

Sunset

A Field Full Of Flowers & Sunshine

Flowers In May,Rocking Dog

Flowers In May

Many of you will know about my love of the fields which lie behind the kennel. They were the perfect place to do an impromptu photo shoot with little Douglas. On the 10th May we ran out of the kennel whilst the sun was shining and the little babe contented. He was surrounded by sun kissed buttercups, clover, dandelion clocks, plantain and gently swaying grasses. How much more lovely to be photographed in this natural environment than a stark and expensive photographic studio! The weeks have since rolled on, the little chaps skin has plumply filled out, smiles have arrived, and newborn clothes have been neatly parcelled up. In time we will run through the grasses, hide, eat picnics, chat, sing, tell stories, do hand stands (!), dance, read, build snowmen, and play games in the field.

With the arrival of June the field shows off new swathes of flowers and grasses. The colourful honeyed smell of spring has given way to less showy moon daisies, wild sorrel, hawkweed, birds foot trefoil and a myriad of tall whispering grasses. Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies flutter in amongst the sun baked vegetation whilst bumble bees enjoy the sweet dying embers of the pink and white clovers. Large metallic lapiz blue dragonflies skim across the field on their way to the wetness of the Frome. Hedgerows burgeon with bramble blooms, sloes, wild briar rose and elderflower. It is simply too hot for the rabbits to graze, they will emerge from their damp clay burrows when twilight brings the coolness of the days end.

A pair of swallows have returned to the field, the late afternoons bring them joyfully and skilfully utilising their mesmerizing acrobatics. They swoop and dive over the high desiccating grasses, mere flashes of inky black forked tail and iconic aerodynamic wings. The buzzard, deer, wood pigeons and the rabbit loving fox who lives in the orchard put in appearances and makes every walk unique. The seasons leech into each other, days shorten and lengthen, rain, cold, wind, sun, grey, mud, frost, sun parched, the field perpetually changes.

Real Live Rocking Dog loves the field it means chasing his current deflated ball. We are lucky that the cows haven’t yet arrived. Until then it is Real Live Rocking Dogs field. It is a place for thinking, contemplating (despite the constant hum of the motorway), revelling in nature, enjoying the seasons and for planning the next photo shoot with the sooooo sweet wee nipper!

Do You Like Butter?,Rocking Dog

Do You Like Butter?

Flowers In June,Rocking Dog

Flowers In June

Nature Table,Rocking Dog

Nature Table

Brambles In Flower,Rocking Dog

Brambles In Flower

Ripening Sloes,Rocking Dog

Ripening Sloes

Where's My Ball?,Rocking Dog

Where’s My Ball?

Watery Walk,Rocking Dog

Watery Walk

Marshmallow Skies,Rocking Dog

Marshmallow Skies

May Blossom & Friends,Rocking Dog

May Blossom & Friends

A Nosy Snapshot – Other Folks Homes!

Succulent Cacti Home,Rocking Dog

Succulent Cacti Home

Sorry sis’ I couldn’t resist taking some snapshots of your home over the weekend. I think all of us forget about some of the beautiful, odd, eccentric tactile objects that many of us surround ourselves with. I love some of the eclectic collections which have evolved over the years in my sisters London home. The couple together with my three gorgeous nieces.
have filled their home with innovative storage (much designed and built by talented sis’), colour and lovely things. There are junk shop finds, items retrieved from skips, ebay purchases, gifts, and sentimental pieces from childhood homes.

I couldn’t resist snapping niece No3’s Cacti home. A Terrarium from Ikea has been filled with textural mini cacti and succulents. I might just have to be a copycat and create my own cacti home. These hairy and spiky lovelies are really difficult to kill which definitely goes in their favour!

The Thumbelina collection resides in a little glass fronted painted cupboard no more than 12inches x 12inches. How very satisfying to have such a wonderful Lilliput stash, a perfect place for “The Borrowers” to reside. On another staircase there are shelves with ceramics from 18th century through to present day. I certainly remember the pair of old blue jugs in my parents home. They were sat on shelves close to where our elderly cat had an improvised cat litter tray- the carpet! I remember there was also a large jug of bullrushes and for some reason those gave be awful recurring nightmares. There was also a lion in my fretful slumbers and this may have come about because of a large 70’s hessian lion which lived close to those bullrushes.

It is probably not difficult to ascertain that sis’ did Wood, Metals & Plastics for her degree whilst partner Rod did Illustration. This is a creative home which takes on board their love of how things are made, materials, colour, contemporary design and patina’d age.

The green Minton majolica jug has particular sentimental jokey significance as it was the receptacle used one evening by New Romantic Rod for a bout of drunken sickness! My parents never found out but we used to bait Rod and sing improvised words to Shakin’ Stevens “Green Door”. I saw a smaller version of the same jug recently and it was a few hundred pounds. Perhaps that is why the jug has found its place on a high shelf never to be used as an impromptu vomit bowl again.

One of my favourite pieces of furniture in the house is an old wooden locker unit. I think it had appeared in a couple of films before being sold to sis’. I love the chunky wooden bed too. For a while we delighted in it being in our house. I was always rather hoping it would end up being surplus to requirements. Alas no.

So this is a little whistle-stop tour of lovely things in a home I love. More nosy snapshots of other folks homes soon! Volunteers very welcome.

Have a wonderful week and I hope the pollen count goes down to all of you poor hay fever sufferers out there. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Thank you to Tucker O’Hara (love the name) from across the pond who sent a photo of her finished Kaffe Fassett Peas. Well done Tucker for persevering with ALL those greens! Mine remains resolutely unfinished..one day!

Ceramic Cacti,Rocking Dog

Ceramic Cacti

Staircase Collection,Rocking Dog

Staircase Collection

Thumbelina Collection, Rocking Dog

Thumbelina Collection

Bold Walls,Rocking Dog

Bold Walls

Bold Bedhead,Rocking Dog

Bold Bedhead

Lovely Locker,Rocking Dog

Lovely Locker

Infamous Green Jug!,Rocking Dog

Infamous Green Jug!

High Fives!,Rocking Dog

High Fives!

Me, & My Bruv & Sis',Rocking Dog

Me, & My Bruv & Sis’

A Quick Vintage Tea Towel Make From Rocking Dog

Jolly Tea Towel,Rocking Dog

Jolly Tea Towel

The weather was miserable yesterday, even usually super keen Real Live Rocking Dog did not want to move from under his cosy blanket. I was waiting for lovely Mr Cooker Man to put new elements into my oven, so I decided to do a little bit of sewing. I found a jolly unused vintage tea towel on Material Mountain and decided it would make a great beach bag. The linen tea towel was a recent 50p purchase in a local charity shop. I searched on the Mountain for suitable lining fabric and found a nautical striped fabric remnant. From start to finish the project took under an hour.

If you want to make your own bag:-

1 pretty tea towel
Lining fabric cut to the same size as your tea towel
Apron tape, ribbon or string for handles
Cotton thread

1.Take your tea towel and fold it in half. Unless your tea towel has an overall pattern without script you will find the print on one of your “halves” will be upside down. I cut my tea towel in half so that any script would be right way up on each side of my bag.
2. Check your two tea towel halves have script/pattern going in right direction before placing the halves front side to front side.
3. Sew a narrow hem to form the bottom seam of the bag. Press the seam, and then sew the two side seams. Trim any loose threads.
4. Repeat with the lining fabric but leave a gap of approx 8cm in one of the side seams. Turn the lining out to the right side.
5. Place the lining into the tea towel “bag” aligning the seams neatly. Pin the bags together before hemming the layers.
6. Pull the tea towel bag through the gap in the side seam and then sew the hole up neatly.
7. Push the lining into the outer tea towel bag. Push the corners out using a pencil or chopstick. Press Well.
8. Sort out straps for your bag. I used a double layer of apron tape, sewing the layers together with rows of red stitching.
9. Turn over and press 4cm or so of your lining fabric onto the front of your bag. Pin your straps into place with the the rough edges concealed under your turned over fabric.
10. Sew two rows of stitching, one at the top of your turn over and one at the bottom. Your straps will be neatly and securely concealed under this contrasting bag rim.

Voila! A stylish and unique beach bag for next to nothing. Right where is the sun and where is the sea– i’m beach ready! Somewhat embarrassedly I have never been to Norfolk, i’ll have to put it on my sixty by sixty list!

PS. Youngest lovely sent me this. I thought this article was a thought provoking read in these uncertain times.

Tea Towel & Lining,Rocking Dog

Tea Towel & Lining

Seam Free Lining,Rocking Dog

Seam Free Lining

Stitched Strap,Rocking Dog

Stitched Strap

Lock In Those Straps!,Rocking Dog

Lock In Those Straps!

Beach Ready!,Rocking Dog

Beach Ready!

T'other Side!,Rocking Dog

T’other Side!

The Meringue Mountain Has Been Scaled & Eaten!

Marital Meringue Mountain,Rocking Dog

Marital Meringue Mountain

After the awful terrorist atrocities in London this weekend it seems somehow superficial to blog on my meringue mountain. Life does go on, children will return to the classroom after the half term break, commuters will take the tube, pick up a coffee, meet friends. People will celebrate birthdays, give birth, date, take & pass exams, care for relatives, buy & sell homes, mourn loved ones AND get married. It is a constantly ever changing cycle of life with many trials and tribulations along the way. We will no doubt give much thought in the coming days to those caught up in the recent attacks in Manchester and London. We will also undoubtedly wonder how and when these acts of terrorism will end. We are ever grateful to our emergency services and recognise the amazing acts of courage and kindness of strangers coming to the aid of those in need.

So indeed there was a wedding on Friday. Molly & Lex dodged the showers to tie the knot in a charming garden ceremony. I loved the straw bale pews bedecked with hessian coffee sacks. Rocking Dog vintage lace bunting was strung in the trees and the scene was so romantic. After clapping and cheering the happy couple down the grassy “aisle” guests enjoyed bubbly and delicious canapes. There were some really stylish outfits, feodora hats, feathers, velvets, cravats, Frida Kahlo print, florals and jewels.

Whilst the guests feasted on charcuterie platters and paella I constructed Meringue Mountain.

To make your very own 2 1/2ft Meringue Mountain :-

90 meringues (homemade of course!)
Double cream and mascarpone whipped up with a dash of Elderflower Cordial and icing sugar to sweeten
Summer Berries (I used strawberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries)
1 jar cherry compote (I used Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Morello cherry conserve)
Icing sugar to dredge
Fairy lights, fruit, flowers and sprigs of Rosemary to decorate
Chocolate brownie (for those souls who do not like meringue)
2ft diameter tray/board

I loved putting my creation together in situ and it looked great against the woodland background. I had two very sweet and very inquisitive little princesses “helping” me, they simply couldn’t wait for the cake cutting to happen! Lanterns were lit, and the bride and groom “cut” their alternative wedding cake. Vegan guests were treated to brownie and soya cherry yoghurt. Judging by all the oohs aahhs and yums the pud’s were creamily delicious triumphs!

Molly & Lex, together with scrummy baby Dotti have a wonderful married family life.

Wishing everyone a very happy week.

Love Rocking Dog x

Let Them Eat Cake!,Rocking Dog

Let Them Eat Cake!

Berries & Cream,Rocking Dog

Berries & Cream

Vegan Deliciousness!,Rocking Dog

Vegan Deliciousness!

Love That Suit!,Rocking Dog

Love That Suit!

Rocking Dog Vintage Bunting,Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog Vintage Bunting

Ceremony Pews,Rocking Dog

Ceremony Pews

Meringues For A Marital Meringue Mountain

Gilded & Violet Sprinkled!Rocking Dog

Gilded & Violet Sprinkled!

Rocking Dog has come out of “Heaven’s Cake” retirement to construct a marital meringue mountain for Molly & Lex (together with scrummy baby Dotti). 100 meringues are baked, some plain and simple, others with a sprinkling of crystallised rose and violet petals. Then of course I love a little bit of bling so there are decadent flakes of 24 carat gold!

Later today I will build the mountain whilst the guests tuck into a marquee cooked dish of paella. The guests will pour out into the gorgeous Clifton garden to see the couple “cut” the sugar rush mountain. By that time it will have been pimped with fairy lights, summer fruits, roses, cow parsley, borage, and other foraged floristry from the Rocking Dog garden. I hope it will look magical.

Wishing the couple (and scrummy baby) a truly wonderful wedding day and an amazing married life together.

Hoping whatever you are doing this weekend there is sunshine and lots of good things around the corner.

Love Rocking Dog x

Plain & Simple,Rocking Dog

Plain & Simple

Gilded & Rose Petal'd!,Rocking Dog

Gilded & Rose Petal’d!

Roll Up, Roll Up, Rocking Dog Huddle Tonight!

Haberdashery,Rocking Dog

Haberdashery

Yes it’s Rocking Dogs May creative huddle this evening 7-9pm. Bring along curtains to hem, buttons to sew, knitting, a crochet project or simply turn up for gentle nurturing chat. There’ll be coffee and cake, it’s Chocolate & Sweet Chestnut Turinois tonight. Perhaps i’ll even get to sew, i’m looking forward to using some of the vintage fabrics I bought at the recent Vintage & Handmade Jumble Sale. I particularly love the 50’s fish print towel, it would make a funky beach bag.

The house smells of caramelised sugar, with large batches of meringues heading into the oven. Rocking Dog is making a hundred large snowy white meringues for a fabulous wedding meringue pile up. They will be “glued” together with a summer fruit mascarpone cream. The tower will then be adorned with fairy lights and garden flowers. Look out for Rocking Dog’s blog next week for images of the sugary edifice.

I would love to see you at the huddle this evening. As ever donations go into the tea pot with a generous proportion going to Fine Cell Work teaching and supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider.

New Fabric Stash,Rocking Dog

New Fabric Stash

Fifties Fish,Rocking Dog

Fifties Fish

Eggs For Meringues,Rocking Dog

Eggs For Meringues

Come For Coffee,Rocking Dog

Come For Coffee

Rocking Dog Loved Her Time At Chelsea

Mexican Heat,Rocking Dog

Mexican Heat

Rocking Dog made a welcome return to the Chelsea Flower Show last week. Alas last year she had to give the show a miss as it  somewhat inconveniently clashed with the boys wedding! Can it really be a year ago that I cooked three courses for 120 guests, sewed table runners, cutlery pockets, and ran up a tent? Happy 1st wedding anniversary Alex & Kylie.

An early start saw me hurtling across London last Thursday to try and beat the crowds. London was bathed in glorious sunshine and I was soon enjoying planty loveliness. There were many fewer show gardens this year, and I can only imagine that the cost and time required to pull off one of these botanical and architectural masterpieces is colossal.

The show garden which won best in show was a somewhat controversial choice and I witnessed many mutterings of show goers feeling that Chris Beardshaw had been robbed! Inspired by an abandoned Maltese quarry the winning garden was dramatic. The massive stones in its makeup had been quarried, cut and transported from Malta. The planting was wild, scrubby and Mediterranean. I was intrigued by the garden and was glad that I revisited it in the heat of the midday sun. The smell of the wild fennel and other sun parched herbs was intoxicating.

The highlight of my day was introducing myself to garden designer Sarah Raven in the Radio 2 Feel Good Garden (Anneka Rice Colour Cutting Garden). Daughter Sorrel had previously worked for Sarah at Perch Hill and on events at Sissinghurst. How lovely to be invited to drink a cup of refreshing Lapsang Souchong in Sarah’s corrugated tin roofed bothy. A few photographs taken within the exquisite bee buzzing garden and then it was time to move on. Thank you Sarah it was SO lovely to finally meet you and I so wanted your delicious garden beamed up and plopped down in the Kennels’ weedy outback!

Some of my favourite gardens weren’t the big budget show gardens but the more intimate artisan and fresh gardens. “City Living” with its massive orange Anglepoise lamps and “Beneath a Mexican Sky” enjoyed being showcased in brilliant sunshine. Not a great admirer of Acers or Maples I however loved Japanese Gosho No Niwa’s “No Wall, No War” artisan garden. It contained the most exquisite naturalistic waterfall and verdigris metal framed glass house. The house had been transported from Japan and apparently it had been nerve-wracking for the designer. There was no back up plan if the large glass panes had been broken in transit.

In the Pavilion there were iris’s, cacti, orchids, daffodils, ferns, plants for sun and plants for shade. I really loved the way the humble spud was exhibited by Morrice & Ann Innes Potatoes. More colourful and definitely more scented was the David Austin Rose stand. It was a truly beautiful spectacle and how lovely to spot Cerys Matthews under the blooming bowers.

The trends I perceived at this years Chelsea – Lupins are back in fashion, the colour purple, foxgloves, grasses, copper, caring for wildlife within the garden. Many of the gardens sported quite shaggy (should I say weedy) borders. Again I was aware of mutterings about planting not being neat. When I came home I rather loved my herbaceous borders infilled with ground elder, couch grass, bellvine and the like. I am SO totally on trend! I can down tools this summer and sit back in a deck chair with a long G&T and a good book !

Much love and hope you have had a lovely bank holiday weekend.

Love Rocking Dog x

There is a Rocking Dog Creative Huddle this Wednesday 31st May 7-9pm. All welcome. Homemade cake, drinks, chat and maybe the odd bit of sewing/knitting! Donations into the teapot with proportion heading to Fine Cell Work, teaching & supporting prison inmates to sew and embroider.

Best In Show,Rocking Dog

Best In Show

Feel Good Garden-Colour, Rocking Dog

Feel Good Garden-Colour

Tin Shed Tea,Rocking Dog

Tin Shed Tea

Breaking Ground Garden,Rocking Dog

Breaking Ground Garden

Japanese Magic,Rocking Dog

Japanese Magic

5 Star Bug Hotel, Rocking Dog

5 Star Bug Hotel

The Humble Spud,Rocking Dog

The Humble Spud

City Living,Rocking Dog

City Living

Cerys & Blooms,Rocking Dog

Cerys & Blooms

Copper Loveliness,Rocking Dog

Copper Loveliness

Copper Planting,Rocking Dog

Copper Planting

Copper Couch,Rocking Dog

Copper Couch