Monday, May 30, 2011

Fine Art Prints from Alan's Pictures - Saint Patrick and Turnberry

We're just in the process of having some lovely fine art prints made from a small range of Alan's pictures including this one of Saint Patrick, which I've posted on here before. He's work a second look! Also, Alan's charming depiction of golfers at Turnberry with Ailsa Craig in the background.

Initially, they will be available from The Scottish Home, on eBay. These will be signed prints. We haven't come to any firm decision about limited editions, yet, although with some of his future paintings, we'll definitely be going this way. But at the moment, we plan to hang onto this original of Patrick (unless somebody makes us an offer we can't refuse!) and sell the prints, which are very beautiful. Smaller than the original, but made with care by a company called Splitting Images, here in Ayrshire. Watch this space, since we're planning a few other interesting additions to The Scottish Home over the coming months.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Storms and Tempests

As I write this, it is blowing what is generally known as a 'hoolie' out there, even though this is normally quite a sheltered little village. The house feels, in the words of poet Ted Hughes, as if it was 'far out at sea.'  We've had a terrible May - normally a wonderful month for us. In fact, I don't think there has been a single day without rain in this part of the world, and very few without wind, all while friends in the South of England have been complaining about drought and too much sunshine, as they packed up yet another picnic. I wish things were a little more evenly distributed!

One thing we're not short of up here is water. Not right now, anyway. And wind.  Friends all over Scotland are posting messages on Facebook about trees and branches blowing down, rubbish bowling along the streets, and bits falling off roofs. Here too. And the wind chill is making it feel very cold.  Between the Icelandic volcano sending ash in our direction, and springtime gales sending all kinds of other things in our direction,, it would be rather nice if things calmed down - and heated up - a bit!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cath Kidston, a Triumph of Vintage Desirability

I visited the new Cath Kidston shop, in Glasgow, recently and was deeply impressed - what a triumph! Just about everything in the shop looks hugely desirable. The place was busy, and sales looked brisk, especially among foreign tourists, who were gathering up small but gorgeous retro fabric covered items, like there was no tomorrow. The shop itself is welcoming, with strategically placed vintage items adding to the overall luscious look - I particularly liked the old bread and butter and cake plates, with a miscellany of pretty patterns, displayed on the walls. Given a purse full of cash, I would have wanted to buy up half the stock, but especially the very beautiful embroidered canvas messenger bags at £55.00. Would love one of those!

Of course, if you want this 'look' - and it is a wonderful, warm, cheerful, nostalgic look - at budget prices, you could do worse than visit eBay, especially my shop, The Scottish Home, where I generally sell a variety of hand embroidered linen cloths from the 1950s or 60s. There's a nice little selection on there this week! Not only can these be used for tea tables or picnic cloths - they are very forgiving and easy to launder - but if you don't mind cutting them up (I don't recommend it, but I'm aware that people DO it!) you could easily make yourself some fabulous cushions or even bags in the Kidston mould. Watch out too, for old pieces of fabric, chintzes, tartans, or even gorgeous old tweeds, which can also be made into cushion covers and other interior pieces. But if you're in central Glasgow, do go and have a browse around Kidston's lovely inspirational shop.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Angelica at the Bottom of our Scottish Garden

When we had our village 'Garden Snoop' last summer, which was a sort of Open Gardens event, but without the added pressure of having to get everything just perfect, the plant on the left caused a bit of consternation. Lots of our visitors seemed to think that it was Giant Hogweed, which is a beautiful plant, but one which has its dangers, with sap which can cause skin to blister and become photosensitive. This, however, is both safe and edible - it's a cultivated angelica and - in my opinion - one of the most lovely plants in my garden. A friend gave me a plant many years ago and now it self seeds every year. It starts early, grows tremendously tall, with great big flower heads and lasts just about all summer long. Even in the autumn, when the seed heads are drying on their stems, it looks amazing. The whole plant smells wonderful too, even when you're cutting back the dead heads. It does, however, need a lot of space, since it's very tall - one for the back of a border. Mine grows at the bottom of our cottage garden, at the back of my little rose bed, but the roses are all species roses, which I tend to leave to 'get on with it' so it fits in pretty well. I'm by no means a precise gardener - this is verging on a wild garden, but - so long as you don't look too closely, at the ground elder and mare's tail - it is very beautiful, and absolutely full of wildlife: bumble bees, hedgehogs, birds of all kinds. I always intend to candy some of the angelica stems so that I can use them in my Christmas cake - but somehow I never quite get round to it. It has to be done with young, fresh stems and I always seem to be too busy, and before I know it, the plant has become too monumental to use. I believe the seeds can be used to flavour alcoholic drinks. I remember bringing  a bottle of Angelica Schnapps back from a trip to Iceland, many years ago - so perhaps that's something I can plan for this year!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ne'er Cast a Clout till May be Out

The may blossom - i.e. hawthorn - is well and truly out in this part of the world. That's the meaning of the old rhyme - not that you have to wait till the end of May, to 'cast' your winter woollies, but that you have to wait till the may blossom blooms - except that, sadly, and although April was warm enough for us to cast any number of clouts, May itself is proving to be so chilly, here in the West of Scotland, that I'm sitting here wearing several layers, with a heater on, and looking out at my shivering plants. But all the same, the house martins are nesting and the may blossom is blooming, dazzling creamy white in all the hedgerows, and the scent of it, blown on the considerable breeze, is absolutely gorgeous, sweet and heady and powerful. I love this time of year and always want to drag my feet a bit, to slow time down!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Apple Tree Follow Up - Golden Noble

Many thanks to Nigel Deacon, with his amazing Sutton Elms website and his knowledge of apples, for identifying our old apple tree as a Golden Noble and here's the link to the page .  One of the excellent uses of Facebook, of course - contacting people in the know. The apple turns from green to a lovely golden colour - the golden apples of the sun, indeed! Nigel knows all there is to know, not just about apples, but about radio drama as well, which you'll also find on his fascinating website, among much else. But I've wondered for years what variety our apple tree is, and now I know. It's a wonderful fruit, full of flavour, sweet enough to eat without cooking, fabulous in pies and crumbles. It's a very old variety, and - although it isn't a good 'keeper' - when you can do as we do, blanche it, or puree it and freeze it, it is still a very useful and delicious apple. When our son was a baby, we used to puree the fruit for him, and he loved it - it was one of the first 'solid' foods he ate, and it didn't really need any sweetening.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

May Day and Apple Blossom in our Cottage Garden

The weather continues to be warm and dry here in the West of Scotland - and our ancient apple tree is in full bloom at the bottom of the garden. It's so old, that it is essentially on a two year cycle. It takes a rest every second year and only produces a few pounds of apples, but on alternate years, we have a glut, and it looks as though this is going to be a good apple year! I've no idea what variety this is - all I know is that it's very old, and that it produces a good sized greeny-gold cooking apple, which is sweet enough to be cooked without sugar, but just tart enough to make wonderful pies and crumbles. Every year, I resolve to take some fruit to Culzean Castle's annual 'apple day' to try to find out exactly what it is - but I've never yet managed to do it!
Meanwhile, the garden is full of birds as well as blossom. There's a young female blackbird who loves to rummage in the pond weed that Alan skims off the top - here she is - quite tame.

She managed to toss most of the weed back into the pond, as she rooted for insects and other tasty morsels!