Thanet

The late Summer is my favourite time of year, possibly, selfishly, because it coincides with my birthday. I prefer to spend as much time as possible by the seaside, but, living in the Thames Valley, our time on the coast is rare. This year my main present request was a day with just my Aussie, so we dropped the Tiny Overlord off with his East Kent dwelling grandparents and got the train to the Isle of Thanet.

First stop Broadstairs:

Broadstairs beach.

The Chapel, Broadstairs.

seagull.

Beautiful Broadstairs, with your picturesque sandy cove, your multitude of charity shops and your plethora of tasty treats. You are a fine sight for baby-weary eyes. We pottered in the sand, watched some paddle-boarding while sipping fortifying Bloody Marys in independent restaurant Wyatt & Jones (we will be back to try the cooked brunches, they looked amazing) and had a cheeky half in the amazing secondhand bookshop cum pub – The Chapel. But baby-free days are short, so we jumped back on the train…

Next stop Margate:

Dreamland Margate.

Kentish cider.

photo 5

Personally, my heart lies with a bit of faded seaside glory and from what I had been told Margate, one of the original Victorian Seaside towns, was pretty faded. We made stops at the wonderful Turner Contemporary Gallery (I even took part in the regular craft club). Took in the rather bewildering senses overload of cupcake and vintage fuelled gentrification in the old town, but found solace in the Greedy Cow and the Lifeboat. We also went to the famous weird and wonderful Shell Grotto (go, go, go!) and snaffled some real bargains for the Tiny Overlord in a reclamation yard. More on them in another post…

One of the things that got us really rather giddy was the Expo by the Dreamland Trust, a group trying to restore Margate’s rather infamous amusement park. The Aussie (who, despite the nickname, grew up in East Kent) loved the childhood nostalgia and memories of misspent youth. I (being from the other side of the Thames Estuary) admire the community tenacity that fuels such an ambitious project, when the town has clearly been through such a rough time. ‘Green shoots’, someone described Margate’s revival as, let’s hope they grow.

We keep being drawn to East Kent and our day in characterful Thanet has just fuelled my fascination with this piece of coast.

In Search of Big Skies…

Another new blog, really Roo? Well, yes.

Picture of new web page

Yes, I need to charge my iPad. But for those unfamiliar with my online story, I’ll give you a quick recap to explain how we got here to my latest blogosphere incarnation. Back in 2008, I made some tentative steps in to the world of fashion blogging. I love my clothes, I love vintage and I love a budget busting bargain. However, I HATE having my photo taken, I hate having to look at my photo even more. So my career as a style blogger was limited, I prefer writing personal posts. Which also included posts about some of my crafty creations.

One day I found myself described online as a craft blogger, I even got invited to a craft launch event. So, in a panic, I created a craft blog – and Little Stitch was born. But I was never that comfortable with the name – maybe a little twee? Maybe a little limiting? Maybe a little bit too much like everything else? I just wasn’t happy with it.

For a very long time my various online bios have simply said ‘continually searching for big skies’. Because I am. Literally and metaphorically. So here we are. A new blog, a new name and a new look. Maybe this will be my permanent internet home or maybe I’ll just keep wandering from URL to URL like an online Littlest Hobo… Either way, I hope both you and I enjoy.

Three go to Dorset

Cows in fieldTiny CamperPaddlingSundown at EweleazeSunset at EweleazeEweleaze Beach and PontoonEweleze Farm Campsite, Dorset

Those from the Ray Mears school of camping, who might balk at staying on an organic farm with a wood-fired pizza oven, may wish to look away now. But we have just returned from one of the most magical weekends at Eweleaze Farm, near Weymouth in Dorset. Nestled on top of the spectacular cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, we found everything we needed at Eweleaze for our second family camping trip.

I’m won’t lie to you Ray, there is no need for survival suits or bushcraft here. With our 10 month old in tow, we wanted somewhere with access to a beach, animals for the little guy to be amazed by, fantastic walks, plenty of fresh air for our lungs and beautiful sea views for our souls – but also somewhere where we could easily get some hot food on a rainy evening and grab a tasty beer to sip, after the little guy had gone to bed, watching the sunsets and putting the world to rights. Eweleaze has all that.

Granted, the site’s increasing popularity (since our first trip there in 2011) means the illusive sea views are a little harder to find, especially for those of us with camper vans. And yes, at the weekend particularly, it did feel very busy at times. The increasingly popularity of ‘glamping’ means Eweleaze is ticking a lot of nouveaux campers’ boxes. I have never seen so many bell tents and bunting in one place. However, it does still have its many charms – views, the beach, the access to the Jurrassic Coast path… Lovely Weymouth is just a couple of miles walk away and on the site itself, the quality of the food (the bakery, the farm shop, the pizza oven…) and friendliness of the staff are still superb.

And for our fledgling family, it is a really really wonderful and inspiring place. In a world where I worry about too many gadgets and too much CBeebies, it was fantastic to see so many older children (and adult ‘children’!) running free, swimming in the sea, petting animals, laughing on hay bales and flying kites… For the time being you can keep your Extreme Survival, thanks Ray. I just want to paddle in the sea with my baby and have a beer watching the sun go down.

 

The Veggie Patch Diaries: June & July

Strawberries from the Veggie PatchOurย last installment left the veggie patch in the midst of a mollusc-related crisis. I’m going to be honest with you from the outset, we haven’t really recovered. Despite really helpful advice from readers (thank you so much!) something about all the plants being eaten seriously dented my grow-your-own mojo. I want to grow these veggies with love and care for my family to eat, not for the benefit of the chunky slugs and snails of the Thames Valley…

Armed withย this feature from Gardener’s World (Hello there middle age!) and really rather inspired by Artemis from Junkaholique’s gardening endeavours, I’ve been putting a lot of work in to bolstering our flower bed with mollusc-proof hard perennials. In the hope that, 1, they will be pretty, 2, they will not get eaten, and 3, that they will pretty much look after themselves, so I can get on with the serious business of the veggie patch.

Which is really the point, that I do so so want to make the veggie patch succeed. It is so important to me. I love the idea of the Tiny Overlord being able to eat food fresh from the ground, packed with vitamins and antioxidants, with, literally, metres between patch and plate. I really want him to understand where food comes from – that his food doesn’t come from the supermarket, it comes from the soil. And I know gardening is good for me, and far more interesting and rewarding than going to the gym. I just need to re-find my spark, to overcome my slithery shelled oppressors and get stuck back in to the earth.

In the Ground:
Beetroot
Courgettes
Plums
Rhubarb
Salsify
Sweetcorn

In The Growhouse:
Nothing…

 

Wool Against Weapons Day

Wool Against Weapons Day, Aldermaston

One of those days you really don’t know what to expect, after all the knitting and the excitement online, I packed myself, the 9 month old Tiny Overlord and an ample load of picnic provisions in to the van and we headed in to the West Berkshire countryside. And to Aldermaston and Burghfield, home of the UK’s atomic weapons development centres.

I’ve always been rather in awe of this diverse little county’s legacy of peace protest (you must visit the Greenham Peace Garden near Newbury) and daydreamed of crafty projects decorating the high militarised fences of AWE Aldermaston, in the spirit of the Greenham Common women. So, despite not really knitting anything since childhood, I jumped at the chance of getting involved in making a piece of the ambitious Wool Against Weapons seven mile peace scarf, to link AWE Aldermaston with AWE Burghfield. Having sent my piece to the wonderful Jaine Rose, I wondered if it would be a suitable protest to take the kiddo to. One way to find out…

Rolls of Pink Knitting

We parked and headed to the purple milestone, a meeting point for protesters from Berkshire, Hampshire and the South of England, and were confronted with the site of these huge pinwheels of reams of knitting – the picture above is one mile of beautiful hand knitted and stitched with love peace scarf. The little guy and I were made very welcome and those without babies in tow started to roll out and stitch together the beautiful pieces along the road from Aldermaston to Burghfield.

Peace Scarf on the road between Aldermaston and Burghfield

While the scarf was joined in to one peace, people happily chatted about the issues of the day – nuclear proliferation, military expenditure in a time of austerity and, most importantly, peace. Huge thanks to the lovely guy who played Twinkle Twinkle on his accordion to entertain the little guy. When the scarf was joined in to one seven mile long piece at 1pm, we all stood and rang bells to celebrate peace for five minutes and then stood silently (well nearly all of us, it is difficult to tell a nine month old to be silent) in respect of Nagaski Dayย  and in memory of all those who had lost their lives to nuclear weapons.

We headed home, but not before we drove the length of the scarf route from Aldermaston to Burghfield. Beeping the van’s horn at everyone gathered round each milestone. It was quite overwhelming to see the sheer extent of it, in some places so much had been knitted it took up both sides of the road. And to think that each metre of those seven miles had been knitted with love, by someone that believed in something better. One of the most beautiful things about craft based activism is that it engages people that wouldn’t go to a traditional protest. It gives people all over the world, from all walks of life, a voice they might not otherwise have. It gets people involved in issues from an angle they might not gave previously considered and gives them time to think and reflect. Just a wonderful and inspiring day. I’m so pleased we went.

Obviously, there was little chance of me ever finding it in situ, but this wouldn’t be a crafty blog if I didn’t share what I had knitted. Made from wool from charity shops and rather imperfectly: here is my little piece of peace.

My piece of Peace

If you want to know more about Wool Against Weapons, my first post is here and there are lots of updates on their website.

 

The Veggie Patch Diaries: May

20140531-073914-27554612.jpg

Help. We are under attack from dark forces. When I started drafting this blog post, things in the veggie patch were going so well. The wet winter had nourished our clay soil, while the late spring/ early summer sun was encouraging things to bloom. Seedlings sprouted. Fruit plumped. Flowers blossomed. Peas climbed to the sky up the pyramid I’d lovingly constructed from coppiced hazel and string saved from vegetable boxes. But then the rain returned. And with the resurgence of the non-stop Thames Valley drizzle came the mollusc menace.

So far the snails have eaten fledgling French beans, courgettes, tomatoes and marigolds. They’ve taken a good chomp out of most of the leaves on the broad beans and sweetcorn. Even ornamental plants are not safe, it appears, as they have stripped the leaves on my brand new lupins and the phlox I bought back from my beloved Dungeness.

But what can we do? Being rather organically minded, a bit of a pacifist hippy plus concerned about cats, hedgehogs and small people that roam our garden, I am resistant to reaching for the pellets. Last year I tried copper tape, to no great effect. The Aussie has bravely offered to donate some of his beer stash to make some traps, though I’m not fond of the idea of drowning the poor slithery guys, however delicious a substance it may be in. Part of me wonders if I should just let them be? Is this not nature is action after all? Maybe I should just live and let live? Maybe I could negotiate with their shelled leader about them beating a hasty retreat to next door’s rather neglected patch of land and leaving my treasured veggie patch alone? All I know is that we are not going to get anywhere near my ‘Good Life’ dream with these fellas around.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with slugs and snails? I’d really love to hear them. Help me, you’re my only hope.

In the Ground:
Apples
Broad Beans
Beetroot
Courgettes
French Beans
Gooseberries
Peas
Plums
Raspberries
Redcurrants
Rhubarb
Salad Leaves (California Mix)
Salsify
Strawberries
Sweetcorn
Tomatoes

In The Growhouse:
Half eaten marigolds
More courgettes
Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Messing about with paints

There are few things I enjoy more than painting. Not that I have much prowess and skill with paint or brush, just mainly I find it deeply satisfying. That, and it is a completely legitimate excuse for making a bit of a mess in the name of creativity. Recently I’ve been trying to get the Tiny Overlord involved in a bit of creative play, so here’s some stuff that he and I have been painting:

Little Stitch Blog: Hand Painted Onesies

Painted onesies: I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with children’s clothes at the moment. I don’t really want to dress my baby boy as if he is heading to the golf club, I want to dress him with fun, brightness and all the colours of the rainbow. Like a baby. But I find a lot of bright gender neutral clothes prohibitively expensive, for the amount of times a rapidly growing tiny human wears them. So I made my own, using Pebeo fabric paints on H&M Conscious Collection vests.

They are washing and wearing very well, especially given the fact the Tiny Overlord loves to paint his entire body with food several times a day. Bicycle loving friends will also note that the delusions about my son wearing the Rainbow Jersey have started already.

Little Stitch Blog: Baby-made Mother's Day Cards
Hand painted Mother’s Day cards: These were made by the little guy (with a little bit of artistic direction from me…) for his Grandmothers. He hand printed using simple poster paints in spring colours and I finished them using my favourite ink stamps. Both Nana and Grandma loved them. Though I may hold off revisiting poster paints with the Tiny Overlord until he is less inclined to eat them.