Sunday, 20 April 2014


I've just cast my vote for The Mad Blog Awards 2014, and while I'm at it, I'm joining in with The Reading Residence Word of the Week.

I love blogging. I love knowing that it is there for me as a creative outlet, a place to organize and offload my photos, a place to reflect and a place to appreciate the smaller things that may have otherwise gone un-noticed. A place to challenge myself, with techie issues, photographic challenges, and writing. A place that encourages me to do better in several different aspects of our lives. A place to share.

But I know that I am lacking in the organisation, skills and determination needed to keep it going well.

While I can't say that I know of, or read all of the blogs who are up for the vote, some of the blogs that I follow, adore and have a total Respect for, are in the finalists!
Bloggers that have never appeared to treat their blog or what it means with anything less than passion.
Bloggers that boggle my mind with the amount that they do and the positive effect that they have on others.


I totally wish that I could be attending the awards- mostly so that I could stalk their genius tooshies and give them my best Wayne and Garth impression.

You can cast your vote Here, and check out all of the brilliant blog finalists. But get on with it- voting finishes very soon!

The Reading Residence

                                                            MAD Blog Awards

Friday, 18 April 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Joining in so late with the How Does Your Garden Grow? Linky.
I just can't keep up.
But I want to!
And the Spring Break is going so much faster than I would like.
It was National Gardening week wasn't it? We have pottered quite a bit, pulling weeds, cutting grass, trimming borders, but we've yet to plant seeds and find a space to plant them!
Maybe later today...
Haven't we been so lucky with the weather recently?!
While these duck-like Daffs are not my fav outdoors, I love them as cut flowers indoors. They give such an almighty POW of cheap and cheerfulness. I have been too hard on them in the past and not realized how much I do appreciate them indoors.
I liked the idea of adding music to the garden and am going to carry this on- thank you Caroline:-)
Just like I was too hard on the ducky daffs in the past, I have also been too hard on Coldplay.
I am so fickle that I can't even stay faithful to my dislikes. But I suppose things change and that is good.
Sorry hubby. This song is Magic and mellow, and goes with my mood and the time.
 I can't get over my love of the Marigolds, self seeded from years gone past. They are tough, hard core, not fussy or precious or requiring any special Diva-like treatment.
And they are so simply bright, colourful and beautiful.
They don't concern themselves with other flowers that may be showy-er, frillier, fussier, higher bred. They stand bold and proud regardless of their competitions.(Of which there is none in our garden anyway.)
I like how they endure through neglect.
Self sufficient, independent souls that provide the main colour of our garden.
They just get on with it.
I inspire to be Marigold.

The first Osteospermum opens.

You lovely weed you.

Our Bee Fly friend has been hanging out here a lot.

I thought we should get on with it and eat that Fennel quick before it went over.

It was good. But I should have taken more time to pair it with something like Mammasaurus
I wish I ate more fish. I think that if someone prepared it for me like that, I am sure that I would love it.
That image makes me salivate for reals.

I couldn't bear to part with the leaves just yet so I stuck them in some water and into the sunny patch.

I am pleased that we have at least one blossoming apple tree as the other larger tree appears to be in shock after it's pruning treatment and not blossoming much.

The alpines blossom in the pallet.

All I need now is E.T.
 Hubby hung my bike for me. It's too high for me to ring the bell easily though! I didn't think it through. I just wanted a place to admire it from indoors. I'm also thinking of turning this area into a beer garden, so I might chuck some lights in the basket to be fancy, or a plant, or E.T.  Or all of them.
 Soaking and refreshing, replenishing the pallet planter. There may be bare spaces now, but I know they will multiply soon. New Succulents added from my in-laws. I have removed the pallet attachments to the wall and leaned it against the wall in hopes that it will retain water better. Meanwhile, I think a daily soaking will help. I have neglected it too long.

Happy Easter!
I'm off to squeeze out every last drop of sunshine and the kiddies being at home that I can.
Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Shoebox Projector

It worked!
A super simple shoebox projector for the phone!

I cannot tell you why this excites me so much. It just does.
Of course I know that there is probably a wire that you can use to connect your phone to the TV to watch a slide show from your phone in bigger and better quality.

It's possibly just the experience, and the simplicity that excites me. Even though we followed a variety of instructions online, it felt like we were inventing something ourselves.

And of course, there is some unexplained element of nostalgia and something else that I can't put my finger on when you darken the room to view poor quality images projected onto a wall.
This is all we needed:

A shoebox that we painted black on the inside. (This was unnecessary.)
A small, GLASS magnifying glass.
Scissors or cutting knife.
Black tape.
Lego stand or paper clip stand for the phone.
White card or wall for projections.

We mostly followed instructions from here.
But there a ton of instructions available on the net to choose from.
I also needed to look up instructions on how to lock the phone images from turning, how to start slide show mode in the phone (So easy) and how to reverse the phone's images so they are projected correctly.  (I haven't mastered this one yet.)

Our first attempt is on the right.
I was a bit greedy and got the biggest, highest magnifying glass I could. Thinking this would make a great big projection. 
It does.
But there isn't a room big enough for this projection.
But I might play around some more.
We got a smaller magnifying glass from the model train exhibitors stalls for about £3 and then made the smaller version.

It. Is. That. Easy.
We didn't even tape the magnifying glass into the hole that we had cut as it seemed to fit snugly.
But because this is an easily transportable projector, it would be wise to tape it in if you would be moving it around a lot.

But it is quite a small projection area.
I took these photos in the darkest corner behind the sofa, but with enough light to get the idea of the set up.
When viewing, we had things pitch black.

Without the lid on.
The kids understood how it was working better than I did.

Just a simple Lego stand- like a mini cookbook stand- it has a ledge on the front too.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that when you put the phone into slide show mode, it automatically uses music from your collection to play along with it.

Below was filmed in real darkness.
You can see that we haven't mastered reversing images and at that time we were projecting onto a free standing, slightly curved card. (I get so excited and sometimes find it hard to take the time to do things with precision.)
Yes, it is poor quality.
But it was fun and easy.

Now I don't want to diss anyone's invention, and anyway it is super cute, but have you seen these adverts for Projecto?

Projecteo from Projecteo on Vimeo.
They are adorable, especially with the added element of a retro Viewmaster style slide cartridge.
But I think that the shoebox projector does pretty much the same thing, for around £4?

The kids are bewitched with is as well. One is looking forward to projecting a movie from it in his bed one night.
I won't point out that it wouldn't be much bigger and will be poorer quality than watching it straight off the phone.
Because I get it.
It is gimmicky. And it is cool. And it's a novelty.

I had given the kids the phone to take pictures with leading up to the slide show, so this was a great, spring break project and they enjoyed seeing their pictures on show.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thank you for all the lovely comments on my in-law's garden last week.
I will be passing them all on and I know they will be pleased that they could share.

The sun is shining! There's plenty of work to be done in the garden. I started with cutting the grass. This took me all day because I kept getting stopping and distracted by rescuing ladybirds, peeping at new growth here and there and grabbing the camera with the macro lens, inspired to dust it off by posts like these and Basics of Macro Photography.
This is just a slap it all together one, because I love joining in but the sun is shining and I want to go out and play!!!
Looking forward to snooping through the other gardens in the morning with my coffee:-)

Confession: I grew this fennel because I liked the way it looked/smelled.  But now it's doing this and I think I'm supposed to eat it.  I will have to google what to do with this unless you all have any ideas?

The eaters of Hellebore?

My girly pointed this creature out to me. It's like a bee with a really long straw.  She thought it looked like a Bumblesnout from her school play.

I googled it, and it's a Bee Fly.  Or Bombyliidae. I love this name and it makes me think of The Gipsy Kings.

Blurry shot, but you can see almost how long that straw-like thing is!


Marigolds are going strong and so vibrant.

Blossoms on the Katy apple tree.

Rescued Ladybirds from the grass before mowing. One with a damaged wing.

So cute!

Hairy fern fronds. I find them quite freaky- they look like wet, blonde hair.

Happy, Happy Spring Break!!! 
I'm going out to play!
Shall I knock for you to come out too?

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?

Thursday, 3 April 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have been wanting to start a "series" to indulge my nosiness, by photographing gardeners in their gardens alongside an interview about their gardening process.  
I was delighted when my very generous in-laws allowed me to to snoop, pester them with questions, and share.
Maureen and Ivor in their Garden in Oxfordshire
First memories of gardening: Did your parents or family take an interest in gardening? Do you have any memories of these gardens?
My grandparents had an allotment and were keen gardeners. They grew flowers, I think I can remember chrysanthemums, to sell at work and locally in Grove. My mother loved her flower garden and bought most of her plants from Woolworths. It was the custom to share plants if you saw something you liked in a friends garden (it still is!). My father always grew lots of vegetables. I used to help myself to the peas when he wasn't watching.

Ivor: We always had a garden but I took little interest apart from as somewhere to play. It was always pretty but I remember no details about the plants except for a Laburnum tree which was good for climbing. My father had an allotment where I often "helped".

When did you first begin gardening?
I helped mum at home sometimes but really started when we had our first house in Ambleside Drive, Headington. I wanted a house with a big garden. We both enjoyed creating the garden and learning the correct Latin names for plants. When we moved to Yarnton I had an allotment of my own. I grew vegetables and flowers for picking for our house. My strawberries were very successful.

Ivor: I`m sure I must have helped a bit as I got older but have no real memories of doing anything specific. I only really got interested after getting married and having a garden of our own to plan as we wanted.

The mesmerising dance of the group of tiny flys.

 Snooping through the back of the garden, I admired this fence that I hadn't seen before. It had just been cleared and I wondered if it was part of the original fence of the house.
But in fact the gate was from Maureen's first childhood house; the old thatched cottage "Mount Pleasant" at Charney Bassett. I think it is the one in the snow picture taken in 1947.

 What are some of your favourite plants to have in the garden and why? Are there any particular plants that you have moved with or brought with you from another house? 
I love all the spring flowers and enjoy growing some of the British natives. They are simple and remind me of my childhood in the countryside. I used to pick violets along the bank near to home at Charney as a child and we knew where to look for all the wild flowers. There was a field full of blue butchers and some stars of Bethlehem near the school. I love most flowers and roses have become a favourite. We grow a large jumbled selection and I want just about every plant I see. Our garden is very overfull and more like a cottage garden. When we moved to Yarnton, Ivor potted up over a hundred plants to bring to our new garden. Some of the plants came from my parents and grandparents garden. (Dark purple Aquilegias - Granny bonnets)

Ivor: I can`t improve on the classic answer to favourite plant "the one I`m looking at at the time". In general I much prefer simple flowers to highly bred fancy ones (is there a rose more beautiful then the wild Dogrose?) and particularly enjoy wild flowers, even those many people call weeds. Our lawn (I prefer to call it the grass) had plenty of clover and flower beds are full of celandines.

Cuttings of twisted Willow for the choosing. Every year, Maureen and Ivor give me a piece to use as our Easter tree.

What do you believe to be essential in a garden?
Maureen: I believe a garden should have plenty of seats to sit and relax and enjoy the surroundings and sunshine, be wildlife friendly for bees, other insects, animals and birds, with a natural look. Not plants in rows. A pond is always good. I would love to have a beach hut and create a beach garden!!!!

Ivor: One very simple answer WILDLIFE. The garden must be interesting, an attractive and beautiful place to relax but without wildlife of ALL sorts it is dead.

Slight breezes and insisting on using an aperature of 1.4 makes for blurry shots.

Do you have any favourite gardens apart from your own? 
I love looking at gardens and have visited lots of the National Trust properties. I also like the smaller "yellow book NGS" local gardens as they are more realistic. On a larger scale, I like the RHS Rosemoor garden in Devon. I like the secret garden at Blenheim. We have our favourite seat there too. Waterperry is wonderful seeing the Michaelmas daisies especially.

Ivor: I enjoy many of the big gardens e.g. National Trust but probably get more from visiting smaller "ordinary" gardens such as those open under the National Gardens Scheme.

I just noticed how perfect his top was for what he was doing!

I love the size of this Hellebore!
Maureen and Ivor adopted this log from one of our gardens so that we didn't have to "pack it" or leave it when we moved house. I love seeing how happy and proud it is here.
What are some of your fondest memories from your current garden?
(I like the story of Ivor and the Daffodils on your birthday.) 
 I agree about my birthday daffodils. (The Story of the Daffodils: On Maureen's birthday this year, the Daffodils weren't open yet, but Ivor had secretly collected potted, open daffodils and placed them around the garden, so that on the morning of her birthday, Maureen looked out of the window to be surprised by the new splashes of yellow dotted around.) I love the seating area we created behind the flower bed and the bottom hidden area by the field. You can imagine you are in the middle of the countryside. We could see Little Owls nesting and growing up in the oak tree in the field a few years ago. We love watching the birds feeding by the rose arch.

Ivor: It has to be the wildlife. The unusual is always exciting (last year our first ever Fritilliary butterfly and a Hornet on the wasp table (yes, I do feed the wasps)) or birds which you would not expect to turn up in a garden (a Common Gull feeding on the lawn or a pair of Yellowhammers at the feeders) but it is the everyday which probably brings greatest pleasure. 

The view of the field beyond the back fence.

The twisted Willow in my garden was grown from a cutting of this one.

It's a bird! It's a plane!
This could be considered an outtake shot, but it really is my favourite of the two, because it shows Ivor as he is; always keeping an eye out for birds or aeroplanes.
Thank you  for sharing Maureen and Ivor!

If you fancy snooping through their garden a bit more, you can do so here.

Mammasaurus and How Does Your Garden Grow?