Friday, 9 March 2012

Modest Flower And Giveaway Winners

We have become spectators to "the endless ballet of the weather", as the poet George Mackay Brown put it.  There have been severe frosts, boisterous winds, generous spatters of rain, racing clouds and - the show stealer - warm sunshine and a big, blue sky.  We are on the cusp of spring.
Every year in those early days of timid budding and unfurling when the spring garden wakes slowly like a sleeping village I feel myself becoming jittery and a little anxious.  I am entoxicated by the POTENTIAL of spring.  As new plants raise their colours every day an uncontrollable urge to create overcomes me.  I don't question it.  I lived in Greece for two years and experienced almost helplessly the potent impact of the sap rising in warmer climes.  There is little one can do to resist! 
If I allow myself to yield to the desire to pay tribute to the glorious pagent our gardens stage for us in my articles on gardening aesthetics and with my very modest crafting skills I am mindful of the need to maintain a (fragile) sense of equilibrium. On the best of days my husband and children watch me run around like a headless chicken between sewing baskets, teetering piles of yarn, and my treasured reference books during every moment set apart from the daily management of our family life.  I talk to them of my ever growing catalogue of projects in my head and they nod and smile and offer wise advice. Mostly they understand me and for that I am hugely grateful.
 But as spring jumps at me I must be mindful of remaining focused or I run the risk of spreading myself too thin.  My focus must be on important projects alone and most importantly my family for their desires and plans are worthy of great respect too and an ear capable of truly listening. There is also Gaspard our puppy who is growing beautifully and at three months needs a constant eye and to be trained not to jump onto people.  Any advice on that?

It is a mixed blessing that we rent our present house.  While its garden is perfectly lovely with its cherry trees and silver birches and ideal for children to run around in we cannot invest energy in putting our horticultural dreams into fruition here.  All we need to do is to trim hedges, cut back the profuse lavender bushes and eat cherries in May.  We must wait patiently for our own garden.  Frustrating?  Yes. However I am grateful in a sense for this year I simply wouldn't have the time to do it all.  In the meantime I garden with words.
One Tiny Tea Leaves simply is not enough and so I made this second one, named Viola, for Angelique.  It is a little longer in length than her first so that she may wear it for longer in time.  
Also this Madelinetosh DK in Sugar Plum (has anyone every actually eaten a sugar plum?) seems softer and more delectable than all other skeins I have purchased previously so knitting a bigger Tea Leaves made the pleasure last!
For those who are interested the details are on Ravelry.
Angélique's new cardigan goes beautifully with her new rainboots purchased on the same day as the Viola above in our local gardening centre.  Most satisfying.
At this time of year you will also see me bent double over the damp earth under our garden trees looking for Viola odorata. It's like finding coins in the grass only better.  The violets captured here are Violettes de Toulouse purchased on a whim at the wonderful flower market in Tours which stretches along one of the main avenues two days a week.  Heaven.
I have already promised Angélique we will walk alongside the vines and orchards in search of tiny wild violets.*  Why these flowers with their heart-shaped leaves are referred to as modest or humble escapes me.  They are quite simply beautiful and their elusive scent on a fresh spring morning could charm away the most malevolent of spirits.
Some spring days I would like to replace our grass with a flowery mead, the carpet of tiny flowers you find in Medieval and fifteenth-century paintings.  Cultivated meadows were filled with small blooms: viola, violets, periwinkle, lily of the valley, columbine, birdsfoot trefoil and cowslip were some of the flowers to be planted.
I have sprinkled a few of our favourite violet sweets onto one of my cherished books; Les Fleurs animées by J.J. Grandville.  Are you familiar with this book?  This last work of the author - published the year of his death 1847 - contains fifty-two engravings of high society fashion on the eve of the Second Empire.  Flora's court is dressed in floral haute couture and displays the sentimental romanticism of the epoque.  The flowers portrayed in this book could be set against the magical stage design of the romantic ballet genre.  Small garden creatures - crickets, butterflies, and caterpillers - play second role to the enchanting flower personae.  This book is a delight and if you wish to purchase a copy click here 
although I own this version.

But where are my manners? I almost forgot to give you the names of my two giveaway winners.
Vanessa from Coco Rose Diaries and... oh dear, can you not read the second name there?
Dear Elizabeth and  Vanessa congratulations!  I will be sending you the Perrault books and embroidery respectively.  Please send me your postal addresses via e-mail when you have a spare moment.

I will be taking a step away from my space here for a while.  It's all about focus, remember? ;-)  I will not be able to resist the temptation of visiting your blogs though from time to time and I will return in the first official days of spring to show you what I have been concentrating and working on recently.  My modest tribute to glorious spring.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to visit this humble blog of mine.

A bientôt,


*  We have just returned from a long walk and discovered countless clumps of wild violets growing along the main path leading to the vineyards.  We may have picked a small bunch ;-)


  1. Oh how I envy you the opportunity to pick wild violets!

    I hear what you are saying about focus, I sometimes feel the same way, but my children are older than yours and my 'pups' are not young puppies and my PhD is now officially on ice, and so I can choose to focus on my knitting and my blog, lucky me.

    Congratulations to the giveaway winners. And do please hurry back soon Stephanie, you'll be missed x

  2. Stephanie, that was such a beautiful post! The colours of the flowers and knitting are so pretty and springlike, and the way you describe yourself at this time of year rings a very loud bell with me!! Hurry back soon xx

  3. Your Photo's are trully stunning x
    Love the cardi you have knitted up and congrats to the giveaway winners xx

  4. have you made wild violet jelly? so beautiful in color & so delicate in taste - like honey with the hint of the violets. I have the recipe if interested.

    We are still covered in white but the chickadees are out and about & the sun grows warmer each day. ...soon....

  5. What a lovely post! Glad you found some wild violets too - they are worth the search aren't they?

  6. Oh my goodness, Stephanie! What a beautiful post. Come on, spring.....

  7. All so very beautiful! And I love Angélique's new rain boots too! :)
    Congratulations to the winners - and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, Stephanie!
    ~ Zuzu

  8. that is the most incredible plate of violet ladies, and book, I have some orignal plates and have seen an old copy, a 'first'
    I'd love to get one, thanks for the link.
    lovely post.

  9. Hope you don't stay away too long! Beautiful flowers and equally beautiful post x

  10. You are a lovely lady. Flower photos are beautiful, and Oh!...that beautiful book!
    How I have always wanted a meadow....one day!
    Enjoy your walks dear Stephanie.xxx

  11. Beautiful photos of pansies; true, we all are impatient for nature and nice weather to explode. I'm learning to go step by step, trying to notice every little bit of a change!

  12. OH GOOD! Your comment page is up! I had come earlier this morning but was unable to find the comments! Oh my dearest Stephanie, first of all, I love your post. The colors along with the textures that you always capture are speaking LOUDLY to me of the spring that I long for! Your crafts swing lightly in the wind and sing volumes. Those little flowers are the first to make it in our pots for HERE, they are able to take the chilly mornings. Oh dear heart, so nice of you to visit today! We DO HAVE MUCH IN COMMON and I will certainly find out from you all about the corners of glorious repose in Greece! That beach has to be one of the most beautiful ones I have seen, for I am not much for tropical settings, but rather, I prefer the ancient cliffs and mediterranean feel.

    Have a lovely day my sweet friend, Anita

  13. Stephanie, your posts are such a treat to be looked forward to :) I love the sugar plum tea leaves...just so so pretty! and your talk of little wild flowers...I can't wait for spring to hit here (may) when our back yard fills up with tiny violets and johnny jump ups...so pretty, and perfect for lying down in for a sunny while. so, have a wonderful and creative spring, but hurry back to us.

  14. Dearest Stephanie
    How beautifully you have captured the lure of the beginnings of Spring. Watching the unfurling of leaves and blossom is one of my favourite pass times. How I love to see the earth waking up with gentle and colourful hues.
    Absolutely love your sweet cardigan for Angelique, it;s perfect indeed. I have a scarf knitted in M.Tosh yarn and love the quality of it. Mine is more of an electric blue which I bought from Loop, the famous knitting shop in London.
    I shall miss your beautiful posts and look forward to seeing all you have been working on. Congrats to the lucky ladies who won your generous give-away xox Keep well and keep focussed xxx Penelope

  15. You take all the time you need to treasure your family....nothing on earth is more important x
    I adore violets (bet you hadn't guessed that?!) it was my nanny's name. they are just the most beautiful little things
    congratulations to the very luck winners
    Happy weekend
    love jooles x

  16. How wonderful! Thank you. I am envious of your wild violets. They are one of my very favourite flowers (mind you at this time of year every flower which takes my eye makes me fall in love with it!) Enjoy a break and your family and creative time.

  17. My dear Stephanie, I could read your delightful ramblings ( and I mean that in the most endearing way) forever.....this post has made my day and you create such beauty in the simplest and most humble of Nature's gifts...the little wild violets are really rampant in my garden and woods and self seed in the most perfect places...I adore them! We are such kindred spirits, and I see so many traits we share with the coming of Spring...Oh to be able to chat endlessly over a cup of tea! I will wait with anticipation to see all of your new Spring endeavors...N.XO

  18. Happy flowers, happy boots, and a happy spring to you!

  19. Your Viola cardigan is beautiful Stephanie! :)
    The little sweets look delicious too!!
    So glad you were able to find some wild violets on your walk.
    Don't be gone too long, we'll all miss your lovely posts.
    Take care and happy weekend,
    Vivienne x

  20. This post is such a blend of old and new, culture and nature, fun and information. The photos tell us all about this particular point when spring is near. They also show us what a creative, imaginative person you are.

    Those candied violets on the antique fashionable image was just perfect.

    Do enjoy your break! Find time for that garden, even if you rent it. I say this as a city renter without a garden. xo

  21. I just love violets, they are one of my favorite flowers. Our little purple and yellow viola "johnny jump ups" are just starting to bloom here. Another beautiful sweater created with madelinetosh... your little girl will look sweet in it I'm sure. Enjoy your projects and your blogging break. See you in the spring! Lynne

  22. Heaven indeed..I found myself sniffing by the end of your post in the anticipation of catching a whiff of that divine scent! It's the colour too, is it not?...the old-worlde colours that only the violet can imbue. I have been photographing pansies here today..they are reviving themselves & self sowing for a little autumn blooming. I must say, that I discovered that violet water is quite delicious, entirely by accident. The sweet flowers seem to last longer once picked if they are dunked upside down in to a glass of water only, one day, I forgot about the dunking & took a drink from the glass...oh heaven....the flavour is just as the scent. Enjoy your spring frolicking. Much love for a fragrant week. Catherine x0x0x

  23. I love violets and these are so beautiful, Stephanie !
    And what a coincidence, I also bought some of those violet sweets last week :-)
    Beautiful how you displayed them !
    Congratulations for the winners !
    And thanks for your lovely comment, your remark made me smile, sometimes I take a few pics and sometimes a lot more, trying to make perfect ones ...
    Wish you a wonderful weekend,

  24. I always want to tell you how beautiful your blog is. The photos are just such a treat! I love visiting. Also I was inspired/totally copied you by recently photograhing a little dress I made in a magnolia tree. It wasn't a beautiful as yours but i think i need some more practice. - Annie

  25. I sooo know what you mean about spreading yourself too thinly, and with the weather improving the garden and outdoor jobs have just joined the long list! My littlest started school part time in January and I bought a new pup too, must have been loopy!

    On the subject of puppies, I have been going along to training class with our new beagle pup, Chester, and on meeting guests, our trainer said if possible when you have the dog on a lead (out walking etc...) if the dog jumps up to greet then the visitor should step back , therefore teaching Gaspard if I jump up, the person backs up, but if I stand to say hello the visitor will give me their attention...does that make sense? It does mean getting your house guests and children in on the deal though as them continuing to say hello when Gaspard is jumping will make him more excitable.....maybe, I did listen to some of my classes after all!

    Your flowers are beautiful, what gentle colours.

    Enjoy, pace yourself and find time to create between all the laundry etc...

  26. As always this is such a beautiful post. And I love the thought of potential, always makes me happy, it's like daydreaming, bur real-er, if that makes sense. (I fear it does not)
    Totally understand the need for balance in life, and it will be lovely to read your posts when you return. I think taking a break every now and then is a great idea.
    Without balance, we fall
    Take care of yourself, and your lovely family

  27. You have put into words my life completely Stephanie. When I was a young mother I thought my head would burst from all the things I wanted to do and to make. I always wanted to have a huge garden of flowers and yet my time was so limited between the care of our children and the farm we owned then. As time has gone on, I still plan more than I could possibly do in a lifetime, and yet it makes me happy just to dream of all I want to accomplish. And yes, Spring just makes it worse. While I was reading your post I was laughing because just this morning I was telling my husband all the plans I had for the garden and house in the next month. All he said was 'I hate Spring' with a big smile on his face. He knows it always means work for him : )
    I love reading your posts. You are living a beautiful life!

  28. I forgot to say how beautiful your darling little Viola sweater is!!!!! Your post was full of delights.

  29. Dear Stephanie, this is perhaps your sweetest post yet! and I totally understand about being tugged in all creative directions at once as well as making sure everyone is warm, clean and fed ...
    inspired by your beautiful photos, I've spent this sunny afternoon planting pots and window boxes full of pansies and violas and reminding Snowy not to eat the potting mix, still so naughty at the age of twelve! - in a week or two when they have settled in I'll take their photos - and now I want to knit a tea leaves cardigan too as autumn is just beginning here
    take good care of yourself and thank you for enchanting us all

    Barbara x

  30. Bonjour, la belle Stephanie!
    It's a perfect, tranquil Sunday morning here...I'm sipping my coffee and feeling that all is good with the world and so it's a perfect time to visit the enchanted land of Millefeuilles!
    Beautiful work as always and the little violas are just so pretty...I feel just the same...Spring is such an energizer for me...
    I am having the same problem though dividing my time and have decided to try and avoid my laptop for the next week as much as possible while I work extra hard on my project...I want to make sure I am up to date with everything and that my time is for family over Easter...
    No advice about jumping dogs Stephanie...we failed dismally with our adorable but very naughty cocker spaniel...he was far too excitable!
    Well, have a lovely week my friend and enjoy your time...thank you for the recipe book recommendations...we plan to have some fun baking at Easter...
    Susan x
    P.S Congratulations to your winners...Ooh, so lucky!

  31. Yes to everything you said!

    Stephanie, your posts are always so exquisitely articulate.

    I adore Spring and all it promises but also struggle with the overwhelming need/want to do so much. Thinly spread indeed. It's what I call 'butterflying'; alighting on this and that only ever so briefly.

    I remember once taking my children into a huge toy shop and telling them they might each choose one toy. Well, they ran here and there, "I love this", "oh, and this", "no, definitely this". It was all too much, neither could decide on any one thing and it ended with the inevitable tears. I learnt by my own parenting mistake on that occasion but feel a little the same myself every Spring!

    Enjoy your break my friend and I hope you find your balance.

    Heather x

  32. Everything you make is always stunning!
    I think it does you good to take a step back from blogging now and again. Enjoy your time away & I will look forward to you coming back with your beautiful posts.

    Lou xxx

  33. Fabulous post today starting with your words 'cusp of Spring'. This descibes so well the days we are experiencing. We do need to take time to watch the changes because things are so fleeting. Many of the early flowers have gone already and I feel I did not sit enough and look at them.

  34. enjoy your time away dear stephanie, someone must give those delicate flowers due attention. love your tiny tea leaves, and the m.t. heaven in a hank of wool. xxx

  35. i've been dying to see that very madtosh colorway knitted up as i was leaning toward it for one of my girls and now i see it is indeed, perfection!!!

    also, i would very much love to have abundant lavender bushes. i'm a bit envious ;-)

  36. A post full of my favourite things - violas, violets (I was longing for violets only this morning, and wondering how soon they'd appear), beautifully knitted lavender yarn... also the grateful realization that I'm not alone in feeling over-inspired and under-focused at this intoxicating time of year. I too have been running around between projects and not making very good progress despite the fountain of ideas bubbling over in my head.

    Enjoy your break, and keep looking for violets. They'll be gone all too soon. We'll miss you.

  37. Dear Stephanie,

    It must be the spring indeed that makes everyone happy, jittery & anxious at the same time. I know the feeling you describe. Like being in the centre of a tornado ;-).

    Your violets look very pretty. I bought some last week too, to adjourn my garden. The cardigan is very sweet. I love the little green buttons you added to it. It makes such a nice contrast to the purple.

    Congratulations to the two lucky ladies!

    Enjoy your break Stephanie!

    Madelief x

  38. Enjoy your break. I love the image of the Fleurs Animees. It reminded me of a more sophisticated version of the Flower Fairy books I had when I was a little girl.

  39. Dear Stephanie,

    So glad that Spring will be there soon and isn't it the most wonderful time of the year. I adore your sweet violets and viola's and they are some of my favourites too. Love Angelique's gorgeous new cardigan and the cute boots.
    Congratulations to your lucky winners, they will be thrilled.

    Have a lovely time away, on your break

  40. This is the loveliest time of year, isnt it? I just love the delicate and bright violets and pansies. Cant wait to see what your big project may be! Hope everything is going well!~ And glad to hear puppy is learning, it will just take time to refine his habits so that he's a well behaved dog :)I had a woman who works with dogs tell me a while back that 'dogs behave as they sense you expect them to.' meaning that, if you expect a certain standard of behavior, they will sense it and try to live up to it. But if they sense you are timid or afraid they wont follow through, then they will take the opportunity (much like a child!) to take advantage of it and do what they want. Now, that wont stop all puppy behavior because, ofcourse, he's just a toddler right now. But I can see that it works particularly in my older dog. If he's doing something he knows he shouldnt, all I have to do is say his name and he bashfully knows to stop. Cant wait for our little one to know that! Good luck!~

  41. Stephanie I am loving your photos, I can smell those violets and as for that tiny tea leaves .. what a lucky little girl to be wearing that beauty.
    The weather these last few days has been wonderful here too, making me hopeful of the day when I can shed the coat and scarf and in time, those thick tights. Today, however, has rather dashed those thoughts, fingers crossed for a break in the clouds.

    Keep well and enjoy that knitting, you're doing a grand job so far!
    Kate x

  42. Congrats to the winners. I have just planted out some pansies and violas, they are so sweet with their little faces.
    xx Sandi

  43. The flowers are so beautiful.
    Your daughters new rainboots are the perfect match to the gorgeous sweater you have knit.
    Susan x

  44. Gorgeous flowers in such a spring-like post :-) It is wonderful to see things starting to grow and the flowers appearing again. I always feel full of ideas and happy around this time too, must be the sun coming back again!

    Love the gorgeous cardigans, such a pretty colour

    Lori xxx

  45. A wonderful post. I can almost smell the wild violets from here!!! x

  46. I echo all your thoughts on the garden spreading one thinly - I think of it like another house to tidy and clean :)
    Just back from Paris with a Fragonnard perfume of Violets!
    As for the dog , we turned ourselves away everytime she jumped up and didn't speak or make eye contact. They soon learn that jumping doesn't equal attention. We also went over board of 'good sitting' when she waited.
    Good luck and don't be gone too long...

  47. I apologise for my comment being a bit off topic.

    I don't think of you as a regular blogger as your posts are irregular. Regular posts should only be made by those who like it. Too many bloggers moan about it. No one says that blogging is obligatory. We read how much we are apparently appreciated as readers, yet they often disappear, sometimes for good with no word, leaving people they say they are their 'blogging friends' worried about them. (I am rarely that invested that I am worried, but I do find it rude). It seems that a lot of blogs are written by insecure and sometimes rude people looking for validation. Bloggers come and go as they burn out. A blog is a web log, it's not a competition to see how much you can make in a short time or how much you can produce to show off. That is the way to crash and burn. Sensible people talk about things they like, that interest them at a pace that is pleasurable to them. Blogs are not magazines. You don't have to be new and innovative. Just interesting if you want to be read. But surely blogs are primarily for those who write them, so ultimately if you are not read by others, who cares? Either do it or not do it but without a fuss.

    A particular blog has turned off comments. While using their blog as a means of criticism they deny others to dissent from what they write, or indeed anything at all since they have been switched off like swatted flies. They still want our money though as their wares are reviewed (only the good ones)and dangled in front of us to merchandise their goods. I am tired of blogs using me as a marketing tool. Unless they offer something in return, I will not buy goods when I am being manipulated. I consider it rudeness, when it is only through blogging in the first place that some people build up a customer base for themselves. When they lose respect for me, I lose respect for them too. Some people manage a respectful balance.

    I feel a lot of bloggers follow writing styles and content of others now. There are few natural and true voices. It's a breath of fresh air to find one. Although it can still be done, it is quite hard to escape the fluffy craft blog style, complete with the brain freezing baby language. (I certainly can not aim that criticism at you, far from it). I am on the brink of giving up reading blogs, they seem to be saying so little, and relentlessly 'borrowing' ideas and themes. Craft blogging seems to be becoming ever more cynical and tired.

    Perhaps if more blogs went to sleep, then we would all get more rewarding things done? Then again, no one forces us to plug ourselves into the computer.

  48. Oh Miss Stephanie! I do hope your break is just a little one and not a permanent one --

    I read a lot of blogs. A LOT OF BLOGS. I'm a very fast reader and I like to really run a wide span across what's out there 1) because I like it and 2) that's how I find things of interest to me -- I'm a researcher at heart which was spurred on by my law school training.

    ANYWAY, this is my longwinded way of saying I have never run across another blog quite like yours. I love your garden oasis here and hope to have more opportunities to visit your spot of beauty and nature.

    So much aloha! Melissa

  49. Hello Stephanie! Your potted flowers are so pretty. I always think that pansies and violas have the happiest little faces. They just lift up their heads toward the sun and smile! I too am virtually intoxicated by spring, and I do so share the propensity to be driven to distraction by the urge and ambition to do so many different things.

    The cardigan couldn't be lovelier! I hope you and your little one have fun splashing through spring puddles in her new rain boots! The brightest and happiest springs to you!


  50. Stephanie,

    It won't be long before I'll be potting some pansies. It's so nice to see yours happily blooming.
    Congratulations to the fortunate winners of your giveaway!


  51. I have enjoyed visiting your blog although I am a new follower I have started to look forward to your posts. I do understand about spreading yourself too thin, there are only 24 hours in the day and you have a young child and a new puppy to care for, a garden to tend to and your own creative endeavours to attend to. We all need to take time out and focus.

    Violets are exactly like hidden coins! I think they are called modest because they lower their heads? I wonder if you have ever come across "Floras Feast" by Walter Crane? I think he was inspired by the book you feature here.

  52. Beautiful knit in Sugar Plum, looks so natural as though it had flowered from the branches of the tree....

    Hope you have a relaxing blog break.

    Fleur xx

  53. Oh, I love the tender first violets and pansies of early spring! Its always so cheering when things green up again. It always seems like a miracle, doesnt it? I just love seeing your knitting projects too. Just gorgeous!~ Hope all is well with you, yours, and the pup!

  54. sooooooo beautiful your postings ;0)x
    love the photography and knitting x

  55. Reading spellbinding posts like this remind me why blogging can be so uplifting and joyous. I've been away from my blog for a while too, just living life, lack of time and, I have to admit inclination, but my faith is restored! Have a wonderful time Stephanie and I look forward to your return.


  56. I love the chunky cardigan and the color of the pansies! Your post made me want to get in my car and go to the little garden center up the road. I know they will have snapdragons and pansies eek! and soon the ice-cream stand will be opening....

    HUGS love your post and your thoughts.


  57. Sometimes you just can't do it all! I love your little cardigan, and the pansies and violets are so pretty. Congratulations to your lovely giveaway winners!
    Don't forget to leave some time for yourself in all your busy ness! I shall look forward to your return. Have a lovely weekend, with love, Linda x

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