Wednesday, 29 September 2010

flamingo's elbows

My blogs these days seem to be full of holidays and days out and, indeed, life has had more than its fair share of such things in the last couple of months or so.   This is mainly due to the fact that my dear husband is on a lengthy sabbatical from work.   Much deserved, it has to be said.  So, last week, with the sun beaming down from blue skies, I wheedled my way into a trip to Coton Manor nearby in Northamptonshire.   I think I'd seen some appealing photos of it maybe in Country Living.   We arrived in time for a lovely lunch in the dappled shade of a huge tree in the courtyard and afterwards set off with our map to wander round the gardens.   The first thing that struck me was the amount of vibrant colour still showing in the herbacious borders.   They were stunning and awe-inspiring.

There was some very relaxed wildlife strolling in the grounds with us.   I couldn't get over the way these flamingoes kneel down - aren't their elbows funny!  

These preening funny-footed bantams are called Mille Fleures d'Uccles - they've got huge great ungainly feathers sticking out at right-angles from their feet, but have beautiful detailed plumage.
Our tea-table.   Unfortunately some children had rearranged all the cans so the waitresses were having great problems delivering the meals to the right tables!  

Spanish spoon from a few blogposts ago - couldn't show it sooner because it was a hen-sitter's pressie and she's a faithful reader of this blog!

So that was last week - this week I have been mostly making birds/calendars/hearts for two craft stalls I accidentally agreed to do in November.   On the same day.   I thought I was just manning a stall at one of them, but, no, it turns out I'm also providing the wares to sell.    I have a vague memory of promising never to do any of these again!   Am I completely mad?  

ribbons & ricrac
Calendar tags

waiting for hearts

Lots of love,

Friday, 17 September 2010

A Grand Day Out

"Didn't we have a luvverly time the day we went to .....?"   It was a magical-mystery tour, getting on for a couple of hours from home and the two passengers in the back of the car were kept in suspense about our destination.   About an hour into the journey they were getting restless and I hadn't had the foresight to bring something to entertain them with, so I passed over the AA Road Atlas, being the only reading material to hand.   I gave them a clue, "We're on the A14 heading east and we've just passed Newmarket."   After a lot of reading out of road signs and stage-whispering from the back seat, they announced that they had worked it out.   They were being taken to the docks at Harwich to be sold into the white slave trade.   Hmmm, tempting, but wrong.      As we got closer to the destination it was hard to keep it a secret and it finally dawned on them that they were going to Constable Country.   This, of course, necessitated a juvenile joke or two about policemen.....  
We all had lunch in a nice pub  in Dedham, and not too much squabbling about who could have a spoonful of who else's pudding.   Then on to Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage, where John Constable painted the Hay Wain. 

I tried to take a photograph from about where I though the picture was painted, though the banks are now overgrown.

Willy Lott's Cottage

Flatford Mill

The route home through Suffolk took in some places I used to live when I was a little girl.   It was quite hard to recognise our house in one village, everyone now has very tall hedges and the trees are all over 50 years older!   And my little village school is now a private house.   I'm not surprised, as there couldn't have been more than 12 pupils altogether when I was there.  I remember being late for school one day (we lived opposite the school and I only had to cross the lane ...) and being mortified because everyone was already gathered around the upright piano singing "Jesus bids us shine".   Another house we lived in around that time is now in the grounds of a prison.   When we visited the other day there were loads of kids around riding bikes in the road.   The years just fell away as I remembered doing the very same thing in about 1957/8.  

So after a nostalgic tour, we set off for home once again.   This time the two in the back seat decided to speed the journey by providing their own entertainment and singing along together.   Unfortunately, it was never the same song.   Except the one that went, "lalalalalala, pub with no beer, lalalalalalala, pub with no beer, lalalalalala, pub with no beer".   They don't write 'em like that any more.  

So if you know anyone in Harwich who wants to make a bob or two by exporting a septuagenarian and an octogenarian, (soprano and tenor), I'm only at the end of a phone!

Hope you have a good weekend!


p.s No, I'm not sucking my thumb, I'm chewing my necklace.  Different thing entirely.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

In the pink

When I was a girl living at home with my three sisters, I was very fond of Bird's Custard (so long as it didn't have lumps, but that needn't detain us here).   The most interesting thing about Bird's Custard Powder is that it was pink.   Until you added boiling milk, and then it turned yellow.  My wonderment at that bewildering alchemy is now rivalled by my discovery that you get pink dye from boiling green avocado skins.   True.  A little while ago Heike had some lovely bundles of fabrics for sale, dyed just this way, and I had to buy one to see for myself.   I loved the delicate subtle shades of Heike's samples and had a go at making my own avocado dye.   I achieved some of the same soft tones, but a silk carrier rod really absorbed the dye and became a rich dark burgundy.   And we ate the avocado.

In this little quilted piece, I wove some of the strips of Heike's fabric together and used a bit of my own dyed calico to form the background.
One or two of the applied pieces are from my Erosion Bundles, which had some of the same delicate 'watercolour' look about them.   There's a bit of that old rent book which had some pink smudges on it and a scrap of lace that took some of the dye from a piece of printed Chinese paper it was wrapped up with.    And then I dotted around some running stitches and sewed on an old fabric button.   It was my first attempt at anything of the sort and I'm hoping that Heike isn't groaning at the mess I've made of her lovely fabrics!   
And the first one to ask "but what's it for?" gets a poke in the eye....

Please have a seat

so long as you're ok with heights - 20 feet up a castle wall in Spain!
We had a few days away last week, in Catalonia in northern Spain.   It's an area we've been to several times, just for short breaks, and we don't normally stray very far from the shore.   But this time we went inland into the ancient volcanic region just south of the Pyrenees to the old town of Besalu.   You have to leave your car on the other side of the river and walk across the bridge and through the portcullis into the narrow cobbled streets and up to the market square.  

I managed to resist most of the wares displayed for tourists in the 'souvenir' shops, but I did buy a beautiful little wooden spoon from a girl smoking a fag while leaning over a counter of rustic hams and sausages.   She didn't look at me once during the transaction and her only communication was to tell me the price.   Such a contrast to the lovely pharmacist who gift-wrapped the insect repellent Richard bought!

on the door beam

swimming hole at Aigua Blava
I'd forgotten how much I love sea swimming - we spent ages floating around in the waves in this little cove by the hotel.   Richard thought we ought to have snorkels, but in a kind of way I'm quite happy not knowing what's going on beneath the surface!

a fisherman's front door

I just wanted to say that it's been a nightmare trying to upload and edit my photos using, or to get access to Blogger or my hotmail account today, or do more than five minutes before the laptop crashed.   Grrrrr.   One of those days, eh?  
                                          Hope you're having a better one?

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A display box for Seaside Tags

Lesley, Cathy and I have now all made special 'containers' to house and display all the wonderful Seaside Tags we sent each other during the summer.  

This is mine - a Dorset Cereals muesli box, cunningly disguised with calico, silk and deck-chair striped fabric, an old photo, a few bits of driftwood, a shell or two and some free-machine stitching.
I wanted to put the tags in something that could be left out for people to have a rootle around in and not worry about keeping them in any particular order.
Don't the girls' tags look lovely housed in here?

You must go and see what the other two have done (click on their names at the top)- you'll love them!

Here's some little brooches I made last week, using some gorgeous ceramic buttons I bought when I went to the quilt exhibition at the V & A Museum earlier in the year.   The buttons remind me so much of the little broken bits of blue-and-white domestic pottery I'm always digging up in the veggie patch.   I hand-felted some blue merino to make a sturdy backing, appliqued some vintage lace snippets on and made a few delicate brooches to put in my Etsy shop.  

And this is a bloomin' great hairy-chested moth which landed on my workroom window one night.   The picture's not brilliant, because it was taken with flash through a rather dirty window pane.    Anyway, Googled it, and discovered that it's a Red Underwing.  So now you know.
And like most of the rest of the British Isles, we have a glut of plums this year, so besides giving them away to unsuspecting friends and relations, sharing them with the hens and wasps, I have actually made some plum cakes (Nigel Slater) and a couple of frangipane and plum tarts.    And Autumn Plum Chutney.   Oh and stewed some to put in the freezer to remind me of summer during the long winter months.   And, Anne, PLEASE come and pick some more and take them away!

Got fed up waiting for any sunshine and warmth to ripen my tomatoes, which when they did turn red and yellow, weren't all that tasty for some reason.   So picked them and made them into Green Tomato Chutney to a recipe my mum used to make, which might have belonged to my paternal grandmother.   Whatever - it's gorgeous and we've got pounds of the stuff now.   Am I alone in loving a sup of sweetened vinegar stolen from the preserving pan while the chutney's reducing...?   OK, maybe it's an acquired taste!
The ones that 'ripened' went in a slow oven to dry out and intensify the flavours.   They've been great scattered on baby leaf salads.   Yum.

So that's about it for today.   Except to apologise to some lovely bloggers that I try to follow.   I'm having mysterious problems trying to sign into my blog every now and again and therefore can't leave comments on other people's, but I am as always enjoying reading all my faves.  

Tomorrow we're taking some visiting Aussie rellies to Cambridge for the day, so we're hoping for sunshine.   Hope it shines on you too!

Love from