Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Art in Action

Typical isn't it... the busier life gets the more there is to write about, the more ideas I have for blog posts and the less time I have to do it. The weekend was spent away at Missenden Abbey with my year 2 City & Guilds students, Monday I was in London for a lovely day with two fellow bloggers, one of whom I met for the first time, today I was teaching again... all things I could tell you about... and I will, but not right now. Because I'm busy packing for a trip up north...
 
 
I'm going to Harrogate where I will be an "Artist in Action" at the Knitting and Stitching show. It's the first time I've done anything like that... and my first time ever visiting Harrogate.

 
I'll be digging out my Frida sketchbooks...

 
And hope to demonstrate some machine embroidery... as well as finish off some work.

 
Some of this work has been sitting around the studio for far too long so it will be good to make some progress.

 
I'll be there all day Thursday and Friday morning so please come and say hello

 
And maybe next week I'll catch up with my blog writing, blog reading... and possibly even some sleep before I head off for another weekend at Missenden.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Natty Knits

Another exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum can only mean one thing... another day out in London for me and Gill.
 
 
This time we went to see "Knitwear - Chanel to Westwood". Although there was at least one original Chanel jacket and another Westwood sweater, the exhibition was mostly an eclectic mix of knitwear from the private collection of Mark and Cleo Butterworth, collectors of antique and vintage clothing and there were as many domestic hand knitted items as there were designer pieces.

 
Items on display ranged from knitted sportswear such as golfing jackets from the 1920s through to some pretty amazing swimwear. Does anyone remember having to wear a knitted swimsuit?

 
There were also some wonderful fairisle tank tops and lovely examples of multi-coloured handknits from the war years, knitted from unravelled sweaters in true make do and mend style. As well as knitted garments there were crochet dresses too. I may not have worn a knitted swimsuit but I did have a mini crochet jacket similar to Twiggy's!

 
It got Gill and I reminiscing how we both also had knitted suits in the days back when, and so this evening I had a rummage through some old photos and this is what I found... me aged 24 looking positively middle aged in the most revolting pink boucle knitted two piece!

 
As with every other exhibition we have ever seen at this gem of a museum, it was brilliant - well staged and well thought out with the added bonus of a wonderful free guided tour, something that takes place every Wednesday lunchtime and now Fridays too I believe. We always come away from exhibitions here feeling inspired to go home and create. Gill has a yearning to try fairisle, we both fancy digging out some vintage patterns... but I don't think either of us will be sporting knitted suits anytime soon!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Sweet Sunday

Because I often work weekends I really value a lazy Sunday with no pressure to do anything in particular...
 
 
time to spend an hour or so in the garden raking leaves.

 
Having spicy parsnip soup for lunch...

 
With a homemade cottage loaf,,,

 
even if the top did go rather askew...

 
It still tasted good! And then after a lazy afternoon reading the paper, a night out at the cinema to see a good film.

 
A Sunday all the more sweet for knowing that next weekend I'll be working!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

A Saturday Selection

I went out for walk to get the Sunday paper last week... I thought I'd go the long way round. I hadn't been gone more than 5 minutes when the heavens opened. Did I turn back... no... like a mad woman I carried on and turned up at the shop like a drowned rat. But there was a silver lining to my soggy cloud because I discovered a tree full of crab apples on my wandering. Yes, I stopped in the pouring rain to fill my bag with apples!
 
 
And then later in the day I went out again and filled another bag full of sloes.

 
But there was a reason for my madness...I have only ever made jam or marmalade before but when I spotted the crab apples I had a sudden fancy to try making jelly.... and like they say, no point waiting for the storm to pass...

 
And this was the result. Five jars of the most gloriously magenta hedgerow jelly

 
Which was wonderful on hot buttered toast. In the interest of project "Shrinking my backside" I only had one slice and resisted the urge to make scones. But I have no doubt it would make the perfect accompaniment to scones!

 
And other stuff this week... there has been some more cushion making in amongst some teaching, plus a meeting with seven wonderful ladies aged between 87 and 101. It was my job to listen to their memories (and their giggling!) and now I have to convert them into a wall hanging (the memories, not the ladies) for their new lounge in their residential home. I'm really excited about this project so watch this space...

 
I've also been getting to grips with some new specs. I've needed reading glasses for several years and they usually stay permanently perched on the end of my nose with me peering over the top. But now that my distance vision is going too I've got some varifocals to wear all the time. If you've had them you will know that they take a bit of getting used to... and I am slowly becoming accustomed to them. But when I put this photo and a comment on Facebook you wouldn't believe all the "expert" advice that came my way... from "take them back straight away" to "I've probably got the wrong prescription"! The consensus seems to be though, that they do need wearing in, so that's what I'm doing!

 
Did I mention I made cake too? I know, I wasn't meant to be making cake but this wasn't for me, it was for the village over 60s club (which could almost be me!)

 
And then today I made more to take to our Embroiderers' Guild meeting. I may have eaten just one... and licked the icing bowl... but it was my lunch so don't worry on my behalf. Project "Shrinking my backside" is still on track!

 
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Year in Books :: November

Is it really November? Where has this year gone? I read somewhere that the reason time seems to go past so much faster the older we get is that we compare it against what has already passed. So that when we are only seven years old,  by comparision a year seems like an awful long time... yet when we are fifty seven years old a year is but a small fraction of what has already gone. No idea if that's true but I do know that summers never seem as long as they used to!
 
 
But I digress... my October Year in Books choice, Longbourn by Jo Baker was delightful. A gentle re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the servants but a story in its own right too. Not particularly taxing but a thoroughly enjoyable read. A pleasure!

 
I also read another Peter May thriller this month - Entry Island, which I found every bit as gripping as previous books of his that I've read. He tells a good story and it was an entertaining page turner.

 
Having a few days holiday last month meant I got through another couple of books too. I picked up Perfect by Rachel Joyce with some reservation. I had loved her first book - The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry but had read some poor reviews of her second novel, Perfect. I suppose its main theme is mental illness told through the parallel stories of childhood friends James and Byron, and that of Jim, a man struggling with severe OCD. I found it a very sad but excellent read and gripping story. I've also treated myself to a copy of Grayson Perry's Playing to the Gallery, which is more or less based on his very entertaining and insightful BBC4 Reith Lectures last year.
 
It has occured to me that all the fictional books I read in October, although not in the least similar, do share something in common and that is a good story. And I do like a good story!

 
And my book choice for November is We are all Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. Liking it so far! Have you read any good stories recently?
 
Joining in with Laura's Year in Books at A Circle of Pine Trees

Friday, 31 October 2014

Five... or Four on Friday

There I was, all set to do a "Five on Friday" post and then I realised I only really had four photos and I couldn't think of a fifth thing to write about anyway... so in trail blazing style I bring you "Four on Friday"
 
1. A Pear and Ginger cake
 
 
This was my first effort to recreate the Sticky Pear and Ginger cake I had on holiday. I sort of combined a sticky toffee pudding base with an upside down pear cake. My first mistake was to use a springform pan... The sticky bit of the upside down bit leaked all over my oven. I hate cleaning the oven! Despite this the cake tastes good but it's not the same as the one I had at the weekend so it's back to the drawing board.
 
2. A Spiced Apple cake

 
My Mum came for lunch on Wednesday and she can't stand ginger, so I made another cake... this time it was an apple traybake. It was good... but now my Mum and visiting sons have gone and we are left with two large cakes, just the two of us here all weekend and a backside that seems to be expanding at an alarming rate. Definitely no cake next week so my pear and ginger experiments will have to wait until I have shrunk.
 
3. A Cushion

 
My friend commissioned me to make this cushion weeks ago but I was having a bit of a mental block over the design. Then suddenly I knew what I wanted to do and so yesterday I got started... plenty of time as we weren't we were meeting for lunch until today. I got it finished 15 minutes before I was due to leave the house this morning only to discover that the buttons wouldn't go through the buttonholes... which is why there is no photo of the back. Solution... Quickly pack sewing kit and fabric in handbag, buy new self cover buttons on the way and sit sewing on new buttons whilst eating lunch... no problemo! My friend loved it, thank goodness!
 
4. Pumpkins
 
We don't really celebrate Halloween but I love carved pumkins, so these two chaps are on my doorstep this evening to welcome any little visitors... only one or two so far which means I'll have a bucketful of chocolate buttons left if no-one else turns up, which is not helpful for my expanding backside!

 
Happy Halloween everyone... and happy weekend!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Fresh Air and Food

In the past two and a half years, for various reasons too mundane to bore you with, we have managed a total of only three days holiday, when we went to Bruges to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. So it was with great excitment that we ventured on a two hour drive north to Holt on the north Norfolk coast on Friday, to stay at Blackbird cottage for three nights.
 
 
It was such a beautiful, cosy and well equiped cottage I think I could have quite happily moved in!

 
We spent our days outdoors walking... from Cley to Salthouse and back to Blakeney

 
mostly along beautiful deserted beaches in warm October sunshine.

 
Miles and miles of shingle and sand...

 
We also walked around the grounds of Holkham Hall where we saw the most maginicent deer herds.

 
And after all that walking, we worked up amazing appetites! We had fabulous local fish, cheese and bread... not to mention some amazing Norfolk ice cream but probably my favourite meal was at Wiveton Hall Cafe.
 
 
 After a morning in the fresh air we sat outside on the jolly painted furniture where we ate the most fabulous crab sandwiches  accompanied by homemade lemonade... it was up there with one of my best meals ever!

 
We also had some wonderful cake that I didn't photograph but you can be sure that once I work out how to recreate the amazing sticky pear and ginger cake I will share the recipe with you!
 
We've come home happy and refreshed and determined to make time for more long weekends away. We've no great desire to travel to anywhere hot or exotic but the chance for a few days of fresh air, good food and a comfortable cottage where we can come back to rest, read and drink a glass of wine or two... that will do the trick!