Sunday, 9 February 2020

Riding It Out.

We spent yesterday morning battening down the hatches in preparation for storm Ciara. Bird tables, dovecotes, wheelie bins and garden chairs were laid flat. Pots were moved to more sheltered spots and all my 'danglies' (wind chimes, twirly things and the like) were removed from the cherry tree to prevent damage. I'm glad we did, as the wind is currently howling down the chimney and I'm keeping an anxious eye on all the trees. Despite the anxiety, there is something rather cosy about it all and I'm planning an afternoon knitting and reading in front of the stove. Listening to the Shipping Forecast, we were surprised to learn that the Beaufort Scale goes up to 12 - having always assumed that 10 was the maximum - and were very grateful to be safe at home, with nowhere that we need to go.
I thought I'd spend half an hour before lunch unloading my camera, so here are a few photos from the last month:

A visit to Old Sarum. Sadly, my camera battery died almost as soon as we arrived, so this was the only photo of our visit. We loved the castle and the sense of history. What we didn't enjoy was the sight that met us as we walked around the moat. Apparently, rabbits have been causing damage to the structure and so English Heritage had called in a company to 'deal' with the problem. We had noticed a couple of men with dogs, acting, it must be said, rather furtively. As we drew near we saw dozens of rabbit corpses strung up along the fence. Now, this was a Saturday afternoon and there were plenty of families with young children around. One man that we passed was so upset that he called the police. 2 officers came to investigate, only to discover that the men were there legitimately.
It really put a dampener on the day. I can understand the need to preserve the monument, but I'm sure a quieter time of day could have been chosen and the bodies not have been displayed so openly. R sent a letter of complaint to EH, who agreed that it could have been carried out in a better manner and promised to have a word with the people involved. We came home and gave Hamish an extra long hug!
 Finishing my Trapeze Dress with fabric bought from the Knitting and Stitching Show. 
 Tending my air plants - a birthday present from E. If anyone has any tips regarding their care, they would be gratefully received!
 Growing avocados. These are both now potted up, so I'm hoping that they flourish:
Taking a leaf out of  Barbara's book, I decided to join in with the RSPB's bird watch. I feel I should apologise in advance for the poor quality of the photos! My camera isn't the best and I got so excited when a bird landed that my hand tended to jerk when I clicked the button so they're all a bit blurry. If you want better photos, I would head over to Barbara's blog as hers are superb! I did my count whilst drinking my breakfast smoothie and the hour flew by. Later in the day there were flocks of long tailed tits and goldfinches, but, sadly, they were nowhere to be seen at 8 in the morning! Here then are a few, dodgy pictures from my hour :

For R's birthday, I bought him a one day wood turning course. He went along clutching his lunch last weekend and returned at the end of the day with these:
The candlestick was more to learn the techniques involved. He loved it and now wants to clear out the garden shed and buy a lathe!
I tried my hand at dyeing with avocados. The mini-skein on the left is the original bare colour and the pinky-brown is the dyed yarn. I think if I want a brighter pink I would need to make the water more alkaline.
 A trip to Welford Park (famous for being home to The Great British Bake Off) to see the snowdrops:



Those blue skies are from yesterday afternoon - difficult to believe as Ciara has now added thunder and lightning to the high winds!
Anyway, that's all for this week. Wishing you all a cosy afternoon, safe and warm indoors.

Toodle pip for now. x

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Hello 2020!

Hello there! Happy New Year to one and all - I would say 'Happy New Decade'  but the pedants amongst us (R!) would say that that isn't until next year! :0)
I hope you all had a joyous Christmas. L and E were home here and we had our first 'secondhand / homemade' festive season. I say first because it was such fun that we're planning to do it again next year. I made everyone knitted socks, hats and mittens, bought several things from charity shops/car boot sales and made Christmas hampers for the girls - there wasn't a secondhand kilner jar / bottle left in town! 
We also celebrated R's, E's and my birthday, as well as New Year, so we're all a little celebrated out now. Here are a few photos of our Christmas 2019:
Making Christmas Chutney using Mitzi's recipe from here:
 Our advent candle bought at Winchester Cathedral:
Making the girls new stockings. They have had the same felt ones since birth and they were no longer fit for purpose! The idea was to cut out the snowman and Father Christmas from the front of the originals and applique them onto the new stockings but, when it came down to it, I couldn't bring myself to do it. The old ones were hung up for sentimental reasons alongside the new ones which did all the donkey work! The fabric was a scrap that I bought in Glastonbury when E and I visited in the summer and the tops correspond to the colour of their old stockings.
 Enjoying rereading Nigel Slater's Christmas Chronicles (brilliant to see him in the New Year's Honours' List) and using my yarny Advent Calendar:
 Our tree, which was surprisingly drop free this year!
 R's birthday treat was a concert in Oxford - Vox were amazing and 'A Ceremony of Carols'  made a welcome change from Messiah!
 A trip to Bristol to see E play in a concert:
 She was the soloist, so it was a very proud parental moment. There were yummy vegan mince pies in the interval too!
Making limoncello for the hampers:
Our festive jigsaw, bought at a charity shop. We only ever do a jigsaw at Christmas:
 Catching a rainbow:
L and J's presents to us. L had found some old floorboards and a pallet, so they made us a bug hostel each. Ours is the Newbury one and E's is marked Bristol. They picked up the pieces for the slate signs during their holiday to the Lake District. L also did a cross stitch of a country cottage. I had bought the kit for her when she was about 10 and she had finally finished it and bought a frame in Oxfam. She also gave me a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) to make kombucha as hers had grown a new one.
E gave us an oil painting she had done and also some secondhand books which I'm looking forward to reading:

R made me a hedgehog box and is also building a fruit / brassica cage for the garden. The birds stripped all my berries before we got a look in last year and , after finding a dead blue tit caught in it, I don't want to net my kale again. He also mended the clock in the hall which has been set at 10 to 3 (in honour of Rupert Brooke's poem!) for the last 5 years.
Our Christmas Day walk:

My birthday trip to see the Tutankhamun Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery:
This is the last time that the artefacts will go on tour as there is a new museum being built in Egypt to house them all. The exhibition, although crowded and hot, was stunning and well worth a visit.
We finished the day with dinner at a Korean restaurant before returning home:
Tofu bibimbap - yum!
J came to join us for New Year's Eve and we spent the evening playing D&D. It was great fun and the game finished at 11:50, so was perfectly timed to ring in the New Year. I confess that I don't usually like New Year and, left to my own devices, would happily go to bed at the normal time, but I really enjoyed this one.
New Year's Day walk at Snelsmore Common:
Playing on a rope swing!
On E's birthday a swan came up to the back door to be fed. We are quite used to the ducks but, though we occasionally see them on the river, this is the first time that a swan has come walking up the garden:
We celebrated E's birthday by doing an  escape room. L and E had done one before but it was a first for R and me. The theme was the Wild West and we just managed to get out with 50 seconds to spare!
Well, that's me all caught up. L is now back in London and E goes back to uni this week, so life will return to normal for a while. May I take the opportunity to wish everyone love, light and peace for 2020.

Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like ..........

Apologies in advance for a rather photo-heavy post! Happy Advent, everyone. Our neighbours have had their Christmas tree up since November 7th (!) but, in true Grinchy style, I'm resisting the urge for another couple of weeks. My one concession is the Advent candle which we bought at Winchester Cathedral recently.That's not to say that there hasn't been a fair bit of Festive crafting going on. So much so, that I'm beginning to slightly regret our intention to do second hand / homemade Christmas - although I'm desperate to know what R has planned; there's talk of wood being needed! I also have a yarny Advent Calendar which I'm feeling a tad guilty about as I ordered it at the start of the year before we had decided on our low key Christmas. I'm valiantly overcoming my guilty conscience, however, and forcing myself to open it! ☺

Here then are the photos to remind myself of the run up to Christmas 2019: 

Using up the last bit of my upholstery fabric from the Ally Pally to cover our old piano stool. I'm rather fond of the stool as we bought it on holiday in Cornwall many moons ago. It has seen 2 daughters through to Grade 8, however, and was beginning to look rather the worse for wear. Here's the before picture..........
 ......................... and the after:
 It's not the most professional looking upholstery job, but it is less threadbare and I think it looks a bit jollier.
Fingerless mitts for R (it's OK, he never reads my blog!). R works from home on Fridays and is always complaining that the house is too cold during the day. The plan is that he can use these as he types on the computer!
A winter picnic at Farleigh Hungerford Castle (English Heritage again!):
This was a fortified mansion with a bit of a grisly past. Walter Hungerford imprisoned his wife in the Lady Tower and tried to poison her. She only survived because the locals smuggled food to her in a basket lowered out of the window. The tower was destroyed on Bonfire Night many years later. Local children set off fireworks which set light to the ivy covering the tower. It turned out that the ivy was the only reason that the tower was still standing!
The chapel, complete with mural of St. George discovered in 1844:
Rare lead anthropomorphic coffins in the crypt:
Popping into Bradford on Avon on the way home, we treated ourselves to a slice of vegan lemon drizzle cake and a pot of tea in the local tearoom. If you get the chance, do pop in - the beautiful building, real fires, classical music and waitresses in full costume make it a tearoom to remember:
Downstairs was packed, so we went upstairs and bagged a table. We were lucky as that soon filled up too.

An evening at the theatre seeing Gryff Rhys Jones. I went with some trepidation expecting an evening of political comments (and we go out to get away from all that at the moment!) but he was brilliant. Great comedy as he told us all about his Bucket List activities, and barely a whiff of politics. He's also a keen gardener and his garden recently appeared on a programme about Alan Titchmarsh's favourite gardens. I'm now a real fan!
A trip to Winchester, where we bought our Advent Candle in the Cathedral shop, had lunch at an excellent veggie / vegan cafe and then nosed round the best book shop in the city.
Set over 3 floors with creaky stairs and floorboards, the smell of books hits you as you enter - you don't get that with a Kindle! We spent a merry hour browsing before buying L a first edition of Wodehouse's 'Eggs, Beans and Crumpets' for her birthday - she's a huge P. G. Wodehouse fan. The best bit was when we went to pay. The owner pulled out a huge leather bound ledger and a fountain pen and noted the date, title and price before carefully wrapping the book in a stripy paper bag. We're definitely going back!
Meeting my friend, S, at Westonbirt Arboretum to see the autumn colours. We took the free guided tour and learned a lot.

A fused glass workshop at the local museum. This was a bit of a disaster. We carefully cut out our glass and decorations ......... then the tutor told us to transfer them on to a piece of paper and place them in named plastic bags! Well, the carefully cut and arranged pieces scattered everywhere! That was before she had to transport them home to the kiln. We had to draw and label sketches of our pieces to go in the bags - presumably so she could reassemble our bags of bits before firing! I'll let you know if she was successful when we get them back!
Here are my attempts after the bits moved!:

Making silk painted Christmas cards:
Meeting L and E in London for L's birthday. We did presents and cake in the morning and then went here for a yummy birthday lunch:
Clearing out one of the cupboards, I discovered a bag of scraps of Stylecraft DK yarn, left over from when I had a blanket crocheting phase a few years ago. I decided to use them all up in a granny square blanket for use in Bridget the Midget. It does get rather chilly round the old knees at this time of year! I think it may have to wait until after Christmas now though as I'm using my yarn from my Advent calendar in my Cosy Memory Blanket and then the leftovers in a scrappy Granny Stripe blanket. Too many blankets?
A  trip to The American Museum in Bath. I've wanted to go here for years and we finally got around to visiting last weekend. I can recommend it highly - the house has a fine collection of old quilts, American Folk Art, reconstructed rooms and a fascinating section on American Indians. After lunch in the cafe with spectacular views, we took a walk in the gardens and visited the craft fair and a reconstruction of scenes from the book ''Twas the Night Before Christmas' for children. I loved it all and we plan to return in the summer with a picnic.

My favourite painting was by Grandma Moses, who only began painting in earnest at 78 - there's hope for us all!
I loved the crazy quilting:
Look! Those 'paper' chains are actually knitted! You can hear R groaning now!

Day 1 of my Advent Calendar by Felt Fusion:
The Cosy Memory Blanket:
Having fun with felt:
More fingerless mitts - the colour isn't showing up very well in the photo - they are actually teal:
Lastly, attending another macrame workshop. To ring the changes, I thought I'd try a wall hanging. I'm not sure whether to unravel more of the bits at the bottom and then trim them to a shorter fringe. All opinions welcome. Sadly, I didn't actually think it through - I've nowhere really to hang it, so, for the time being, it's on the back of the downstairs loo door!

Well, that's all for the moment. I'm just off to make some Festive Chutney - bit last minute really as it needs to mature. Enjoy Advent and if anyone has any quick and easy homemade Christmas ideas, please let me know.
Toodle pip for now. x