Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Hallowe'en!

Greetings everyone; I hope you all enjoyed a fun and spooky Hallowe'en last night. We had a quiet stay at home affair. E dressed up in her Dracula costume and, with the aid of a little fake blood and a torch held beneath her chin, scared the MANY, MANY Trick or Treaters coming to the door. Numbers seem to have increased dramatically over the last few years and I was worried about running out of chocolaty goodies to hand out. I think she may have been a little too scary for some of the tiny ones - most enjoyed it (particularly the accompanying adults) but we did have one little boy who ran down the drive to his Mummy in tears and had to be accompanied back to collect his treat from a then friendly, smiling, fully illuminated vampire!

We spent some of the day carving our home grown pumpkin (the only one that the deer didn't manage to eat).

....... and making spider cakes:

Other happies this week include:

My stripy witchy leggings - so jolly and cosy. R thought I had worn them specifically for Hallowe'en but I just wore them because I like them!

 A trip to see this:

It was actually on at the National Theatre in 2011 but they filmed it and showed it at our local cinema on Thursday. I don't know if you remember the play when it was on - Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny  Lee Miller alternated the roles of Frankenstein and Creature on a nightly basis. The version we saw had Cumberbatch as Frankenstein and it was fantastic. Excellent acting from both of them. It was the first time we have been to a 'play' shown at the cinema, rather than the theatre. R said that the only thing he didn't like was the camera angles - he just wanted a camera at the front of the stage as if you were actually in the audience at the theatre, so you could choose what to look at. It was actually done like a film with close up shots and camera angles that wouldn't have been possible if you were actually there. Personally, I didn't mind it and it allowed you to see the actor's expressions close up. We enjoyed it so much that we were tempted to go back in a week's time when they are showing it again but with the roles reversed. It seems like a bit of an extravagance though, even though it is much cheaper than a trip to London to see the play would have been. However, we are planning to go and see  a similar showing of 'The Crucible' in December. E is studying the witch hunts for History AS and it got excellent reviews when it was on at the Old Vic, so it should be good. Also, L will be back from uni for the holidays the day before and we can all go as a family treat to celebrate her return.

My 'new thing' for this week was to try knitting a flower - more specifically a poppy as Remembrance Sunday is coming up.

I knitted it using a pattern from this book here.
I had to change it slightly as I didn't have any black wool to do the French knots in the centre with, so I replaced  them with a button. I shall wear it on my coat for this month, although, as E pointed out, I should still buy a paper poppy too as the money goes to a good cause.

Anyway, that's all for now. Enjoy the weekend and this unseasonably warm weather we seem to be enjoying at the moment.
Toodle Pip. x

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Tai Chi and Antiques

Every few months I drive by a sign indicating an antiques fair at the local racecourse. It's usually on a Monday and, despite wanting to go and have a look, I'm normally busy with other things. I thought that if I put it on my 'Fifty List', I would be more inclined to make an effort and go ..... so that's what I did and this Monday was the day.

I am so pleased that I finally got round to this; there was a £5 entry fee (rather than the initial £10) after 10am and there were so many stalls to explore. The weather wasn't the best and, rather foolishly, I hadn't taken a coat which I rather quickly regretted. I did have a fold up umbrella in my bag, however, which proved extremely useful at one point!

There were stalls which had a particular theme and stalls which just had a general mish mash of items all thrown together. There were also stalls where it looked like the owner had just done a quick trip to France and bought out the contents of a brocante. My favourite were the kitchen paraphernalia stalls; I was looking for an old enamel colander - the handle fell off mine recently and I wanted a new one, but couldn't find any that grabbed my fancy. I was very tempted by an old enamel ladle but finally decided against it because it had a red handle - if it had been pale blue, I would have bought it.

I did make a few purchase though: a pair of old knitting needles (see, I do like a nice pale blue!), a (French!) wire egg basket and a small wicker basket for some of my yarn. I love a nice basket - I made a wicker log basket a few years ago and so appreciate the amount of effort that goes into making them.

I also loved this stall with its collection of furry friends and felt so sorry for them when it started to rain!

So, that was the antique fair - I loved it and plan going to another one that they have scheduled for just before Christmas.

The other 'new thing' on my list this week (yes, 2 in one week!) was a tai chi session. There is a festival going on in a nearby town and I happened to pick up a copy of their brochure in the local library. There were a few things that we liked the look of - the classic car rally from a couple of weeks ago being R's favourite - but the only other one I could fit in was a tai chi session in the parish hall. There isn't really much to say about it - I enjoyed the tai chi itself; it's very calming and the movements are beautiful and I'm sure it's excellent for balance and coordination. My only problem was that I found the parish hall to be incredibly depressing. It reminded me of village hall run playgroups when my girls were small, that I put up with so they could socialize but which made me want to run for the hills. The fact that it was on a main road with the sound of lorries thundering by didn't help the mood either. So, despite enjoying the tai chi, I decided that it was too far to go every week for the session, too depressing and too much - I already do pilates, swimming, aquarobics and zumba; I don't really have time for another form of exercise, but it was interesting as a one off.

Other happies this week include:
Helping E to make a  gluten free 'Pusheen cake' for her friend's birthday:

Helping E to make 'Zeus cakes' for school - they have a Classics department meeting once a week and there is now a cake rota!
Starting my hooking picture - this is quite quick and fun. I had intended to try and recover our piano stool with it but, unfortunately, I no longer think it's suitable - E declared that she wasn't sitting on 'that' as it would be too bumpy!

Starting to knit my first sock.

 I have really struggled with everything about this, from casting on elastic stitches (I had to watch the you tube video about 10 times!), ribbing (after several attempts I realized that I wasn't transferring my yarn back and to between the knit and purl stitches and that accounted for the stitches dramatically increasing in number!) and just generally struggling to hold 4 short, sharp needles and stop the stitches from falling off! I started with my lovely pheasant yarn but quickly decided on a trial run with some yarn left over from the 'Manly Blanket' instead. It may take me a while!

Finally, Newbury Apple Day! A few years ago we visited the Apple Day in Cambridge's botanical gardens. It was fabulous with a huge marquee, various activities and apples ranging from A-Z to be tasted and bought. We spent the whole day there, had a fabulous time and all remember it fondly. Unfortunately, Newbury's version didn't quite live up to our expectations ............. one stall in the market square!

It's half term this week and I'm off to Oxford today to collect E from her 'sleepover' with L. Have a lovely, restful week and cross your fingers for some better weather.

Toodle pip for now. x

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Finished quilt

Just a quickie to post the photo of my FINISHED quilt! I'm so thrilled to have got to the end of this project - it was my first attempt at quilting and has been a bit of a challenge to say the least. Next time, if there is a next time, I think I will machine quilt it; the hand quilting took forever. I'd also buy a thinner wadding - this stuff is very thick and bouncy. It does, however, make for a very warm quilt, so "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow"!

Photo of the binding - I loved this bit; it was really satisfying to cover all those raw edges.

I'd better go, Zumba awaits - let's see if I can get my head around the moves this week! Toodle pip.x

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Elements

It's suddenly Autumn around here. This morning I battled through high winds and torrential rain as I loaded my supermarket shop into the car boot. I love the mists and autumnal trees but wind and rain I could do without, unless I'm tucked up in bed when I admit to finding them rather cosy. There are other happies about this season too:

Lighting the stove for the first time:
Roasting chestnuts in said stove:
Comforting bowls of hot soup - in this case 'lurky soup' (any veg found lurking at the bottom of the fridge, the day before the supermarket shop).
Admittedly, the cavolo nero made it look a bit swampy!

Other happies recently included a trip to see this:
 A  WWI play about Seigfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. I did enjoy it; not as much as 'Journey's End' but I'm hoping it will help E to appreciate the poetry she is studying for AS Eng Lit.

A trip to a local Classic car rally at the weekend. This was my favourite:
It is an Austin 7 and reminded me of the 'Gumdrop' books when L and E were small. This was R's favourite:

 An MG Roadster (I think!). I liked the colour, which was the only thing about it that R didn't like! There seemed to be a lot of follicularly-challenged middle aged men at the show. I'm not sure if that's cause or effect - maybe the open top allows the wind to blow it all off?!

A kit from 'Hooked by Design'. I haven't tried hooking before, so it's a new thing for my list. I think it's supposed to make a picture but the kit is slightly larger than the design shown and I'm hoping that I might be able to extend it and recover our threadbare piano stool. 

I also harvested the one pumpkin that the deer didn't manage to eat! I'm planning to save it for Hallowe'en.

Finally, one of my recent new things was to learn the words to Tom Lehrer's 'The Elements'. Not as a party piece or to show off in any way, but as a way of giving my memory a much needed work out. The girls learnt it in no time ........  it took me several weeks! I'm hoping that this links to it, if you would care to listen (I've never added a link before, so it may not work!).

Anyway, it's time for the school run. Have a lovely week; toodle pip for now. x

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Stoptober and Zumba

Two 'new things' to chat about this week. Firstly, there is a nationwide 'Stoptober' event where people are supposed to stop smoking this month. Personally, I have never smoked and have never even been tempted to try it, so I thought I would try to give up something different i.e. chocolate, cakes and biscuits!!! No mean feat there. I have been fortunate enough in my 50 (almost!) years never to have had to diet - genetics and a veggie diet (you will rarely see an overweight vegetarian) contributing to that fact. Many years ago there was a television programme which listed the various shapes of women  and there were accompanying photos to demonstrate the types - bowls of juicy, red apples, gleaming pears and highly polished cellos etc......... I was a house brick! Straight up and down, practically no waist/hip delineation. Nothing too much wrong with that I suppose, but recently I have noticed that I am becoming a house brick which bulges slightly in the middle. Middle age spread has raised its head and it's not pretty. My tendency to reach for the ease and comfort of the biscuit barrel/cake tin had gradually increased and I am no stranger to a chocolate bar, that and the advancing years are finally having an effect. My father and a number of friends have developed Type II Diabetes and in an attempt not to wander merrily down the same path, for this month at least, I am turning my back on all things yummy and sugary.

We are only on the 9th, so it's a long way to go yet and I find the days rather variable. My biggest challenge was making some brownies for L to take back to uni with her, but I battled through and didn't even lick the bowl! I do find that I have to snack on something when the sugar cravings hit. More fruit is being consumed, which can only be a good thing ( a handful of blueberries really hits the spot) and I have a pot of hummus constantly on the go with veggie bits to dunk but, if I'm honest, I could murder a flake, and I dread to think what I'll be like when my period is due!

Anyway, that was thing number one for this week. Thing number 2 was Zumba! After chickening out last week I  plucked up my practically non-existent courage and went yesterday. The class wasn't very large and there were 2 other newbies, so I was feeling slightly better initially. Then someone I know from school walked in and I wanted to run and hide (typically, she was really good too!). The instructor was fantastic - complete with dreadlocks - and I could happily have just sat and watched him for 45 minutes he was so good, but they don't let you do that! I have never been a dancer and have absolutely no rhythm/ coordination. Everyone went one way, I went the other. Everyone picked up the new steps with apparent ease, I tripped over my feet, ground to a standstill and dissolved in a fit of giggles at the back of the class. The thing is - I really think I could love it. When there was an incredibly easy step and I could get my head round it and follow along, it was great. Talking to the others at the end, he apparently does much the same moves each session. So, with that in mind, I think I'll give it another few weeks before deciding it's not for me. I also think it's good for me to do something outside my comfort zone and this is WAY, WAY outside it! The only problem is - when I went to write next week's session on my calendar, I realized that I've a friend coming to lunch. If I miss the session, they'll think I've wimped out and, worse, the other newbies will have had another week's practice and the gulf between me and everyone else will be even wider. I may have to try and move the lunch to Thursday!

I seem to have rambled on quite enough for this week, without so much as a photo to break it all up. I promise to upload some for next time. Have a fantastic week and enjoy all the beautiful Autumn colours around at the moment. Toodle Pip for now. x