Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Portraits, finished objects and more fun than a sane person should have with an advent calendar!

A couple of weekends ago, I hopped on a train to Exeter to see my friend, S, and to visit the BP Portrait Awards 2017. The exhibition was quite small - just a couple of rooms of paintings - but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of the paintings were so good that they could well have been photographs, however, that didn't necessarily mean that we would have wanted them on our wall! That was our personal method of judging - would we be happy to give the painting house room. Surprisingly, we were in complete agreement and out of the whole exhibition, we narrowed it down to 2 and a half! The half will become obvious in a moment.
Anyway, here are the 2 we liked - I'm afraid that I can only recall that both were named after the sitter and one, I believe, was the artist's niece and the other the artist's granddaughter. I should really have taken notes!

Here is the half! This one was a portrait of the film director Ken Loach. Apart from the background colour, neither of us cared for the portrayal of Ken, but both of us loved the kestrel in the corner - representative of his film 'Kes'. There was also a 3 legged dog in the opposite corner, which apparently appears in a few of his films, but it was the kestrel that stole our hearts.
The painting below was the winner and neither S nor I could work out why. According to the judges' comments, the mother's face showed love and tenderness etc. We thought that it showed anything but. To us, she appeared to be looking at her child with complete indifference and boredom; a kind of 'Get on with it' expression. Anatomically, it didn't seem to be the best either. Having said that, what do we know?!
After pottering round the exhibition, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a Lebanese restaurant. We shared a mezze platter, with S eating the grilled halloumi and me eating the felafel - still going, and, yes CT, I'm finding it difficult still, especially in the face of grilled cheese!

Then there was just time for a stroll around Exeter's Christmas Market before catching the train home.
Where there may have been a bit of festive sock knitting!
Other happies recently include:
My Opal Advent Calendar! I amuse R no end as I open this each morning with such excitement.

 I'm currently using them to knit squares on my Cosy Memory Blanket. I say blanket but it's actually going to be a cushion for one of the dining room chairs. It only takes about a third of the ball to knit a square though, so I may start a blanket once the cushion is finished.
 The Supermoon: 
 My finished Exploration Station Shawl - the pattern book and the blue yarn were bought in Amsterdam earlier in the year. Lots of the techniques were new to me, so I put in a lifeline after each section and was very glad that I had - the Brioche section was ripped back twice and the chevron border once! It is super warm and cosy though, if a little on the bright side. As Mr. West himself says: 'More is more, and less is a bore'!
 Sunday, saw us braving the elements to drive to Bristol where E was playing in a Christmas concert. The motorway was very slippery and partially blocked, so people were taking it slowly. All, apart from the lorry drivers who were tearing along as usual, far too close to the cars in front. Is it only me who thinks that it would be a good plan if lorries were redesigned so that the cabs were low down at car level? They race along, safe in the knowledge that if there is an accident, they are sitting high up out of harm's way. It's others who usually pay the price for their carelessness. At one point, we were stationary for ages and thought that we would have to abandon our plans, crawl to the next junction and go home. Eventually, we started to move and the cause of the delay? A lorry had skidded on the ice and blocked the motorway. Grr! Sorry, rant over!
My car knitting:
 The view from our stationary car:
 The concert was good, but could have been better. It took place in Clifton Cathedral and, on the snowiest day of the year so far, the heating was broken! Luckily, E had warned me, so I borrowed her hot water bottle and tucked it into my coat. The cathedral provided a few blankets and the audience hunkered down for the duration. At the interval, there was a stampede to the car park and people returned wearing more layers and carrying rugs. The choir donned coats and some of the orchestra were sporting rather fetching fingerless gloves. How they played and sang for 2 hours in that temperature was beyond me. Afterwards, we drove E back to her flat to defrost - her fingers were blue!

Finally, my finished train knitting. Festive socks in West Yorkshire Spinners' 'Candy Cane' colourway. These are for L, and there is just enough yarn left for a pair for E if I add contrasting toes as well.
Anyway, that's all for this week. We are still treeless round these parts, but E is coming home at the weekend, so we plan to get one then. With only a week and a bit before the big day, I think it's probably time the sprouts were put on a low simmer, don't you?!

Toodle pip for now. xx

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Indoors and Out

What Ho, Old Beans! I've just noticed that my camera is filling up again, so I thought that I'd take a moment to unload it and write a quick post.  November has been pretty uneventful: we've managed a bit more decorating (we seem to be on a bit of a roll with that at the moment!), seen L and E a few times and made the most of the weather whilst it has been fine - cold, but sunny. 
Anyway, here are a few shots from my month:
E came home for a weekend at the beginning of the month. I drove to Bristol to collect her and we had lunch at the River Cottage Canteen before the return journey.

 I had never been here before and we really enjoyed it. The setting was pretty and there was a good choice of veggie (and vegan - yes, we're still going!) food. We shared some mezze with E eating the feta and tsatsiki. The bread was absolutely delicious; consequently, I ate too much of it, too quickly and ended up with abdominal pain later. It was almost worth it though!
 A trip to our local theatre to see 'The Secret Keeper'. It was quirky and entertaining but I think that I enjoyed it more than R.
 Another trip to Bristol to hear E playing in a concert. She plays the violin and the Baroque group was fantastic.
 More deer. This time with a baby in tow. E named it 'Herbert':
 Later, they came right up onto the patio where the mother proceeded to give Herbert a thorough wash. Sadly, I had put my camera away at this point and I didn't want to spook them by moving.
 A trip to Roman Silchester on a sunny Sunday:
 Local Alpaca:

 Stained glass in the little church:
 The remains of the amphitheatre:

 Watching a farmer and his dog herding sheep. The funniest part was the fact that everyone who walked by and spotted them immediately said 'Come by'! One Man and His Dog (which I found strangely soothing) has a lot to answer for!

 Finishing decorating the bathroom - we only started it when L went off to uni 5 years ago!
 A crafty day spent making patchwork coasters:
 Knitting Christmas socks with the West Yorkshire Spinners' 'Candy Cane' colourway:
 A dog walk with a friend:
  ....... and finally, a trip to London for L's birthday. We went here for lunch and were completely thrown by the fact that we had a choice on the menu!
Well, that's all for this week - and probably November. Wishing you all a peaceful week - before we know it, the 'C' word will be upon us and life will be anything but!
Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

'A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed For All'

Happy November! Gosh, this year's whizzing by super-fast. Hallowe'en is done and dusted, Bonfire Night is on the horizon and before we know it, the dreaded C will be here once again. October had its high and low points. A bit of decorating was done, a few nice evenings out and day trips, a few finished projects, and a whole 'Stoptober' of R and me being Vegan. Actually, we were cheating somewhat as we do keep hens, so a few eggs may have been consumed along the way. Mostly by R, who argues that our 'girls' would all have been slaughtered had we not taken them on and, as we don't have a cockerel, none of them are fertilized, so they are 'cruelty free' eggs. That's our excuse anyway and we're sticking to it! So, I suppose I should say that, having been veggie for 33 years, all we actually did was give up dairy.
It was surprisingly difficult. Not from a cooking point of view, as many of our recipes are vegan anyway or can easily be adapted, but from a longing for cheese kind of way. I don't remember craving meat/fish in the same way when we gave them up, that was just tricky in that it was a whole new way of cooking. This time, I found myself dreaming of cheese - I kid you not! Dreams of veggie lasagne with melty, stringy, oozy, delicious cheese. 
There are, as you know, vegan alternatives to cheese. What you may not know is that most of them are foul and all are over processed with the consistency of plastic and do strange things when heated. If anyone can recommend a good vegan cheese, I would be so grateful. In the end I came to the conclusion that it was best to just ignore any cheese substitutes completely. Milk was a little better; we worked our way through a variety of alternatives, eventually settling on cheap Tesco's own brand unsweetened soya. R also likes 'Mylk' on his breakfast cereal. I don't eat cereal anyway, but I find the Mylk too 'coconuty'. That's the problem really, I want my tea to taste of tea, not coconut, almond, cashew etc.
Anyway, the big question is: will we carry on now that we're into November? And the answer.......  I think so. There's a bit of playing 'dairy chicken' in the equation - neither of us wants to be the first to give up! Do I feel better for it? Well, I was hoping that I would feel all Deliciously Ella ie. full of health and vitality. In reality, I have felt slightly bloated and at times a bit diarrhoeary - too much information?! It does seem to be settling down a bit though as we get used to it. It also makes eating out tricky. Most places now have at least one veggie option, finding a vegan option though, especially around our area, is more difficult. I found myself craving an Indian meal - until R pointed out that they probably use ghee. He is quite happy with Thai - but, well you know .... that's just more coconut! Eventually, I rang our local Indian restaurant and asked, in a completely unbiased way, what they used. The answer, to my great relief, was vegetable oil. Phew! So, for the time being, I think we are going to carry on. 
Golly, that was a bit of a ramble! Other things this month:
Whilst wandering by our local theatre one night, we noticed a queue snaking out of the door. Going in for a nosy, we were informed that the Beatles tribute band, The Cavern Beatles, were performing for one night only. No tickets were immediately available, but we were told that they tend to save a few on the front row in case anyone in the balcony has mobility issues. If they didn't, we could buy those. We waited and a couple of minutes before the performance began, they were ours! Well, loving The Beatles, my expectations weren't particularly high; I just viewed it as an evening out doing something different, given that most concerts we go to tend to be classical. I couldn't have been more wrong - they were absolutely brilliant. The first half was music from the early days playing in The Cavern and the second half was more Sergeant Pepper (incidentally, the first LP I ever bought). The audience was on their feet dancing and singing along and generally having a fantastic time. If you're a Beatles fan and they come to a venue near you - don't hesitate, just book.
Same venue, different night. We had tickets to see Jeremy Hardy's show. Having only seen him when E and I went to see a recording of 'Just a Minute', I had high hopes. In reality, it was okay. Some bits were very funny, some not so much. I realized that it wasn't the best of evenings when I found myself trying to see the time on my watch in the dark - never a good sign. Still, it was an evening out. 
Next, was a trip to the Ally Pally for the Knitting and Stitching show. I went to this last year and find that it's worth going just for the lovely building and views of London if nothing else. I took my vegan sandwich and water bottle along with me - just as well as it would have been slim pickings otherwise - and spent a merry afternoon pottering round the stalls. I made a couple of purchases before leaving and meeting up with R and L for a lovely (and vegan!) Korean meal.

My purchases: A skein of Life in the Long Grass yarn (Rusty Tin Shed) and a set of the larger Hiya Hiya interchangeable needles.
Other happies:
Stopping off in Burnham Beeches on the way to lunch with a friend.

Enjoying the fact that it's stove lighting season:
Decorating our downstairs loo!
Enjoying my Hallowe'en stitch markers and yarn:
Here's the finished object - a sockhead hat in one of Norah George's Great Characters of Literature yarn. This one was 'Dracula':
Finished socks in Sweet Georgia yarn. I think the colourway was 'Canary Island'. These were my first pair of toe up socks and I really enjoyed them. I used Sockmatician's toe up sock pattern which, whilst still having a heel flap and gusset, doesn't require you to pick up any stitches.
Deer in the garden munching apples:
Birthday Boy Hamish who was 6 on Hallowe'en:
Asking for a birthday ear rub - excuse the witchy tights!
Finally, our Hallowe'en pumpkin - it's supposed to be a bat!
Well, that's all for this week. L and E are both coming home this weekend, so I'm just off to give their rooms a quick spruce up. Wishing you all a fun filled November.
Toodle Pip for now. x