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

Monday, 4 November 2019

Autumn Ramblings

I have great sympathy for Brenda from Bristol. We're only one week into the election campaign and I'm already fed up to the back teeth with it all. Any day now I'm expecting a knock on the door from our MP, asking if we will be supporting him in the forthcoming vote. I might be less cynical if we saw him at any time other than a looming election. I find myself irresistibly drawn to programmes like the Andrew Marr and Andrew Neil shows, but then have to fight the urge to throw things at the screen. It's bad for my blood pressure, so here are my recent attempts to distract myself from politics and find some inner calm. 

A trip to Oxford to meet L's boyfriend's mum, J. They recently sold their house and are renting nearby whilst house hunting. As we haven't seen each other in a while, I suggested that we meet in Oxford for a catch up over coffee and a cake in Blackwell's.  Here are the photos I took walking from the park and ride bus stop.  
Christchurch College looking picturesque in the sunshine:
 .........but my heart belongs to Merton:
 A trip to the Chiltern Open Air Museum. My favourite building was the prefab shown below - because my grandmother lived in an identical one! 
 This is an exact replica of her kitchen - I think the green was compulsory. They were designed as a quick to erect form of housing following the bombings of the war. I was impressed with the amount of storage, the electric fridge and the adjoining vegetable patch. Residents were given ration coupons to buy curtain fabric and furniture. They were poorly insulated though and terribly cold in the winter.
 I always find kitchens one of the most interesting bits of old houses - here's another one from a cottage at the museum:
 There's been a lot of knitting going on:

Trying my hand at upholstery with fabric from the Knitting and Stitching Show and footstools from a charity shop and a car boot sale. There's just enough fabric left over to recover the piano stool, but I need some upholstery tacks first. 
Painting a shelving unit found at a yard sale:
Using our English Heritage cards to visit Stonehenge:
 Enjoying my 'Christmas' cactus - this is the first one I've had, so I don't know if it's supposed to flower now or if it's a little premature!
Loving the early morning mists:
 L had a free day, so I took the train into London for hugs and fun. Every year since she moved there we have bought her a membership for the British Museum as part of her birthday present. She can take a guest, so we popped along for the current exhibition. I felt very smug as we bypassed the queues to use the Members' entrance, cloakroom and restaurant! :0) 
 This was the exhibition. It was lovely and we had fun choosing which piece of art we would have on our wall!
 Then we walked to Trafalgar Square and popped into the National Portrait Gallery, before meeting up with R and J for pizza at Purezza in Camden.
Having fun at Hallowe'en:
Pumpkin stitch marker to go with the roasted pumpkin seeds:
  Taking a birthday photo of Hamish to send to E. Our little devil bunny is 8 years old and looks mightily unimpressed with his hat!
 A trip to the Haymarket Theatre to see this. A play about the friendship between Agatha Christie and Margaret Rutherford, who played Jane Marple in many of the films. We enjoyed it despite one of the cast being ill at the last moment. The understudy performed the whole thing reading from a script, but it was good nonetheless.
 Finally, a trip to Old Wardour Castle near Salisbury (English Heritage again!):
Most of the damage was done during the English Civil War when the original owners tried to take the castle back from the Parliamentarians. They did this by mining under the castle, filling the tunnel with gunpowder and then threatening to blow it up unless they surrendered - not really intending to do it.  Sadly, the guns in the castle above caused vibrations below and a lit match was accidentally dropped onto the gunpowder causing a huge explosion. There is now a new castle and the old one is maintained as a romantic folly in the grounds.
Well, that's all for this week. Now that the clocks have gone back in the UK, may I wish you many cosy evenings, hopefully unsullied by the warring factions at Westminster!

Toodle pip for now. x