Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Lucky me

I wasn't expecting to write anything more this year, but the postman's just knocked at the door with a lovely box for me, my PIF gifts from Amy. There's some fabric, a lovely heart decoration and a really fun little quilt that's made from a panel designed just for quilters. There are also three patterns; one for a dinky little applique wall hanging and cushions (I'll have to get some thirties style fabric for those); Time for Tea, with a whole range of themed goodies to make; and a wonderful waistcoat pattern, which is going straight to the top of my list. I love to wear waistcoats, they hid all sorts of lumps and bumps! And last of all, Amy must have read my mind. Christopher does the hoovering in our house, and I've been feeling rather guilty about the amount of thread I drop on the floor. So I've been wondering where I'd seen a pattern for these oh so useful thread catchers - and lo and behold, there's one in the box. We both thank you for this one Amy!

Thank you so much Amy, both for getting me involved in this project and for sending me such a wonderful post-Christmas pick-me-up.

A final finish for 2009

Yesterday we had a lovely time; we went out for lunch with our neighbours + some other neighbours from down the road. We had a scrummy lunch, and sat around the table chatting until about 5 o'clock. No need for me to cook any supper after that!

Today we're off to Bath. I've promised myself a few new clothes and Christopher will make sure I don't run away. As I've mentioned before, I really dislike shopping of any type, and will probably stand in the shop, get bemused and bewildered and decide that I really don't need any new clothes after all. But C will keep me on track.

In between all the Christmas festivities I've managed to finish Verandah Views, Cheryl Goss's lovely BOM from last year. I had to get it done since she's promising another one for 2010.
I haven't found a home for it yet, and today's weather is certainly not conducive to good photography. It was still dark at 8 o'clock this morning and hasn't cheered up much since. It's a pretty little quilt though.

And now, I wonder what I'm going to make in 2010?

Monday, 28 December 2009

Getting back to normal

Well, Christmas is over for this year, and we're on the run up to New Year. We had snow last week, but it didn't stop our two sons getting to us on Christmas Eve, though they were slowed down by some heavy fog.

Christmas Day dawned sunny with wonderful blue skies, as you can see from these photographs. After breakfast we went outside and fed the ponies some festive carrots and apples.

Our drive was really icy, so Alexander had a grand time turning it into an ice slide.

Sadly they had to leave on Boxing Day, after lunch, as they were both working on Sunday. We loaded them up with food before they went. I hate to see them go, but hopefully we'll get down to visit them in a few weeks time.

I received some lovely presents, including loads of books to read and a couple of cookery books as well, so I can see some new recipes in our future. Christopher gave me a voucher to spend at Midsomer Quilting, so I'm having great fun planning what to spend it on. I'm thinking of treating myself to a June Tailor Shape Cut Ruler - have any of you tried it? What do you think of it?

Monday, 21 December 2009

Just in time

I started this back in August, at a workshop held at Midsomer Quilting, but then it came to a standstill. I was determined to get it finished for this Christmas, so set to last week and finished the blocks, then quilted it over the weekend. All it needs is a label, but that's going to have to wait until it comes down off the wall.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Although the Christmas decorations went up last week, and I've been sewing Christmassy do-dads for some time now it hadn't been feeling all that Christmassy yet. But the Christmas spirit is now firmly with us.

On Saturday evening we went to the local amateur Pantomime, Avast Behind. It was great fun, very traditional, with a man playing the Dame, a girl playing Principal Boy, a ballet (children and men in tutus), plenty of songs, topical and local jokes, and lots of bad puns. I know that Pantomime is a very English phenomenon, but do you go to see anything similar?

Yesterday we watched A Christmas Carol, with Alastair Sim as Scrooge, on the television. There hasn't been a single Christmas since I was about six that I haven't read the story (or had it read to me by my father when I was a child), so I'd better get down to it a bit smartly.

Last night, we walked down to the village church for the candle lit Carol Service. We'd had a light sprinkling of snow and we had to cling on to each other because it was rather slippery. The church was freezing - all part of the magic of Christmas - so we all sang our hearts out to try and keep warm. Afterwards we went back to a neighbour's for a drink before returning home for supper.

And this morning I awoke to even more snow. Nothing like they've had in the South East of course, but enough. So I'm now tucked up warmly in bed with a cup of tea, whilst writing this and I'm about to start making lists of the food I'm planning over the Christmas period, and a shopping list of what we still need.

In case I don't get back again in the next day or so I'd like to wish every one of you a very Happy Christmas.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Happy Belated Birthday Number Two

I'm feeling rather guilty. I seemed to have lots of time at the beginning of December and was able to wish Number One Son a happy birthday on my blog on the correct day. Things seem to have sped up a bit and I completely forgot to blog a happy birthday to Number Two Son last Thursday. Poor Alexander, it's always been a bit like that for his birthday, though we've always tried our best to keep it a bit special and separate from Christmas. He was actually due on Christmas Day but had the sense to turn up a week early.

He's 26 now, but he still has a wonderfully childlike joy in life. He lives in Brighton with his partner, where he's working incredibly hard to make a living as a DJ, working just two days a week in a local pub to help make ends meet. The photograph was taken at the Movida Corona National DJ Finals, where he was one of the last 5 out of 500 entrants. We're so proud of the way he's grown up. He was pretty hard work in many ways when he was a youngster, as he had ADHD and was pretty frenetic. But he was always loving, happy and wonderful to be with. He still is. Sorry it's late, son, but Many Happy Returns.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

That's more like it!

We finally got the doors back for our multi-fuel stove. They'd had to be sent back to the manufacturers to be repaired, so we've had no heating in our kitchen this winter. Luckily, it's been fairly mild up until the last few weeks, when it's been perishing in there. But oh, how toasty warm it is now. At last I'll be able to sit out there, listen to the radio and stitch in the afternoons.

The trick now will be to learn how to keep it in overnight. It went out last night, but the kitchen was still warm when I went down this morning, and it only took a few minutes to light it again.

I'm sure I've made lots more little Christmas decorations, but this seems to be the only one I've photographed.

We've managed to find a new home for the Christmas quilt that I made last year, and it still looks wonderful. Well worth all the effort.

We bought our Christmas tree yesterday and put it up in a corner of the lounge; it's a larger tree than we've been able to have before which is great, and, oh, the smell of fresh pine that greeted me when I opened the lounge door this morning. I've discovered that it's impossible to photograph a Christmas tree well. I've taken about twenty shots, but without the lights on it looks dull, using the flash with the lights on it looks equally dull, not using the flash makes it look garish. And you can't seen the ornaments however you do it! Still, it looks lovely, and will look even better once the presents are around it.

Decorating the Christmas tree is a job I've always kept for myself, though I let the boys help when they were younger of course. It's a time for me to remember the past, my parents and grandparents, Christmases when I was young, and more recent Christmases when my sons were young. We've got decorations from my mother's childhood, as well as those we've bought and made each year and each one carries its own memories. Magic.

Friday, 11 December 2009

A visit from Santa

Last night we were just settling down to watch some television, when we heard loud, blaring music along the road. We went outside to find that the local Rotary Club were doing their usual charity collection. Santa was in a glass walled trailer being towed along. It's not much of a picture I'm afraid, the car didn't stop and I didn't have enough of a 'window' between the trees to take more than one picture. But the racket! You could hear it for ages, playing loud and tinny versions of Christmas songs and carols.

On Wednesday evening we treated ourselves to a visit to the Theatre Royal in Bath, to see a performance of Pride and Prejudice. Susan Hampshire (English readers will certainly know who she is) was playing Mrs Bennett. It was a highly amusing production, full of little gags and business which really brought out the themes of the book. Great fun.

Today Christopher went off to stay with his sister over night. Tomorrow he has a professional engagement to play Father Christmas for the day at the Burberry's store in Knightsbridge. From 10.00 am to 6.00pm. He's really going to earn his money; can you think of anything worse than being visited by a constant stream of excited children for eight hours! Then he's going to his old running club's Christmas party (if he can still stand by that time) where our elder son is running the disco. Then on Sunday he's going running with the club, then coming home for a well deserved rest. I think he'll be on his knees by then.

I'm having a quiet weekend at home, just me and the cat. I've got a couple of girlie films to watch (Ballet Shoes and Lost in Austen) and plenty of sewing. Bliss.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Our weekend

We returned yesterday evening from a lovely weekend away. We set off on Friday in Ronnie (our camper van) arriving in Brighton at about 3.30pm. It was beginning to get dark by then, so we were glad to get settled quickly. We haven't used the van in the winter before, and were delighted to find how well the heater worked and with the blinds down on all the windows we quickly became very cosy. After supper, a one-pot chicken casserole, we spent the evening listening to the radio and I did some sewing. (This photograph is from the internet and shows the camp site in summer)

On Saturday we had a leisurely start and then called a taxi to take us to Number Two Son's house, where we delivered Christmas presents for his partner, and a birthday present for Alexander, whose birthday is on the 17th. Shortly after we got there Number One Son arrived. It's the first time since August that they've seen each other. The four of us then set off for lunch (Alexander's partner is studying for exams next week so didn't join us) - Christopher had ham, egg and chips; Oliver had a very fine home made burger and salad; Alexander had fish and chips; and I had butternut squash and mozarella risotto. Later we tramped around the very crowded Brighton shops looking for a jacket for Oliver, which was to be his Christmas present.

Oliver and I are very similar, we don't like shopping, we don't like crowds and we very quickly lose interest and get grumpy. However, Christopher and Alexander jollied us along and eventually we found something that suited him, which was great. So that was his Christmas present sorted out.

Oliver wasn't able to stay for the evening, but we'd had such a wonderful afternoon. The 'boys' are such a hoot when they get together and it's lovely to see how well they get on now. After Oliver had left, Alexander cooked us some supper (chicken casserole again, but we didn't tell him that we'd had it the night before) and very good it was too. We got a taxi back to the camp site at about 10 o'clock.

On Sunday we got going very early and were away by 8 o'clock, to drive up to Christopher's old running club so that he could join them for their Sunday morning run. It was good to see our old friends again.

We got home at about 4.30pm, driving the last part in the dark. Our days are so short now - only another couple of weeks to the shortest day on the 21st December, then the days will start to get longer again. Rosie had been busy whilst we were away and we were greeted with no less than five dead mice dotted around the house!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Wiggly Woggly cushion

I went to another workshop yesterday, at the same place where I made the blackwork flowers a couple of weeks ago. It was another really enjoyable day, just the five of us plus the tutor, so we were able to chat as well as sew. And she served yet another lovely lunch - chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and baked, with potatoes, green beans, peas and mushrooms. For dessert there was mincemeat slice and raspberries, and then there was cheese! Wonderful.

We made these cushions; I'm pleased with the way it looks but not so happy with the way it feels, or the problems I had in sewing it. The whole thing is basically woven strips of fabric, but the problems arose because each strip was backed with bondaweb, so the top has two layers of bondaweb in it, so it feels very stiff. The embroidery thread I was using to top stitch the layers clearly didn't like going through so much glue and kept fraying and breaking, at the rate of about 5 or 6 times in each row. Extremely frustrating, as you can imagine.

And this is Rosie's latest resting place, right in the middle of the hallway, just round the corner from the stairs. I think she likes being close to the radiator. This photograph was taken with flash, but you can imagine how dark the corner is, and I'm having to peer round the corner each time I come in this direction, just to avoid treading on her.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Happy Birthday Number One Son

As every year passes I find it difficult to believe that my sons are as old as they are. Number One Son, Oliver, is 28 today. I don't know about you, but on each of their birthdays I offer up a silent prayer of thanks that another year has passed without serious mishap.

Life hasn't always been easy for Oliver, but he's grown up to be a wonderful young man, thoughtful, caring and as quirky as all get out! We only get to see him every five or six weeks these days, but I always look forward to it so much. We're neither of us great telephone chatters, so our calls tend to be brief and to the point, but we have such fun when we get together.

This weekend we're off in our camper van to Brighton, where we will be able to spend Saturday with both of our sons - a rare and wonderful occurrence - celebrating Oliver's birthday from this week and Number Two Son's birthday which will come up on the 17th December.

Happy Birthday Oliver,

Monday, 30 November 2009

Christmas littlies

One of the best things about the run up to Christmas is being able to make lots of tiny goodies to decorate the home. I've been on a bit of a roll, and for once the sunshine came out to help my photography. We've had rain every day bar one for the last month I think, and even this morning it was raining first thing. The sun is very low at this time of the year, so the shadows are rather strong but that can't be helped.

I've made some more door hangers, a door stop which took Rosie's fancy and finished off a cute little angel hanger that I started last year.

We've dug all the Christmas boxes out of storage, just to remind ourselves of what we've got, so that we can start thinking about where to put them in our new house. They won't go up for a while yet though, and we won't buy a tree for a few more weeks; we always buy a real tree and don't want it to dry up and drop its needles everywhere too soon.

Next job is to make the waistcoat I promised Number Two Son; it's his birthday on the 17th December so that seems like a good target to aim for.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Midsomer Quilting Exhibition

Here are some of the quilts exhibited at this year's Midsomer Quilt Exhibition. It was held in Radstock Museum, which was a lovely setting. I was only able to take a few photographs as I forgot to take my camera when I was a real visitor, so had to grab a few when I was stewarding on Wednesday.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Midsomer Quilting

I haven't been able to identify the names and makers of all of the quilts I'm afraid. Visitors were invited to nominate their favourite quilt, and whilst A Future and A Hope - Journeys and Destinations got the most votes, my own vote went to Mojaca Evenings. I loved the bold colours and the simple shapes that were so evocative of a hot Spanish evening.

Christmas market

Yesterday evening we went to Bath Christmas market. In spite of the rain it was quite magical, with the wooden booths nestled against the walls of Bath Abbey, their lights twinkling. There were all sorts of locally made items for sale, as well as goods from further afield; there were also sausages, burgers, pancakes, gluhwein, hot chocolate, tea and coffee. And doubtless more that we didn't see.

We bought some hazelnuts covered with orange and cocoa to nibble on whilst we looked. For ourselves for Christmas we bought a bagful of dried oranges and spices which will look lovely piled in a glass jar; we also bought a beautiful string of crystal icicles and snowflakes, each of which has a LED light inside and can be powered by either mains electricity or battery. Christopher found himself a wooden tie!

Afterwards we strolled further into the city to look at the Christmas lights. Then we had dinner at Strada before heading home. Christopher had a fish stew and I had grilled salmon wrapped in Parma ham with Puy lentils and green beens. Yummy.

And yes, that is Christopher you can see sneaking into a couple of the photographs!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Green thinking

Michelle of Rambling Woods--Taking the Road Less Traveled has given out Green Thinker Awards. She asks everyone to pass on the message to think green.

There's been a lot in the press about global warming - is it caused by man's activities or is it a natural phenomenon? My view tends to be that it won't hurt to try and be greener, just in case, as seems likely, that it is down to human activity. And if it's not because of us, then being greener now may help prevent problems in the future.

So, we do what we can by recycling as much as possible. The local council collects garden waste for composting, as well as paper, glass, tins and tin foil. We take plastic bottles, drinks cartons, cardboard to the dump, along with other recyclable/reclaimable articles. We donate unwanted items to the charity shops, and buy from them when appropriate. We belong to a book swapping library; use our own bags when shopping; wash and re-use plastic bags; compost food waste; grow some of our own food and get vegetables we can't grow through an organic local food box scheme. We're pretty good at turning off electrical items at the socket, rather than leaving them on standby; we don't leave the tap running when we brush our teeth; we shower rather than bath. We use long-life light bulbs and donate used printer cartridges to charity.

It sounds like a lot when listed like this, and I suppose we could stand back and pat ourselves on the back. But actually, it's not that big a deal, because it's easy. The only thing that takes any real effort is taking stuff to the dump, everything else just slots in to a normal day once you've got the hang of it. And I know that there's always more that we could do. And more and more people are considering this to be normal behaviour, so we're not doing anything out of the ordinary.

My next challenge is to use the tumble drier less. It's easy in the summer, but in the winter it's a different proposition altogether. I ought to make the effort to hang the washing outside on those rare days that it isn't actually raining. It won't matter if it takes several days to dry, or we could always hang it in the garage or the spare room. And it's not that difficult to put on a coat when it's chilly. I'm trying to convince myself that it will work, though it's difficult when we have the amount of rain that we've had recently, and when even the dry days are damp. But I'll give it a go.

So, why not grab the award, and tell us about how green you are - I bet you'll surprise yourself when you start to make a list of the great things you're already doing.