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.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Machine blackwork

Yesterday I went to a workshop course run by a lady who owns a local plant nursery. In the winter she runs embroidery and craft workshops. She lives in a lovely little cottage, quite isolated a couple of miles from the village. There were seven of us (the maximum she takes is eight) and she provided a lovely lunch, salmon, salad, rice salad, vegetarian loaf, potatoes, rolls, fruit salad, date slice, meringues and cream. Brilliant. I didn't eat all of that of course, but it was there. So lovely to have a proper lunch provided, instead of having to make up your own and take it.

After exploring the stitches available on our machines and deciding which ones worked best, we set to work on making these flowers. I'm afraid the quality of the photographs is poor, but it's about 6.45 am, and I was too impatient to wait until daylight to take them and write this blog!

The plan is to cut them out and mount them on a background fabric. The smaller flower will be wired as I do the satin stitch and then fixed on top of the larger flower, giving a 3D effect. I'm not too sure what I will do after that. I could make some more to make a larger wall hanging, or I could set just the one in a frame, or I could leave it unmounted and put it in a vase. Any ideas?

I've signed up for some more of her classes as I enjoyed that one so much, and they're terrific value.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

A lazy Sunday

It's 10.30am on Sunday morning and I'm still in bed! Disgraceful. And it's a sunny morning too, a welcome relief after the rain and winds of the last three days. But my excuse is that we had friends to supper last night, and whilst I kept it all very simple, I'm still rather tired. And apart from all the washing up there's nothing much to do today, so why not take it easy? I'm not really a slut, leaving the washing up am I? We don't have a dish washer, and I've never liked spoiling a pleasant evening by having to do the washing up after everyone's gone, so I always leave it to the morning - there's more hot water then anyway! Now, that's not a bad excuse.

On Thursday I braved the wind and the rain and made a trip to Ikea in Bristol. Thank goodness they had an underground car park with a direct entrance into the store, so I didn't get any wetter. Just getting out to the car had soaked me through up to the knees. Luckily, it wasn't too crowded and I was able to amble around and even spent some money. Apart from some coat hangers and Christmas wrapping and a few decorations I bought these:

Aren't these red gingham boxes cheerful. I've no idea what I want them for, but I just loved them. It's the same for the tins - no idea what I'm going to use them for, but they were too cheerful, and cheap, to leave behind.

This chair is destined for the kitchen, so that I can sit by our warm stove in the winter, listen to the radio, and stitch or knit, so I needed some comfortable cushions for it.

And this fabric was so pretty, and so cheap, that I bought some to make a tablecloth for our kitchen table. That's the problem with Ikea, so many things are such really good value that it seems a shame not to take some of them home!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

An at-home weekend after all

What is it about cats! They drive you mad with worry making you think they are unwell, so you take them to the vet and they seem miraculously to get better. Rosie hasn't been eating well for the last week or so, has lost weight and seemed very lethargic. As we were planning to go away for the weekend I thought I'd better get her checked out by our vet. After all the usual indignities he confirmed that she has indeed lost weight - about 0.5 kg, which is quite a lot for a cat - and suggested that we should keep her indoors for the next three days to monitor her input and output. She slept on a cushion on the sofa all afternoon, then on my bed all night - until about 5 o'clock when she decided she was hungry. So that was that for my sleep. She hasn't eaten much but she has eaten so we'll have to see what happens over the next few days.

Anyway, I'm quite glad we decided not to go away after all. The weather forecast is dreadful for the weekend, so I think we'll be happy to snuggle indoors in the warm.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I spotted this in our local hardware shop yesterday. I've no idea what it was originally intended for, and I'm absolutely certain it wasn't meant for a quilt ladder, but that's exactly what I plan to use it for. I haven't actually got any quilts sitting around in cupboards waiting to be displayed, so now I've got a reason to make some more!

Taking a leaf out of Jenny at Elefantz's book, I decided to make some door hangers to add to our Christmas display. This is filled with lavender so will smell lovely too. It only took about an hour to stitch and an hour to put together, so I should be able to make several more easily enough.

Monday, 9 November 2009

A misty autumn day

It's been a truly dreary autumn day, the mist hasn't lifted at all up here on the hill where we live, though it was clearer down in the valley when we went to the dump this morning. So we've had a 'useful' sort of day. This morning we sorted out all of the recycling, together with a couple of chairs that were unreclaimable and took them to the dump. Then we sorted out the garages a bit better so that it's easier to get the car in. I also finished the housework, did some hoovering and a pile of ironing while Christopher sorted out a pile of burberus cuttings. (Woops, spelling mistake, it should actually be berberis!)

We've decided that it's now cold enough to light the stove in the kitchen, as we have no other form of heating there. We've been using the central heating in the rest of the house for a couple of weeks now. I love having the kitchen stove alight, it is so warm and cosy.

And I've just finished another cushion cover for Christmas. I used the tiny stitcheries that Cheryl of Willowberry Designs shared some time back, plus a wonky star in the middle. The pieces for that were so small that I found it quite difficult to be accurate - mind you, I often find it difficult to be accurate!
I know it's only early November, but I'm enjoying getting started on some new Christmas decorations early.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Red sky in the MORNING ...

It's 7.15 am here in the UK and I've just taken this photograph of the dawn sky, amazing. The photograph doesn't do the colour justice, it's a really red sky. Mind you, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the day. The old saying "Red sky at night, shepherd's delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning" really does seem to hold true. I forgot to bring the washing in last night, so any drying that might have happened yesterday will have been completely wasted! So I'd better get going and bring it in before it gets even wetter.

I've just finished this little Christmas cushion. I used Lynette Anderson's 'Christmas Morning' pattern that I won in here give-away earlier this year. I didn't have the same buttons that she had used, but found some others that do very nicely.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I hope this makes you smile

I don't know where this originated, but I hope it makes you smile.


Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!
Excerpts from a Cat 's Daily Diary...

Day 983 of my captivity...

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets.

Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength..

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet.. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.


The weather forecaster told us we were going to have showers and sunshine. Well, we've got the sunshine every now and then, but interspersed with what I'd call downpours rather than showers. And it's turned chilly. Autumn is definitely here now. So it's a good time to get stuck into making cards and sewing. I've just finished making our Christmas cards for this year - these are two of the designs, but the third didn't photograph well, so I'll have another go.

I've also made a birthday card and a new home card. I always enjoy papercrafting when I get down to it, but it entails getting so much stuff out that I don't do it as often as I'd like.

As to sewing, well I've not been doing much machining, but I have been doing lots of hand sewing, catching up on BOMs and starting on making a Christmas cushion using a pattern I won from Lynette Anderson.

This is the fabric I bought the other day, all very bright and modern looking, rather different from my usual purchases, but it all just jumped out at me and said 'buy me', so I'm sure there's a plan for it hidden somewhere in the depths of my brain, I just need to dig deep and find it.