Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mostly cushions today

Today I have been mainly making cushions. There are a few froo foos to add including buttons.  This is the first batch for the fair next week.
This afternoon I spent a couple of hours 'on the hill' for a little peaceful painting and chatting time. Lovely - just the ticket.

These are painted direct on the the fabric with acrylic paints diluted with some fabric medium. Steph is going to add the other elements and these will become the last two in this colourway.  She has some lovely blue floral and blue dotty fabric for some more cushions.

This morning I finished sewing and stuffing the little pink bunny. I love my little wooden pins - for reference they are about 3" long.
I had already started on the lacy edge of the dress.  This bit is knitted sideways,
and then the stitches are picked up to knit the main part of the little dress. I was very kindly given permission by Julie of Little Cotton Rabbits to use this pattern for a raffle, the proceeds of which will be going to 'Quilts for Comfort'
And here is Rosy Rabbit, dressed and ready.
John thought she was a pig - maybe I won't knit another pink one.  The book in the background is a present from Will.  It's about a lady who saved up, quit her job (she's American) and went to Europe. To help fund her trip she paints pictures and writes a letter once a month which she sells on subscription. She posts them to people all round the world - what a good idea! It's a latter day blog really. I've just started reading it and she is describing how she is saving enough money to be able to leave work for three months. Quite an eye-opener.

A few cakes from Thursday's quilt class.  I have loads of lovely pictures I took with my phone, of quilts that the ladies are making but, after a software update, I can't bluetooth across to the computer. Something's wrong somewhere because they haven't arrived in my Dropbox or Googledocs either.

Sunday breakfast is my leisurely eat of the week and I am taking advantage of the lovely summer fruits:
As the boys say -  'Nom nom'.  My brother says 'Num num'. Must be a regional thing. John chopped a big pile of onions for me this afternoon (very kindly sharpened my knives too). It relaxes him - don't ask me why. Whilst he made some meat sauce for tomorrow night's lasagne I knocked up a chilli pork meatloaf wrapped in serrano ham for tonight's supper with new potatoes and salad.  Into the oven went these and a chicken which will be for sandwiches, and an undecided supper dish before becoming a delicious stock for the freezer. There's lots of fresh vegetables and fruit waiting to be prepared to go with the meaty offerings. Maybe I'll be able to stay away from the bikkies if everything's ready. (Yeah, right). 

So I better go and iron some clothes before the pile topples over. Actually come to think of it I've already poured myself a stiff shandy so I'd better not operate machinery....

Have a good week - there should be plenty of pictures next week if I work out how to reset my phone. Technology - can't live with it, can't live without it.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A laugh a minute

Friday afternoon saw me rushing away from work on time.  A quick fill of diesel and straight out on to the A19 heading south. Yorkshire was a bit of a traffic jam - my father used to call it shock waves. There is just so much traffic that when one person speeds up too much, catches the car in front and then has to brake, it sets off a shock wave and all the cars behind start braking. Eventually the line of traffic comes to a stop. Really annoying. Nothing was going to spoil my fun though so I sang at the top of my voice to the radio all the way down to Doncaster where the traffic thinned out.  The M25 was free flowing by the time I got there and I arrived in Farnham just after ten. A little glass of wine, a bit of chatter a lot of giggling ......

Yesterday I woke early enough to watch the sun come up on the longest day of the year but then went back to bed! Love the rhythm of the seasons and the ancient festivals that connect us to the past but a girl needs her sleep.
The gorgeous scent of lavender wafted around us as we ate breakfast in Karin's small but gorgeous back garden. An aspirin cured the hangover. One glass of wine - what a wimp!

Can you see the tiny little bunch of grapes dead centre of the picture below? Believe it or not these will be edible by the end of September.
Armed with my trusty, hands free quilt show bag we made our way to Sandown Race course.
We had a good look round, an enormous cup of hot, very delicious coffee and then we set to on the stalls. 
Above is some beautiful linen which I am going to make into cushion covers. I'll sell some of them,  but will have to keep a couple because the design is so lovely. I might make some little guest hand towels too.
Some fabric from 'Worn and Washed' which will make a quilt about 50" x 60" and some pure white fat quarters to go into a little collection which will eventually become a little curtain for some shelves which are built into an alcove over the stairs. The interest will come from the different fabrics and embellishments rather than the colour of the quilt.
We decided we should make our own worn and washed collection from stuff we have already (old bed linen and shirts) as well as doing a bit of charity shop searching. Karin's son Michael very kindly donated a shirt he bought but was a bit small. I just hope Karin remembers to tell him he has donated it.
I got some heat transfer paint which I used for the first time at school a couple of weeks ago when our art student teacher did a workshop with my textiles class. Endless possibilities here. You just paint/stencil on to paper and then iron this on to the fabric. We used leaves and flowers to make positive/negative stencils. 
At Sandown we ate our lunch in the area that you have to pay £150 just to go in on a race day.  It was just the same as the area you can go into for free. We are funny old things us humans aren't we? 

We could see the London Eye in the distance and traffic going in and out of Heathrow (one plane every ninety seconds!), but we were in the midst of this huge area of green, watching some exquisitely coloured damsel flies and parakeets, clutching our precious fabrics. We were both careful to buy only things that we couldn't get at our local quilt shops because we really think we should support these fabulous places. Sometimes you get a bargain but mostly it's just the extra variety that sets the heart a-quiver. 

We had a spicy chilli with salad and garlic bread for supper and watched a really weird French film about someone who went to a psychotherapist about her marital problems and mistakenly went into a tax lawyers office to unburden herself.
Loaded with various cuttings from the garden I came home today to find that John and Steph had run the laundry through for me, vacuumed and dusted and left some flowers. Will has cleaned the hens and filled up the food and water.

I have lemon verbena, lavender and an aloe vera plant to go in my little patch. I popped down to see John and Steph to say thank you and am pleased to report that Ben is much better.  He was digging a patch of garden with his daddy.

Tonight will be an early night for this very contented quilter. It was a fab weekend, driving round the area I grew up in, seeing the places where Karin and I spent our teenage years but I'm glad to be in my little home with my precious family. Double glad that I have the means to revisit all those lovely places. Triple glad that I can honestly say we laugh until our sides ache about all the things we have shared for more than half a century. Scary isn't it?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Precious time

I've had a lovely few days, spending precious time with family and friends, as well as spending quite a bit of time painting and knitting stuff for the school fair.

I've had some good cooking and some bad cooking this week.
Sweet potato and red pepper soup. I decided to add some chilli flakes. I'll maybe rethink the amount next time though!  I also made a green smoothie with a quick up and down the fridge. Kale, cucumber, spinach and chard. It tasted a bit like wet grass clippings with a bitter aftertaste from the chard. I don't usually mix chard with kale or cabbage. Oh well a lesson learnt.

When John left home the first thing I bought was a step so that I could reach the high shelves without getting the stepladder out. At 5'2"  quite a lot is out of reach. I'm not sure I can blame my direct genes because most of my family are six footers and above, but hey ho. I was having a major clean in the kitchen yesterday and was cursing that I couldn't reach the back of the windowsill over the sink to remove what looks like a primary school display of mini-beasts (curse of the open window). I dragged over the little step and cleaned the offending insects away.  Someone was obviously watching and waiting...
Caught in the act - I'll have to hide the step. He only wanted some juice but the kettle is within reach now.

I usually start a little baking for the quilt class on Wednesday night but didn't get home until nearly eight - it was still very warm and I couldn't face turning the oven on so I just weighed some ingredients out and hoped I would get home early enough on Thursday to bake. Luckily I was home in time to do some swift mixing and assembling.

Blueberry muffins and bourbon biscuits. I think I put too many blueberries in the mix though.

Karen brought a lovely book and some chocolate fudge which was to die for.
Hilary and I snapped a couple of photos of the goodies before we fell on them. Karen very kindly put a few squares of fudge in my cake tin which I enjoyed later on when I got home. We are planning a quilt-along on 2nd August for Quilts for Comfort - more of this soon.

I've sewn a couple of lines on my granny blanket but spent a lot of time yesterday painting some hearts. I chose some soft colours (I didn't use the turquoise in the end)
 I watched/listened to the England v New Zealand rugby whilst painting.

I did four with wisteria, light buttermilk and a green/light buttermilk mix with french mauve roses. Then I picked a soft grey to go with the french mauve and painted the other four.
 I wrote the words and left them to dry overnight.

I'll put the hangers on later - maybe tomorrow. I've got some lovely french ribbon for a little bow and some beads perhaps.

This morning I decided to make some bread - cue the next food disaster- I put too much liquid in and it ended up like ciabatta dough - only runnier. Actually it didn't rise very well either but it tasted ok, if a bit heavy. I think Paul Hollywood would have been scathing about it though.

I gave the bathroom a serious steam clean this morning and then settled down to knit a bit more of the bunny.
The ears were done last night and sewn on this morning. The bit being cast off is the body. I've used the last of the yarn from the little cardigan I knitted recently.
I scooted round Sainsbury's just before it closed and came back to finish the arms and a leg before Will got home from Hamsterley Forest where he was cycling. The bag behind the bunny head is full of goodies from my visit to the hairdresser on Friday. I love this quote by JG Ballard.

Tonight I'll finish the other leg and search out the pattern and wool ready for the little dress.

Finally a little photo that is sure to make you smile:
At the Thomas the Tank Engine Park in Birmingham last week. Apparently it rained all the time but he loved it every minute of his visit.  If it hadn't rained we wouldn't have had this lovely picture of Ben in his poncho, knotted at the back to keep it from dragging through the puddles.

Next week is really busy with either three or four late nights at work. But on Friday I will be leaving on time. I'm going to stay with my lovely friend in Surrey so that we can celebrate joining the old biddyhood together. We may also indulge in a little red wine. Did I ever mention that she lives about twenty minutes drive from Sandown Racecourse and there happens to be a quilt show on next weekend? 

While I'm presenting the governors with the budget, having team meetings and open nights and trying to persuade some local businesses to part with a quarter of a million pounds for our 4g pitch I'll be dreaming of fat quarters.

So this was my precious time this week. I've loved it all - well, maybe not the green smoothie.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Annie Sloan excitement

Yesterday Steph and I went on an official Annie Sloan painting workshop. It was in the most unlikely place in the middle of an industrial estate in Hartlepool, but what a lovely little shop and what a warm welcome! Eco-Chic It is run by a lady who is passionate about what she does, which is upcycling furniture. We painted a board to see the basic techniques and had tea and scones too. We came away with a couple of cans of white/old white paint, some little jars of coloured paint and a rather posh brush.  We learnt how to do a leather look, crackle paint and distressed finishes.
 The paint went straight on to bare wood with no priming.
We did a two-colour (salmon pink underneath and a lovely sage on top) on the left and just plain pure white on top of the bare wood on the right.
All the surfaces were then given a coat of clear wax.  The two above then had another coat of wax - this time dark brown.  We rubbed them back to give the effect we wanted.  The bottom half of the white sample was rubbed right back and the top half left with quite a layer of dark wax on.  I can't wait to get at the couple of cabinets I bought from charity shops for less than the price of the brush. I'll have to be patient though because my time is fully scheduled for some weeks to come yet.  I think it will have to be a summer holiday project - if I can wait that long!

One of my little silkie hens was a bit poorly during the week.  She went all subdued and wouldn't eat or drink.  I thought she was a gonner but she laid two eggs during Friday night and has perked up considerably thank goodness. They are busy eating off some of the weeds in one of the veggie beds at the moment.

I cut some bunting and got out the fabric for the cushions we are making for the summer fair but didn't get much further with them today. The house is clean though - I should make a note in the diary!

The 100th granny square came off the hook this week. This will be the last pic until the blanket has been finished because, with the best will in the world a granny square is not that interesting! I've already sewn two lines together but will have to be strong willed and not let myself get side tracked.
In the kitchen today I have been using leftovers.
 Eggs, sugar flour and cocoa powder from the store-cupboard,
A swiss roll in the making,
You have to be careful that you get it rolled fairly tight but don't squash the delicate sponge
Raspberries from the freezer and yoghurt from the fridge
The last of the hazelnut milk, half an apple and some peaches to make this lush smoothie.  A couple of spoons of milled flaxseeds make it really filling for a light lunch.  There is enough left to take to school tomorrow to stop the late afternoon energy drop,
Some chopped chorizo left over from chicken and chorizo wraps during the week, some lemon, thyme, eggs, parmesan and the last of the yoghurt for carbonara which I'll make just in time to eat it on our laps in front of the Canadian F1 tonight.  We'll finish off with the last three peaches and some raspberry puree for a peach melba. I think there may be some vanilla ice cream in the freezer unless Will has finished it.

I've just seen the time so need to get the pan on ready for the start of the race. I'm looking forward to this week - there are some good things going on.
Have a good week everyone.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Heroes and Heroines

I'm glad this isn't a live feed. Will has just walked past and stubbed his toe. I know it really hurts because he didn't swear, he just gasped - a number of times. There is a time when you say are you okay and a time when you don't. I'm in no doubt I did the right thing by letting him go upstairs in his own little bubble of pain. Don't you just hate stubbing your toe?

He has just put the little chooks to 'bed' for the night - but look what was waiting for us yesterday:
A double yolked egg. Added to another delicious egg and we had this for lunch:
A little grind of black pepper, a pinch of salt and voila! Fast food that tastes amazing.

I have been madly crocheting this week - I just can't stop, it's addictive and relaxing all at the same time.
 This pile became this,

and this.

There are 97 full squares - the three that are left will be finished tonight and ready to sew together.  I will then add some borders to make the blanket large enough to put over laps on a chilly day. I started off with the intention of making a blanket inspired by a waistcoat my mother made for me when I was about fourteen. Every square was edged in black.  I decided to do mine in a dark royal blue but when I added some edges it suddenly changed the nature of this bright and colourful thing that has been developing.  It became enclosed, almost imprisoned in the dark edging. I pulled out the stitches and will be sewing the squares together as they are. I know some stitches will inevitably show but I think this will be a small sacrifice to preserve the rainbow of colours that this will become.
Couldn't resist this girly bunch of flowers.

The garland above is part of a birthday present for my best friend who has today become a diamond. I just can't get my head round the sixty word - I am only three weeks behind her but in my head I am in my thirties and I know she feels the same. Where does that time go? Where are the giggling schoolgirls that smoked a mint flavoured ciggie behind the bike sheds and thought we were so grown up? Sharing a coffee in the Wimpy Bar in Woking and making it last all afternoon because it represented the pooling of our pocket money that week. Loving and losing boyfriends (never shared one though - she liked blonde hair and blue eyes and I liked dark hair and brown eyes). We had sons within a couple of weeks of each other and have bickered and laughed our way through 53 years. The only difference now is I have to cross my legs when we laugh.

In my workspace this week I have plenty started but nothing finished:
Soaps coated with different media and waiting to be decorated. I think the Liquitex is the winner.
 90 squares cut ready for the turquoise 'Cute as a Button' Quilt
 6" 'buttons' ready to be stitched,
Wooden hearts, undercoated and ready to be decorated for the Summer Fair at school.

Today has been gorgeous - sunniest as so often happens,  early in the morning. A sunbeam is my alarm during the summer months. I love living with the seasons, up with the lark in the summer and cosy indoors during the winter. It was so warm this morning I worked up a sweat cleaning out the hens. I also smacked my head on the hen house because I left one of the little doors open. No blood just a bump! Unlike Will my wound did not leave me speechless.

We had cheese scones and the 'Inner City' Block at class on Thursday.

Actually we also had raspberry jam swiss roll too but I didn't take a photo before it was all gone.  I did however take photos of the fat quarters I bought from the Tim Holtz range that Hilary has just got in. (Oh no!)

John was over this morning and we made pork in cider for tea whilst Ben had his morning sleep.
It is speckled with lemon thyme and rosemary and will be finished with some sharp apple puree. For my weird drink this week we made pear smoothie with hazelnut milk.  John decided it needed something extra and we put in a Reece's peanut butter cup. Weird but lush - maybe not that healthy though.
Last night I watched some really good rugby. Jonny Wilkinson was playing his last game before he retired at the grand old age of 35. He is a bit of a hero of mine because he is leaving such an amazing legacy. His work ethic, his honesty loyalty and modesty, not to mention his talent are so inspiring. The affection that was shown to him was so obviously heartfelt. 

Sadly this week Maya Angelou died. An amazing person who lived her life with such dignity and hope despite the hardship and suffering she went through. She fought long and hard to make other people's lives better. Two people with such different lives but heroes and heroines for their own things. 

I spent this afternoon with another such person (you know who you are). Knowing I have shared some time on earth with such wonderful, generous, talented and beautiful people makes me feel both honoured and humbled. 

"Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud" 
Maya Angelou

"Playing the game, representing the team, giving my all and never letting go has meant everything to me."