Saturday, 31 May 2014

Oh the joys of cycling!!

Today was the day for the 50+ Adventure Club to take to the road (or cycle lanes) for their annual bike ride. We were told to assemble at Normanton car park on Rutland Water and we would cycle about 11 miles.

So far so good, everything was easy since I invested in my bike rack and though I have to push and shove a bit to lift the whole bike onto the rack it is quite easy, especially if there is a handy man to lift it off at the other end!!

So we set off on a pleasant day to our first stop at Lyndon Nature Reserve Centre where we had a talk about the Ospreys that now nest and breed on the reservoir.

Alas dear readers, I did not shin up a post or climb a tree to get a shot of male bird number 33, they have a webcam set up over the nest and it is screened back to the centre.  This is a photo of the TV picture, which we saw 'live' and the bird flew onto the nest whilst we watched.  Unfortunately he and his mate Maya, got together too late in the season to produce a brood and he is sitting on phantom eggs!!

We cycled on for our lunch stop and then decisions had to be made.  Should we return the way we came or cycle all the way round.  It was a no brainer really as my Garmin said we had already covered 9 miles and the organisers said it would only be about 14 miles all round, so that is what we did.  After a fairly leisurely ride on a good cycle path we came close to the Ospreys nest and saw number 33 flying around.  Very exciting.  We know it was him because they are very territorial and will attack other males who come into their territory.

We eventually got back to the start after having cycled 16.4 miles and was I glad to see the car!! My legs had turned to jelly and I needed a cup of coffee to revive me and I am planning something a little stronger later.

And tomorrow is Orienteering!!!  Luckily I am the organiser so I will sit in the cafe drinking  coffee and reading a book, while the 50+ Adventure Club amble/shamble/walk or break into a trot to find the posts.  Then off to a birthday party in the afternoon for tea and cake!!  Lead me to a darkened room, I can't cope with this dizzy whirl of activity.

BUT my Garmin said I burned off 2,000 calories today so I can eat cake tomorrow, without a guilty conscience. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Buttons, buttons and more buttons!

Whilst I was away in Kent Higham Piecemakers had a workshop making Dorset buttons, felted buttons and Fimo buttons.  Somebody very kindly provided me with the instructions for all three and so far I am trying to master Dorset buttons.  I only have one size of plastic ring at the moment, about an inch from outside to outside and I have experimented with different colours of Pearl cotton. As a beginner there have been problems getting the spokes centred but I think I have cracked that at last.

I love the dark multi-coloured one as the colours are so vibrant, but the pink shades show up the 'spokes' so well.  The white and gold one is slightly off centre and it shows up on the photo, but I have further ideas for using this thread.  I just need to get some larger rings.  I also have ideas for Christmas Tree decorations but these are still at the drawing board stage and may never come to fruition!! Don't hold you breath on this last one.

As well as these buttons, I am pressing on with my smocking, and at the same time I want to speed up on my embroidery drawn thread sampler.  I have two classes in June and then we stop for the summer and when we come back in September I want to make embroidered Christmas tree decorations, so the sampler is priority for the next few weeks.  All the ladies at the class are far more experienced than me and produce the most exquisite work and I am hoping to persuade one of them to let me take a photo.

I am currently waiting for a delivery of more colours of Stylecraft yarn so that I can try out another Mandala pattern that I got off the Attic 24 site.  I will show them on the blog but crochet club get first dibs!!  I will then have to decide which to send here for Yarndale 2014.  Decisions, decisions.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bank holiday thoughts!

Friday was my first class in smocking and I really enjoyed it thanks to lovely teacher J.  Here are my first efforts, with still a long way to go.
I didn't realise red thread would bleed into white fabric but
I don't think it shows

Smocking has become very popular thanks to Prince George appearing in a smocked romper suit in Australia  I think that I have a long way to go before I reach that standard.

Yesterday was entirely devoted to the 50+ Adventure Club as I had organised a car rally which started in Northampton and went through various villages to end up for a pub lunch and the presentation of the prizes.  All went swimmingly and the weather was sunny, until the pub lunch which turned into a long, long, long wait to be served and and even longer wait for some people to get their puddings!  I will not mention the pub here but I have sent a write up to Trip Advisor!  It certainly spoilt the day for me, as an organiser.  

However what I thought would be cunning and devious questions for members of the club to find appeared to be too easy as there were four teams in second place.  Luckily for me there was a winner and a loser as I had forgotten to do a tie break question!  

Embroidery class this week and as I haven't been for a month (I was away in Kent last time) I thought I ought to do some homework, so I spent an hour doing Herringbone Multi Plait stitch and another hour undoing and re-doing all my work.  Still a little more to do and I shall be happy.

By the way, friends have told me that they enjoy reading this blog, but I would love to hear 'comments' from anyone who is overseas as I know that some of you are and if any of you are not enjoying it, please let me know what is wrong, so that I can try and put it right.  I shall not be offended!!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Horrid, horrid cat

I am plagued by a hunting cat in my garden. I  love my wildbirds and have a well stocked bird table, BUT this cat knows it is there and hides in the bushes and any unsuspecting bird is pounced on.

It was pouring with rain for a large part of yesterday and so I decided that as the weather is warmer I would put my rather scraggy pot plants out for a wash and water.
Note the water puddling on the table!
I went inside and five minutes later looked out of the window to check they were alright and there were feathers on the lawn!!!  I could see the cat at the far end of the garden with a wood pigeon and it was trying to stop its wings from flapping.  I rushed outside, the cat jumped the fence and the almost wingless baby wood pigeon flew at me, I shrieked and it landed on the patio.  What to do next?  Well I left it there as I can't kill anything and went indoors and I cannot see it this morning.

I know that some people loathe wood pigeons as vermin but I don't think any bird deserves to finish its life like this; and the parent was watching all this on my roof as I could hear it calling to the baby and watching what was going on.  The two of them had been feeding on the lawn earlier.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

A stormy afternoon

What  a difference to last week with its hot weather and today, where  I have spent all afternoon dodging the deluges!

Wednesday morning I delivered this birthday present of a 'Sweet Treat Bag' which I have made for a little girl and filled with small things that a little girl might like.  Eliie, my 4 year old granddaughter, advised me on the content to a certain extent, though when I was buying them I think she thought they were for her until I had explained.  I have made it in one piece of fabric rather than strips, but quilted it down the middle, and was pleased that my quilting line matched exactly.
Closed with a magnetic catch

Goodies peeping through
This afternoon was U3A Handicrafts and a group of us went to Uppingham in Rutland where we had lunch and then visited Uppingham Yarns.  We could see that they specialise in cones for knitting machines and weaving in the most wonderful colours, but do not have the same range of knitting wools.  Disappointing as they don't stock my favourite, Stylecraft.

Anyway enough of being grumpy, it was a lovely early afternoon and I was in good company, but the drive home was horrendous with hailstones, heavy rain, lightning and flooded roads.  We couldn't hear the thunder in the car but as soon as we stopped - wow!!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Colour kaleidoscope

Following my few days in Kent, I went straight into a busy weekend because I needed to do a big job whilst the weather was fine.  I started this on Saturday as I was free all day and finished on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning I went Nordic walking from outside the Bell Inn in Odell, through river meadows beside the river Ouse, the Harrold Country Park and finally climbing the hill to have a wonderful view of the village and valley below and then into Great Odell Wood.  Odell church has links to the USA as a previous rector, Peter Baulkley, fell out with Archbishop Laud in 1635 and took some of his flock off to New England where he founded Concord.   There is also a castle, though unfortunately not the original which burnt down in 1931.

We did see this on our walk, which amused us no end - an enormous sheep in a tiny little hut. We wondered how he (we assumed he was a ram from his size) got out because he looked as
Is he stuck?
if he might be stuck, a bit like Winnie the Pooh eating too much honey and not being able to get out of his hole.

When I got home I finished off my mammoth task started on Saturday.  If you have been following my blog you will know that I have painted my garden table and I realised that it needed a second coat.  Well after doing this I still had paint over so what to do next - easy, the chairs!!  So each chair was painted a different colour, except the armchairs, which were both painted terracotta because I had plenty of this colour.  I really have to give them all a second coat but I have run out of energy, so this will be done at a later date  If there is any paint leftover I shall do my shed door!!

Taken from upstairs

Friday, 16 May 2014

Back again after a short break

I have been to Kent for a couple of nights with my friend N, and we stayed with my son, G , his wife and my two 'Kent' granddaughters, aged 5 and 3.

We were blessed with glorious weather and the county looked at its best.  We were not due to arrive until after 4.30pm so we went to Smallhythe Place, which was where the great Victorian/Edwardian actress Ellen Terry, spent her final years.  She loved the place and we could well see why.
Look closely at the levels!! 
She had a very long professional association with Sir Henry Irving and the house is full of the artifacts of her profession and some of her costumes and there were many pictures, engravings, theatre programmes, letters, newspaper cuttings etc.  Very personal and intimate and the floors upstairs were completely uneven as the photo shows.
Ypres Tower

The following day was spent exploring Rye, one of the Cinque ports, which has one of its original gates to the castle, the Landgate, the Ypres Tower with its guns and St Marys church.We also managed to fit in a little retail therapy, visiting many little boutique shops, though regrettably for them we did not spend much, but we did have a coffee on the terrace of a little cafe,basking in the hot sun and enjoying the view towards Rye Harbour in the distance.

Next stop was Winchelsea, another beautiful and historic town and we walked round it admiring the gardens and old houses.  It is reputed to have the largest collection of medieval wine cellars in the country. We went into the churchyard and saw the grave of comedian Spike Milligan, who has a Gaellic epitaph, that when translated says "I told them I was ill".  We had a delicious lunch of antipasta of salami, bread, cheese and olives in a courtyard, which was so hot that N's butter had to be poured onto the bread!!

The highlight of the day was the afternoon that we spent at Great Dixter the home of the late Christopher Lloyd .  We could have looked round the house and gardens but decided to leave the house until another day.  The gardens suited N and I because they didn't appear structured and were just a profusion of plants, wonderful topiary and for me, a beautiful pruned fig tree!
A pruned fig tree!
The long border with a wild flower meadow in the foreground
Are these topiary mice?

I thought these were mice, but N didn't.  What do you think?

Well we did spend some money in their nursery and we came home with plants as a souvenir of our short break in Kent. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Another busy week

This will just be a quick post to say that I have a very busy week after tomorrow, so may be 'off the air' for a few days.  Never fear I shall return, with a great deal to write about!!

However, before I go just a quick update.  I went for a 6 mile Nordic walk yesterday morning and found it quite hard going as I haven't been walking for a month, so I was definitely out of condition.  But it was a lovely morning and the countryside does look at its best at this time of the year.  Saw Peacock butterflies sunning themselves and we tried to identify some of the wildflowers and I did ask if I would now have to carry my wildflower book as well as my bird book which all add extra weight when walking!!  But that is not the way things are done nowadays because you take a photo on your phone and identify it when you get home; so much easier!  Keep up with modern trends woman!!!!

Last night I finished my crotched Mandala wheel for Yarndale 2015, but I will show a photo of that at a later date as the crochet club might have plans in that direction.

I am not sure whether I have mentioned this in any blogs that I have written, but I very rarely make patchwork items unless it is for a specific purpose or to learn a new skill.  I cannot just make something for the sake of it, so I am slightly at a loose end with my patchwork as I have finished all my projects and am waiting for a decision on the next big one which is a quilt for my son, M, and his wife.  They have requested a floor length quilt for their king size bed and I have found a pattern that I really like.  Nothing further will be mentioned on this until they choose the colours they want.

Anyway, this short quick blog has turned into something longer and as it is Tuesday it is a Cambridge day so Ellie, my granddaughter, and I are off for our morning coffee/drink and a bun and vegetable gardening will follow.  Wonderful son has finished digging the veg patch so now I can plant stuff. the sun is trying to shine and it looks like it is getting warmer.  Summer is on the way!!!!

Monday, 12 May 2014

Whiling away a Sunday morning

How to spend a rather blowy and possible rainy day, without doing any exercise and not going too far.  Go to a show. 

I went to the Makit show at Peterborough, which only took us about 30 minutes to get there and an hour to come back.  A very nice little show with a good mix of crafts, though predominantly lace making stalls.  We were blown away by the beautiful bobbins that you could buy for lace making, and had I been starting out on  my crafting I might have been tempted, but it is not really something I want to pursue.  However we came on a lady called Jacqui Barber who was making the most wonderful lace scarves in fantastic colours and textures. She doesn't have a website and this is the nearest link that I could get to showing a scarf on her book cover, but we loved her scarves - stunning.

I had thought I might be interested in tatting, but after watching a demonstration, decided it wasn't really for me.  I am not a 'lacy' sort of person.  

Poppy Patch were also there, as were Tudor Rose another local shop, where I bought some lovely fabric for a project in the future.

By the way I saw so many people I know, but I suppose that is to be expected on your 'home turf'.

As I mentioned in my last blog, it was crochet club on Friday and one of the new things that I learnt was the Flower Blanket Square which So, Sew Jo mentions in her blog on 1 May.

I have made one, but intend to make some more for a cushion cover, but here is the first.

I have also finished crocheting a 'pot' but that will come later as I need to do some embellishment on it.  Oh, and the poncho is finished but is rather large!!!!  Anyone got a small elephant they want to cover?

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Sleeping deeply .......

I woke up yesterday morning to an odd smell, sniffed my way around the house, decided it wasn't me and went outside and smelt it there.  As my house is attached to them,  I noticed my neighbour's windows were all open and when I checked their garden saw what I took to be a cooker, blackened and twisted, standing outside.  I went round and discovered that at 2.00am their alarms went off as the dishwasher had caught fire, from an electrical fault.  Two fire engines attended with blue lights flashing, to put it out and used some very noisy blowers to remove the smoke.  What a mess the downstairs is in with black walls, ceilings and the smell; luckily the kitchen door was closed and that kept some of the smoke from going upstairs.

I had not heard anything even though my bedroom faces the road!!  Slightly worrying because would I have heard my alarms if it had happened to me?

It seems very trivial, after all the drama next door, but I went to crochet club and managed to sort out my 'poncho' which I am having trouble with.  I doubt that it will appear on this blog because I adapted it from a knitting pattern and consequently with my inexperience it is turning into a tent suitable to cover a baby elephant!  No comments please, ladies!! However I have finished my 'Raindrop' cushion and am really pleased with it.  The pattern is  from Attic24 and I love everything Lucy does.
Front or is it the back?

I am going to have a go at her Mandala Wheels which look so cheerful.  I intend to send one in but must first decide on the colours which takes me a long time.  Give me patchwork fabrics for a project and I have no difficulties sorting colours, but knitting yarn I find so difficult. Anyway I have until June to complete one.  Onwards and upwards for colour inspirations!

Back or is the front?

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Thoughts on yesterday

I am organising a car rally in two weeks time sending the hapless members of my 50+ Adventure Club into the villages of Northamptonshire to answer obscure questions that I have set.  I decided that I didn't like the route I had set them, so further questions and a different drive had to be thought up.  I went out yesterday morning and decided as I drove, that the villages of our county can be absolutely lovely with their honey coloured ironstone houses and cottages and well maintained gardens.  No wonder we have the highest density of stately homes in the country, because the well off gentlemen of yesteryear wanted to be handy for London, have good country pursuits including hunting and rich farmland. 

Anyway enough of my musings, I set the questions and when I got home had to decide between two new projects and I chose the following.

I am not sure whether this is upcycling, but as my old cheap shopping bag is on its last legs I bought a new cloth bag which necessitated some embellishment.

So I decided to use up my old tax discs from the car, which I hasten to add before I am accused of plagiarism, is not my idea!!  Annually, I would just put the new disc in front of the old one, but here is a way of using them, but beware, this is not an easy project. 

 I did think about getting a roller foot as I was going to sew plastic, but in the end I just used tissue paper under the foot to prevent sticking.  I will be interested to see how long this lasts.

I hadn't realised how often the colours for the discs were repeated until I used them.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Another light bulb moment - a little painting ....

Those who follow my blog have probably learnt that I have light bulb moments when I think I could do something like this or that.

I was at my sister's last week and her husband was painting their two lovely garden chairs, which are called Arthur and Guinevere.  They were bought many years ago and are lovely and comfortable with wide arms ideal for a sundowner in the warm summer evenings.  BUT they do need painting each year to look good, so I asked what would happen to the unfinished paint.  My lovely brother in law said I could have it, so I brought 5 half used tins home, with an idea.

The fact that the blue paint tin was dented, fell over in its polythene bags, leaked paint in my car, on the road outside unloading it, and leaked again on the patio is another story, but what to do with it.

When my late husband retired he got a job at a local DIY store and was able to purchase all sorts of items that came into the store damaged or were returned by customers as damaged. These included our patio table, an enormous umbrella for the patio table plus a nest of tables and a coffee table for indoors.  We did buy the garden chairs - probably at staff discount.

Well the table is now about 12 years old, has had little done to it and lives out in all weathers and I was thinking of getting rid of it and buying something newer.
So this turned   ...

into this!!

The dark blue in the bottom right hand corner is my shadow!!  So five lovely colours - terracotta, seasoned oak which is brown and on the legs, maple leaf which is the light green in the middle, Somerset green which is an olive colour and I can't read the blue label!!!   I still have to do another coat of paint on the table and the chairs need painting, but I ran out of energy and needed a cup of tea.

So proud of this and I reckon the table will go on for another few years.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Another finished item

I went out for lunch yesterday with my son, M, in Cambridge.  My niece, J, was there with baby Will, who is absolutely delightful and so good.  When I arrived M was cutting up his version of Chocolate Rocky Road, called Fat Boy Tiffin, which he then informed me contained amongst other things the following:-

1 large Mars bar
2 large Picnic bars
2 large packets of Maltesers + a great many other ingredients.

He was counting up the calories per piece and then I realised that he was preparing for a marathon in Milton Keynes, that he is running today, probably as I write this.  There will also be friends running so this is their super food to help them through!!  He only has another three marathons to run between now and November when he celebrates his 40th birthday with his 50th marathon in New York.

Anyway back to baby Will.  I made him this

I love the tail!  This photo looks like he is crawling away.
The tortoise is made from felt and is quite easy to make.  Baby Will is going to be my guinea pig to see how 'Torty' stands up to wear from a baby; not sure how well it will withstand washing etc so I shall be interested to see. 

One other finished item to show after a very productive weekend, but this will be later in the week.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

A day of finishing things - well actually two days!!

I have finished three items in two days and am feeling very pleased with myself. However I cannot show them all at the moment but here is a taster.

I mentioned on an earlier blog, that I had been to my favourite fabric shop, Poppy Patch, and had bought some fabric.  Well, here is the first piece:-


Well, what to do with it?  I am a great thinker before I make anything but once my mind is made up that is it!  So this is what I made!!

Deliberate space

Deliberate space

Deliberate space!!!!

Yeees - a light bulb moment when I saw this.

A 'sheep' dog!!!!
I found the pattern in the March 2014 issue of 'Sewing World' which I bought at half price at Uttoxeter Quilt Show.  Not an easy thing to make and this is version 2 as I had the sheep going in the wrong direction even though I spent ages working it out.  However I am pleased with the finished toy.  The original pattern used buttons for eyes, but I am a real believer in using felt so this is suitable for very young babies after the bow is taken off.  Only need to sew on my 'Once upon a thimble' label and he (definitely a he) is ready.  I love him!!