Thursday, 28 August 2014

Readers, I succumbed ....

Quite a busy week but before I explain why I succumbed let me update you on my week.

On Tuesday it was Cambridge day but this time I had both grandchildren with me so it was very full-on.  We went out for the normal cup of coffee and a shared bun and then followed this with a visit to the local garden centre, as I needed more bird food.  This place is wonderful because it has a group of very large bird cages with various parrots in.  They screamed with laughter when they said to one 'hello' and it said 'hello' back and this particular bird loved having it's neck tickled.  Not recommended to put your fingers in the other cages in case they bite, but this one didn't!!  The fish section followed and I indulged them by buying a bag of fish food and they loved watching the swirling mass of either goldfish or koi carp as they were fed in the various tanks.  Some of the bigger ones are glass fronted so ideal for the littlies to see.Then of course we had to find 'Nemo', which was quite difficult as there are so many variations of the clown fish, in all their fish tanks.

After an early lunch we caught the bus into town, as we were going to the University Museum of Zoology currently housed in the Whipple Museum.  My grandson (aged 8) wants to be a zoologist "because I like animals", so this visit was a must and they were having a children's day, looking at various insects, colouring paper butterflies and cutting out pictures of leaf insects.  Grandson found a model of a human body with removable parts and we had great fun trying to get everything packed back in properly.  I couldn't get the liver back in, whichever way I turned it, but eventually grandson had to take over to complete it correctly - "just below the heart Granny and beside the stomach"!!  How silly of me not to know.

This afternoon I have been on a trip to Doc Martens factory to see how their shoes and boots are made and to hear about the history of the company.  I have never been in a shoe factory before and yet my own town and the towns all around were built on the shoe trade, including some well known names - Grensons, Church, Barkers.  This was a fascinating visit especially when we were told where their factory shop was.  I nearly bought a pair of pink shoes but they were too big - what a shame, but I know where the shop is now and might go another time.

But I have succumbed, not to some dread disease, though it could be - compulsive woolaholic. I went onto the blog of Attic24 and there was her Coast Ripple Blanket and I bought the packet of wool that she made it with.  Why do I want more wool?  Only because I am going to make a blanket, using different techniques which Lovely J at our crochet club will assist me with.  Strictly speaking it is not wool, but acrylic, so I am using the term generically, before all the proper 'wool' people start chasing me.
Lovely colours
I love Stylecraft
What was even better was I ordered online one day and it was delivered the next day - what service from Wool Warehouse!!  So watch this space in about a month as I must finish crotcheting the cardigan that I started last winter; shouldn't take long as I am on the last sleeve and it is beginning to get a cooler,so I shall need it.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Trying to make perfect seams!

Do you remember last month I bought some fabric for a King size bed quilt, well I am on the way to making the top. I have decided to quilt it myself as I do not have a longarm quilter and it would be too expensive to have it quilted professionally.  In order to be able to cope with the size I will make it in quarters and then 'quilt as you go'. I am still thinking how to do this as I don't want it to show on the top, but I have ideas!!

The rectangles have been sewn in strips and each strip has been labelled so that I know what I am sewing in order to keep the pattern of blocks, but importantly I must ensure that the seams are as near perfect as I can get.  This was brought home to me when I made this wall hanging -

- and all the diamonds had to match exactly, but of course I found the answer on the internet.  Isn't this the most wonderful invention; at the click of a button there is the answer to everything.  It is just up to you how you use it!!

Forgive me if I am preaching to the converted but this is the method that I am using on this new quilt.
You find the sewing line on both pieces being sewn and pin.  Then pin either side.  Note the way the pins lie because they can be left in place when you sew and the fabric does not move and they can be removed easily as the sewing machine goes over the top.
Even though the seams are not being sewn flat the pins still stay in place and this is the finished neat seam.  The technique is time consuming but is worth it to get a neat finish.

Pleased with the seams

Sorry this is all you are going to see of the quilt at this stage and the colours do look a bit washed out;  they are much brighter than this.  I still cannot master my camera after all this time.

Well, the rain is pouring down and the family are away having a Bank Holiday get together with all their cousins in a very large house somewhere near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, so no excuses to get sewing.  Well, perhaps I ought to vacuum first as there is a layer of dust on the furniture and threads from the quilt fabric on the carpet and I really cannot ignore it any longer!!  Oh and my embroidery is still not finished and we start classes in two weeks; get going woman!!

Thursday, 21 August 2014


I have to admit that I am not the world's best gardener.  I cut the lawn when I think it needs it, usually when it is getting a bit long, I cut the front hedge when I become ashamed of it and at this time of the year I begin to lose interest as the days gets cooler.  My hanging baskets could definitely do with some TLC and the tomatoes in the greenhouse struggle on BUT I must be doing something right when I get produce like this.

The cucumbers were a mistake!!  They are the sort that you pickle so I have to find a recipe. The tomatoes are all different varieties this year, hence the mixed bowl.
I have a small and very unruly fig tree but it is a very heavy cropper and this is a small selection. I pick them slightly under ripe because if they are too ripe the slugs get to them first.  The three at the front were picked yesterday.  When I first bought the tree I heard on a gardening programme that you should contain their roots and that is what I did. We had an old washing machine so I cut out the stainless steel drum, buried it in the garden and put the fig tree in and I have been repaid with good crops from a reasonably small but untidy tree.

On Tuesday (my Cambridge day) Ellie and I had our last outing to the city centre before she starts school.  We catch the bus from the end of the road because I can use my free bus pass but it does gall me that I have to pay £1.50 for Ellie even though she is under 5.  I hadn't been paying for her, but one day a driver called me over when we arrived at our terminus and said that she only went free "with a fare paying passenger" and I wasn't a fare paying passenger. When I queried why I hadn't been asked to pay he said that they got too much verbal abuse and hassle enforcing it.   So now she costs me £3 for a return fare!!

Anyway, my son, M, had asked me to make a very large casserole with all the vegetables from the garden and meat he provided.  It would save him having to cook for the children the next day as there would be some left over and this is what I picked:-

Two types of carrots - orange and purple - courgettes, slightly large, and a whole heap of runner and French beans.  Not all the beans went in!!  I also used potatoes from the garden and onions which were drying in the greenhouse.
I did not add these, I couldn't do it as they look so delicious!!
The result!!  Yum, yum
The children ate this 'pot au feu' up pretty quickly and loved it.

There are two pumpkins this size getting ready for Halloween, though they still have room to grow.

I love growing vegetables, because there is something very satisfying in being able to eat what you grow.  Oh and by the way I am lucky that my next door neighbours have an apple tree that overhangs my garden and I get a constant supply of windfalls in my pond!!!  Not good apples as they are usually full of bugs of some sort or another ....
but there are some lovely large ones still on the tree, ripening.  At least when they fall in the pond they don't bruise.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Out of the blue

Trawling through Facebook on Friday, I had a personal message from my cousin 'C' , who lives in Belgium.  He was going to be in the UK the following day with his Rugby 7's teams and could we meet up.  Well the last time I saw him was at a family funeral so I  was delighted that this meeting was going to be something completely different as I have never been to a rugby 7's tournament before.

When we met I discovered that his brother, J, was coming and I also met his lovely daughter, Z, who I had last met when she was about 12 years old in America and who now lives in the UK. What a great reunion it turned out to be;  we never stopped talking and reminiscing and I got to watch two very good 7's teams from Belgium who had just returned from competing in the Universities 's tournament in Brazil where they were vice champions.
Watching one of the rounds which they won
The team B coach, Z, C and J watching a team B match
The very professional Belgium 'training camp' with ice bath in the foreground!

What so impressed me was that all these lads looked fit, unlike some of their opponents, and that they were always training.

Team A training
Well, both teams won their groups and then into the semi-finals.
Team talk for the A's before their semi-final
Meanwhile the B's were playing their semi-final which they won and after a very exciting match the A's won, so this was now an all Belgium final.  I had expected to leave early afternoon but watching all these matches was so exciting that I was still there for the final at 6.00pm!!

Team talk before the final.  Note their supporters high up in the background who had the Belgium flag
The final in progress
Well, the B's beat the A's and the presentations were made, but everyone at the host club were so friendly and I had a great time catching up with family.  The Belgium teams will be making for Manchester in September to take part in the 7's tournament there, which unfortunately I cannot attend as I am taking part in another activity.  Rugby 7's will be a new sport in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil that I shall enjoy watching.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

An unexpected lunch out

As the builders have moved out the bunting in Will's room has been put up - well for the time being, because as you can see it looks a little squashed!  It may go into his playroom where there is more room.

My niece, J, invited me over to see her house now that the builders have left, and of course I wanted to see the baby, who is 6 months old and delightful.  He eats well and I had a chance to feed him.  He is very active, trying to move about on his floor mat, rolling over occasionally and trying to get his knees under himself..  

I was then invited to lunch at her sisters, C, who has also had builders, so I looked round her house and then the third sister, L, arrived with her own children and C's children + L's mother in law over from New Zealand and a really fun lunch party ensued.  The children, sitting outside, ate vast quantities of hot dogs whilst the adults, sitting inside, had delicious home made quiche, salads and other lovely yummy things.

L and C had done what my sister and I used to do way back in the 70's.  They had taken each other's children for a period to give each other a break.  My sister and I did this for a week at a time and I was told yesterday that the girls thought it was to give them a holiday, but in fact my sister and I were giving each other a holiday!

I have just bought a pom pom maker to make some for my Christmas Wreath because I am too lazy to make them on card!!  It was probably a mistake as I had to go to Poppy Patch to buy it and they have a special offer on Batiks at the moment so I had to get some and then my eyes fell on this wonderful fabric:

- so I bought a metre as I know what I am going to make with it, but not for a little while, so don't ask!

The king size bed quilt is beginning to take shape slowly, but as I am going to quilt it myself and I don't have a long arm quilter, I will be doing 'quilt as you go' in sections, so it takes a great deal of thought.  My brain is not used to all this work and I spend most of the time talking to myself to ensure it is correct.  No photos until it is finished and on my son's bed!

Monday, 11 August 2014

"Hurricane Bertha"

What can you do on a Sunday, when the tail end of Hurricane Bertha is sitting over the UK and the rain is a deluge??  Well sewing of course!!

And that is what I did all day yesterday. I finally cut up and sewed together the final 130 rectangles which will make up Cambridge son's king size bed quilt using the Oakshott Fabrics that I bought two weeks ago.  I have made about 200 9½" x 4½" rectangles and I spent the afternoon laying them out on my bed ensuring that each one matched its neighbour and then deciding how to sew them together - in strips down the bed or strips across the bed.  Honestly, it does make a difference!  It was such an intense task that when other son phoned and ask whether we could do a Skype call I had to say 'no' as I was in quilt mode and my brain was working overtime checking everything.  I hope there are people out there who understand what I mean!!

I have some rectangles left over and they must be used up, but that decision will be made after I have tried the strips on their bed.  So that is the task for tomorrow and I am sure that Ellie will help me.  I promise photos will be forthcoming but there is nothing really much to show at the moment.

Do you remember this?

Well here it is!

Colour not too good in this photo
I love Lucy's blog at Attic24 and have decided to make her Christmas wreath. Well the ring is covered and I have started to make all the little things to add to it. Do I use this Bower Bird or do I make another one?  I can't make up my mind, but anyway you can't have just one, there must be two to keep each other company!!
The colour is better in this one.
Most of the members of Higham Piecemakers have agreed to make an angel for the Angel Festival at St Mary's Church in November.  We will all be using the same pattern but I shall use my own fabric which I bought at Poppy Patch on Friday in their Christmas fabric sale.

Must remember to have the hearts the right way up!!
Making dolls is not my forté but I don't think the pattern is too difficult as the angel has no legs, therefore needs no knickers!  Question - what do you call a group of 80 angels?  A 'host' or possibly a 'flight' is the correct terminology but I don't feel Higham Piecemakers 'Angels' could really be called that.  What about a' hanging'?  Well they will be hung as they have no legs (therefore no knickers!) to stand on- duh!!

PS - thunder and lightening still overhead 36 hours after the start of the storm.  Come on it is SUMMER here; I should be sitting on the patio, under an umbrella to keep the sun off, sipping something thirst quenching and probably alcoholic!! Still it is the school holidays, so I should know better after all these years.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Family time

Again I was not required for Granny duties on Tuesday in Cambridge because M, my younger son, was having a weeks holiday, but I had to go over there as I needed my fresh vegetables and I had to weed and plant and couldn't wait another week.  M had taken the two children to the dentist and they came back with the 'All Clear' though 8 year old grandson was told to brush a little harder!  "But I do Granny, I do, and it's not fair as Daddy brushes Ellie's teeth!"

I had waited for the children to come home as I need to put compostable matter on the compost heap that I had covered with black polythene.  Last time I lifted it there were grass snakes as it is a lovely warm spot for them to lie, but unfortunately the only thing we saw was a little shrew. However grandson was really excited when I found the sloughed skin of a snake on the heap!! 
"The corn is as high as an elephant's eye"
(Apologies to Oklahoma!!)
Still need the black netting round the corn as the Muntjac would just trample it down to get at the cobs that are developing nicely.  This netting has a very small mesh as it used to prevent Cabbage White butterflies getting on the brassicas and I discovered a grass snake caught in netting with a bigger mesh.  Luckily it was still alive and I released it after showing the children.  Grass snakes have the distinctive yellow band round the neck and are NOT poisonous.

Whilst grandson helped me to plant leeks (he made the hole with my dibber) M started to tidy up the grapevine that we had pruned and tied back in the spring.  A previous person had planted a very invasive bamboo in the garden, and it has come up all over the place and with great force.  To me it seemed worse than Japanese Knotweed as it had grown under some thick matting under the swings and had lifted it with its growing force.  Dreadful stuff and impossible to kill.  Bindweed was everywhere and grandson was most upset when it was cut back - "but Granny it has lovely flowers" - he will learn!!
Looking tidier
Everything growing well.
I have had more time to sew lately and I made this Sweet Treat bag as a birthday present for my great niece.  I used 10" full width of fabric and a couple of quilting lines to hold it together, rather than strips.
Stuffed with little presents that girls love hence the odd shape!
I have completed alphabet bunting for baby Will and will show you a photo when it has been put up "after the builders have left!"

I have started to sew the quilt using the Oakshott Fabric that I bought last week but it is going to be some time before this is completed and I shall not be posting photos for a while.  

Remember this:-

Well things are progressing and a photo will be forthcoming shortly!!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Another adventure!!

Last weekend was a gentle activity on a canal with the 50+ Adventure Club, but this weekend I had organised a 'London Experience' that was a little more demanding.  Over 40 of us boarded the coach very early on Saturday morning and we headed for the O2 at Greenwich because we were going to be climbing the Dome.  Oh we were so lucky with the weather, with a few showers on the way, but when we reached London the sun came out and we had super weather for the climb.  It was challenging to start with, going up at an angle of 30 degrees which seemed almost vertical from the ground.
The first part of the climb (and the same angle to come down the other side!)
The last part of the climb taken from the top
The views from the top were spectacular with the River Thames stretching out all round the Dome on its peninsula.
Canary Wharf across the river
Looking down river to Greenwich and Thames barrage
Coming down was also challenging as we had to 'put the brakes on' to do the last part at an angle of 30 degrees and my thigh muscles feel a little stiff today!!  What a sense of achievement though.

We then split up to 'do our own thing' so after lunch my friends and I went up the Emirates Cable Car and once again, wonderful views of London from a different perspective.

Again down river towards the barrage 
Royal Victoria Dock
 In the photo above you can just see City Airport runway in the distance and there is a very large private boat moored to the left of the picture; wish it was mine!!

I think this photo sums up our day - Canary Wharf in the background, the O2 that we had climbed in the morning, the River Thames sweeping round the peninsula and Thames Clippers in the foreground, which others in our group used to get to Greenwich.

A full day out!!