Sunday, 26 July 2015

Food and Fibre

With the combination of rain and sun the garden, both my greenhouse at home and my 'Cambridge allotment' are becoming very productive.  I was in Cambridge to do some gardening last week and collect my week's supply of produce.  My son was having some new double glazed windows installed and though everywhere seemed covered with dustsheets, the dust seemed to have got in everywhere.  Coward that I am, I left them to clear it up but had a change of heart this morning and volunteered my services.  However I was assured all was cleared up and I was not needed!!  Thank goodness as I felt very guilty.

This was about 12" long and tasted delicious
Baby beetroot including a white one
 I have grown mixed colour beetroot as a change.  I have not been able to tell the difference between red and pink beetroot but the white ones taste good!!  I cook them either boiled, removing the skins when cooked, or roasted, with the skin left on.  Last week I brought home potatoes, carrots, broad beans, more beetroot and perpetual spinach.  Should keep me going for a few days. 

However yesterday, with friends from my crotchet group, I went to Fibre East and what I fun time I had!!  I felt like a child in a sweetie shop when I walked into the first tent!!

 Stalls and stalls of the most wonderful wools, from so many sheep, alpacas and dog!!!  Yes there was a fibre from a dog that had been spun and knitted.  Amazing!! 

I didn't know where to start but it was very evident that sock wool was the fashion and I bought a pattern and some wool:-
I could not bring myself to spend £15 on a skein of wool for a pair of socks so I went for this much cheaper wool (75%) and acrylic (25%) mix knitted on a circular needle from the toe up.  Last time I made a pair of socks (knitted top down on four needles) they were too tight round the top and nearly cut off the circulation to my toes!!  Maybe this will be better.  The pattern was bought with a donation to Medecins Sans Frontieres and I must admit that I have fallen at the first hurdle; I could not work out how to cast on with a circular needle, but luckily the pattern has a very good Youtube connection (once you get passed the advert)!!!  I shall have another go.

Some of us in the Crochet group are going to have a go at this shawl so though I originally bought this wool for the socks, I have had a change of heart and will use  it for this project as it thinner and lacier.
You will now see a pattern of colour emerging - purple(ish)!!  Nothing subdued for me as I have reached the age for a 'purple hat'.

Finally, having got home from the show I was so full of enthusiasm that I made these last night for Attic 24's Yarndale 'Flowers for Memories project'.
I might make some more as the pattern for the smaller ones is so easy.  I put brooch fixings on the back of some and a bead in the centre of the others and all before I went to bed!!!!  Come on, if I can make these in a few hours so can you and the project is such a worthwhile cause.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Bodiam Castle

I was still staying in Kent on Friday so I decided to visit Bodiam Castle.  You will know by know that I love old houses, castles and history so this was a good day out for me.  I had hoped to take the Kent and East Sussex Railway to get there but unfortunately it doesn't run on Friday - just my luck, so car it was.

Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, who received permission from the King to build a crenelated castle on the site and there is a great deal of debate over the reasons why it was built.  The majority think that it was built to reflect Sir Edward's wealth and power in the County and not for military reasons; it was built to reflect his new found standing.

Anyway, whatever the reasons and though it is now a ruin, it is visited by nearly 200,000 people per year and is very photographed because of its setting in the moat.
South side showing the postern gate.  There was bridge over the moat here.

East side - the arched chapel window is to the right.

North side and entrance to the castle.
The moat was well stocked with koi carp -

Hoping for food or just breathing?
Once inside I spent a couple of hours exploring the layout of the castle and towers at each corner,  I climbed two of the towers up spiral staircases which had a hand rail to assist me. 

The views were amazing -
Looking down into the central courtyard -

... and into the distance - note the 'Oast' in the distant left
Not a Kentish 'Oast' as it is in West Sussex!!
 I explored all the 'rooms' and imagined what they must have looked like -
The Great Hall
With the kitchen, the pantry and buttery, the Great Hall took up all the South side of the castle.

What a great time I had and on the way out I passed this more modern piece of
architecture -

A pill box built in 1940
This was built as part of a defensive line along the River Rother, which would have been a natural tank barrier in case of a German invasion.  Apparently it was manned by ten men from the Canadian Army and the Home Guard until about 1944.

I came home from Kent via Cambridge for a family get together which was great fun topped off by my younger son saying that he was taking my grandson to see this at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens.  So I tagged along!
The Titan Arum
It flowers every 10 years and smells of rotten flesh to attract Carrion Beetles (not many of them in Cambridge!) to pollinate it.  However as it was on its second day the smell was not too strong.  I was really excited by this and it finished my short break off really well.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

This and that

This will be a shortish post as I am writing it in deepest Kent, where I am staying at my son's for a few days.

Horrendous journey yesterday as the police used the M20 to Folkestone as a giant lorry park (called stacking) because there was a problem with the Channel Tunnel.  This meant that all the slip roads to the motorway were closed and I had to drive cross country like everyone else, so the traffic was awful.  Still at least they have done away with toll booths on the Dartford Crossing of the River Thames and everything is now number plate recognition and payment online, which has speeded the crossing up - brilliant.

This morning I have been to Sports Day at L's nursery where she ran really well as her "fast button had been switched on!".  There was a Mummy's relay race and our 'Mummy's team' ran so well that they won and each were given a huge bar of chocolate.  We will enjoy eating some of it later!!

I have finished one or two crafty things.  I made two more of these:-

On the left is one for Ellie and I thought that B might like on and so the one on the right is blue for a boy.

I have finished my embroidery and had it mounted professionally here.  Apologies but the picture is slightly out of focus!!  This seems to be happening more often so I must look at the manual.

As embroidery class has finished for the summer, I wondered what to do next.  I rather fancied some goldwork - loads of bling - but in the end settled for Mountmellick.  I am slightly out of my comfort zone here as it is not delicate embroidery, which I actually prefer, but I have to try everything. 
I am pleased with my bullion knots that are on the left hand side.  They look like caterpillars crawling across the fabric!!

Now to take L for her swimming lesson and then later this afternoon I go and watch P at her tap class as it is the last before the holidays.  Should be fun and they grow up so fast.  I realised that this week, as it is 10 years ago this week that my lovely husband Chris, died.  It was a slight shock when I realised that B will be 10 in January (Chris died before seeing his first grandchild).  Double figures already and then a teenager.  Where does the time go?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Sudeley Castle

Last Wednesday saw me on a coach trip to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire, courtesy of the H&R U3A History Group.  I am no longer a member of this group, but when I was, it was the one trip that I wanted to do.

Sudeley is steeped in history, but I was particularly interested in the period from 1400 onwards as at this time it passed into the hands of Edward IV.  He gave it to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who owned it for nine years and used it as his base for the Battle of Tewkesbury.  Richard then exchanged the castle for Richmond Castle in Yorkshire.
Entry is through the ruins of the Tithe Barn
The Echiums were brilliant
When Edward IV died his brother, now Richard III inherited the castle again and built the Banqueting Hall, that is a ruin now, courtesy, at a later date, of Oliver Cromwell's army!
This must have been magnificent with all those windows
Sudeley was still in Royal hands when Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited, and when Edward VI (whose mother was Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII) inherited it from his father he passed it to his Uncle, Thomas Seymour, whom he appointed Lord Sudeley and later his Lord High Admiral.

Thomas Seymour had been courting Katherine Parr, before she became Henry VIII's sixth and final wife and he took up with her again and married her within six months of Henry's death.  Very quick as the royal court was still in mourning!!  She moved to Sudeley with her full royal retinue of over 150 people and Lady Jane Grey, a cousin of Edward VI.  Unfortunately she died giving birth to a daughter and was buried at Sudeley Castle with Lady Jane Grey as the chief mourner.  Her husband left before the funeral as he considered his wife a failure - no son to inherit and no use now as an ex Queen!!  What a charmer!!!!  As Katherine was her step-mother, Princess Elizabeth stayed at Sudeley and got to know Thomas, who when his wife died rushed off to press his suite with her, but Elizabeth spurned him. 

Katherine is buried in the chapel -

The Queens' garden - Katherine Parr, Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey
Chapel of St Mary's in the background.
Found on the top of the original coffin
This is the Victorian tomb of Queen Katherine with the coffin inside it.
I loved this table organ
There was so much to see in the house, which is still the family home of the Dent-Brocklehursts who bought it in the 1830s and the gardens were lovely.  Much restoration was undertaken in Victorian times by Emma Dent and her memorabilia kept me busy for the morning!  She was an original autograph hunter and corresponded with the great and the good of the period.

Finally I looked round the gardens and loved this piece of topiary in the making!
Emma Dent sitting in her scented garden with dog at her feet.
A wonderful day out to see the final resting place of a Queen.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Trying to be creative ....

If you follow my blog regularly you will know by now that I am not particularly creative; I can follow patterns and make all sorts of things, whether knitting, crochet, sewing, smocking or whatever but making up my own ideas is something I cannot do.  So once again the idea is not my own but I have tried to make my own version.

Before last Christmas a friend at Higham Piecemakers showed us a Christmas Tree that she had bought at a craft fair and it was already beginning to fall apart as it was only glued.  We thought we could do better and so here it is.
What are these?
Once you have collected these - oh yes, they are milk carton tops and it doesn't matter what colour they are - red, blue, green or orange, but they should be the same size.  You can add more for a bigger tree or even make a smaller tree using juice carton tops.

These are my templates as you will need circles of fabric 4" (10cm) in diameter to cover the top and circles of wadding 1.5" (3.8cm) in diameter to pad the top.

I sewed running stitches round the circle of the fabric and after putting the wadding on the top side of the top, drew up the fabric to fit the top.  (Sorry lots of 'tops' there!)  I tightened the fabric and stitched everything in place AND LEFT THE END IN PLACE.  Do NOT cut it off.

Then using these ends I sewed all the circles together making sure they were firmly sewn together and again I left the thread ends of the circles round the edges of the tree and did NOT cut them off.
Slightly out of focus but the backs.

I added some embellishment to the plainer fabrics
It took me a while to work out what to do next because this had to be mounted on card and I did not want any glueing as in the original I had seen.

I machined two triangles of fabric together and then cut out the shape of the tree at the bottom and hemmed in the raw edges,  Finally using the loose threads that I had left I sewed the outside tops to the fabric card and tah dah - a cheap and cheerful Christmas tree.

If I was keeping one of these for myself I would make a Dorset Button to go on the top as a star and hang a ribbon through it.  However it will be sold on the sales table at the Higham Piecemakers Exhibition so I will just add a ring on the back and put some nice ribbon through it.  A cheap and cheerful Christmas decoration.

Friday, 3 July 2015

A hot weather activity?

It has been a very busy week and now that Wimbledon has started at least I get the odd moment to watch some of the players sweltering in the heat.

However I have to organise a cycle ride for the 50+ Adventure Club in September that I knew had to be decided upon this month.  After my own horrendous cycle ride of what should have been 30 miles I had to find something a little less taxing.

Bike secure on it's rack on the car, I set off on Wednesday with the temperature already soaring, but this had to be done.  I arrived at the car park adjacent to Pitsford Reservoir and thought how inviting the water looked, but it is not for swimming in when you see all the wildlife round the edge!!!
I was also trying an experiment!!!  I have cycle shorts and a gel saddle that I wore on the last ride and when I got off my bike my bottom was so sore that it lasted a few days.  So this time I did not bother with the shorts to test the difference.  It was lovely biking beside the reservoir with the occasional stop for photos -
They were fishing in the little dinghy on the right 
On the left just outside of my viewfinder there was someone wind surfing.  On I cycled leaving the water and going out into the countryside up hill (pushing my bike - I am no glutton for punishment) and down dale -
Big skies
until I reached this cycle way -
The way I had come -
The way I was going -
 and here is the signal box
Three engines waiting in the station!  Not sure whether they work
This station has a pub so I stopped for refreshment, but I wanted to press on before it got too hot, turned a corner and there was a hill that I had to go up, the longest I had seen all day, but luckily I could walk in the shade!!  However I was now on the home stretch and I pushed on.

I arrived back in the car park having pushed my bike up a few hills, cycled 11 miles, burned over 1,000 calories* and there waiting in the car park was a very welcome ice cream van just waiting for me!! 
I think it had my name written on it!!

If I had had a pen I would have drawn a sad face on this!
Oh and my bottom was more comfortable without my special cycling shorts!!  Home by lunchtime and spent the afternoon watching Wimbledon.

Yesterday I had to be in Cambridge to pick the grandchildren up from school, but before I went I did a little vegetable gardening and whilst walking past the pond saw a young grass snake on the edge of it that then disappeared into the rockery at the side -
This is not my photo but a 'stock' picture
My son was not impressed as he hates snakes!!

Tonight the 50+ Adventure Club have their annual BBQ and games evening so I am hoping that the rain, forecast for this evening, holds off.

* according to my Garmin Forerunner 10.