Sunday, 29 June 2014

Family celebrations

This weekend has seen a family celebration on Saturday and a christening on Sunday and it has been such fun catching up with so many people.

The party yesterday was to celebrate the 70th birthdays of my sister and her husband (B and C) and to combine it with their 46th wedding anniversary.  I knew it would be a good party because it has been planned for a long time, but I didn't expect so much.  My eldest son and family were staying with me and we had an early light lunch (just to keep the children going) before setting out on the 15 minute drive, in pouring rain, where we were due for Champagne and Canapés at 2.30pm.  This was followed by the meal at 4.00pm and when that finished there was a disco until the band started. As usual all the oldies got up to disco away to the Rolling Stones, ABBA etc and all the little girls were there with Grannys, Grandads and Great Aunts and a few Mums and Dads dancing away as well.  Great fun and the littlies were so sweet showing off their ballet moves!!

But the highlight of the evening was the live band put together by Trevor Barry, who is a friend of B and C, and they did a set for about an hour and a half.  There were some well known session musicians there, but I can't remember who they all were, though Jamiroquai and Elton John were mentioned in hushed tones!!  A one-off band formed for this special session, complete with a brilliant singer. 

My niece decided to take advantage of the marquee and today baby Will was christened, so we were back again at 10.30am for brunch followed by the church service and it was a lovely and very personal service in the village church. Instead of christening cake we had these beauties made by Lizzie Loves Cakes and the children loved them, and so did the adults as well!!
I had a pig!!
I am now putting my feet up after catching up with friends and relations, dancing (well sort of) with my granddaughters, cheering the band, choking back tears in church when Will was christened and eating and drinking in convivial company.  This will be the talk of the family for years to come and thank you for inviting me.  xxx

Thursday, 26 June 2014

A small visitor and other things.

I went to my usual Wednesday group meeting of Higham Piecemakers last night and didn't feel much like sewing so I crotcheted instead.  It has been a really busy week and it hasn't finished yet., so blogging may be in short supply over the next few days but I was cheered up by seeing this little visitor on my lawn when I got home - a hedgehog! 

So many get killed on the roads that I am delighted to see it and I hope that it will eat some of the slugs in my garden.  Anyway I threw some of 'Spikes' Hedgehog Food onto the lawn and stood for 20 minutes outside, not moving, while a great deal of crunching went on.  If I can look after it, it may not want to cross the road in search of food.

Pleased to say he has just come back again this evening and so another handful of Spikes has been thrown down.  

I am delighted to announce that our Mandalas have been posted onto Pinterest so we are famous!!  Please look for them as they are now part of Yarndale 2014.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Another activity ticked off on the 'Bucket' list!

I don't actually have a Bucket list but if I had this would have definitely been on it!  Let me explain.  

As you may already have gathered I love History, especially British History, and I love nothing better than reading historical books, both fiction and non-fiction, and visiting old buildings and stately homes.  I belong to the H&R U3A History Group and we go out on trips in the summer and have indoor meetings in the winter.  Two of my treasured possessions are parts of Roman roof tiles which I was allowed to keep after a visit to Piddington Roman Villa.  The tiles were lying all over the site and I was told I could keep the two pieces that I picked up.  One has the finger marks of the maker, probably his 'signature' and the other has burn marks which shows it was near smoke.  I hold them and cannot believe they are about 2,000 years old..

I also belong to Higham Ferrers Archaeology and Research Society (HIFARS) and an email was sent out asking if members were free this week to help with an archaeological dig at Chester Farm, which now belongs to Northamptonshire County Council.  In historical terms it is of huge importance in the area, with evidence of a neolithic settlement, a large walled town of about 600 people in Roman times, a deserted medieval village and the house itself is Georgian.  Well I answered the call and yesterday went to take part.  I have to say that I am a complete novice at this, but did decide to take my gardening knee pads (good idea), gardening gloves (good idea), sun hat (excellent idea), lots of water (good idea) and forgot my portable chair (bad idea).  The latter was needed at break times to sit on instead of the ground which was hard and I am not very nimble getting up.

We arrived at the right time and were briefed about the site, which was originally part of the Victorian gardens laid next to the main house.  They were originally 'ridge and furrow' with topsoil laid on them and we could see this in the dig site.
Geo physical map of farm and surroundings

We had the geo-phys map explained to us and the Roman part is left side to the centre and clearly shows the roads.  However because the site is of Special Historical Interest excavating can only be undertaken in the gardens, at the moment which is to the left of the house and outbuildings at the top of the map.
The dig
Our first job was to sweep the dusty earth off the top in the area top left of this picture.  This took nearly all morning and I found this sticking out of the soil.
A Roman pot/plate?
In the afternoon we excavated for anything we could find - pottery, nails etc.  Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to excavate my pot/plate further as it wasn't in my designated area, so I shall never know how big or how much there was of it.

It was a lovely site and I did take this photo of the old greenhouse and potting shed.  I am told that when the site is developed further this may be the cafe!!  I think some further work is needed.
Potting shed and tumbledown glasshouse
But I had a wonderful day, really enjoyed my first 'dig' and learnt a great deal about the whole site, part of which now has new warehouses and an approach road over the ancient remains!! That is progress I suppose.

Sunday, 22 June 2014


I had a lovely day yesterday doing a workshop at Poppy Patch with Helen Coverley.  It was Free Motion Trees and after we had mastered the technique of sewing them free motion we then had to put them on to the Strata Batik.  It is not necessary to use this type of batik and Helen showed us some wonderful Egyptian cotton batiks which could  be used instead.

So feed dogs down, calico with a circle cut out in the middle in the embroidery frame, a full bobbin of inexpensive thread (because it takes a lot of thread) and the free motion foot on the machine and away we go.  First the trunk is worked using a straight stitch, by making a fan shape from one spot at the bottom of the circle (which has been cut out) so you are machining over nothing! Then when I thought I had enough strands I was told to make more.  Next step is to use the zig zag stitch to pull together all these straight strands of machining and hey presto, the tree is beginning to take shape.  Branches had to be made from the tree trunk and again on the other side and at last it was finished.

Next step is to cut round the edge of the circle to release the tree.  I was expecting some unraveling but it didn't.  So onto the next tree, which can be made using the same circle of calico and this time I decided to make an elm shape instead of the nondescript one I had made first time.  I felt that this was a lot more successful and I hope you agree.  We then had to sew the trees onto the background pelmet vilene and wadding with some free hand embroidery, frame it and the picture was complete.
My first effort partially hidden

My 'elm' tree

The finished picture
I then tried to make a pine tree but this turned into a rather hairy looking lavatory brush so I think that I need to refine my technique!!

A great workshop and I learnt a lot.

Tomorrow I am taking part in an activity that I have never ever done before but always wanted to so watch this space.....  and the weather forecast is looking good.  Must keep covered as I shall be outdoors all day.

Friday, 20 June 2014

How I coveted my friend's necklace!!

Some time ago J came to Crochet Club with a lovely necklace which she had bought in South Africa whilst on holiday.  I really admired it, so way back in April when we went to the Uttoxeter Quilt Show I found this wonderful stall, The African Fabric Shop, which was selling Ntaka Glass Beads and I realised I could make the necklace with them.  Well I have made one and I felt it needed another one to go with it so here is how I made it.  

To all you experienced 'beaders' out there I am a novice, so please don't wince when you see my technique!!

Firstly I set up the piles of different colours.  I was lucky because I bought individual coloured packets and I used a narrow leather round cord, so didn't require a beading needle.  I measured two pieces of cord to the length I wanted and then added half again.  

Getting ready
Starting off ..
Close up of photo above.
Working from the centre, with the first bead you come up from underneath with one piece of cord and down under with the other.  You keep doing this with each bead so that they lie flat when threaded.  You should be going up or down with each cord through each bead.  Work left and right sides from the centre.
One I made earlier!!
When you reach the required length (or run out of cord) finish off  both cords with a knot. 

I love my 'African' necklace.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Growing up!!

As today is Tuesday, it must be Cambridge day with my grand-daughter, Ellie, and today is a very special day as she is going to her new school this afternoon to hear a story being read.  Next Tuesday she is going to play in her new class for about half an hour.  The folder has arrived with her school start times in September and for the first week it will be mornings only then in the second week she will stay to lunch and come home afterwards.  Then it is full time and I cannot believe that she has grown up so quickly and.she has told me she will miss 'Granny' days   So will I.

Yesterday I went on a coach outing with the U3A History Group to Eltham Palace in South East London.  It is a very historic site and Henry VIII spent much of his childhood there and later when he became King, the Tudor court spent their Christmases there.  Now only the Great Hall built by Edward IV in the 1470s remains, but in the 1930s the Courtaulds took a lease on the place and built a house using all the design features of the time.  There is a great deal of wood veneers, Art Deco and glass which allows plenty of light into the building.  It is one of my favourite design styles so I enjoyed the visit immensely, though I did have the niggling feeling that a great deal of money had been spent on a house when at the time there were strikes and poverty in the country.

The gardens were in full flower and the moat was full of water and extremely murky, but had huge fish in them as this picture shows as they were being fed by some of our members!!

This picture is called 'Fish Finger'!!
They had enormous mouths, which appeared to be open all the time!!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

At last the Mandalas!!

I know, dear readers, that you have been waiting in suspense for the Mandalas of the Poppy Patch Crochet Group so this is the official unveiling before being sent off to Attic 24 for her project at Yarndale 2014

It has amazed me that they were made from the same pattern and yet using different colours come out so differently.  Anyway here they are:-

Lesley B's
Lesley M's



Each one has to be stiffened before being sent off and then with a bit of luck they will appear on Pinterest within the next couple of weeks.  I think we all enjoyed making them and I think they look great.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Trooping the colour

I am such a monarchist that I watch anything I can on television and as I had to clean my neglected house I watched Trooping the Colour, in between the cleaning.  Can't wait for the fly past because as you know from my Duxford visit I love planes and especially the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Many, many years ago a friend said would I like to go to a rehearsal of Trooping the Colour and of course I accepted.  At the time we were living in Gloucestershire so we caught a train at the crack of dawn, telling our husbands to expect us when they saw us!!  We met the young man who had the tickets, watched The Colonel's Review rehearsal and decided to visit St Pauls Cathedral on our way to the Tower of London.  Outside St Pauls we found a £5 note and decided that the streets of London were indeed paved with gold!!!

We then went on to the Tower because the father of the young man who got us our tickets was a Yeoman Warder who lived in one of the round towers in the outer walls.  We were shown round the Tower and went in the Jewel House, without having to stand in line, joined the Yeoman Warders in their private bar and were very privileged to be allowed to watch the Ceremony of the Keys from a private viewing area.  By this time it was late and we had a train to catch so we managed to get a taxi, leapt in and I said "Paddington Station as fast as you can!!".  We missed the train because the American President at the time, who I think was Ronald Reagan, was visiting and we had to wait for his cavalcade to pass down Park Lane after a dinner he had been to, so I didn't get home until about 3.00am in the morning, but it was a great day out.

However a few years later my husband and I did get tickets to see the actual ceremony of Trooping the Colour and I loved it all.  We walked down the Mall afterwards, saw all the Royal Family and watched the fly past.  What I remember vividly was the smell after the Red Arrows had flown over and I now know it was diesel from their smoke.  We applauded - how stupid is that!!

The next time I saw a full display by the Red Arrows was when my eldest son graduated, from RMCS Shivenham, now Cranfield University, which is quite close to the M4. We wondered what the traffic on the motorway had made of it and if there were any accidents as the display went over their heads!!

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Thank you!

As followers of my blog know, I am new to this and get very excited seeing where viewers come from and you are many and varied - Russia, Venezuela (hope that my blog wasn't a mistake), New Zealand (I think I know who you are), Australia, India, Germany, China (occasionally) France, USA and of course the UK.  Thank you for coming back time and time again.  I now have over 3,000 hits, including my two sons who have decided they should look at what I write so that I don't harangue them when I see or speak to them!!

Since my last post, I have had another Nordic walk around Irthlingborough and Stanwick Lakes and luckily we started early because it became very hot towards the end.
Backs to the camera ladies, NO faces
When I got home, I wandered around the garden and took a few odd photos and this is the assortment - 
The Phormium that has NEVER flowered before
Chusan Palm flowering for the 2nd year
Love this little chap in my pond!  A second one is nearby
What pleases me so much about the pond is that I have newts in it and they were just below the surface as I took this photo.  Unfortunately newts eat frog spawn so I don't know whether the frog spawn laid earlier survived.  But that is nature of course.
Sambucus nigra
I called in to the Monday Higham Piecemakers group meeting and showed them my latest Dorset Buttons creation -
Will I ever stop!!
and took away the World War 1 Christmas Challenges that we are showing in a garden in the Secret Gardens of Higham Ferrers on Sunday.

Oh yes, my Mandalas are finished and waiting to be shown at Crochet Group on Friday; more about them then and I am writing this just before I go to embroidery class.  I have been working hard on my drawn threadwork and hope to finish in the next two weeks; so more about that later.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Oh what a beautiful morning ......

I woke this morning, thought about my blog and wondered what to write;  I needn't have worried.  The blackbird was shrill with it's warning cry, which in my case is CAT, so I walked round the garden banging all the bushes in case it was lurking underneath one.  Then I saw this picture in my mind and rushed inside for my camera.
My beautiful Philadelphus and it smells good

Can you see the bee, pollen hunting in the middle of the flower and look at that wonderful blue sky in the left hand corner.  No touching up done at all!!

I love the bumble bee

I had been watching the weather forecast all week because yesterday was the village church fete of my brother and I had agreed to help with the cream teas.  Every time I looked at the forecast there was a thunder storm forecast and certainly, earlier in the morning it poured with rain.  However when I arrived the village had decided that everything would proceed out of doors, and as it turned out we had glorious weather.

Waiting for the table cloths and visitors!
My sister-in-law makes over 200+ scones in the morning, whips up countless pots of cream and there are lots of jars of strawberry jam.  Two kettles work non stop and as she had forgotten squash, children were offered elderflower cordial, which quite a few accepted.  A local band was playing, the sun shone, a small steam engine was giving rides up and down the street, the bouncy castle was doing good business and the stall holders were all sold out at the end.  I stood on my brother's drive looking over this scene, with a wonderful thatched cottage in the background, and said "How perfectly English"!  My brother agreed.  Incidentally his garden was absolutely stunning and everyone who looked round agreed and we made about £170 on cream teas in about an hour.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Oh, my downfall at the garden centre

After the hairdresser yesterday, I thought I would pop into the local garden centre to buy some packets of vegetable seeds I needed and a couple of perennials for my sister.  I am going to supper with her and instead of flowers or a bottle of wine, I thought plants would be more acceptable as she is trying to get her garden ready for a big party later this month.  I picked up a small basket and it was downhill from then on, as I landed up with seeds, at least six pots of perennials, bird food and other items.  I staggered to the checkout and was slightly surprised that the bill was not higher than it was.  

I have just been in the garden trying to decide which plants to give my sister as I love them all, and it has been a struggle giving up two of them.  I have planted the remainder and put up my hanging baskets!!

 If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will remember that I had started to make Dorset buttons.  Well this has progressed and yesterday afternoon I spent a happy time making a Christmas decoration using one of them.
These are the originals and one has turned into  .......
I have even made a large one with a hanger attached and this is still very much a 'work in progress'.

So 'watch this space' to see what finally happens.  I still haven't found the right thread for the big one, but I think there is hope on the horizon from my local little shop which stocks absolutely  everything, and I am not kidding!!  Ask her for it and she has it.  Brilliant place.

Monday, 2 June 2014

A day out at Duxford

They had a 'teacher's training day' at my grandson's school so Granny was asked if she could look after him for the day.  But where to go?  In the end we decided on the Imperial War Museum at Duxford and though we have been before, there is always so much to see/  We saw everything today and boy, were our feet sore at the end!!  In Hanger 1 they have Concorde which you can walk through and lots of hands-on gadgets where you push buttons, turn handles and generally try to get different machines to do different things.  We went to the 1940 Operations Room, the American Air Museum, the Battle of Britain display and the Conservation hanger, where old planes are put back together.

But for me the highlight was when I heard a plane starting and the tannoy announced that the Spitfire would be taking off.  We then had a fantastic display of this iconic plane in flight, climbing to great heights until it looked as if it would stall and then swooping low in front of us.  I tried to take pictures but it was going too fast, so they are not too good- my apologies.

Back on the ground
Quite wonderful for me as I have a secret passion for old aircraft and I love watching them; not so my grandson who was bored stiff by this and kept asking if we could go!!

He was really interested in the D-Day display though and the War on the Land exhibition  with tanks and guns.  I hope and think he will remember something of the visit.