Sunday, 30 November 2014

Cooking and sewing

It has been a particularly busy week and I have just had a weekend with my sons, their wives and the grandchildren at my house, so I have been fitting in cooking with my normal activities in the 4th week of the month.

Do you remember this picture that I took a few weeks ago?

As you can see the middle pumpkin is the smallest of the trio and I could only just lift it. Well I staggered into the house with it, hoping I wouldn't fall over and squash it flat as that would have been a waste! I hacked the first slice out and decided that it must be like cutting a cake - when the first slice is out it gets easier after that - and it was.

I made some delicious soup that was two recipes put together and a pumpkin pie that was very, very tasty. I am old fashioned enough that I made my own sweet short crust pastry, but it is a whiz in the food processor, and after chilling, rolling and lining the pie tin I baked it blind BUT I forgot to take a photo and it is all gone now!

But here is the soup with a swirl of single cream and a nice piece of ciabatta:-

Friday was Smocking Class and we finished off our smocked crackers and I started a new piece of work.
I love this little cracker.
The string is for hanging it on the tree.
Not quite finished but well on the way
Here is my Christmas wreath from Attic 24 and I love it. Crocheting the flowers etc are so compulsive and I spend hours making them and not wanting to go to bed.  Can you see the Robin in the centre and he has a red breast!

Tomorrow I have a full day of embroidery with a Christmas lunch in the middle. I have to take a 10 inch embroidery hoop and my embroidery silks.  Everything else provided so I can't wait to see what we are going to make.

Have a good week and I feel a little smug as all my Christmas shopping is finished, half the presents have been wrapped and I still have to write my cards, but I seem to be on top of things.

I have been asked to provide a table decoration for Christmas Day, which is not my favourite thing to make. However I had a brainwave because as I am looking after two grandchildren on 23 December as parents are working, I am going get them to help me. I will provide candles, ribbon and gold and silver spray and we can cut green foliage in the garden to be sprayed by them. There are some fir cones in the shed so these can also be used. Should be messy and fun.  Must start planning it this week.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Another angel.......!!

Over the years I have sewn many techniques. One of the first pieces that I made by hand was this and I was so proud of it that I had it framed!
Stained glass stitched window
A couple of years ago Higham Piecemakers had a workshop with Gail Lawther and I made this cottage. I love Clarice Cliff pottery and this is the nearest that I shall get to owning a piece, so this stained glass patchwork is a favourite.
Clarice Cliff cottage - designed by Gail Lawther
Recently I was very lucky to be given a gift voucher for Bay Tree Cottage and after I looked at their courses, the one that sprung out instantly was a Stained Glass Workshop with real glass, so that was where I was yesterday!!

Oh it was such fun and how I struggled!  My friends know that I work quite quickly when I am sewing (it sometimes takes a while to get going as I do a lot of pondering!) but once started I want to finish. Well, with stained glass you have to go slowly - cutting the glass, putting on the copper strip and soldering the final decoration.

So, here is what we did with the very patient Anna.  First we had to learn the tools -
L to r - groziers, the cutter, cut runner pliers
The first piece of glass was tried -

then I cut up some more, mostly very badly as I had to cut the straight line by eye, with the cutter. Some of my first efforts shattered and eventually I used a pistol grip cutter which was easier. Once we had cut the glass we had to break it on the line using the cut runner pliers, followed by the groziers to tidy the edges. So far so good.

Next we stuck on the copper foil which was reasonably straightforward, ensuring that it was evenly placed.
Bit of a wobbly cut line down one side!!
Then on to soldering, which involved using different pots of this and that before putting a very small piece of solder on the copper foil and drawing it slowly down the sides and edges.
Finished, off centre Christmas Tree!

First practice piece finished and then we could decide what to make next. Meanwhile coffee and cake had arrived so a short break for that.
My 3-d Christmas angel cut and waiting to be soldered

A star waiting to be soldered
... and then it was lunchtime and we had a delicious spicy vegetable soup with Turkish flatbread (I had second helpings!) followed by a mincemeat Bakewell Tart (with home-made mincemeat) and cream. I was full up. But back to our soldering after lunch.
Finished star and Christmas tree with a lopsided bauble!
The glass tip broke on my bauble so that is why it is a little lopsided. We were nearly at the end of the course and our efforts were put on display before we attached wire hangers .
Beautiful stained glass Christmas tree decorations
But here comes the 'te dah' moment and I have fallen in love with this little lady -

All my own work
I love her!!
It was a brilliant day making real stained glass ornaments and I think another tick off the imaginary "Bucket List". Thank you Bay Tree Cottage for a lovely day and also to the giver of the gift voucher.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Angels, angels, angels

Angels of every shape, size, material, male and female have descended on St Mary's Church, Higham Ferrers this weekend and I went along to take some photos for this blog.  I didn't expect that there would be 68, yes 68, different angels and they were all so good and so much work had gone into them.

I took photos of them all but I cannot show them all to you, but here is a selection.  (Don't forget to double click on the picture for a better view)
'Angel Cake' by Cupalicious
Cupalicious makes beautiful cakes for all occasions and her Mum is in my patchwork group!!  Had to get the plug in.
'Cheeky Cherubs' by Tiny Tots Nursery
'Handy Andy' by the Holy Handymen of the church
'The Inspiring Angel' by the Women's Institute
'Angelina - The Architectural Angel' - Sidey Design
'WW1 Angel of Mercy' - The Breakaway Club
'Every Child's Angel'  Save the Children charity

'Arkey Angel'-   Higham Ferrers Archaeology & Research Society
If you remember I posted about going on an archaeological dig with this group so they had to be included
'Dana - Angel of Learning' Higham & Rushden U3A
'Angel in Yellow' - Royal National Lifeboat Institution (Rushden branch)
Typographic Angel'
'Flower Angel' - Church Flower Arrangers
 My friend, E, made this one for the flower arrangers.  Isn't she lovely?  The angel I mean!
'Sew Celestial' by The Piecemakers
... and another photo from the other side!
Do you remember my angel that I made - well she is right in the middle and I didn't put her up so it is nothing to do with me!!

I had to include the next angel as 'he' was born in the town in about 1364 .....
'The Higham Messenger' (Archbishop Chichele) - The Chichele Society
'Our Angels' - Higham Ferrers Junior School
'Snow Angel' - Henry Chichele School
'Angelina' - The church choir
'Angels of the World' - the front of the altar
This altar cloth was made by one of our patchwork group.  It was stunning and my photo does not do it justice.
'Guardian Angel in bronze'
'Garden Angels'
'The Arc Angel' - St Mary's bell ringers
So many angels and I apologise that I couldn't show them all.

Tomorrow my fingers are crossed, as I am doing a very special workshop and I hope nothing goes wrong as I am so excited about it.  I will "Tell all" and show pictures on Sunday.  Doesn't everything happen at once and as we say in this country "Just like London buses - nothing for ages and then they all come along together!!!!"

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

History and Sales and Angels

It is a few days since I posted anything because it is the third week of the month which is always busy for me. This is because it is U3A week and I go to the main meeting of the branch, followed by the History group meeting the next afternoon. The History Group has had a traumatic summer as our Leader, R, was asked to meet the committee, following a complaint by a member. It transpired that the member did not like the dates of the visits that we would be making in 2015, as she had other things to do on those days!! I went with R, as I am Deputy Leader and Treasurer, and was privy to everything that took place over the summer months. Well, the upshot of these meetings was that R, who is a very honourable man and a great Group Leader, could take no more interference and has resigned from the History Group and the branch U3A. I would have gone with him, but I didn't feel able to leave the group in the lurch so I am staying until February 2015, when I too will leave the branch.

These last few weeks have meant that I have had to take on R's very substantial group workload and form a Steering Group to take the History Group forward. (Sorry a lot of 'groups' in that last sentence but no other word will do!) Some superb people have volunteered, but it has still meant a lot of work to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. I think that they will survive, but I was told today that some people will be leaving the group without R at the helm, which I think is a great shame.

Well enough about History Group, as I am also Group Leader of Handicrafts and we had a sales table at the branch meeting today. Over the weekend I made these two little bags:-

I bought the fabric from a well known department store's remnant box in their fabric department and the bag is made from a full width of the fabric.  The blue fabric was wider than the stripes hence it is bigger.  It only took me an afternoon to make these two as I didn't use the strips and just did a couple of rows of quilting on each bag to hold the layers together. Magnetic clips for the fastener and a pretty button on top and there you have two lovely presents.

I also crotcheted these two bags earlier in the year and thought I would put them on the sales table as well.

None of these items sold today, because I will not put them into a sale for ridiculously small amounts. I need to cover the cost of my materials and people where I live are not prepared to pay for them. I will not compromise. So there you are.

Just enough time to finish this post and then I am off to the St Mary's Church where L and I are putting up 'Angels' for their Angel Festival this coming weekend. I hope that I am not expected to climb a ladder, though I am sure Mr T will be there to assist us!!  It is all part of the Higham Ferrers Christmas Sparkle Weekend.  I will try and take some photos of the angels, to show you.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Unraveling .....

Before I expand on my title, I have to show you these photos that I took the other day - decide whether it was morning or evening.

Morning or evening?
Of course it was in the early morning - a brilliant red sky and this photo does not do it justice and it was over so quickly. Mind you I am mindful of the little ditty that even my grandchildren know:

"Red sky at night, shepherds delight
Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning"

Actually the weather was not too bad and this sunrise gave me immense pleasure.

Friday morning was Crotchet Class and it was a deluge of rain as we all arrived. The group is getting bigger and bigger and J did not seem to stop; advising and helping everyone. Do you remember this from August?

Well I decided to make further items for the wreath which has been on the back burner lately as I was making my crocheted woolly blanket (still a work in progress). It took me all morning to make another flower and then lo and behold as I sorted out my work when I got home, I unraveled the outside of the flower, so it is looking a little woebegone without its accentuating row.  

But as usual I cheered up when I saw this selection of wool's that I brought home from the class.

What is so different about these are that they are carpet wool and originally came in cones of 250gm from Yarndale.  Some of us wound the wool down into 50gm balls and I am going to make a duffel bag in the New Year. Should be interesting to work with as there is no 'give' in the wool.

I have a very interesting crochet project going round in my mind and J did not seem to think it was a completely mad idea, so something else for the New Year.  

Do you see a pattern in all this? By mentioning it on my blog it means I have to start them to show you as I don't want you to think that I am complete windbag!!!

Monday, 10 November 2014

Wonderful walking

At last I have been able to go walking again, as for one reason or another I couldn't go for some weeks. The weather was glorious and we set off at a cracking pace and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up, but it did slow down after a while.

We saw this family of cygnets with a parent and have been following their progress ever since we saw them as newly hatched babies. Difficult to see on the photo but there are six young and one parent. Walking past anther lake we saw these wildfowl: not particularly exciting but with my new camera and its powerful zoom I can get better pictures.
A pair of Wigeon
A Great Crested Grebe
After a while we had to strip off our jackets and jumpers as we were very hot and short sleeves were the order of the day.

Easy walking on the paths at Stanwick Lakes but we went over the river on a very slippery bridge and walked beside it. We all ducked when a huge flock of Canada Geese flew over making a great deal of noise, calling to one another, as they came in to land. We couldn't see them on the ground but we could hear them.

As we were doing our stretches at the end (we do them at the beginning as well) it was decided that we should Nordic Walk the Waendel Walk next year and take part in the 42km (26 mile) walk so training will have to commence soon!! There is no way that I can walk that distance in a day without some training; quite daunting but very 'doable'. So now I have a goal for next year and fitness will have to be my New Year resolution.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Christmas shopping can start now ......

In my family we are not allowed to even think of Christmas until Matt has had his birthday, (see last post) but I did get a little ahead by baking my Christmas cake over the weekend. It is a recipe that I have had since I was first married so it is a well used piece of paper and the recipe is delicious. 
Brandy poured over and this will now go into storage for 6 weeks
With their parents in New York I was looking after the grandchildren for two days.  As they were at school and the weather was very warm I decided that I needed to get some Winter broad bean seeds in.  So having cleared the final pumpkins I dug the ground and put some of this lovely stuff on to it and planted the seed.
Notice the wire covers to stop the Muntjac eating the beans!!
The final pumpkins ready to be turned into pie, I think
Still a huge amount of ground clearance to do, but providing it stays fine I might get it done this side of Christmas. Thought my daughter in law had been eating some of the spinach as it had gone, but it appears that the Muntjac has been enjoying it so that has to be covered as well and I am now running out of covers.

Grandson B's class were having an ancient Egypt day at school so I volunteered to help and was on the 'Mummification' table and had to decipher the instructions first. Grind the aromatic herbs and spices in a pestle and mortar, tip the powder into a small dish and mix with 'animal fat'. Then the bandages had to be covered in this grease and the body is then wrapped in the bandages - easy!! First question was "Are we going to pull the liquefied brain out down the nose!!" "Not quite" I said. "Start grinding", whereupon most of the seeds flew about the room as they were pummeled - sorted that out - grind, don't bash. Next mix in a dish with the 'animal fat' - "is this real animal fat?" It wasn't, but it was greasy! "Ugh" was the chorus to this. For bandages we had lengths of tape which had to be covered in grease with the herbs and spices attached and once really sticky the body (an old fashioned dolly peg) was covered with the tape and the legs bandaged separately. The children found this bit difficult so I had to do it for most of them. Once complete it was carried to the 'altar' to Amun where they were put in bags for the children to take home. On other tables they were carving scarabs (bars of white soap) with hieroglyphs, crushing olives for the oil and then putting in a wick and setting it alight and drawing and painting on tiles. Whilst all this was going on 'Nefertiti' was walking round with her slaves and soldiers and wherever she went the children had to drop to the floor "as common people weren't allowed to look at her face"!! All the helpers decided that it was a wonderful way to learn and I certainly never did anything like this when I was at primary school.

Once home again I pressed on with making Christmas presents.  No photos until after Christmas I am afraid but I have done my smocking homework so when I go next time I will add the inner core and ribbons for a tee dah moment!

I have done some more embroidery for my Christmas Tree decoration, though there is still more to do.  I have made French knots and Danish knots and used beads and starry, gold sequins 
Circle top right is a magnet to keep my needle on when not in use
I have also made three little circles by winding thread round a thickish needle and whilst it is still on the needle, blanket stitch to keep the wound threads together. You can see two of them on the left. No idea if they have a name but I enjoyed making them and they were quite easy.