Tuesday, 30 December 2014

New Year holiday

I am off to spend the New Year with my son, G, in Kent and to see my two granddaughters P and L and at the same time celebrate my birthday, that seems to come round now with monotonous regularity as I get older.

However, before I go I thought I would show you the presents that I made this Christmas. Even though I don't always write about 'crafts' I am always making something and currently I am working on my Jacobean embroidery, smocked Christmas bauble (for next year!) and my crocheted blanket.

Anyway here are the presents:-

'Sheep' dog
 Remember the 'Sheep' dog I made earlier this year, well this one was given to P.

'Scottie' dog
In a brushed cotton tartan fabric with pointed ears, this had to be a 'Scottie' dog for L, and 

A 'Dalmatian' dog

a 'Dalmatian' dog for Ellie. This one is very appropriate as we had a Dalmatian when the boys were young.

My daughters in law were each given two smocked coat hangers:-

Pink obviously

Blue grey fabric
These were made using gingham fabric and worked in 'counterchange' and I was very pleased with the finished articles. It is not difficult to do and you can get different patterns with it, which is what I did. The size of the gingham square is important though according to the pattern you use.

Finally, at the last Higham Piecemakers group meeting we were given our 2014 Christmas Challenge ,,,,

"Take an artist of your choice and recreate, in any fabric method of your choice, one of their (recognisable) paintings...."

We were given an A4 photo frame and we will have to mount the picture so that it lays flat in the frame.  We can keep our piece or else put it on sale when we have our next exhibition of work in September 2015.

I have some ideas but still have to decide, but I always keep this under wraps until 30 March when we have to 'show and tell'.

Happy New Year to everyone, wherever you are and thank you for following my blog in 2014.  I shall be back  .........!!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Home again .......

I hope that everyone, wherever you are, however you celebrate it, had a lovely Christmas, if indeed you do celebrate the festival.

Mine was fun and it was spent in Cambridge and there were 10 for lunch - 6 adults and 4 children AND it was the first time my son M had celebrated Christmas (and cooked the lunch) in his own home!! At this stage there were only six of us so on Christmas Eve afternoon we walked to Great St Mary's to take part in the children's service and granddaughter Ellie dressed up as an angel and took part in the service.

Next morning we were up early as Father Christmas had been visiting the house, so stockings were opened, we had a quick breakfast, put the turkey into the oven and then I cycled with everyone to church for the Christmas morning family service. Ellie was asked to light the crib candle and grandson B was asked to carry up the basket of Christmas stars with the congregation's wishes on, to the altar. It was a lovely service, but Grandma (who is a retired vicar) and I (I am Granny) found it strange that there were still tourists coming into the church whilst the service was going on!! Quick bicycle home where M and I went into overdrive whilst we carried on with the cooking. At this stage we were joined by Grandma's other daughter and son-in law and two little girls and the party was complete. All the children were then sent outside to play football and run off some energy - very wise as they were now over-excited!! M has a pavilion next to his home and so he had decided that we would have lunch there and it worked so well. 'Snow' fell on the way to lunch -
Crystals + water

= snow!!
- the floral table centre that I made with the grandchildren was admired and the candles were lit and we had a splendid meal, with the sun streaming in so we had to put up a blind. The temperature rose and we were in short sleeves!!

In our family if you cook the meal you don't have to wash up and so I had a welcome break before it was time to have Christmas presents .....
Presents round the tree!!
...chaos then ensued as the children unwrapped and parents tried to keep a list of who gave what to whom! This took all afternoon and then we played board games until supper and bed for the children who were all sleeping together in one room. They must have been tired as they went to sleep very quickly.

Next morning we had a late 'brunch' before we headed off to the pantomime, Aladdin, at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.  It was brilliant, with a baddie who we all booed, Widow Twankey the pantomime Dame, Wishee Washee who we all cheered when he came on stage, principal boy and principal girl, the usual local jokes, a song for the the audience to sing and of course, "look behind you"!!! We all enjoyed it in our own ways, even Ellie who was frightened by the baddie (who we all booed) and hid when he came on stage, said she loved it.

After a late tea I was told I couldn't go home until I had had my bag of Boxing Day gifts! This was completely new to me, but was a family tradition for my daughter in law and again was great fun as nothing was serious or expensive - a new tea towel, bedsocks etc. How kind. So I left for home in an absolute cloudburst and atrocious road conditions, but nothing obliterated the memories of a very happy family Christmas. Thank you to M and his family.      

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A very happy Christmas to you all

Yesterday I spent my last Tuesday looking after the grandchildren and as usual it was full on. We made a table decoration for Christmas Day, which has included spraying holly and ivy with silver paint - quite messy.  I then decided to take them out for a snack and coffee for me - that was a mistake because the traffic was appalling but eventually we made it to the garden centre where we had our snacks and then went to see the reindeer, which were quite small, I thought. But before we went out I saw the green woodpecker on the grass having a real go at something in the grass. He was there for at least ten minutes and then he flew away.

As we were having lunch I saw him again, but this time in the willow tree - 

I have been very busy making these litle fellas that I have turned into brooches for all the adults to wear at Christmas lunch. My son isn't sure about this but I shall be wearing my flashing Christmas tree brooch so we can all be 'tacky' together!!

Finally can I send everyone my very best wishes for Christmas and enjoy the festival wherever you are. Please can it be peaceful for everyone.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Countdown to Christmas!

The weather has been quite good so far in contrast to last year when I spent Christmas in Kent with my eldest son. We were having appallingly wet weather when I eventually arrived on the 23 December and in the night there was a horrendous gale that frightened me so much. The wind howled in the trees outside and sounded as if an express train was coming, and I thought the roof would come off!! Next morning we had a power cut - great!! The local radio said that if customers were not connected by the end of the day there would be no power over the whole holiday, so we had to make plans to cook the turkey on the BBQ. As it happened power was restored to our area but many people were cut off; our thoughts were with them.

On Friday morning, in lovely weather, my Nordic walking group met up for a Christmas walk and lunch at the end.
Striding out!
 We passed the hens who were huddled under the hedge against the wind.
Have they avoided the Christmas pot?
Then onto The Bistro for an excellent lunch with a pudding - such an indulgence!!

When I got home I had to finish off some Christmas presents and that reminded me that one of my daughters in law had had a recent birthday and here it is.

A book cover
She loves notebooks for making 'lists' so I made this for her after attending a workshop based on Stupendous Stitching.**  I used the circular foot that I bought at the Knitting and Stitching Show for some fancy circles amongst other things and I really enjoyed using variegated yarns and the fancy stitches on my machine. I have used some of the techniques before but not for a book cover. I also added a pen holder and elastic to finish it off.

The elastic is helpful to hold the right page in the notebook!!

Quite a short post today as I have to wrap presents, ice the Christmas cake (a photo will be posted) but don't get too excited as it will only be a snow scene, make bread sauce and brandy butter, and I must check that I have everything that the grandchildren and I will need for the Christmas table decoration that we are going to make together. I shall be in Cambridge for Christmas and Kent for the New Year.

** Thanks to Sew Happy as this book is not available in the UK and she got it for me on her holiday to the USA.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Last days in Cambridge

My time coming to Cambridge every Tuesday to look after Ellie, is coming to an end next week as she is now at school and though I will pop over to maintain the vegetable garden it will be when I have the time. I shall not neglect it as there will be lots to do and vegetables to pick and the winter sown broad beans are looking good. Still covered with mesh cages because the Muntjac is very partial to them!!

I suddenly realised that I had never shown any photos of this lovely city, so after having the chariot removed from my bike, I was free to cycle into the City Centre. Cambridge is a cyclists paradise with paths and tracks away from busy main roads and the bike is so well catered for.

I cycled across Coe Fen stopping at the bottom of Mill Road to take a picture of the punts on the River Cam.
Scudamores punts waiting for business
 Then onto The Backs where I took this iconic photo.
Kings College Chapel
Then over the River Cam by Trinity Hall  .....
Bridges cross the Cam all the way along
and out into Trinity Street.  I chained my bike up at this point and took to my feet for more photos.
Bagpipers busking outside The Senate House
The town side of Kings College Chapel from Kings Parade
However a cup of coffee was calling so I went to Michaelhouse, where half the church has been turned into a very nice cafe, off the tourist track, so usually a table is available.
As I came out I noticed the very small entrance to Gonville and Caius, (pronounced 'keys') that was my father's old college and it was open for visitors and nothing to pay!! So in I went and wandered around and suddenly noticed this at the bottom of a stairway   ...
Was this THE Professor Stephen Hawking?
and it is because I asked a porter who was happy to tell me that this was why there were so many wheelchair ramps in the college. My father went to Caius after he served his time in World War 1 and I can still remember him taking us for a tour of the colleges when we were quite young and being very, very bored!!!! However one thing he mentioned, and it seems to have stuck in my brain, is that next door is Trinity College (the richest college in Oxford and Cambridge) .....
Trinity College entrance

... and over the entrance is the figure of Henry VIII, the founder, who holds a table leg because his sword was stolen many, many years ago!!!

But I had to press on and so the next stop was at the Corpus Clock that my granddaughter 

never really likes to see. I think the 'grasshopper' or 'locust' on the top that 'eats' the seconds away is rather frightening. Personally, I could stand for hours just watching it!!  

Round the corner from the clock is The Eagle pub, that doesn't look much from the street but is very historic and is where, in 1953, Francis Crick and his partner, James Watson announced that they had 'discovered the secret of life' or as we know it, DNA. 
The red plaque on the wall has the history of this pub

I couldn't leave the centre of Cambridge without this photo; a small selection of all the bicycles you see about the city; and this was a quiet day as the colleges had 'gone down' for Christmas.
Bike park by the Market Square
Then back to my son's house with a quick stop at The Leys School ...
School buildings around the cricket/rugby pitch.
...  the trees in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens laden with mistletoe.
Round balls of mistletoe
I shall miss being able to visit the City Centre by bike as that will be taken home and so I shall be using the bus in future, free with my bus pass!!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas is on the way .........

As usual I went to Cambridge last Tuesday to take the grandchildren to school and then the rest of the day was my own until I had to pick them up - or so I thought!! Phone call from my son that Ellie wasn't well and could I pick her up, which of course I did and took her home where she lay on the sofa under a blanket to keep warm and watched cartoons on the TV. Bless her, she did look pale and wan, but by 4.00 pm she had perked up a little and was ready for tea. Normally I give the children their tea and leave about 6.00 pm, but this week I left early to go to a "Living Advent Calendar"!

Organised by the local Rotary Club there are 24 venues around the town opening their doors at 6.15 pm. Tuesday evening was at my brother's office where I helped to serve mulled wine and mince pies and sweets were handed round. I did manage to imbibe a little mulled wine which was excellent and then at 6.15 pm the office door opened and out came the local vicar who read the poem "The Twelve Days of Turkey" which was very funny and which I haven't heard before. We then went across the way to the local hotel where there was a short and very humorous recital of singing and more readings and then the party broke up and buckets were rattled for our cash for charity. Really good fun and a different way to raise money. I got a copy of the programme and all the venues for the 24 days were schools, shops, churches of all faiths, the local theatre, the library, the fire station etc. A complete cross section of the town. Well done to the organisers.

Wednesday afternoon was our U3A's Christmas meeting and guess what - "The Twelve Days of Turkey" was read again. I was beginning to feel like the "11th day of Turkey"!! The mince pies were good though.

Finally, this morning it was crochet group and we were a small select band that met. Our teacher, J, is on holiday so we just nattered and crocheted, drank coffee and ate mince pies, including one that I found at the bottom of my handbag that my son gave me on Tuesday (wrapped up of course)!! I produced my te dah moment and here we go  ......  roll of drums  .........

My crocheted 'Christmas Wreath'
As you know (unless you are new to my blog) I am a real fan of Lucy at Attic24 and it is is her idea that I have adapted. I turned the Bower Bird into a Robin Redbreast and he has a cheeky little face with a 'beady' eye. The wreath is now hanging on my front door - no not the outside, because of the weather and it might get stolen, but on the inside.

I have decided that it must have a more permanent home after Christmas because I can't put it away until next year as so much work has gone into it.

I go to Poppy Patch for crochet group and the lovely Lesley and Carole are selling up at the end of December. I am so sad to see them go as I hope we have become good friends over the years. However there is always a sliver lining; they are selling stock at 25% cheaper, so I bought a bag pattern, some more fabric (as if I don't have enough) and a few bits and bobs. But these items have given me a few more ideas to have a go at in 2015, especially as Higham Piecemakers, my patchwork group, have an exhibition of work in September 2015 and will require items for the sales table and the cushion raffle. You simply cannot start early enough!!

Anyway I may go a little quiet as I am still making Christmas presents which cannot be shown obviously, as my family do read this blog from time to time, and my social life has slowed a little as well. Just Ellie's birthday party this weekend as she is 5 and is having a 'Frozen' party. When I asked if I had to wear anything special she didn't seem to think anything would fit me!!! I did suggest a blonde wig - "don't be silly Granny, just wear you own hair"!! Don't you love them!!

Monday, 8 December 2014


I love London. There is so much to do, see, places to eat and it has a buzz about it even on a chill Saturday in December! The 50+ Adventure Club were in town for ice skating at Somerset House even though only five people on the coach would be taking part - well we had to fill the coach, so everyone was off to do their own thing. One couple went on a 'Pedibus', others got as far as the Science Museum, Camden MarketImperial War Museum and of course a great deal of retail therapy. Me - well I became a tourist and I went to Covent Garden to start with and saw the Christmas Pudding Race, in aid of Cancer Research and this wonderful living statue!!
No support of any kind ....
apart from his hand on the pole!!!!
Then onto Trafalgar Square and saw 'Yoda', again with no support, and a blue cockerel.

The fourth plinth
Left - National Gallery, centre - St Martins in the Fields and right - Nelson's Column
Look at the colour of the sky, then down Whitehall past Horse Guards
Keeping guard

Downing Street has thick railings and armed police on guard duty. I saw four when I walked past and then I saw this little fellow!!!
Paddington is Great by Stephen Fry
There are fifty of these dotted around Central London to celebrate the new Paddington film and each has been designed by a different individual.

I went past this very famous landmark just as it struck 1.00pm .....
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
... on to -
Westminster Abbey
From 1066 the kings and queens of England have been crowned here. At this point I needed some lunch and from my days when I worked in London I knew of a little pub in the back streets that was very quiet and I got a delicious sandwich and a sit down. Phew, I needed that rest.

However I had more to do and see, so I set off again for my ultimate destination and on the way saw this that needed a photo:-
'Boris' bikes waiting to be used
 Another Paddington
Paddington Jack by Davina McCall
However my ultimate destination can be seen behind the bear, in the corner - the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum and it was well worth getting there. I spent nearly three hours here, and they even have a small cafe which was very welcome.
The map room, with life like dummies
Just an amazing place and at the time, so 'Top Secret' no-one knew it was there, including the Germans. By the time I came out it was dark, so after skirting St James's Park, I headed for Buckingham Palace, where the Queen was not in residence as the Royal Standard was not flying and if you look carefully there is a Christmas tree in the royal entrance!!
Buckingham Palace by night
Back up The Mall, past Clarence House and to Trafalgar Square for this photo of the Christmas Tree donated each year by the City of Oslo and the people of Norway in gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during World War 11. I found this particularly moving.
A lovely tree
 Bear of London by Boris Johnson
.. and here I found my final bear, standing outside the National Gallery which I had missed in the morning.

A lovely trip to London and I was exhausted with very sore feet as I had walked it all!!!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Lunch, lunch, lunch ...

Yesterday was embroidery Christmas lunch and an all day sewing session. There were 10 of us and everyone was doing the same pattern; a piece of Jacobean work using our own embroidery silks. We managed to complete the Jacobean couching, followed by split stitch and chain stitch to pad out 'a leaf' before we started the satin stitch and then stem stitch, prior to sewing ermine stitch - phew!! Well I did cheat a little and didn't finish everything so there were different coloured threads hanging all over my work so I could get as much tuition in before we finish the class for Christmas. Still a great deal to do and certainly no picture at this time.

The next lunch is scheduled for Wednesday, with my niece and baby Will and on Thursday I do Ladies Who Lunch with my sister and sister in law and this will be our last before Christmas.

The weather is definitely getting colder and I am beginning to layer up. When I looked out of the kitchen window over the weekend I saw this stunning bush in the garden ...

Both my box balls were covered in hundreds of cobwebs with the dew on them and they looked stunning.  

On Sunday morning I received this photo from daughter in law in Cambridge and she entitled it "On the way to eat the spinach!!"
The Muntjac!!
As if I needed to be reminded that it was there. Very small but what a lot of damage it does in the vegetable patch!

Just a short post before a very busy 50+ Adventure Club weekend - a coach trip to London on Saturday that I am organising and our final activity of the year on Sunday - Indoor Bowls followed by Christmas lunch.  More lunch out and I will blog all about this in due course.