Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Celebrating the Season

Our niece Jo calls this her credit crunch Christmas tree. She spotted it on the shoreline of her local beach a few weeks ago, part of a tree that had been tossed about by the sea. Although interested in its possibilities she was on foot and left it on the beach. Days later she drove to the beach, not expecting to find it again, but it had been tossed far enough by the waves to keep it dry and shore bound. Here it is, dressed for Christmas in her sitting room. Fantastic!

Our granddaughter has been designing her own Christmas cards since a few months before her fifth birthday. The one above was her first and below is this years card. She creates them while staying over the October half-term holiday, and it is my great pleasure to print them.

And here is one of several quilted Christmas hangings I have made over the years. Each of the trees is decorated with beads and sequins. Happy Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Getting Knitted Now

I first caught the sock bug because of Jennifer who attends the same Healthy Back Class that Imogen and I go to. She was wearing a great pair of socks, and after I had admired them she told me she had knitted them herself.
Chris, my husband, is a great fan of hand-knitted woollen socks, having had innumerable pairs knitted for him in the past by his step-mother. Although she died at least five years ago, the socks live on!
I found an amazing shop called Get Knitted near Bristol, and came home with a selection of yarns and a set of 5 needles.
I didn't realise that you could get yarn that would 'self-stripe' so my first socks were, as in the picture below, knitted using seperate colours. This was my third pair from these three balls of yarn, and there is probably enough left for another two pairs.

'Self Striping' yarns make life a lot easier, so I started to make some for Chris, as he wears a size 12 shoe I discovered that one ball was not quite enough to make a complete pair, so I knit the top of the cuffs in a matching plain colour. I've thoroughly enjoyed knitting them, the work is so portable and can be quickly finished.

Also in this photo is my first felted bag, I've now knitted and felted three bags in different patterns, and am always on the lookout for more. This pattern, found on a web site is entitled French Market Bag.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

A Trip to the Baltic

Chris and I took our first ever cruise this summer. We absolutely loved the ports we called at but found the actual cruising experience rather limiting. If we do it again, perhaps when we are less fit and energetic, we would choose a larger ship with more opportunities for exercise.
I nearly didn't include this photo on the blog, as every one knows The Little Mermaid. The one below is Nyhavn, also in Copenhagen.

These next two photos are details of images from the Viegland Sculpture Park in Oslo. We took scores of photographs here. There are over 130 sculptures in a large park dedicated to Viegland, who we understood from our tour guide was not a particularly pleasant man. However, his work is exquisite, and the sculptures progress through from childhood to old age.
The site walks you round the park and museum, and Viegland's biography mirrors the conception of the park as 'Man's journey from cradle to grave, through happiness and grief, through fantasy, hope and wishes of eternity'. Viegland made a Mephistophelean pact with the city of Oslo in 1921. He traded all his sculptures, drawings, woodcuts and models for a studio to be converted into a museum after his death.

We took several hundred photographs altogether on this trip, and had to spend ages when we got home sorting through to find the best ones.

St. Petersburg was the high spot of the trip. On the left of the image above is The Church of the Spilled Blood, so called because of the murder of Alexander II, whose blood was spilled here at the time of his assassination. We did not have time to go inside, but are told it is full of mosaics. St Petersburg is one of the places on our list to return to, we were totally surprised by it.

The Winter Palace was the home of the Russian Emperors until 1917, and today is part of the world famous Hermitage Museum. The museum has fascinating and extensive collections of works of art and was still collecting them in the 1950's, much to the incomprehension of Ray, the egalitarian Australian on our tour.

On the second day of our stay in St. Petersburg we visited Peterhof. We understood this to be the Summer Palace of the Imperial Family, a favourite residence of Peter I, after whom it was named. The parkland covers over 1000 hectares, and as well as being splendid inside, has numerous fountains in its grounds. Chris and I got thoroughly soaked by one!

Stockholm's Gramla Stan,(above) in the Medieval part of the city was beautiful, we encountered our only rain of the two weeks away while we were here. We also had a bit of a panic while in Stockholm, as we had set off on our own and got a bit lost trying to find our way back to the ship. Being built on several islands we crossed the wrong bridge and found ourselves on the wrong side of the city, we did make it however with half an hour to spare before sailing time. Chris' usually unerring sense of direction had let us down, and as we were in Sweden we had left our passports on board. Until we realised that we were consoling ourselves that we could fly to the next port if need be.

The photos above and below are Tallin, Estonia

Before we came back to the UK via the Kiel Canal we stopped at Wernemunde, where among other things we took a trip on the Molli train to the site of the last but one (I think, when Blair was still in control) of the G8 summits. We were in the former DDR and were reminded frequently of the restrictions that these people were living under not so very long ago at all.

The Molli being a steam train, virtually every man was wielding his camera!! And it was a 4 am rising to see our entrance into the Kiel Canal the next morning, although I have to admit that when it got light enough to see, it was extremely interesting.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Halloween Cupcakes

One of our half-term projects was to make a batch of Spider cupcakes for Kay's Halloween Party.

We found the idea in a copy of Good Food Magazine

The eyes are made from black and white liquorice allsorts, we had to buy quite a big pack to get enough of these. A dot of black icing turns them into eyes.

Boxed and ready to go, they look rather cute and friendly. We only had enough liquorice strands for 12 sets of legs.

A happy cook.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

The Case of the Missing Chutney!

I have this fascination of making chutney! Everytime I finish making one batch I have the offer of "Do you want any apples?" Looking for a recipe for Apple Chutney I found a cut out one from Prima among my many ripped out papers.

'Spicy Apple Chutney', sounded great! It's the onion seeds and chilli flakes that make it spicy.

Here is the recipe:-

In a pan, slowly cook 3 sliced onions with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon black onion seed, black pepper and a pinch of salt for about 40 minutes.

Add a pinch of chilli flakes, 3 large peeled Bramleys, plus one peeled Cox apple, all cut into chunks, 400mls/14fl.oz cider vinegar and 250g/9 oz. demerara sugar.

Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour until thick. Spoon into sterilised jars.

Bless Husband No. 2. Off he goes each time to track down onion seed spice and yet more cider vinegar and demerera sugar!

Wow! says he, that's not bad at all!

Yet again, from Daughter No 1. Do I want some more Apples? Mother-in-law has some more going.

Husband No. 2 says "I wouldn't mind, but she keeps giving it all away" Oh! What Joy!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

More Spider Rhymes

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! This is the song I told Angela about, which I used to sing with my seven year olds when we were doing a topic on Mini-Beasts in my teaching hay-days. I love her photograhs of the orb webs ( go to her food website for another) and just recently my garden was bejewelled with them after the early morning autumnal mists. My little grandson looked carefuly at them and I showed him the fat Garden spiders too.
Try Again
from 'Tinder-box' published by A & C Black
Have you seen the little spider in the corner?
She will spin and she will weave and she will fall;
The thread is thin and breaks , but however long it takes,
She will hang her shiny web upon the wall.
So I'll imitate the spider in the corner,
If at first I don't succeed I'll try again.
Though the way is very long, I will say, when things go wrong,
If I try I'm bound to get there in the end.

Harvest Time

My home town is full of hidden gardens. They thrive and bloom behind high walls and street buildings in the ancient parts of the centre, tucked away out of site, mostly unbeknown to the passer by. Over the years I have become aware of some of these secret places but one gorgeous summer morning in August, Sharon (otherwise known as Kindred Spirit) and I spent a few hours not in a hidden garden but on an allotment out of sight to the motorist or walker, behind a row of unassuming Victorian houses on the edge of town. Wow! What a little paradise!! Angela (Genuine Friend, Quilter Extraordinaire and doer all things creative) and her green fingered husband Chris were off on their first (and ONLY HA! HA! HA!!!) cruise, leaving their allotment laden with goodies. Sharon and I were warmly and generously invited to harvest as much as we liked of Chris’s hard graft.
The agreed morning was one of the few perfect days of this summer – hot but not too hot, and still, with all the scents and sounds of an idyllic summer’s day. Clad in wellies and old clothes we walked along the rough path to find the small group of allotments, all loving tended, all different and all hidden away. A field with pigs, sheep and a cow added to the feeling of green space and peace. No one was about. We started with our little buckets and picked dozens of perfectly shaped, mouth-watering, ripened raspberries, eating several as we picked, marvelling at the quality, quantity and taste of the fruit. We could not believe our luck!! Chris’s polythene bags and our presence did not stop the blackbird from grabbing his fill of the raspberries too.
We dug up tender little potatoes, identified male and female courgettes, picked sweet peas, and harvested broad beans enjoying the scent, sight and touch of them all. We felt torn between taking too much and leaving Chris’s hard work to rot, so we opted for the former.
Sharon and I sat on the bench by the shed and decided it was a little bit of heaven – a place to come, to sit, to contemplate, to close our eyes, to soak up the sun and dream – a place to take time out with a flask and a good book. The whole morning gave us great pleasure and took Sharon’s mind off her hyster-sisters (
http://www.hystersisters.com/) !!!

Clap hands,
Granny comes,
With her basket full of plums,
All for Louis!
Victoria plums have to be the most delicious of fruit especially when they're your own straight off the branch. They are also so beautiful.

I went to gather beans for supper and Louis being an outdoor child was already in the garden. He followed me into the fruit cage and I gave him the basket and asked him to fill it with the beans. He was not saying real words at this stage but he understood every word, had only be walking for a short time and so was was still wobbly. Then I told him to take them to Mummy. Well! His little body flew into action and he carried the basket forty yards, manoeuvred it onto the patio, up two steps and into the snug. His face shows how much he wanted to give the beans to his Mum and for that reason I just love this photograph.

Saturday, 27 September 2008


Chris and I went to the PotFest for the South West yesterday, on a bright but very breezy day.
Following my enthusiasm for all things cup-cakey at the moment I bought this little cup cake pot. Made by Jenni Ellman of Tatton Pottery , Knutsford, Cheshire, I could not help but fall in love with it.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


I took this photo in our garden one morning last week, and was telling Imogen about it. It reminded her of a poem she used to tell her infant pupils. She e-mailed it to me, and here it is with her comment.
A spider sat a-sleeping
One dark and stormy night
The raindrops fell upon her web,
And shone like diamonds bright.
But when she woke at daybreak,
And saw her web a-shine,
She said 'I'm sure no other house
Is lovelier than mine!'

'Here is the poem which I taught every class I ever had, after an autumnal walk in the school grounds to instill a sense of wonder at the created world and the beauty of orb webs covered in morning dew!'
Imogen is going to send on a spider song also used in class, which I will publish.
Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting in the garden having my cup of tea and was captivated watching a spider make it's web. There are hundreds of them about at the moment, and if you accidentally walk through one they are re-strung in a couple of hours. As I am pretty horrified about the idea of a spider landing on me, I try to avoid all webs, rehanging them on different bushes to clear a path.
Just had a look at Sharon's wonderful teacher's resource page Rainbow and Sunshine to see if there were any spider rhymes there. I found Incey Wincey Spider, but not Imogen's rhyme.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Flowery Scissors and Dotty Cards

I bought these dotty cards last December at a Private View that Sharon generously gave for our friend Caroline.
Becky, another of Sharon's friends had a selection of cards for sale, and they really appealed to me. Now I find she has some absolutely delightful designs on her new website dots and spots.
As well as Caroline's Christmas Goodies, (I can never resist the small, decorated bags she makes, which I use for gift bags) Sharon had made some little gingerbread men tree ornaments, made of cloth, not gingerbread. I am glad I quickly bagged one as they sold out so quickly.
Sharon brought these flowery scissors and rotary cutter back from her recent trip to the USA to see her family, aren't they fantastic, as well as the muffin cases which I wrote about in the recipe blog. I've not seen anything like them over here, but have to admit that I am trying to be fairly blinkered when I go shopping these days, being now a 'retired person'.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Over Blue Yonder

My ships quilt was made from scraps. Left over from previous projects.

Poor thing had been stuffed in a drawer for 2 years! All blocks were finished waiting to be lovingly put together. Once started I found it hard to put down, there were other quilts needed planning and sewing like 5 puff quilts, might I add, all for lovely babes that were blessed to couples, friends of daughters 1 and 2.
The Quilt was an inspiration of my childhood, the beautiful blue sky and visits to the seaside. RicRac resembling the Water, Pearl Buttons:- sea shells, also Buttons and Shiska mirrors for portholes.
While sewing on the puffs my dearest friend said they looked like limpets, just the thing for a seaside theme!

With my love of Buttonhole Stitch it just finished off the quilt lovely.
I'm very pleased with the Results. One UFO Done!

GanGan's latest seaside memory!

Monday, 11 August 2008


A few years ago I went to Coldharbour Mill at Uffculme, near Collompton in Devon, and a fascinating trip it proved to be.

It had been in continuous use for the weaving of yarn from being built in 1799 until it was closed in 1981. It was re-opened in 1982 as a textile museum and is open to the public. We were lucky enough to go on a tour of the mill and see woollen yarn being made, from fleece to the finished knitting yarn. I don't know how often these tours take place, but Coldharbour Mill has it's own website so it would be easy to find out. The tour we went on consisted of four adults and a dog!

One of many baskets of bobbins in the mill
There is a shop at the site selling the finished yarn, as well as rugs and tartans, which I believe are also made on the premises.
The site is full of interesting industrial artifacts, enough engine-type things to keep the men interested, and a photographers dream. Good cafe too.

And while on the subject:-

The little bobbin block is one of my favourite patterns, which I love to combine with florally fabrics, most of these in the photos are Liberty lawn, although some other cotton lawns have sneaked in too.

The quilt below is the one I made first, and although it is very pretty, and actually contains more of my favourite Liberty lawn patterns I'm not so keen on the setting I used. At the time I used sashing for speed and to increase the size, but I wish I had not been so impatient.

I suppose the origin of the pattern shape was the old wooden cotton reels of my youth, as this is what they looked like in profile, I can't think that the modern plastic ones could inspire you, but who knows, I may soon be proved wrong.

It's quite a simple pattern to make. Basically four triangles, two of which are made of joined backing fabric and floral fabric, and the other two of just the floral fabric. Each of my little blocks is 4 1/2inches (12cms) square. If you cut an accurate square of paper or card, divide it diagonally then cut it into 4 pieces you will have the first piece of pattern. Then rule a line 1 inch (or 2.5cm) from the pointy end of one of the triangles, cut it and you will have two more pattern pieces. Draw round these pieces on your fabric, adding a quarter inch seam allowance and you can start to make your first block. This is one of the few patterns I like to sew by hand, I just keep working at them when I am in the mood, and if you are careful to add a regular seam allowance it's quite therapeutic. It makes an ideal scrap quilt.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Cleeve Abbey

On the way to Devon last week we visited Cleeve Abbey, which is not far from Washford in Somerset. We have passed the sign to the Abbey hundreds of times, but finally made the detour, and realise what a gem we had been missing.

This Cistercian Abbey, an English Heritage property, is the most complete and unaltered set of monastic cloister buildings in England. The roof timbers are absolutely amazing, as is a 13th century floor of heraldic tiles, currently under a white marquee for conservation reasons.

There is a big car park at Cleeve Abbey, with a large grassy area, where a couple of families were picnicking. In spite of there being several cars in the car park the Abbey itself did not feel in any way crowded, maybe because it is a bit off the beaten track and the casual passer-by may well think it is 'only' another glorious ruin

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Bloggers

Last week we had a bloggers' lunch, ostensibly to encourage ourselves to keep posting and remind ourselves of how to do it. However, as with our 'sewing days' we are easily distracted and not a finger was laid on the keyboard!

Imogen brought me these roses from her beautiful garden, so I wanted to post an image of them in our blog, although the photo was taken several days afterwards as I was away from home for a few days.

Saturday, 21 June 2008


On several occasions when a few of us have a cup of coffee together conversation will turn to housekeeping skills, and in my case, lack of them. Although I make supreme efforts to keep the dust down and at least keep the kitchen and bathrooms in pristine condition, I am hopelessly untidy and a complete squirrel. Like a lot of fellow squirrels I sometimes find I have a series of bags and boxes waiting to be sorted, usually items that have been swept into said receptacle from floor and table when notice has been given of an impending visit less than half a day away.
It's not that I don't long for the look of softly glowing tables empty of all but a beautifully, but casually arranged bunch of flowers, sometimes we even achieve it fleetingly, but my brain does not seem to function in the organised way needed to sustain it.
The scent from the orange blossom is beautiful
When bent on a day of solid housework I find some interesting recipe, new knitting pattern, or something that has been missing for days ready to distract me from my purpose.
I am just so grateful that I enjoy, indeed am almost fascinated by, food preparation and preservation. I love cooking for friends and family, I love to read about the lives of those other women, past and present who did the same.
One of my all time favourite accounts is 'The Diary of a Farmer's Wife' 1796-1797 an account first published in the Farmers' Weekly in 1937. I have it in a rather ancient Penguin paper back and it inspired me to keep a similar sort of diary for a number of years, which I then stupidly destroyed when my life changed.
The quest for a perfect cupcake recipe is my current occupation. The one found the June 2007 edition of Good Food magazine has to be the favourite.

We loved the butter icing, made with Green and Black's Organic white chocolate with vanilla