Thursday, February 22, 2007

A little more applique and another sign of Spring

The weather changed today - and not for the better. The gorgeous mild sunshine we've had so far this holiday week was replaced with that revolting combination of wind and rain. Either of them on their own I can cope with - the two together are just not funny!
So it was a case of holing up indoors and keeping occupied as best we could. Sarah is working her way through a mountain of GCSE coursework. The size of the mountain may well bear direct correlation to the amount of time she's left certain pieces and their impending deadlines straight after the holidays - only she can work through that one. Hopefully it will teach her a lesson about pacing herself.
Lou got the paints out - she loves to play with watercolours - and kept herself fully occupied. Out of my three she has always been the one who could find something to do without the usual 'I'm bored' that I get from the other two
Nick was walking round like a bear with a chewed ear! Mainly because all his friends who live nearby were otherwise engaged today. Eventually I managed to find something he fancied having a go at...................
I know this will be difficult to believe but he wanted to try doing some ironing. Yes you heard that right.
Now there may well have been an ulterior motive for this - mainly because ironing in our house is a lucrative occupation. For some time it has been Sarah's way of earning extra pocket money. Well at a fiver a basket it's good value and to our way of thinking we would probably only end up funding the extra credit on her mobile phone anyway so we might as well get something productive for it, plus she gets to learn the value of money too.
Of course now she has a part-time job netting her a good £60 or £70 per month, a basket of ironing for £5 isn't quite as attractive or as essential to keep the cash flow going. So it does seem to pile up a bit more than it used to.
So the mantle may well fall to her younger brother and sister eventually.
I had already ironed about half the basket this morning and then took a little time out to show Nick some simple things like pillowcases, handkerchiefs and school polo shirts.
I've probably mentioned before that of my three he is undoubtably the most clumsy particularly with his hands on the fine motor skills. He's excellent at sport, has good ball handling skills, but give him drawing or anything craft wise to do he's at a complete loss - I've never seen anyone so cack-handed.
However much to my surprise he gave it a pretty good shot (maybe it was down to the teacher) and polished off quite a few items before he singed a fingertip and decided he'd had enough.
When I told his dad on the phone he was amazed that he hadn't done it the moment he picked up the iron - maybe we give him insufficient credit.
So he's earned a pound or two to add to his slush fund and it kept him quiet for a good half hour or more. We will definitely build on this at a later date.
While he was ironing I managed a bit more applique and here is another block I've completed. I just keep making them at random as the fancy takes me picking up different design ideas as I go along with no particular finished item in mind except I'd like it to be a soft pastel version of the sort of Robert Callaham quilt you used to and still do see the patterns for in McCalls Quilting
I shall do some HST's, stars, pinwheels, geese and checkerboard effect pieces to infil between them as I go along.
And finally the mini daffs are just starting to come out in the pots in my garden - I managed to snap this one in one of the few sunny spots between the squally showers today

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just for Fiona

These are initially for Fiona but they serve to remind us all that thankfully Spring is just around the corner albeit a miserable chilly one.

I couldn't believe my eyes when we returned to the car and spotted this vinca (periwinkle) bravely flowering away too

What an awesome day!

When asked what she would like to do for her birthday our youngest announced she didn't really want a party this year but would rather go out as a family for the day taking a couple of her closest friends.
During further discussions it was agreed that Bristol zoo was to be the likely destination
This was until a news item appeared on television about a rare shark that had been caught and older examples of it preserved in alcohol in glass jars were shown at the Natural History Museum in London
Louise is probably our most interested news hound and watches most current affairs type programmes with great fascination. She can always tell you what is currently in the news and this particular article really took her fancy. Wistfully she said quietly to herself 'I'd really love to go there'
So it was decided - a day in London with the purpose of visiting the Natural History Museum it was.
We drove to the outskirts of London and took the tube in arriving at the museum at around midday, just in time to eat our picnic lunch.
We'd browsed the website previously so I knew that it would be possible to visit the museum's neighbouring building the Darwin Centre to look at just a handful of the over 22million specimens in their care.
Having to book in advance I phone from the train on the way in and arranged a visit at 3pm. This was the part of the museum Louise wanted to see most.
Unfortunately there was a bit of a mix-up and our guide failed to collect us at the allotted time - there were some glum faces thinking that we'd missed our opportunity but the museum staff were fantastic and organised a special curator to take us round on an individual tour. An italian lady called Carmen was our guide and she was terrific with the kids pitching the commentary at exactly the right level to keep them enthralled.
This all just happened to coincide with a private visit by a lady who had worked for Speedo swimwear - she wanted to see the basking shark specimens on which they'd based their 'sharkskin fabric' for competition swimwear. She was accompanied by the Fish Curator Oliver Crimmon who had helped with the fabric's development.
On the back of their visit then we got to see some of the larger specimens in the stainless steel tanks which the general public never usually set eyes on - awesome!!! And on the subject of large the long glass tank behind the scientist houses a giant squid caught off the Falkland Islands measuring in at 18 feet long - amazing. This building, as the name implies, also houses a good number of Charles Darwin's original specimens from the voyage of The Beagle when he wrote 'The Origin of the Species'. Sarah is currently studying this area of science at school so it added real pertinence to her visit.
It was a wonderful day - the building which houses the museum is more like a cathedral than anything else - in fact for adults they do a tour solely to look at the finer features of the architecture - another time maybe...........
All the kids (big and small) thoroughly enjoyed the visit - they had to throw us out at 5.50pm when they were locking up and we still had probably seen only just over half of it. I do so wish we lived a bit nearer the capital so could take advantage of all the free entry museums in the city without a major expedition to get there
Pizza Hut all round once back at the car meant the journey home took us until 11pm - so as you can imagine there are some very tired little bunnies draped round the house today.
Sunday afternoon saw Louise at cub camp, Nick with friends and Sarah with her boyfriend which freed Nigel and I up to go off for a walk completely on our own. We love our kids but everyone knows you can have too much of a good thing, so it's always great to have a little time together on our own - especially if it's something a little more interesting than a trip to the supermarket.
On the edge of the Quantocks up behind our house the National Trust and the Somerset Wildlife Trust jointly look after the gardens of a demolished mansion Fyne Court. We tend to use it as our 'extended back garden' as it is less than 10 minutes drive away and there is only a nominal donation of £1 for parking so it's a lovely wander with little expense. They do make the most awesome cream teas there during the summer so it's a good job the walk cancels out some of the calories.
At present the snowdrops are beautiful and we actually managed to remember the camera - a feat in itself :o)
On the stitching and blogging front I've been pretty quiet - life has been so hectic this past week - but in and among it all I have managed to do a bit more applique on my green and pink random quilt - sorry this next photo shows up that I didn't bother to press this particular block
I keep reading round all the blogs and saving some of your pictures to work as inspiration for more blocks and panels for this particular piece of work.
As my sister-in-law's baby is due in just over three weeks I really must get myself organised to sandwich and quilt the 'natural hessian' number in readiness - where is that sandwich fairy when you want her?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Knitty Nora!

My baby had a birthday on Saturday - she's now into double figures at the ripe old age of 10!!!

Sadly I can't show you what an absolutely beautiful baby she was as all the pictures are still in boxes in the garage (only 18months down the line) and I couldn't get the scanner to work even if I could find them.

Of my three she is the most arty crafty. The eldest is a very competent cook and very practical but not particularly inclined towards fabric/yarn/paints etc. The middle one (the boy) is as bright as a button and a whizz at maths and sports but the least practical child I've ever met - it makes your eyes water to see him trying to cut an apple up for example - in fact it's a minor miracle he's never had to visit A&E with any amputations.

So it's down to my baby to follow me in the craft department. One of her presents for her birthday was a knitting set with a pair of what look like 15mm knitting needles and a large ball of 'Icelandic' type yarn in glorious variegated colours.

Saturday morning I casted on 12 stitches and set her going on just plain garter stitch. By about 2.30pm she's used up all the ball of wool and the scarf was only about 24" long - well the pattern did say 5 stitches so you can imagine we used up the wool over twice as quickly.

As we were going to the cinema later in the afternoon to see Charlotte's Web for her birthday we just managed to fit in a mercy dash into Taunton town centre and bought a couple of balls of similar weight wool to set her off on another scarf - hopefully long enough this time :o)

And Voila!!! here is the result this morning. Ok along the way she's managed to gradually increase from 10 stitches to 12 but it will make a very fine scarf.

She is so taken with the whole concept that when I headed into town this morning to go to my quilting group I bought two more lots of yarn, one cream in the same thickness as the picture above and the other a dusky pinkish mauve in a more icelandic type yarn but slightly finer. So I purchased a pair of 10mm needles in the hope that this will slow her down a bit - otherwise she will bankrupt me before long!

A few days ago I asked for everyone's ideas on another colour for the soft white/pink/green applique I'd started. I decided to go for a cornflower blue and had a good hunt through my two light blue boxes. I could find loads of greyish blues, aqua blues and purplish blues but this was the only one that really fitted the bill. I did momentarily consider using the right side of the fabric but soon changed to the wrong side. I shall only use it as occasional accents throughout.

Here is the first applique block completed

DH headed off this morning at 4am to catch the 6am flight to Brussels and then a connecting flight to Marseille for work until later on Wednesday. I'm more than a little envious as I do love to travel but now we have a larger house with its accompanying mortgage etc etc then you can't have everything. However I did smile this morning when he texted me on my mobile with the message: 'In hotel, weather wet'

What a tragedy eh? Can't help but feel a little glad he's having the same as we are here :o)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Speaking of posties

Yesterday morning a great swathe of central England woke up to snow.

No big deal I hear you Canadian and Scandinavian girls............... well probably not in Canada or Norway but here in the UK you might recall that our favourite topic of general conversation is the weather, too cold, too hot, too wet, etc etc etc and we see all varieties of weather but seldom any real extremes. To hear the media you'd think we'd had 8ft drifts not a measly 2 - 4 inches at most!

Much to the disgust of my two youngest particularly, Taunton had precisely none. Gloucester, where we used to live and it's neighbour Cheltenham near where Siobhan lives had a good covering. So much so that a lot of the Gloucestershire schools were closed for the day (probably because the teachers couldn't (be bothered to?) make it into work) and the kids had an impromptu holiday.

My two were appalled........ 'It's not fair, in all the time we lived in Gloucester we never had a day off school because of the snow, I'm not going to school then!!!!!!!'

Of course my reply was 'Oh yes you are, I have to go to my school, you will go to yours!'

As is usually the case over here the minute we have a sniff of snow everything grinds to a halt. The BBC headlined the 'adverse weather conditions making travel hazardous' . You Canadians must be laughing into your thermal knickers at us! Jane in Rugby is a Canadian and can't believe how all our systems grind to a pathetic halt at the first flake.

However as you can see from the picture above at least the post gets through and this postie still has his shorts on. My little lad always wears shorts to school each day regardless of the weather - he just detests hot legs, but he will get an incredible shock in September when he goes up to senior school and is not allowed to wear them. Maybe he's destined to be a postie!?!

The quilting group I go to each Monday morning is held in a converted victorian warehouse next to the river in the centre of Taunton - we have the use of an upstairs room with skylights which make the lighting excellent for stitching. However as we're a small and chatty group we wouldn't dream of taking machines in - it's a strictly 'hand-stitching' zone. Therefore on Sunday nights I usually have to pull together some hand work to take in and do the next day.

This week I couldn't lay my hands on anything specific and just cut a square of white-on-white that my friend brought 5yds of back from her last trip to the States and some bits and bobs of mauvish-pink and pale green to have a bit of a play.

Here are the results so far along with some matching pieces I flung together once I got home. I might make a whole quilt with these eventually including various applique blocks and pieced sections - we'll see. I do think the white/green/pink a little restrictive and would quite like another colour to pop in here and there to add variety but can't make up my mind which to use - any ideas???I particularly like the chevron effect with these flying geese.

And I even tackled a QST - (which I hate) for the centre of this star block. Getting brave eh?

Tomorrow marks the second weekend of the Six Nations Rugby championships here in the Northern Hemisphere. After our dreadful efforts under the previous manager Andy Robinson (8 losses from nine games) a new era has dawned under a new manager. Jonny (Sarah's hero) Wilkinson is back injury free and we comfortably beat Scotland in the Calcutta Cup match last Saturday. This weekend England play Italy at Fortress Twickenham. The men kick off first at 1.30pm and then the ladies team, who currently hold 'their' Six Nations crown, follow afterwards at 4.15pm. For anyone wishing to watch only the Ladies game entry to the ground is free once the men's game is finished. Some friends of ours whose daughter Cat (short for Catherine) played with Sarah at Regional level last year have kindly taken Sarah for the weekend and will head off down to London tomorrow with the intention of watching the men's game in a convenient bar and then watching the ladies game live in the stadium. Sarah has never been to Twickenham before (what mean parents we are) and is so excited. She found out today that her best friend had beaten her to become Head Girl at their school and she was very disappointed so this will give her a real lift as well as the opportunity to watch some really class ladies rugby.

This little fellow (taken from the BBC website pictures) certainly hopes we beat the Italians in both games too :o) (Or at least his dad does anyway!) And so do we - GO ENGLAND!!!!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Look what postie brought.............

Through an on-line quilting group here in the UK, four of us have embarked on a block swap project.

I was inspired by Norma and her Elements swap and suggested something similar but using the four seasons as our theme

As you would expect our first blocks have to be made on the theme of Spring

This is the block I received in the post yesterday. I love the crocus fabric. I am expecting two other blocks from the other two people in the group eventually before the end of the month.

These will be coupled with the crocus block and my daffodil block you see here to make the first quarter of a Four Seasons quilt. If you look closely at the bottom green piece you will see that I have had to put a seam along its length. I only had a fat quarter of this spring green shade and had to cobble together the last of the four blocks which was the one I kept. I reckoned that once I'd pieced and quilted the whole thing you'd never notice that little seam. Now I just have to think what to do for my summer block - I'm kind of tempted to make exactly the same block for each season using different fabrics but I'm not sure - we'll see.

Finally it was our monthly quilters group meeting on Monday night where we listened to a talk from a male quilter entitled 'A man in a woman's world'. His name is Roy Dickinson and he has been awarded 2nd, 3rd and finally 1st over three years in the Hoffmann Challenge which is run here in the UK. I forgot my camera so sadly didn't get any photo's of the handful of his own quilts he brought with him but this is the prize I won in the raffle - a pattern for an applique 'Steam Train' - very fitting as Nigel's first love is just that. Not sure when I'll get round to making it for him - but I think it would look lovely on the wall of his model train area - when he gets it sorted out in the garage! Who can tell what will come first - the quilt or the train area :o)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My new work station

Well my beloved got the bit between his teeth today and, with the assistance of Sarah's boyfriend Dan for some extra muscle, he put in my new work station in the playroom.


The worktop measures 3ft deep by 8ft wide in one big area - the only minor annoyance is it is so deep that the foot pedal lead for my machine isn't long enough to thread up the back and still enable me to reach the pedal - mind you that could also be the fact that I am a tad vertically challenged with very short legs

In addition, as the only light in the room is behind me when I'm sitting here, he's rigged up a temporary spotlight fitting above the work area so I can see what I'm doing after dark

I have no excuse now I can quilt to my heart's content - just have to find a magic fairy to do that sandwiching first ;oP

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Lots of stars

Lots of stars this week......................

Firstly this morning Sarah had the results of her regional squad trials last Sunday.

Unfortunately she wasn't selected which she was bitterly disappointed by, but in our eyes she's still a real star and she gave it a full 110% - for example during those trials she tackled a girl twice her size, pulled her down on top of her and ended up in A&E this week with severe abdominal discomfort from soft tissue damage. Nothing permanent thank goodness but it doesn't stop her or put her off playing her beloved game.

It is disappointing for her not to be selected for the third year running but she has moved up this year from U14s to U17s which is a big leap and we think she was actually the youngest girl trialling - there will always be next year and indeed two more after that. England's decisive win over Scotland in the 6 Nations this afternoon, coupled with Jonny Wilkinson's impressive return, hopefully helped a little to ease her disappointment.

On Tuesday Louise was awarded the trophy and necker for cub of the month, much to her surprise. One of her brother's friends goes to cubs with her and is a bit of a 'teacher's pet' and she was convinced he would get the award.

Nick was invested as a scout having moved up from cubs on his birthday in November.

The conservatory people came and sorted out all the last bits of snagging to complete the job on Thursday. Hoooorayyyyy!!!!!!!!!!!! All we need now is the radiators plumbing in, the carpet tiles down and the skirting on to make it fully useable. Today was a beautiful sunny springlike day and it was lovely in there, so roll on the final finish.

Last but not least, in a week where precious little stitching has got done as work has been very demanding, I completed the stars on the charity quilt for the Women's refuge. I decided to shorten the whole thing by taking about a foot off the bottom, sort of squaring it up. I'm very pleased with the various stars - much nicer than the white from before - that frog stitching was well worth it.

Lots of stars all round!