Saturday, June 28, 2008

Teatime memories........

When I was a child my mother always made a roast dinner every Sunday without fail - we always ate it at lunchtime, never in the evening - we weren't that posh!

I have vivid memories of listening to Family Favourites on the radio and her singing away in the kitchen as she mashed the potatoes - we usually had mashed potatoes as well as roasted ones and after all the years of practice I've had I can never get my potatoes like hers - smooth, creamy tasting, white and ever so slightly peppery - that is her secret, she always adds a shake of ground white pepper to them with a little butter and milk - she reckons it makes them whiter - who knows? But they were always delicious. She would often sing the most bizarre things in that kitchen - Song of the Hebrew Slaves was one of her usual renditions - maybe that was how she felt slaving over a hot stove to serve up our Sunday roast.

Then on a Sunday afternoon in the summer time we children would go out to play with other children who lived locally but in the wintertime the whole family would all tuck up in the living room and watch the Sunday afternoon film on the television - The Dambusters, Genevieve and 633 Squadron spring to mind. One of the shops in our village opened on a Sunday morning to sell the Sunday papers and very occasionally we would have a walk up and bring back a chocolate bar for each of us to eat after lunch while watching the film, mars bar, milky way or Fry's turkish delight. I have vivid memories of walking with my mum up the lane to the shop on a windy wintry day - my mum always loves windy weather - she finds it totally envigorating, and I think I take after her because I like nothing better than a blustery walk to blow away the cobwebs.

Then tea on a Sunday would always be boiled eggs with bread and butter soldiers - not toast as I prefer now and thus always make for my children, but white sliced bread sandwiched with best butter and cut into strips for easy dipping - no matter how tight money was in our house my mum always, always bought proper butter as I think her upbringing, which bordered on real poverty, meant that margarine had always been the order of the day.

After those boiled eggs - one each but two for Dad - we'd have tinned fruit topped with evaporated milk - Carnation. Usually it was peaches or pears but very occasionally she would push the boat out and buy fruit cocktail and my sister and I would fight over the solitary cherry!

If we were really lucky the icecream van would call round just at the right time, immediately before tea, and mum would head out with a bowl and get him to put five scoops in it to store in the fridge for a short while and have instead of the Carnation - most houses didn't have a freezer, in fact there were many in the 60s who didn't even have a fridge so ice cream was a real treat only indulged in on high days and holidays and on those days that the timing was right for the chimes in the distance.

Last week after our beach visit and pub Sunday lunch I decided boiled eggs were the order of the day for tea.

So here we are - with the toast soldiers in the background just ready for dipping. But you can tell my children don't have this wondeful 'nursery food' kind of meal often because the two youngest still haven't mastered the age old art of getting into them! Now then, are you a tapper or a cutter? My father is a past-master at slicing the top off his egg with a knife, I always followed my mum and I use the more gentile tapping approach myself.

My kids are so much luckier in some ways than we were back then - everything is more affluent and last weekend they had strawberries, freshly picked and accompanied by vanilla ice cream from our freezer to follow the eggs, rather than squabbling over that lone cherry.

Next weekend is the turn of my parents for a Golden Wedding celebration - we will head off up to Ambleside in the Lake District to join my sister, her partner and her teenage son. My brother and his wife and baby son will bring up my parents and we'll all spend the weekend together. Sadly my niece, who doesn't really get on at all well with her mother, has declined the invitation and this has taken the edge of things a bit for me but I guess it will be her loss most of all.

Hopefully by spreading the celebrations over a whole weekend in a very relaxed informal manner, letting my parents' health dictate the pace, it will be less of a strain for my father who struggles with 'do's' and of course they will get to enjoy time with five of their six grandchildren which will just make my mum's year, never mind her weekend. Thinking of all this has, I suppose, made me remember how it was when I was a child - hence the reminiscing about boiled eggs!

Sarah has been at home all week chilling after her exams - next door's cat has taken full advantage of a bit of quiet attention and often kept her company on the computer!

The house is so quiet this weekend as the two youngest are away at District Scout Camp up on Exmoor. As Louise is the only girl in the troop and not allowed to either sleep alone, or with the boys or the leaders, Daddy has had to accompany them as a sleeping chaperone for her.

However as a scout of long standing, man and boy, this is not much hardship to him and he will probably be more of a clown than any of the kids. They have watersports on the programme and the three of them headed off early yesterday evening with their wetsuits and loads of enthusiasm.

With the house population reduced from five to two and Sarah babysitting last night and working this afternoon it has been very quiet - rather strange and I did feel I was rattling round like the proverbial pea in a drum last night.

We plan to have a girlie night tonight with the cinema followed by a chinese buffet meal - well why should the other three have all the fun?

I have had some lovely post this morning.

Some lovely soft pastel coloured felts I bought on ebay - you often only see bright primary shades and so I thought this would come in useful for something a little more subtle - I just have to hide it from a certain absent, blonde, small girl to stop her purloining it.

Also in the post something much more exciting.

My mini quilt from Lucy Locket..............

and it's a real beauty - understated and elegant - thank you Lucy I just love it!!!

As for my own stitching I've been quite busy this week.

From a batik New York Beauty block........... for Kate's Birthday Block Swap which needs to go out in July - ahead of myself there. This is the first time I've ever attempted this kind of thing and those curved seams were a real b*gg%r! I even drafted the pattern myself - with more than a little encouragement from Kate I might add :o)

............. to something a bit more homespun and ever so slightly 'prim'

I've always liked four block quilts - so dreamt up this. Lots of plaids and shirtings - Sarah's not keen on it, thinks it's far too busy, but I rather like it.

Three blocks done - one to go and then lots of HSTs to make the sawtooth sashings between and around them.

That's what I'll be doing this afternoon while Sarah's at work.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Non-stitching weekend

Well Lou returned from the Isle of Wight on Friday evening in one piece having had a great time

Sarah's final exam (Physics) went well - she's now finished for the summer apart from a morning's intro session at her new 6th Form college on the 1st July and her little sister has two days on the 2nd and 3rd at her new secondary school
Nick had an inter-school cricket match against a neighbouring school on Wednesday evening - he was a last minute 'make-up-the-numbers' addition for the year above him as they are a very small school. They were playing the secondary school adjacent to the primary school where I work which has a pretty formidable sports reputation and Nick's team won - Nick caught one man out and made a partnership of 32 runs with another Year 7 friend.
The offshoot of this is he's now decided he'd like to play cricket for a team and has been trawling the net pricing up the kit which is a bit more expensive than a pair of football boots - but I like to encourage all of them to play sports - after all nothing's better for growing kids than fresh air and exercise - unfortunately he has the same tendency as his father of not letting go of something once he has a bee in his bonnet so we've been nagged to death all weekend. I'm totally sure my son invented 'pester-power'.
Saturday morning - a celebratory breakfast of 'bake your own' croissants and pastries from the freezer section of our local farm shop - now if I were a proper blogger these would all be nicely laid out on a china plate with smiling husband and children waiting patiently at the table and a beaming proud mother in her frilly apron waiting on their every need - instead you see it like it is - chez Bebbington - dressing gowns and all.
It's down to this aforementioned obsessive tendency on the father's part that I've got absolutely no sewing done this weekend and precious little computer time either.
The height of the ironing pile had obviously got just too high for himself to bear and the corresponding nagging became too much for me to bear so I gave in and stood for the best part of 6 hours yesterday and cleared it - phew!!!!!!!
But then some little rotter, probably himself in between still digging for Australia, had put some more washing through the system and just after I'd finally put the ironing board away I discovered another mini pile in the tumble dryer - grrrrrrrr!!! A woman's work is obviously never done!
I decided to draw a line under all this domestic bliss today and insisted we went out to lunch - a sort of joint celebration for belated Father's Day from last weekend and the end of the exam period for Sarah.
Then a minor miracle, I managed to drag my beloved away from his mistress (the pickaxe - well he's spent considerably more time with it than me over the past wee while) and we popped up to Burnham on Sea, our nearest seaside about 20 minutes away to blow away the cobwebs.
I've never actually lived this close to the coast before and the novelty hasn't worn off yet by a long way.
We parked the car near to the church which must be built on very sandy foundations - it had a distinct list to one side.
The weather was exceptionally windy so the rugby ball we'd taken to throw about wasn't such a good idea.
You can see just how windy from the flags on the top of the mini pier.
However the man with the kite and the skateboard type contraction was having a terrific time.
The sands were virtually empty - Nick found his own particular brand of treasure, but Nigel wouldn't let him bring it home despite the fact I thought it might go quite well in the garden somewhere.
Along the beach in Burnham is its most unusual and distinctive feature.
I guess it must be an old lighthouse from earlier times.
It's painted black on one side and red on the other, presumably for navigational purposes.
Then Louise and Daddy discovered a dead fish - the kids reckon it was a stingray - I think more likely a skate, still almost perfect except the seagulls had taken the eyes.
Finally an ice cream rounded off the visit.

Then we called in at the 'Pick Your Own' place on the route home.
Rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries the order of the day - everyone looking more than a little windswept after the beach
Who knows I might sneak in a little stitching this evening.

Friday, June 20, 2008

And back to stitching

Back to normality - well for a week or two anyway - that is until my parents' golden wedding weekend in two weeks time.
Louise has been in the Isle of Wight on a school residential trip all week. Amazing how much difference it makes to the chemistry of relationships in our house when we're missing one. To be fair it makes not a bit of difference which person is out - the house runs more smoothly with four than five - less arguments, less bickering! Not that I'd wish anyone to be away permanently but it is an interesting observation - I wonder if it makes that much difference when I'm not there.
Anyway peace will be shattered again tonight as she is home around 7pm - I have missed her really!
Sarah has also taken her last GCSE exam this morning - physics - a subject she wasn't looking forward to at all. However she said it wasn't too bad at all - easier than the chemistry on Wednesday which is a little worrying as she's selected chemistry over physics for one of her A level choices. Now we just have to wait for results day on 21st August - she's done all she can, now it's in the lap of the Gods, or should I say examiners!
We've had some lovely clear evenings lately - just the weather for hot air ballooning and we've spotted several from the garden slowly drifting over Taunton Deane - it's something I'd love to have a go at - maybe one to put on the list for my 50th in two years time.

The garden is coming on a treat - the area we removed the cherry tree from has welcomed its new residents with open arms and so far, touch wood, everything we've planted seems very happy in the new home.
This clematis has flowered for the very first time - it was a cheap and cheerful one from a local supermarket - they're usually much younger and take longer to get established. Although I knew, when I planted it a couple of years ago, that it was one of the smaller flowering varieties I couldn't for the life of me remember the colour from the long since mislaid label. The deep purple was a very pleasant surprise and as it's awash with buds there's a lot more to come.
This was a good bargain buy the other day from the local WI market - £9 for the entire planter - you could barely buy the pot and the compost for that!
As for stitching, I've been working on my Summer quilt for the Four Seasons Round Robin - versions one and two!
My swap partner is fond of red and I thought that red roses would be fairly apt.
I merrily stitched the outlines of a spray of roses complete with leaves
I then coloured them with wax crayons and stood back to think what to do next
Nope! they just didn't hit that button - back to the drawing board
So here it is...............
the centre of my Summer quilt MkII
I spotted an applique design on Knot Garden's blog and worked out a simplified version
I've since added the outer border and it's almost ready for sandwiching - I hope my swap partner likes it.
I've also completed all the piecing and binding on the japanese folded patchwork piece from the workshop
A front view - in hindsight I do wish I'd used a deep navy blue instead for the areas with the pale aqua fabric ...........
and the back view. Now to play around with some beads and sequins to turn it into a winter wallhanging.
Finally my Spring Fling Round Robin quilt arrived - thank you Laila and the three other stitchers who worked on it before her - it is truly beautiful!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Where did my baby go?

This past ten days or so has been a time of reflecting on our family.

The Saturday before last was my parents in law's golden wedding anniversary.

We all headed up to Worcester to help them celebrate with an afternoon open house in their lovely back garden.

Fortunately the weather was good and kind to us - not guaranteed by a long stretch here in the UK.

Not only have Brian and Judy made 50 years together - after all some people aren't even lucky enough to get to that age - but both their bridesmaid and their best man were also there to celebrate with them.

Between us all, their three children and partners, we've given them 12 grandchildren aged from 22 down to almost 3. Sadly because the celebrating couple didn't announce their arrangements until quite late in the day three of the grandchildren couldn't make it but here are the other nine who did - not often we get them all together for a photocall. It just made me realise how they are all growing up - the two girls sitting to the right of Sarah on the chairs were bridesmaids for Nigel and I when they were little dots.
And here are the happy couple cutting one of the two cakes (misunderstanding on arrangements between bride and bridesmaid meant a duplicate but the kids helped them demolish them).
Then last Friday it was Sarah's Year 11 school prom.
The hair took the best part of two and a half hours at the hairdressers - yes you read that correctly!

Our neighbour is a beautician in a local department store and kindly offered to do Sarah's make-up for her.

This picture was taken in front of our side gate as Nigel is still endeavouring to dig to Australia outside the front door in readiness for the new driveway, and as she had cream satin shoes on I thought trecking across the lawn to pose in front of the flowers probably wasn't a good idea either.
Her dress came from Sassi Holford - a local dress designer whose most recent claim to fame was designing and making the dresses for the royal wedding of the Queen's grandson Peter Phillips.

She has a shop in London and one here in Taunton - we're not ones for extravagant overtures and wouldn't normally have even considered looking somewhere like this but we were passing the Taunton shop during February half term as she was having a pre-refurbishment sale. This was one of the bridesmaids dresses which was a real snip at £50 - the bargain of the decade. It's a beautiful quality with buttons and loops down the back of the bodice and an invisible zip in the back of the skirt. Not your usual off the peg quality - some of the other girls had spent upwards of £200 to £300 on their dresses and they weren't a patch on this one.
Sarah travelled to the do, at a local golf club, with the rest of her group on a converted fire engine.
But despite looking like a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly (ok I know I am a tad partisan!) she still kept that typical Sarah sense of humour
And here she is sharing a joke with Stu her prom date - I just love natural photos taken when the subjects aren't aware they're being snapped.
Finally a more posed shot outside the golf club - lucky with the weather yet again.
This morning I've waved off her younger sister on a school trip to the Isle of Wight until Friday and next week we have Louise's induction evening at the secondary school ready for starting in September - they're certainly all growing up so fast.
Now we only have my parent's Golden Wedding to go to at the beginning of July and we can then relax for the summer.
On a last note no doubt you want to know who won the strawberry 400th post hanging.
We used a very technical method to pick the winner - the other four members of the household were asked to each select a number from 1 to 69 and I averaged them out and rounded to the nearest number.
This turned out to be Meggie in Australia , a blogger who usually makes me think and often smile at her witty observations on life, so it has a long journey ahead of it once she lets me have her postal address.
Thank you all for your lovely kind comments - I only wish I'd had 69 of them to send out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I've not been ignoring you all...................

.............. honest!

It's just that it's Sarah's prom tomorrow night and the week has been manic with preparations.

I should be back over the weekend with lots of photos of THE social event of the century!

So until then don't forget there's still time to add your comment to the last post to have a chance of winning my 400th post draw

Until the weekend.......................................

Friday, June 06, 2008

400 up and still talking..........

................... to all of you that is :o)

This is my 400th post - where has that time gone, over two years?

I've 'met' lots of lovely people through blogging, built up on-line friendships with people all over the world, gained masses of inspiration both about quilting and life in general, laughed and cried along with lots of you.

Thank you to my blogging friends you've added a whole new dimension to my life.

I'm having a giveaway for this landmark but more about that at the end of the post.

One blogging friend I've been chatting to on line for a while is Karol-Ann up in beautiful Yorkshire. Reading her posts and looking at the gorgeous scenery in her photos makes me often quite homesick about the county of my birth and upbringing.

Lately we've been talking about quilts to signify Yorkshire and I mentioned I'd made one some time ago - it actually turns out to be nine years ago.

So here you go Karol-Ann - this is at your request.

In 1999 the National Quilt Championships were held in Olympia in London. One of the classes was a quilt shaped like a playing card (rectangular but with rounded corners) measuring 24" x 36" and depicting an English county of your choice and it had to have the name of the county on the front somewhere.

As much as I love living here in Somerset, spent 13 wonderful years in Gloucestershire, gave birth to my eldest in Herefordshire and experienced 6 months of French living, Yorkshire will always have a strong hold on my heart.

For those of you slightly less familiar with British geography Yorkshire is the largest county in England with many contrasts. Wild barren moorland in the north to sadly now less concentrated heavy industry in the south. From the numerous pretty little dales in the west to the spectacular coast in the east it is a wide and varied land whose people are intensely proud to be 'Tykes' the colloquial name for Yorkshiremen.

My aim with this quilt was to signify that contrast in two halves separated by the token river running across the centre. (Apologies that the quilt looks somewhat crumpled - it's been in a bag in the bottom of my wardrobe for some time - I really should get round to finding it a home to hang it where it won't get faded)

The top right half of the quilt symbolises the 'moorland jock' sheep which are the only real cash crop for farmers in the rugged uplands on the Pennine chain of hills. This is the part of Yorkshire I grew up in.

I remember the process of getting his facial features just right was a real devil of a job

In the background I've endeavoured to represent the heather moors so gloriously purple in August and September each year

The sheep is peering over my interpretation of a typical dry stone wall of which there are miles and miles across the fells. If I had a pound for each mile of this sort of wall in Yorkshire I would be a rich woman. This lichen on the rock is made with tatted lace using perle embroidery thread

And his wool is actually knitting wool crocheted into a chain and stitched on to embellish him.

The river is made up of several layers - the background is some quilting fabric with a brown stone effect, then I built up lots of layers of slivers of translucent ribbons in watery colours and finally a layer of blue net to hold it all in place

Along the river I've embroidered the names of most of the Yorkshire rivers in a blue sparkly thread - that was an education, scouring the maps to try and include them all - I found many that I'd never even heard of - well I did say it was a big county. The river Wharfe runs through the village I grew up in - Wharfedale is my dale.

At the top of my river I hand appliqued the symbolic white rose of Yorkshire - in hindsight I do wish I'd embroidered black fine lines around each of the constituent pieces so it's easier to discern from a distance but this is how it is and this is how it will stay.

The opposite bottom left half of the quilt signifies the industrial south of the county - the area where I was born and lived until I was 18 months old.

Although I only lived in the mining area of South Yorkshire for a fairly short time my family has extensive connections with the coal mining industry, my father worked down the mine in his early twenties, my maternal grandfather was a miner all his life and on my fathers side we were the only family to my knowledge to have 5 First Class Colliery Manager's tickets in one family - my paternal grandfather, his three brothers and their father (my great grandfather) so you can say that there is most definitely coal in my blood.

Sadly the British coal mining industry declined in the 1980s and 1990s although there are still plenty of reserves under the ground - who knows maybe as fuel prices continue to rise around the world they might have to resort to mining again as it becomes less economically unattractive. Sadly by that time most if not all of the expertise of our mining industry will have retired or died and we will have to learn it all over again.

Anyway enough of our social history - I wanted this half of the quilt to be the complete opposite of the other so picked a sunset background with the silhouette of the colliery winding gear and the ubiquitous slag heaps standing sharply against the orange sky.

The orange also signifies the glow from the iron smelting works which also used to be such a feature of the Sheffield area - sadly most are gone now - heavy industry has very little foothold in the UK's economy any more. That's why I worked the word Yorkshire in silver metallic fabric and embroidered Sheffield Stainless Steel (famous all over the world) on the 'H' in the word.

The shadowed cottages in the foreground are miners houses.

They all have dirty smoke from their chimneys - as a child whenever I returned to this area to visit my grandparents there was always a certain smell about the air - mainly due to the coal fire in each house fuelled with the discounted coal which was part of the colliers wages.

Finally I pieced the back with another cottage but this time from the greener Dales environment - sorry I obviously forgot to turn this photo before I added it.

I travelled to Olympia to see my quilt hung with all the others - it didn't win any prizes although I do believe it was hanging next to another Yorkshire one which was third prize. As I stood anonymously near the quilt admiring my handiwork I overheard a couple of ladies viewing the exhibits and one of them pointed to my quilt saying 'Oh no, that doesn't work at all - why ever have thet used that orange - I don't like that at all' Obviously my subliminal message of contrast was wasted on this particular lady :o)

So there you have it -YORKSHIRE! - it will always secretly be my home, no matter where else life might take me.

Now onto 400 posts - I did promise a giveaway and I think I gave you all a little hint of its summery theme.

I stitched a basket of strawberries some time ago so decided to make them into something for this auspicious occasion

I added some strawberry fabric

And quilted various strawberry treats in the borders

Here we are - the finished object

All you have to do now to have a chance of making this your own is to add a comment to this post by the end of next Friday 13th June and I will select one from the hat - obviously Friday 13th won't be so unlucky for the person whose name is drawn.