Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Another conversion!

Can't you just tell that my visitors have gone home - two posts in one day.

And the title may have led you to suspect that there would be some mention of rugby - not this time!

9 year old Louise got out the Playmobil to sit and play quietly this afternoon, it's probably the first time in almost four weeks she's had time and space to just play with no-one nagging her to tidy up and put it away (yes the grandparents are guilty of that too)

In and amongst the box of toys she found a little old red flowery 'sleeping bag' I'd made for her elder sister's Duplo people, probably at least 12 years ago

She dragged out a piece of fabric from the melee that is my sewing area and asked if she could make some more for the Playmobil people. I said ok and just left her to get on with it in a different room - no pattern - no help - no parental interference

Just look what I found a while later - a real convert - I'll have her piecing and quilting yet! :o)

Silence is golden!!!

Yippee!!! We finally have the house to ourselves!

It's always lovely to have visitors to stay but isn't it delicious to have the house back to yourselves when they leave? With no break between visitors for almost four weeks I do feel like we've not had any space at all for a considerable proportion of the summer break - a situation we won't repeat again another year :o)

After Nigel's pep talk with my niece the atmosphere in the house has been far more convivial - this has also been helped by the fact that she has had the opportunity to spend two days out with her very new (and first serious) boyfriend who lives just under an hour from here near Bristol (the two days were dates 2 and 3 in the relationship). As my sisters brood live a good 250 - 300 miles from us this will be a long distance relationship (and I think the first proper boy/girlfriend for both of them who at 19 and 20 are both young for their age and pretty naive it seems). Still they've had two lovely days together and he's going up there to stay this weekend, she will go down to him a couple of weekends later - young love eh? after all what's a couple of hundred miles when you're in love.

Whatever - at least it's contributed to making her a lot easier to live with this weekend and hopefully she will be a little less judgemental about her parents' situation if she has something of her own to think about once all four are back together at home.

Because she was out for two of the days my sister and I have had the chance to have some really useful heart to hearts about her intolerable situation at home - always much easier in person than on the telephone - you can't hug and offer a real shoulder to cry on down the phone can you?

It will be very difficult for her going back up there today but there is light at the end of a very dark and uncomfortable tunnel and being able to spend this precious time together has helped her to put the situation more clearly into perspective I think. I'll keep hanging on in there for her and pray for a speedy conclusion to the situation.

I've put in a couple of pictures of sampler quilts from our show - the non Japanese one was the very first effort by a real novice and she's made a lovely job of it.

The other pictures are from the best day of our holiday which we spent on the beach at Bigbury on Sea.

The day was glorious, we'd gone well prepared with all the necessary paraphernalia and most importantly Grandad was in good humour. The kids even managed to get him up out of his chair to play boules (a minor miracle in itself)

Just off the bay at Bigbury is a small private island called Burgh Island. It's not a true island as it's only cut off at high tide - low tide gives pedestrian and landrover access across the sand.

The island has a beautiful and grossly expensive hotel which was built in the 1920/30's. It can boast people like Agatha Christie and Noel Coward along with other notables of pre-WW2 on its early guest list. However it fell into disrepair during the 70s.

Then someone came along , bought it and restored it to it's former Art Deco 'ocean liner' style glory. You can check it out on It's clearly visible in the background on the picture of the Bebbington clan trying out sea canoeing. Someday when we win the lottery Nigel and I will treat ourselves to a luxury second honeymoon break there without the children :o) Either that or if we rob a bank somewhere.

As access is limited some highly inventive person came up with a 'tractor on stilts' which you can see behind the 'boules players'. This transports hotel visitors across to the hotel and also any member of the general public who wishes to can also pay a fee of £3 to undertake a ride across to the island on it just for the experience. Access to the most of the island is strictly for hotel guests but there is a small pub called 'The Pilchard' on the island to refresh you before the return tractor journey or the short stroll back across the sands.

We had visited this beach one evening on a previous holiday some years ago when we met up for the day with friends who knew the area. We have always meant to return and we're really glad we made the effort to spend this day there as it was an idyllic location in a lovely area that we shall probably return to next year for our holidays in our trailer tent (definitely without additional persons in the party this time though)

Well it's now Wednesday and we only have 5 days of the holiday left including today - just about all the preparations for the new school year have been made, new lunch boxes bought, name tapes stitched into all new items of school uniform etc etc. I just have to work out what I shall wear to start in my new job - a challenging situation as I've slobbed out the whole holidays in trackie bottoms and casual clothes and I'm sure my ever increasing girth may not fit into my 'last term' work clothes.

I suppose I should investigate and address this challenge before Sunday night as we don't really need a last minute panic situation do we? :o(

I'm starting to get a little nervous about starting work on Monday - I know it will all be okay but it is always daunting being the new girl.

As for my Ostrich it is the last day of August tomorrow - this month's challenge was squares which true to form I haven't started yet so I need to do a bit of rapid piecing of some nine patches to at least look like I've put some effort into it - the whole round will probably not be completed before Friday as I keep working merrily away at the applique which is bringing together the 'sow's ears' of bits and bobs of June and July's stars and quarter square triangles into hopefully a beautiful 'silk purse'

I do have a sort of master plan which is gradually evolving but it's just a time thing really - it will all come together in the end.

The kids are happily chilling out in front of some DVD's - happy to have their own space back, although they have really enjoyed seeing their cousins so I could get on with some stitching amongst it all. Once I've got something credible to show I will post a picture for you all to see :o)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This is still the 'Hotel Bebbs'

Well last night there was definitely no room at the inn at the Bebbs household.

The ageing parents were here for their last night overlapping with my only sister and her two teenage kids - there were bodies everywhere!

Still the wrinklies (bless 'em) departed at 6.30am today (waking us up to say goodbye!!! grrrrrr!) and the house isn't quite up to full capacity again - phew!

My sister and her husband are going through a particularly vitriolic marital break-up at present. Unfortunately until their joint home is sold the whole family of four are under the same roof - Mum, Dad, DD aged almost 19 and DS aged 16. Dad is doing his level best to poison both children (well they still act like big kids!) against their mother at every opportunity. DD is convinced she is an adult and should be able to input into every conversation, discussion and argument. Doesn't make for a pleasant living environment for any of them.

My DH has already had to gently but firmly lay down some ground rules to my niece about continuing such communication down here while they stay until Wednesday.

He can be a very blunt person and I've probably said before he doesn't mince any words he might sparingly add to any conversation. However I'm so proud of him as all his previous experience with teenagers as a Venture Scout Leader came into play and he has poured copious quantities of oil on the troubled waters which should make the rest of their stay a deal more harmonious while still managing to get the message across. UN Blue Cap of the Week Award to Nigel :o)

As a result we had a very pleasant day today going for a walk on the top of the Quantock Hills near our home where we chanced upon a small group of Exmoor ponies (sorry didn't have the camera with me but they scored highly on the 'aaaagh factor' scale). This made my sister and my niece's day as they are both great horse lovers.

We followed this up with a delicious cream tea at a wildlife sanctuary even nearer to home - mmmmmmmmmmm - this will not help with the waistline reduction!

Someone commented on my last post about the start of the rugby season. I've put up a picture of DD1 tackling a member of the opposition at a 7's tournament she took part in before the summer break - let me tell you I wouldn't mess with her!

Her club training restarted back at the beginning of August but they have their first match, a friendly (is there such a thing?) against a neighbouring team next Sunday - she is so excited she can hardly contain herself - bless. Still at least we won't have to unearth the spectators' thermal underwear yet as the weather is still pretty mild here.

The two quilts are from our show - the 'Japanese' style sampler was made by our eldest member Cicely who I mentioned before and the twisted log cabin by the same lady who stitched the peacock - this one was one of the pieces for her City and Guilds which she passed (unsurprisingly) with flying colours.

Well after doing all that cooking this week - bolognaise sauce, chicken and vegetable casserole, chilli con carne, shepherds pie base and pork in honey and mustard sauce - my freezer looks considerably healthier for the up and coming term.

Someone else asked about English school terms. There are the odd geographical exception but as a rule our school year tends to run this way:

The children go back after the summer break at the very beginning of September. Usually the first session lasts up to the week that spans the end of October/beginning of November, around 7 or 8 weeks. The children then usually have between one and two weeks and go back to school for the pre-Christmas session finishing for Christmas sometime around the 21 - 23 December.

They then start back pretty soon after the New Year, say the 3rd or 4th of January and go up to a weeks holiday around the third week in February.

The fourth session goes up to a two week break around the Easter weekend.

After that the kids have a weeks holiday including our English 'Spring Bank' bank holiday which is always the last Monday in May.

The final session lasts from the very beginning of June up to around the 21-23rd July where the kids then break up for their 6 week (ish) summer holiday to start all over again in the next year up in September again.

As the actual dates are set by each Local Education Authority the dates are seldom exactly the same in every town and county - sometimes individual schools in one neighbourhood can vary slightly on dates as each school must also schedule 5 teacher training days per year where only the staff attend and these are totally at the discretion of the individual school. Hence you may have three children in three separate schools who could often have different training days - a nightmare for working parents!

Our kids also go to school Monday to Friday - not like when we were in France and they had Wednesdays off but had to attend three out of four Saturday mornings - no Saturday mornings in the UK unless you attend a private school. The English school day is usually from around 8.45/9.00 until around 3.15/3.30 but again this varies slightly per establishment

Children also start full time school the September after their 4th birthday and must attend full-time education until the summer term of the school year they are 16 (the youngest in the school year may leave when they are still just 15) - however they can go on 'til they are 18 for further qualifications (A levels)

Probably quite different from the US, Europe and Australia/NZ but it seems to work for us even if it's nowhere near perfect. As you can imagine with the kids off for those holidays getting a term time job for a mum is akin to striking gold as not having to find childcare in the holidays is a godsend.

The two youngest and I will return a week tomorrow, DD1 goes back on the Tuesday (teacher training day) and so that'll be it until the end of October!

Better get some serious stitching in on my Ostrich this week then :o)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Nicely back home again

Well we've been back from Devon for almost a week now - my parents are still with us but considerably better behaved as my father and I crossed swords on Tuesday evening as he was being particularly pathetic and I lost the plot!

Not in any major way, you understand, but enough to give him a little wake up call and they've both been much better since.

Of course being back in our home with sufficient space to accommodate everyone has helped.

It is my Mum's 67th birthday today and I was desperately trying to avoid him taking the snap decision of storming off home in the car before the day itself. He has past form for this - they missed the joint baptism of our two youngest because he had a strop on the night before and he stormed off home with my mother in his wake - she goes along with him for a quiet life! Wouldn't do for me but they've been married over 48 years so it obviously works for them much to the dismay of us their children at times.

Sufficient to say we managed to keep everyone here together in reasonable harmony and she's really enjoying her birthday with some of her family round her (a rare occasion these days as we're all so far flung). Once they've gone home on Sunday I can take off my pale blue UN hat and stop playing Butras Butras Gali for a little while!!!

The pictures I've posted today are a mix of holiday photos and quilt show ones

Plymouth is the major port in Devon. There is a huge naval dockyard where lots of Her Majesties vessels from the Royal Navy come in for repair and refit. Sadly with recent defence cuts it is nowhere near as large a dockyard or is as big an employer as it was say 30 or 40 years ago but it is still one of our key naval dockyards.

Because of this during WW2 Plymouth was bombed by the German Luftwaffe to within an inch of its life and sadly has been rebuilt during the 40s and 50s in the 'quick-fix' concrete jungle regeneration that we as a nation had to undertake to get places like it up on its feet in record time. If you visit any of the German cities that the RAF bombed you will see that the Germans have rebuilt their old buildings almost exactly as they were - sadly we weren't that far sighted - shame!

Plymouth is based at the mouth of the river Tamar and the delta is made up of lots of little inlets off the bay a bit like fingers on a hand. One very small area on these inlets called The Barbican was spared from the bombing and is still preserved with little thin streets and some medieval buildings.

Strangely in this area are the steps that the people climbed down to board the Mayflower to come to the New World in (I think) 1603 - sorry if my memory for dates doesn't serve me correctly

The photos show the stone gateway and the plaque at the top of the steps which mark this auspicious occasion in history. I got Nigel to take the photo specially for all you girls on that side of the pond :o) I'm not over fond of sea travel and boats in general and I can't begin to imagine how much courage and fortitude must have been shown by those initial Pilgrim Fathers setting out on an unknown voyage half way across the world to a new land. Of course many many others of all creeds and colours made subsequent journeys probably all as daunting, some not of their own choosing. But this was the start of the whole process all those years ago.

The quilt photo shows another of our show quilts - a sampler quilt in burgundy, cream and a lovely honey/toffee colour. I wouldn't have automatically put those colours together but seeing them there I really love them. My favourite block is second one down on the far left - a Carol Doak paper pieced star which enthralled me each time I looked at it (so much so that the quiltmaker lent me the book it came from). This quilt was immediately opposite the pay desk where I sat for most of the show so I had lots of opportunity to peruse it at my leisure - a real luxury.

I've spent this week since we've been home doing lots of big 'cook-ins' to fill the freezer with multiple family sized portions of chilli, bolognaise sauce and various casseroles so I don't have to cook from scratch each day when I get home during term time. I try to do this and squirrel enough away each half term holiday to last the next 6 to 8 weeks of the subsequent school term. It works well and means I usually have at least 3 or 4 meals a week I just have to take out and defrost and add accompaniments to. A godsend in a busy world playing taxi-driver and social secretary to the three kids!

The children and I return to school a week on Monday - that's the start of my new job.

I have to say with all that has happened with the holiday and everything I feel like I've not had the proper rest I needed, but never mind - onwards and upwards - once we get back it'll only be 7 or 8 weeks until half term again and Nigel will be off work for that so maybe we can all get the R and R in then! :o)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Back into circulation again

Well I feel like you must all think I've disappeared off the face of the earth

Sorry everyone - I haven't forgotten you all, life has just been so hectic that blogging has had to take a bit of a back seat - but hey! I'm back again so prepare to have the pants bored back off you all again :o)

The past two to three weeks have been a real mixed bag - phew!

Our holiday in beautiful Devon was very mixed - the cottage was not good! I'll go no further on that one, sufficient to say that two tired parents in desperate need of a holiday, three lively children and two very intolerant grandparents used to their own space, all cooped up together in a small room about 16' x 13' for seating, cooking, eating and playing doesn't really work for harmonious living for a week

The holiday had lots of plus points too - Devon is a gorgeous county - put it on your itinerary if you ever come to the UK

The weather was mixed but never so cold or wet to stop us doing something (thank goodness, because a cold damp day in that room would have added further tensions to an already very strained situation) and we did manage one very hot day on the beach where the three kids tried their hand at sea kayaking for the first time, much to Daddy's delight!

Big PLUS point - found a craft exhibition with some quilting included - the quilt above was my favourite (sorry about the picture quality but it was in front of a window and the camera is still being temperamental) The exhibition was so varied and extensive that all seven of us got something out of it - even if the three boys did retire to the pub opposite for the latter part of the afternoon as we spent the best part of four hours there

We had good days and not so good days - my father at 76 has the maturity of a five year old a lot of the time and gets very jealous when my mum spends time with the grandchildren - he does attention seeking with knobs on and is prone to storming off to bed in a huff if things don't suit him (hence the five year old label!!!) - so things were often strained but on some days when he managed to get over that we had a lovely time

However I must say it'll definitely be THE last time we ever go on holiday with them - their generous offer to pay for the accommodation was repaid in time, energy and patience a hundredfold and we both feel like we need another holiday to get over it

Enough said on that front now - I'm going to get off my soapbox and stop whining - you don't need to hear any more but thanks for listening and letting me get some of it off my chest

Other parts of the holiday were lovely - the other photo shows the girls in the family dressed in Victorian clothes (the boys were too chicken!) when we visited a reconstruction site of a Victorian village built up around a tin mine - we could step back in time and see how people lived and worked around 150 years ago.

It very much reminded me of a place I visited in Indiana when I was over 15 years ago - Connor Prairie, if any of you are familiar with it

The picture, if nothing else has made me realise it's time to do something about the double chins that have miraculously developed since we moved here almost a year ago - groan!!!!!!!!!!!!

I haven't forgotten about our quilt show photos and will start posting them over the next few days - plus probably some more Devon photos to whet your appetite a little more

Good to be back!

Friday, August 11, 2006

These were two of the quilts from our show - oddly enough they are both by the same quilter who is very proficient.

The scrap quilt is very reminiscent of something you might find on Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville site - it was just behind the entry desk and everyone commented on how 'sunny' it was.

The peacock was called 'What a Show-off!' and rightly so (everyone had a chuckle at that label) - the applique was exquisite and the machine quilted stippling on the background was pretty good too

I'll try and get back with some more photos before I head off to Devon for a week tomorrow

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stopping to draw breath

I've just managed to find five minutes to look back in at my own blog and realise I've not posted since last Friday - what a whirlwind few days it's been ......phew!

Friday afternoon saw us erecting the show - four solid hours, not helped by the fact that the lady who was supposed to be in charge decided (bit of a misnomer there) that decisions weren't her thing! Don't you just love people like that. This coupled with the fact that no-one else would do so either in case they trod on someone else's toes meant that eventually my patience ran out and I just had to very diplomatically take the bull by the horns and start getting the show on the road.

Never mind with plenty of willing onlookers and the extremely capable hands of my eldest DD up and down the stepladders we finally got all the quilts hung by 6pm and the sales table and refreshments sorted for the next morning

Two solid days with about 150 visitors in total gave us the final wonderful sum of over £450 (over $800) to pass onto the charity we were supporting (the new Radiotherapy unit at our local hospital)

I can certainly vouch for the fact that, on the Sunday evening, those quilts came down a whole lot faster than they went up!

The picture is the finished collection of streamers all gathered together looking rather lovely, which reminds me I didn't take that particular exhibit down so am unsure where my contribution ended up on Sunday night (mental note to chase that up when we all get back together again in September)

My parents joined us Sunday afternoon and as DH is off work this week we've been out and about each day - we're all heading off to Devon for a week this coming Saturday so my postings may be a bit haphazard up to the end of the month as we have the oldies here til 27th and my sister and her two teenage children will pass them in the doorway to stay up to the 30th - the beds will hardly have chance to get cold!

Then believe it or not we will then have only a few days until we're all back at school on the 4th September (me in my new job) and that's the summer break over for another year - where has the time gone to?

I'll endeavour to put up a few more of the show quilts before the weekend - a good proportion of them were mine that you've seen before but there are some other lovelies in there for you to enjoy.

Friday, August 04, 2006

What a porky!

Cicely, the lady who founded the quilting group I go to when work allows, is 93 years old and has forgotten more about patchwork and quilting than I'll ever know. I was astounded when someone told me how old she actually is as she doesn't look a day over 73!

Anyway the title of this post refers to the fact that I did tell a bit of a fib in the last post - I did actually do something interesting in and amongst stitching all those sleeves this week.

Back in the winter time, before I missed a lot of the group meetings through working, Cicely set everyone off each making a long wallhanging of 6 or 7 different 6" blocks all worked in creams and white

I dutifully started with a single little block where I just appliqued lots of different ribbons on the diagonal and embroidered between them all in whites and creams.

I then lost this in the depths of the sewing room and forgot all about it

Then when I went to quilting on Monday the memory of my promise to contribute came flooding back to me in a minor panic.

So on my return home I excavated the depths of the sewing room and rediscovered the said block

A very rapid five more extremely simple blocks to go with it flew off the end of the needle over the Moday afternoon and the Tuesday and I handquilted them very simply and not at all competently in order to bind the whole thing on the Wednesday morning - PHEW!!!

The cream photo shows my effort - not that good on the quilting front - but passable, with blocks from the top.....
Nine Patch, Free pieced Log Cabin (a la Tonya), Appliqued 'Heart' Butterflies, The aforementioned Ribbon and Embroidery block, Appliqued hexagon flower and finally a Simple Star whose title escapes me (if I ever knew it, which is doubtful)

This will be hung on a single pole alongside the efforts of all the other people in the group who have completed their contribution to make a group wall hanging for the show

The colour photo shows a similar group project displayed at Quilts UK in 2005 by a quilting group called Selsey Quilters who I believe are based on the south coast of England - apologies if I'm mistaken on that one.

We will be hanging all the quilts this afternoon so I will endeavour to get a snapshot of my hanging along with all its mates in situ

Then I think I shall be pretty quiet over the next few days as I will be tied up at the show for the entire weekend - but if the camera behaves I will try to get lots of pics to show you all - Have a good one everyone!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Finally - Flightless Beauty where she belongs

I've had a pretty boring week this week stitching wise, fastening sleeves on the top of a large assortment of old quilts ready for the grand hanging tomorrow afternoon for the show on Saturday and Sunday - dysmal but necessary jobs - well at least if I want any of them to actually be hung. The moral of this part of the post is, even if your quilt is only ever destined to lay flat on a bed, do attach a hanging sleeve (in the same fabric as your batting if you want it to not be too obtrusive) as you put on the binding and complete the quilt - then if you have to use the quilt to fill a space in a quilt show anywhere you're saved the boring task of putting it on at a later date like I've been doing all week.

Finally - after being thwarted at every turn, firstly by the camera then by blogger who wouldn't play ball, here she is - Flightless Beauty, where she belongs, on our bed :o)

I'm delighted with how she looks and the fit on the bed etc etc etc.

A few days ago when I tried to take this picture the previous time I left her on the bed hoping the camera would miraculously cure itself later in the day. Needless to say it didn't so the quilt was still on the bed when DH and I came to settling down for the night at bedtime.

As the weather here has been pretty warm she's more than a little hot to sleep under so I got him to help me fold her up commenting to him how pleased I was with the end result.

I've probably told you before that he is a man of few words particularly in the complements department

His response was ...............

Oh is this for our bed then? It's very nice, really matches the colours in the bedding.

I despair, I truly do - he watched me stitch it virtually through the whole of last year, I commented at regular intervals how pleased I was and didn't it look nice and won't it go with the bedding, and then much to his disgust I've spent the best part of the last month working on it quilting and finishing it while he's moaned about - and I quote - 'That Bloody Quilt!' etc etc etc........and it still hadn't actually registered that it was indeed for our bed

Which planet are these men on?!?!?

Dinky little dolly quilts

Well I've managed to get the camera back working again - sort of - with a new battery at the princely cost of £13 (about $25) from a site on the internet. The self same battery would have been £39 at our local high street photography shop. As much as I like to patronise high street traders I'm afraid the £26 I saved is better in my pocket than theirs!

I should get a picture of Flightless Beauty sorted out this afternoon all being well.

When we lived in France during the winter of 2001/2002 DD2 was the first member of the family to have a birthday out there in the February. She became the ripe old age of 5 :o)

When asked what she would like for her birthday she requested a double buggy type push chair ( stroller ) for her dollies.

DH and I hunted high and low for such an object in France to no avail and in the end as we knew my sister was coming over to visit a couple of weeks after the said birthday we resorted to getting her to purchase one in the UK and bring it over with her.

I had wanted to make a couple of little quilts for this buggy and my sister gave me an indication of the colour scheme of the fabric on the said item

You girls on the August 'no fabric buying ' programme would have been proud of me, especially as my stash was nowhere near as well developed as it is now.

I was given the colour criteria of navy blue with orange and lime green (wince!)

So I went on a stash excavation and came up with the fabrics in the two mini quilts you see above.

They each measure only 16" by 22". I made the fence rail one first and then got bored (plus the spectre of a tight time schedule was hovering over my shoulder as I could only work on them when the kids were out of the house at school or in bed)

So I opted for a very speedy strippy for the second

FMQ in specific areas finished off with 'Happy 5th Birthday Louise' stitch/written along the top of each and then I pulled the backing to the front to make the binding.

She was delighted with them and her dolls still get covered up by them to this day