Friday, July 24, 2015

An Unexpected Fiber Arts Wall Hanging

This week, I went with my sister and nieces to a community coffee morning event at the village hall.  It happens every week and is a fund raiser.  As we sat with our tea and scones at a round table covered in a pretty cloth, my eye was drawn to this fiber arts wall hanging.  I admit, I was surprised to find something so interesting casually displayed in this tiny rural village hall.  


I should think the piece is about 3 feet by 5 feet and it must contain just about every form of fiber art you can think of.  It is playful and vibrant and I spent ages being entertained by the creativity of each individual square.  I can imagine the love, care and smiles that went into each one!  I love the knitted title.  








The morning took another unexpected turn when someone set up a table selling homemade bread.  We bought this gorgeous loaf of pesto and stinging nettle bread.  We ate it for dinner with baked camembert and a glass of red wine.  It was delicious, with pesto swirled through the loaf and specks of green leaves.  I'm not sure if the pesto was made with stinging nettles or whether the nettles were mixed in separately, whatever, it was good.  






Sunday, July 19, 2015

Curry, Sewing And A Trip Down Memory Lane

I really should be going to sleep as it is late and I have to be up at 4am tomorrow but I wanted to write first.  I am currently in the Midlands with my sister.  My husband and I lived in this area when we were first married, 27 years ago and I have to admit it was a bit of an odd feeling driving through the pretty villages and seeing signs to familiar villages and towns.  I've spent most of this weekend at a water sports lake watching my sister, her partner and one of my nephews wake board.  


I had a great time out on the boat, generally getting in everyone's way and trying not to get too wet!  I love going fast!  I refused the gentle pressure to don a wet suit and have a go.  Excuse me, I'm from California, it is not warm enough here for me to remove clothing and get wet!  It was pretty awesome watching my 15year old nephew doing tricks on his board though.  And he did them with the biggest grin you ever saw permanently fixed on his face.  


When I wasn't on the boat, I was sitting on the shore trying to keep out of the cold wind and do some sewing.  The wind made it a challenge.  I had to weigh things down to stop them blowing away.  I've been working on some Union Jack pincushions as I know I have an order for some coming up when I get home.  I also finished some Happy Hedgehog pincushion tops and am currently working on some more Clock Face pincushions.  Appropriately, when we were driving home late on Friday night after a really wonderful curry dinner in a neighboring town, we stopped the car to watch a little hedgehog scurry across the road!  


I'm holding tight to these to stop them blowing away!



Good curry is something I miss in California.  I make curry sometimes but I've never found anywhere good to eat out.  This part of the Midlands has always had a large Indian population and lots of great restaurants.  I used to teach in an inner city school in the city of Leicester and my class was made up of predominantly Hindu and Muslim students.  The mothers of these students would often bring in food for me to try and one time brought a sari in to dress me in!  Tomorrow morning it is back to my sister's house, leaving here at 4.30am....I'm going to need some tea!









 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tea, Flowers And A Quick Walk At The Beach

One of the things I love about being in England is being able to get a good cup of tea pretty much anywhere you go.  At home in California, when I ask for tea with "truly, just a splash of milk", I generally end up with a disgusting cup of tea scented milk and have to ask for them to remake my drink.  There is one Starbucks I go to, where the Barista knows how I like it, but she only gets it because she has a family member who lives in England!  But here in England, no explanations are necessary.  If I ask for milk in my tea, it either comes in a cute little jug for me to add or is added by the Barista who instinctively knows the right amount - brilliant.  

Also, everywhere you go there are tea shops, cafes and coffee shops that serve good tea and coffee.  They are in galleries, museums, side streets, department stores, cathedrals and castles, on street corners and railway stations.  If you visit a historic site you can almost guarantee there will be a nice little cafe with great tea, coffee and homemade snacks - think delicious cakes and scones, soups and salads.  Why the U.S. can't get it's head round this idea and do the same is beyond me.  It seems so obvious.  

So the other day it was raining (again) and I headed out with my in-laws to the local Garden Center, not for plants, but for coffee, or tea in my case.  




Can you tell I'm drawn to bright colors?!





After enjoying a great cup of tea, we dodged the rain showers and went for a quick walk by the sea.  This is where I grew up.  I played tennis on the beach, swam and body boarded here.  I spent Charles and Diana's wedding day on this beach because I was a teen and sick of all the fuss!  The beach is perfect for kids, it's very shallow and the water is safe.  It looks lovely when the sun shines and is beautiful in winter storms when the wind and high tide drive the waves over the protective seawall. 

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for a nice cup of tea...... 






Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Silk Painting

I wish I could say this is a project I've been working on but it isn't!  My sister in law makes beautiful lamp work beads and these gorgeous handprinted silk scarves.  I love spending time with her but with me in California and her here in England, it doesn't happen as often as I'd like.  You can find her blog here.  This week I watched her paint these two lovely nature inspired scarves in her conservatory, surrounded by swathes of flowers in the garden and watched by her large black cat.  These butterflies are swallowtails found in Norfolk where she had just been on vacation.  



The butterflies are outlined with a transparent resist called gutta. This prevents the fabric paints from bleeding.  There is still sometimes a little feathering but it is part of the process and look.  Painting the silk is much like watercolor painting.  There is a lot of water used.  The paints dry into softer shades than when wet. 





Ruth sells her scarves and jewelry through local boutiques and galleries.  









Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cambridge, England

I spent last weekend in the historic town of Cambridge.  My daughter is studying art for a few weeks at one of the colleges and I went to visit her on Sunday, her only day without classes!  She is having an awesome time and learning so much.  I am pretty envious.  When I was trying to find somewhere to stay in Cambridge while we were still home in California, I discovered that you can stay at the actual colleges!  So I got to stay in a tiny dorm room with an even tinier bathroom BUT I was in a college that dated from the 1400's with a view of old softly colored stone buildings and a beautiful little garden.  It was perfect.  


This was part of the view from my window with Charles Darwin perched on that bench!  I wish I could say I was staying actually in that old building but sadly my dorm room was in the new block behind it!  


I spent Sunday wandering around this beautiful city with my daughter, going into churches, museums and little shops.  We ate street food and homemade nutella ice-cream.  It was precious time together.

This is the rather lovely entrance to Christ's College where I stayed.  The college I studied at in Cheltenham also had an entrance like this although maybe not quite so grand so it brought back some memories!





Below is the college my daughter has the privilege of staying in for a few weeks.




A city view from the top of a church tower.  





Saturday, July 11, 2015

Three Days In Scotland - A Picture Post

I have spent the last few days in Scotland and it has been lovely.  My memories of previous trips have been mainly of grey, wet weather but this trip was mostly dry with only a few grey moments.  We even saw the sun!  I was in the Border country where the countryside is gentle and green.  It was beautiful everywhere I looked.....this, for example, was the view from my bedroom window, the evening I arrived.  


One of the perks of being on vacation is being brought a cup of tea in bed in the mornings!  In Scotland, even in the Borders, it is light till late at night, not properly dark till about 11pm and then light again by about 4am!


We had one rainy morning but it was showery and we went out anyway, to this Abbey where Walter Scott is buried.  The Abbey dates from the 1100's!  It is very quiet and evocative.  I loved exploring it.



This grumpy angel caught my eye!  I had to wonder about the person who carved it.





Later that same day the sun came out and we visited this fortified tower.  We were able to climb a rather alarming stone spiral staircase to the ramparts for an amazing view.  I was totally able to imagine a family living there, protected from the marauding English.  



The next day, the weather was forecast to be best on the coast so we drove and then did a stunning coastal hike.  It was exciting for me to see sea birds I am unfamiliar with.  We even saw a kestrel nest on the sheer cliff face, two of the chicks were still hanging out near the nest and the mother kestrel was flying around presumably looking for the next meal.   She was totally freaking out the gulls that had chicks of their own to protect.



It was a good hike and I definitely earned this delicious ice-cream.  Never had honey ice-cream?...... you should!


We sat eating our ice-cream looking out at the little harbor.  The slope with the rails is where the lifeboat launches when needed.



On my final day in Scotland, I got to visit Edinburgh.  Wow, what a beautiful city.  My sister in  law and I started at the bottom of the hill in an area of lovely, tiny shops and worked our way up to the imposing castle.  


This shop selling Scottish Hog Roast, smelled incredible!


As did this little gem, selling flavored gins, vodkas, oils and vinegars.  I regret not getting a tiny bottle of fruit infused gin(I love sloe gin!).  


Here is another awesome smelling shop!  



We ended our morning with a visit to the National Gallery of Scotland where there is an impressive collection of Scottish art.  Sadly it is housed in the basement of the gallery where the lighting is less than wonderful and it feels a bit tucked away.  I felt that the collection deserved better.  This was my absolute favorite painting and she's sewing!