Adventures

Catching up … March 2020

It is surprising how many foods contain milk! – sometimes I really miss eating foods I used to enjoy, so when I found a recipe for vanilla cream biscuits I thought I would give them a try on Monday. Not quite the same as custard creams but a wonderful treat all the same – they lasted until Friday!

What I am reading

from Good Reads website
Gripping thriller – which lives up to its name.

As the library is closed I downloaded the e’reader / audio app from the local library which has been incredibly successful. I think because you aren’t paying out for a book I feel more able to take risks – and this one paid off.

The Memory by Lucy Dawson

I look down at her, lying fast asleep – always my little girl, and so beautiful. She gives a low moan as her head turns restlessly on the pillow. It reminds me of the soft growl of a cornered animal. Where is my poor child? What is she dreaming?People always notice my daughter, Isobel. How could they not? Incredibly beautiful… until she speaks.
An unsettling, little-girl voice, exactly like a child’s, but from the mouth of a full-grown woman.Izzie might look grown-up, but inside she’s trapped. Caught in the day it happened – the day that broke her from within.
I know why my daughter is the way she is. There’s nothing I could have done to save her… is there?An unputdownable psychological thriller about families and secrets,

(from Good Reads)

I have to admit I did find it a little odd to begin with but the story does slowly build to a conclusion I have to admit I did not see coming. There is an air of mystery and strangeness about the house – things happen that give the impression of it being haunted, but it also seems very down to earth with the main character giving reasonable explanations for the so called ‘psychic’ goings on. This book kept me interested right to the very end. What was absolutely satisfying is how neatly all the loose ends came together.

I revamped my cane chairs in the studio – trying to use up my stash of fabrics – it was easier second time round but I am very pleased with the results. Can you believe I bought these two at the tip for £3 each over 10 years ago! they are delightfully comfortable! I might give the cane some Danish oil but they are holding up well.

Barney and his new toy

My lovely Staffie, Barney had a new monkey which lasted 20 minutes (quite a record some only last a few minutes!)

Embroidered Hexies

I stitched this piece while we were away on holiday a couple of weeks back – it was simply a sampler to stitch in the quiet moments – little did we realise the second day we arrived everything would close down! I was so glad I had taken some stitching with me! I have spent this week stitching a design around the hexies in the blank spaces. I really love the way this has developed, I used a marker pen to outline the shapes and then stitched the centres with what ever took my fancy. It was so relaxing – just what we need right now.

A fresh paint for our boot storage box

We found this on Facebook market place – it is a bench made from old pews of a church, the ends actually hold umbrellas! It was quite a yellow pine colour so E painted it this lovely colour called seagrass. I know the trend for painted furniture is past, but I have always loved this style and won’t abandon it to the metal and rustic current trend, I want comfort and fabric. I thought I might add a little vintage French art as small accents as the arch is crying out for something!

Holiday Reading

There was a small bookshelf in the holiday Cottage – I could not resist reaching for this little novel about quilting! It was an easy lighthearted read – (don’t we need that right now?) but I found the story fascinating. A young woman goes to help out an older lady with housework and learns to quilt. Their friendship develops over the needle and thread – you learn more about the old lady’s life. It was lovely learning about the various blocks – what they were called and what the tradition was around them. The writer is a quilter and you can actually look up the quilt described in the book.

Holiday in Hereford

Our little holiday cottage was a cosy place to stay in during the unfolding health crisis, thankfully we got home before the shut down was announced. We spent peaceful happy days by the log burner, either stitching or reading. I am so glad we managed to have a holiday as work has been busier than ever since we came home, that rest has seen me in good stead!

keep safe and well x

recipes

Oat Milk recipe

Here in the UK we have been asked not to go shopping more than once a week, which is understandable given the incredible circumstances that we face regarding the corona virus. People like to be prepared, I understand that but the hoarding has meant that some items with a long shelf life are in short supply, this includes Oat milk.

Shops limit the purchase of Oat Milk to only two 1 ltr cartons, which for someone like me with a milk allergy, (yes an allergy not a health choice) unfairly discriminated against. There is no limit on Milk, you can buy 6 pint cartons as many as you like, but oat milk is limited and this has been restricted on the tills.

Hence the decision to make my own – it is pretty easy to make! I like mine creamy, so I add ground almonds but you can leave that out. Simply take one cup of oats with 1/4 cup of ground almonds and leave to soak in water overnight.

In the morning, drain the oat mixture and then add approximately 1 pint, (500ml) of water. Our tap water is drinkable – safe from bugs and disease in this country. You can use mineral water if you wish.

Whizz or blend the oats and the water together and then allow to drain through a nut bag. I decant it into a bottle (passata bottles are great!) which keeps it cold.


This pandemic is worrying, but it has made me appreciate how amazing it is to live in a country where food is plentiful, our homes are warm. It also allows us to think more creatively about meeting our needs.

keep safe and well.

x

Nut bags can be purchased on Amazon

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Stitch Meditation Practise

Respect your body

I don’t know about you, but I find traditional meditation and mindfulness nigh on impossible, so it was a wonderful revelation to discover stitch meditations.

What I am enjoying most about this is it allows for experimentation – what is important is the process of creation – the stitching itself. It really does calm the mind and because the concept is that you are only creating a small embroidery really just as a meditative practice there is no sense of having to make something out of it. Instead, Liz suggests that you simply allow the stitching to flow in whatever direction feels good.

Embroidery in progress

I have always enjoyed quotations so I decided to include these in my meditations – this is one I took away with me on Holiday recently, as you can see I began with a very rough outline of a couple of pink chalk circles on the left hand side. The picture above was the result after one evening’s stitching – experimenting in this way, I was combining practising my French Knots (a very new skill) and the different effect that you could find by using varying thicknesses of thread. Those simple ovals – lifted up from the background because of the thick cotton Perle – in the centre, but I worked a thinner flat floss around the edges to create anchor the flower onto the canvass. The stems were created using lovely chain stitch, and fern stitch worked well to create feather like leaves.

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The second evening I decided to fill in the circles – but what I intended to do did not quite work so I ended up doing a long and short stitch in two colours – topped off with yet more lovely French knots. This process is amazing, because when I looked at what had evolved it was so much nicer than my original idea!

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The quotation was really apt for me, I really needed to rest and when you work from home it is hard to relax so spending time away was perfect. We were staying in a National Trust cottage in Devon – rather than going to various locations – we decided to spend our days, enjoying walks in the beautiful gardens and surrounding woodland and rolling hills of the Tamar Valley. The rest of the time we enjoyed quiet afternoons with the log burner crackling away, while E read and I stitched away merrily. One afternoon I discovered a TV channel called Talking Pictures that was showing a 1940s version of Rebecca! complete bliss!

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By the end of the week, the stitch meditation was complete –  I felt completely restored by the rest and we said goodbye to the cottage taking fond memories of a wonderfully relaxing time.

Let life flow

I am still doing these stitch meditations at home and I am finding it has really helped to ease work related stress.

If you would like to know more about this practise there is a wonderful group on Facebook, just look up the words ‘stitch meditations’ and it will take you there.  You can see all the other wonderful pieces of work done by ladies from all over the world, USA, Canada, Australia and Europe.

Stitch Meditation is a process developed by Liz Kettle to help develop a creative mindfulness practice that is simple and easy to implement.

It is for those who choose to explore how to meditate with stitch, to share your practice with others, to inspire others and as accountability for yourself.

See Liz Kettle’s video explaining it all here

Adventures

Book Review – House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wonderful… I adore the lovely magical world Menna creates. Warm characters, one to lift the spirits, as good as visiting the house itself! How I wish I could find one and have 99 days break from the modern world.

I finished the House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag, which was a lovely read – sometimes it is nice to dip into a world of magic, love where the broken find healing and comfort. 

After Alba Ashby suffers the Worst Events of Her Life, she finds herself at the door of 11 Hope Street, Cambridge. There, a beautiful older woman named Peggy invites Alba to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she’ll have 99 nights, and no more, to turn her life around. Once inside, Alba sees that 11 Hope Street is no ordinary place. Past residents include Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, and Agatha Christie, who all stayed there when they, too, had lost hope. With the house’s help, Alba decides to risk everything – and embarks on a journey that may even save her life. 

The idea of a house that could offer you what you needed was lovely, Stella the ghost was a good muse for Alba. It was a delightful place to spend time in before going to sleep and often in the waking hours between 1 and 4 which has been happening more often these days. 

There are two other characters, Greer and Carmen in the house at the same time – and their story was followed through more briefly, both were loving the same unattainable man. 

I love the worlds Menna creates, it is the third book I’ve read of hers, the magic is lovely, she has the same lightness of touch as Joanne Harris.




Adventures

Fishbourne Roman Palace -West Sussex

E and I share January Birthdays – which, if I am honest is not the best time to celebrate Birthdays as it feels like feast and famine! However the way to bring the celebrations forward into a whole year was to present E with a huge pile of leaflets and a challenge to discover more about our local area – we began with Fishbourne Roman Palace in West Sussex. It is an interesting place to visit especially on a clear bright sunny January day!

Fishbourne Palace’s discovery is thanks to a workman cutting into a field as part of a new building project – he noticed ancient looking building rubble. Thankfully, a wealthy history enthusiast bought the land and developed the site to create the museum we see today. What a tremendous legacy and gift.

Roman Underfloor heating sytem Fishbourne Chichester

What amazes me is the sheer advancement in technology and house building at a time when the local population were living in huts. It took two thousand years for us to get back to central heating, hot running water and good drainage! It astounds me that with all the wonderful technology why would the locals simply turn their backs and go back to living in wooden huts with open fires?

There is little surviving evidence of who actually lived at the Palace but it must have been someone of importance because the Palace was huge! covering an area of 5.6 acres. Historians suggest it may be Tiberius Claudius Togidubnuts who was influential in the area in the first century AD. As you enter the museum there is a wonderful model replica of what the palace may have looked like.

Section of tile flooring at Fishbourne Roman Palace

The Palace was thought to have as many as 100 rooms all of which had beautiful mosaic tiled floors. The exhibits are wonderful to see, with the patterns and designs.

Flower motif in mosiac floor

While the colours are beautiful I can’t help but wonder how bright they would have been 2000 years ago!

Black and white mosaic playful perspective

We looked round the beautiful Roman Gardens in the glorious sunshine, it was so interesting to see how the Romans made good use of herbs for cooking, health and beauty.

Fishbourne Roman Palace Gardens
Roman deign box hedging
Old vines part of the gardens of Fishbourne Palace
Gardens Fishbourne Roman Palace

We enjoyed a lovely cuppa and some delightful lemon poppy seed cake in the cafe afterwards. Although the sun was out, it was still a chilly January Day. Fishbourne is a wonderful place to visit – I am hoping to return in May for their Roman Dyeing course. You can find information about the museum herehttps://sussexpast.co.uk/event/colours-of-the-romans 

On the way to the cafe we passed the most beautiful shrub – which looked as if it had been festooned with tassels! Next to it was a little teasle plant – which looked interesting – I took one of the seedbeds home.

little teasle plant at Fishbourne

It wasn’t until later when I was editing the photos that I noticed a coloured orb among the bush. It did not appear on any of the other photos, but maybe it was a strange trick of the light… perhaps you might know what it is?

Adventures

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Decorated for Christmas

We had neighbours over this week, so I was happy to put all the decorations in place for Christmas. It is so wonderful to have a good old fashioned fire place!

Decorated Christmas Tree

I use the tree in the alcove all year round – decorating it seasonally, so there were Easter eggs in Spring and flowers in the summer. Now it has been decorated with lovely silver leaves giving it a wintery look.

Dresser Christmas Decorations

My favourite colour is this delicate ‘vintage’ blue – the dresser makes a great place to store my collection of china and the lovely beads and baubles seem to compliment it well.

Nordic red and while christmas

I had this fabric in my stash for a while – it is such a bright Chrissmassy colour I decided to make a fitted cover for my little coffee tables and I am rather pleased with the corner pleating.

Barney the staffie Christmas Photo Competition

Here is Barney’s entry for the Local vets photo competition, I must say he was a very good model not bothered at all by the bow and the hat!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and lets hope for a peaceful, Happy New Year.

creative, hand sewing, needle felting

Don’t beat yourself up over Unfinished Projects

Vintage thread

Speak to anyone creative about their stash and they will admit to having a pile of UFO’s or unfinished objects. It’s like a guilty secret – I also suffered from the same – it wasn’t until I moved out of a home of 10 years that I was faced with a mountain of half completed projects – I felt incredible sadness for all the waste and money that I had quite simply thrown away.

I have changed the way I think about these recently, because guilt stifles creativity and experimentation. There are times when we need to develop a technique or experiment with a new hobby – and it really is an opportunity to grow and stretch ourselves.

experimentation

Permission to play

Giving yourself permission to play is key to finding new ways to develop your skills and improve your techniques. Release yourself from the obligation to have something to show at the end of the session and see the time and materials as an investment of your skills rather than judging things by outcome.

Don’t cheat on materials too, use the same material you intend to use on your project if you can – like a recipe – each element of your project will affect its overall effectiveness, using a lovely drapery fabric like georgette will not be the same if your toile is made from calico.

Vintage thread

Recognise what to keep and what to bin

Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes we hit on a block and what we hoped to do just did not work out. Recently I was making cushions and for some reason the bias binding was getting in a right tangle around my piping – yes, I could have spent hours unpicking, but in the end, I simply cut it off and threw it away. I did not keep the binding as a reminder of my failure, I just found another way to do it.

Sometimes letting go of what doesn’t work – is the best way to release yourself from the guilt. Keeping the project in a plastic carrier bag in an ever growing pile will stifle your experimentation because it is a reminder of ‘failure’. Don’t let your sewing space get cluttered up with negativity. Just let it go.

Give yourself some time

Sometimes you hit a block on a piece of work, you just don’t know how to move forward with something. These are the projects you need to keep, but don’t hide them away in plastic bags. Leave them out, on a noticeboard, have a fabric box or use a sewing basket to keep these objects in and now and then take them out.

This piece of needle felting (above) did not feel finished to me – although my creative friends suggested I frame it. I kept on looking at it, but could not see a way forward.

Then – I came across it again this week, (you can see from the state above that was over four years ago!) Suddenly, looking at it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I began the process of completing it. It only took an hour or so, but it was delightful progress.

needle felting

I just needed time – and that is what you also need to be creative, patience with yourself. Be kind to yourself about your Unfinished projects, see them as work in progress and allow the creativity to come without guilt or reprimand. Most importantly, have fun!

Adventures

Inspiration at the Knitting and Stitching Show 2018

knitting and stitching show 2018

I’ve joined the Embroiders Guild my local group is very welcoming and full of other ladies with a passion for textiles to match my own. They organised a coach trip up to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace – it was lovely to go along as a group!

The photo above greeted us in the main foyer, called Edwards Menagerie by TOFT – there were 400 different crochet creations  on display which were an absolute delight to browse. They also sponsored a craft lounge where you could make a crochet Autumn leaf.

Royal School of Needlework
Royal School of Needlework 

The Royal School of Needlework‘s exhibition of tea and cake was a delight – their stand was a great demonstration of embroidery and I drooled over their course booklet – I would love to spend a few years studying for one of their degrees, in the glorious setting of Hampton Court Palace…. maybe one day!

Royal School of Needlework
Royal School of Needlework 

The spoons were silver work and so delicately done – as were the stump work flowers which I am sure were hand done – but were so fine they looked as if they had been on a machine!

Royal School of Needlework – Version 3
Royal School of Needlework 

What I cannot show you, is the exquisite embroideries by the Embroiderer’s Guild because they do not allow photography. Their annual competition was incredible too, it just amazes me how many talented people there are out there who lift this to an art form.

One exhibition that took my breath away was called The Dementia Darnings by Jenni Dutton. It is a set of thread portraits of her mother’s decline into dementia – the portraits are absolutely stunning – its not until you get up close do you realise that they are made from thread.

Ideas associated with loosing the threads of memory, stitches that bind and unravel are implicit in the work, reflecting the gradual loss of memory

I don’t know where the exhibit is going next – but if you get a chance to see it, it will be well worth it.

Knitting and stitching show

I asked this young girl if I could take a photo, she looked amazing in her Sailor Moon outfit – the Japanese have such a playful sense of dressing up.

There were many suppliers with just about every stitching notion you could wish for, and never knew you needed! But it was the fabric suppliers that I most wanted to connect with. There are so few fabric retailers in my locality so I was most impressed by the following:

M Rosenberg & Son  and Montreaux Fabrics – they had a huge selection of fabrics including some beautiful tweeds from Italian designers.

portraits

I was in awe of Sally Hewett’s talent for padded stitched body parts! they were amazing to see! There were even portraits of different types of nipples as well as portraits of post mastectomies, large bottoms, and bellies with stretch marks. It is all part of a body positive movement and was an amusing way to end the day.

The exhibition is on for three days there are some wonderful workshops to do – I think it would take three days to get the most out of it! Looking forward to next year!

 

 

 

 

Adventures, book review

Believe Me by JP Delaney – book review

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Claire Wright is an attractive young British woman with aspirations to becoming a successful actress in the US. She is obliged to succeed in the States rather than return to the UK (for reasons that become apparent during the course of the book), but Claire has no Green Card. However, an opportunity presents itself to help her subsidise her acting career – some work for a divorce attorney. But the job is a queasy one: she is to act as a honey trap for errant husbands.

Claire sees it as an extension of her acting career; she is a woman of seductive charms, and men fall like nine pins before her. But then she encounters Patrick Fogler, whose wife, Stella, she has already met. He is an academic with an almost obsessive predilection for the erotic poems of Charles Baudelaire. Patrick resists Claire’s attempt at seduction, but later the same evening, his wife is discovered savagely murdered in a hotel room (Delaney has based elements of the plot on a real-life entrapment case involving a brutal murderer).

I subscribe to Audible so listened to this book while I made curtains and I could not stop listening – it took about a day and a half – where I think I was barely breathing! I even managed a pile of ironing as I had finished the curtains before finishing this book.

I loved The Girl Before so I was eagerly awaiting the publication of this new novel and what a rollercoaster it is. If you loved, Gone Girl or Girl on the Train then this is along the same lines although in a league of its own!

Delaney keeps the pace up -right though the novel, it is suffocating, intense and dark – Claire is flawed, but above all, she is a survivor. She does what she needs to do to get by, and isn’t that what we all do?

Set in New York but with a central English Character is delightful change, I can relate to Claire – in many ways – the way she evolves to fit in. We all play roles, especially women –  wife, lover, daughter, employee,  which one is the real us?  Delaney uses this theme to explore it to deeper, darker depths.

I love the way psychology is also exposed for its overly simplistic blanket approach – the connection with BDSM and sexual violence is explored and dismissed. Delaney gives us much more of a subtle exploration of human psychology that is masterful in its unravelling.

I had heard the name, Bau de Larre before but I began to wonder if I might read some of his poetry when the characters were quoting it, but then I was afraid to!

I am in awe of this writer, his tales are masterful – engaging, breathtaking and thrilling.  The perfect wife. another of his novels is on my wish list… but need my heart rate to recover before I go on another breathtaking adventure.