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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.

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.

 

Adventures, baking, book review, Books, gardening, home baking, second hand bookshops

New shoes, veg plot, book reviews, my Sunday Sevens – 16th September

I can wear shoes again!

September and new shoes seem to be forever connected in my memory! Not only did I spend my childhood years proudly walking along pavements enjoying the September sunshine with new shoes but then went through my years of parenting subjecting my children to the same pleasure!

I will admit, like a lot of women, I have so many shoes – most of them of the high heeled beautiful but cruelly uncomfortable variety. One of the lovely things about getting older is that you get a little wiser – so I find myself buying ‘comfortable shoes’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t be fun!

My new shoes are momentous -because it is the first pair I have been able to wear since my major foot surgery! I cannot tell you how joyous it feels to wear shoes again –  I am beginning to get my life back! Not only that – I am enjoying long hot showers where I am not dangling one cling film wrapped foot out of the way of the water! Simple pleasures indeed.

On a practical level – these shoes from Gracosy are sublime – the soul is so cushioned my feet just sink in – no uncomfortable jarring. On a sustainable level, my last pair of clogs lasted me over ten years and were regrettably thrown away a few months ago, when the sole finally wore though. I like clogs because they are so easy to slip on and off. I did see my foot consultant this week with a little trepidation –  he thoroughly approved of them!  If you fancy a pair of your own you can buy them from Amazon.

 

Tea Time

The Bake off is back – I do love watching it – I think Channel 4 have done a good job of continuing the format well. I do admire the bakers – it is hard enough baking but under those conditions – they are inspirational!

I adore toasted tea cakes – but since discovering I have a dairy intolerance I have been a little scared of eating things – so I decided to try Paul Hollywood’s recipe for hot cross buns – and oh my goodness they are delicious! Of course I just added currants to the recipe rather than the crosses and drizzled them with warmed honey rather than sugar syrup. Luckily replacing cows milk and butter with Goats Milk and butter has improved my health! I am not sure if you can see – but the butter was melting on the tea cake when I took this photo – they were still scrumptiously warm from the oven!

little cinnamon buns

E is not a fan of currants – he seems to only tolerate them in Christmas pudding, so I used half the recipe to make cinnamon buns – rolling the dough like a Swiss roll with a mixture of cinnamon, mixed spice, brown sugar and toasted hazelnuts. I put it in a cake tin to rise and this is how it turned out! It was a huge success!

I did not take any pictures of the second batch to show you – the whole process went really well until the baking – where I managed to burn the whole batch and sadly had to resign all the hard work to the bin! I have the attention span of a gnat… I cannot count the number of times the smoke detector has reminded me that I have something cooking – so I have now invented a rule – I never leave the kitchen when something is baking or boiling – our diet has improved from carbon to edible!

Veg Italia book review

I have been pescatarian for over a year –  an interesting journey full of – if I am being entirely honest, an experiment in inedible food. When I was first trying to discover what food was causing problems – I tried lots of vegan recipes – they were expensive and quite frankly, inedible. I don’t want to eat another meal with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. (White potatoes cause arthritis)  I can’t bring myself to eat any more peanut butter – (Veganism seems to use it for everything!) I cannot swallow anything made with ‘wheat free flour’ – it dries my mouth out, my body simply can’t physically swallow it!

So I have relaxed a little – I am not completely free of migraines but I am having them less. My arthritis symptoms have also reduced – but there is good research about the Mediterranean diet is healthy. A ninety nine year old I knew told me his lack of arthritis was down to having olive oil every day – he was walking proof in my mind and at 99 he had been around longer than any of our so called experts! – I am moving away from the ‘alternative’ foods and more about cooking from scratch.

I bought Gino’s Veg Italia recipe book secondhand – what a refreshingly delight it is! every recipe is tantalisingly tempting. We have had an excellent week – home made pizza, creamy mushroom gnocchi and roasted vegetables. (I think, my rule about not leaving the kitchen has improved my results immensely!) Thankfully the recipes are easy to follow and don’t require a whole heap of gadgetry and tins and jars of stuff! I’ve tried gnocchi before – (with sweet potatoes – too sweet) but Gino’s recipe was simple, created not only edible but delicious food! There is a recipe for home made pasta that doesn’t require a pasta machine or slavish dedication to duty!

A little piece of heaven

If you want to know what your heart’s desire is, notice that gut wrenching stab of jealousy next time because it guides you to what is missing in your life. It is more authentic than the fleeting desire to make origami napkins from your Pinterest feed.

I will admit to having pangs of envy – when I have seen posts of home grown vegetables. I have pined for outdoor space since I moved a couple of years ago. It is odd though, how I got so focussed on my dream of having a garden of my own that it is easy to overlook what is just round the corner. This little plot of land is in a neglected part of the grounds where I live. No-one loves it and while it might be very overgrown and sloping, it catches a lot of sun. So  I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to grow our own veg!

September might not be the best month to begin – but I noticed a dark patch under large trees that barely gets any light – might just be the ideal spot for a mushroom patch,  we are just coming into mushroom season. Ever since I went on a camping trip with a Bear Grills guy who took us to pick field mushrooms for breakfast – I have longed to repeat the process. Those mushrooms felt like food from the Gods, not just because they were fresh but because they were the work of my own hands!

The Law of Angels book review

Oh joy of joys to discover a new author and a while new series of books! I purchased Law of Angels by Cassandra Clark from a charity shop while we were on holiday in Porlock Vale. The mix of historical medieval fiction – a daring nun, mystery and suspense was a temptation I could not resist! How glad I am that I give in easily to temptation – especially in book form – this was a pleasure to read! Little did I realise that this is the third in the series – but the story holds its own.

Cassandra immerses you in medieval society much easier than all the historical books I have been ploughing through recently. Set in York during the days running up to the Corpus Christi – I felt I was discovering more about the period while being thoroughly entertained.  A nun might seem an odd choice for a gun-ho sleuth but it was quite a liberating role in the 13th Century. Hildergard is her own woman, I liked her as a character – she is just really nosy if I am honest a bit of a Jane Marple with a little more daring do! Hildergard’s home is burnt to the ground, she is kidnapped twice,  ends up close to two terrorist bombings, and still manages to save York’s Mayor from being blown up. Its all well told with enough action and pace that kept the pages turning well past 10 o’clock!  (with my attention span that is praise indeed!) In order to avoid the usual book hangover, I ordered the first in the series when I was just over half way through.

I am determined to read more – I just have to gag the Calvinistic Shrew Mildred,  my inner critic,   nagging me that reading is time wasting… I should be doing so many other things.

It is reading before going to sleep that has really helped with my insomnia – so I am truly thankful to Cassandra Clark!

 

 

Adventures

A simpler life

My first post 7 years ago!

Fred the Needle

After a year of living with friends, it was so wonderfully finally to move into my own little home, I was so excited to have my own kitchen again. It really did surprise me what a simple pleasure it is to cut with my favourite knife, or to have my own cake tins, or saucepans. I had never really given any of those things much thought before, but having spent a year struggling with blunt knives, saucepans that only seemed to burn food and a cooker where I continually switched on the wrong ring it was a true delight to be cooking with gas! 

I realised that I was downsizing, the small two bed flat was a quarter of the size of the four-bed detached house I had left behind, optimistically, I thought that I would only bring the contents of my studio, bedroom and a couple of items of…

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Adventures, changing seasons, heart and home, home, home baking, home making., seasonal, seasonal food, seasons

Ode to Autumn – why we need to celebrate more

summer into autumn

I don’t know about you, but September is a reflective time for me. Our modern lives of electricity makes dark evenings bright and stocked supermarket shelves make the concept of harvest bizarre,  seasons and the rhythms of nature a distant irrelevant echo of the past.

Yet, there is a value in connecting with the changing seasons –  without these feasts and marking of change, every day ends up being a bland unremarkable section of time – and we begin to wonder where the days, months or years have gone.

In order to separate time,  our brains need to put down markers and it only does that when we step beyond the routine or automatic functioning.  It is why, as adults, time seems to slip by un-noticed and yet as children it seemed to last forever – our childhood memories are filled with seasons and celebrations, long summer holidays, Birthday celebrations and Christmases.

We need to fill our adult lives with variety and celebration,  the difficulty is that our culture has so few celebrations. In the Christian tradition the celebration of St Michael falls late in September and gives us Michelmas – but like all things Christian they created many festivals on those of older faiths but they all seem to share this theme for taking stock, giving thanks and preparing for winter.

Haust is the Old Norse word for Autumn or Fall, a time for giving thanks for the year’s harvest as well as bidding farewell to the long days and warmth of the Summer and welcoming the long nights of the Winter. At this time of the year the daylight and darkness are in balance once again before the dark takes over, so this is a transition point to reflect on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.

We are looking forward to celebrating at an Autumn festival later this month, at an Ancient Farm in the Meon Valley. I think it should offer the best opportunity to feel connected with the past and enjoy a feast with others.

In the last few years, September has seen the trees hold on to their green leaves well into October, so change is gradual.  I have seen a lot of blackberries ripe for picking – it has always been a delightful pleasure – but I haven’t been able to this year because my foot is still healing.

We have spent a couple of cosy evenings watching flames flicker from our little fire, turning on lights a little earlier each day, Autumn is meekly creeping into our lives.

This time offers a gentle releasing of all things external,  outdoor adventures to retreat into the cosiness of home. An invitation to reflect and assess what is needed and what is no longer serving us – winter is coming.

Sunday sevens - playful

Spring and Autumn are times of transition – both come with a sense of change in the air that inspires me to re-evaluate my nest. I have found myself dealing into drawers and wardrobes – nooks and crannies. A good few trips to the dump has worked wonders.

Change invites creativity, I am planning some new decorations for our little twinkly tree – it has been the only light on the last few evenings, sitting under the glow as the darkness descends – it feels magical.

Autumn is a time for hygge, warm blankets to snuggle around me during the long evenings – recipes that call for more comfort  – stews and soups, apples and spices, books to be read on rainy afternoons – but before that can begin – I need to clear space.

Spring fever has begun… why isn’t there a Autumn fever?