Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody

Just to prove I haven't been sitting around not doing anything, here's just a few of the things I've finished in the last couple of week.  A book cover (one of several, but the others are surprises, sshhh)

Some cushions - there's a story attached to these.  My friend, and watercolour teacher Christine painted the silk, quite some time ago, and asked me if I'd make them into cushions.  She said "There's no rush" and I took her at her word, because it's taken me about 4 years to get around to doing them.  How can it POSSIBLY take that long to make a few cushions?  Well, I took a while choosing the fabric to make them with, then I put that aside for a while.  When I realised I still hadn't made them, I couldn't find the fabric.  Then, during one of my mammoth sort outs - I found the fabric - so it was all game on.  Except that, during the intervening period, I'd mislaid the silk paintings.  (Does any of this sound familiar).  Anyway, recently I was searching my sewing room for something else and during the course of that, I chanced upon the silk paintings.  Hurrah!  Then, the painting group (which I haven't been to for a couple of years, partly because of my City and Guilds course, and partly embarrassment at not having made the cushions) had their Christmas dinner,  to which I was invited, and so I made up my mind to make them and take them with me.  Chris seemed really pleased with them, once she got over her initially amazement that they were actually finished.

Then,  there's a cake stand
and some Christmas hearts
and something for Julia, using some fabric she'd admired on our trip to Holt, and which I secretly bought later and made into a 'pinny'.
There's a few other things too, but they are surprise presents, so you can't see those yet. 
I must admit, the snow has helped - being stuck indoors for a few days gave me time to do some stitching.
I also - first time for years - put up a few festive decorations, just to prove I'm not really 'bah humbug'. 
Not a real tree - I don't have the space, just a few bits of yew tree trimmed from my garden and stuck in a vase, with a few lights and baubles bunged on.  (Not very Homes and Gardens, I know)
Adorned with a beautiful beaded snowflake, a present from Carolyn 
My photos aren't brilliant - not sure if it's the poor light, or if I've inadvertently done something with the settings on my camera, but you get the general idea.
That's all for now, except to say .....

Sunday, 19 December 2010

She's a Saint Not a Celebrity

I had a call on Friday night, saying that as it was snowing and icy in London, Saturday's match at Leyton Orient was postponed, which meant I could have the day off.  (I can't tell you how delighted I was - I had so many things that needed doing and I just love an unexpected day at home.) In the morning, I thought maybe they'd been a bit premature, because the view from my kitchen window looked like this at sunrise - and it seemed like it was going to be a nice day.
But the weather forecasters had obviously got it right, because just a few hours, and about three inches of snow later,  it looked like this ...
so they obviously DID make the right decision.  Anyway, it meant that I could spend the day sewing, pretty much as I have done today too, so I've got more things finished that I thought I would and for once, EVERYTHING on my 'to do' list is done!
I felt a bit sorry for the birds this morning, particularly the robin and the blue tit that were pecking away at the fat balls which must have been frozen solid, so I brought them in and warmed them up with my hairdryer.  No, you fools, not the birds - the fat balls.   I thought if they were a bit softer it wouldn't be so tough on their little beaks.  I also re-filled the nut feeder for the third time this week., and I'm beginning to suspect I'm the only person in the Home Counties who's putting food out for the birds, given the rate they get through them.  Turning into a proper little Mother Teresa aren't I?
My own personal nomination for sainthood goes this week to Gina who not only gave me a jar of  her homemade Clementine Curd when I met up with her on Wednesday, but also carried it around for the rest of the day because it was too big to fit in my handbag!  
I just treated myself to some of it on hot toast, as a reward for venturing outside to clean the snow off my car  in preparation for work tomorrow, until my hands ached with the cold,  and I am able to say that it is absolutely delicious.  Gina's written on the little label that it needs to be eaten by 13th January - I don't think she needs to have any worries on that score.
Incidentally, we met up to visit the Barbican Gallery to see the exhibition Future Beauty - 30 Years of Japanese Fashion which was fascinating - Gina has done a really good post about it here.

PS Does anyone know of a UK stockist of 'WonderFil' threads?  I bought some WonderFil metallic threads at the Chilford Quilt Festival, and it's absolutely brilliant.  I've used a whole reel, and it didn't break or shred once!  I've searched on the internet, and emailed the company but they couldn't tell me of any UK stockists - but there must be one, because I bought the threads from them. 

She's A Saint Not A Celebrity - The Foxboro Hot Tubs

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Winner Takes It All!

Being a bit of a cheapskate, I was only intending to award one prize, but the lady who made the closest guess, wasn't able to leave a comment on the blog and sent me an email instead, so I thought you might think it was a fix and that there wasn't a prize at all! So, taking that into account, and the fact that there is only a mile or two between the guesses in 2nd and 3rd place, and the fact that it is the season of goodwill (Bah, Humbug) I have decided to award not one, not two, but THREE prizes.
Ok don't get too excited, it'll only be something I've thrown together, but be grateful for small mercies, they have been produced in my sewing room, and not in my kitchen. 
And the winner is.... or in fact, the winners are ...

In third place is Nellie's Niceties - 23.7 miles
In 2nd place is Love Stitching Red - 21.7 miles
and in 1st place is Pat, who sent me the email guessing at Leyton Orient - 15.6 miles

The photo was taken from the window of my office in West Hendon, looking out over the North Circular at about 6.30 one morning a few weeks ago. But then how could you possibly know that?
If you email me your addresses girls, I'll post your prizes off this week.  

Winner Takes It All - ABBA

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Competition Ain't Nothin'

........... if no-one enters!
Come on, don't be shy - have a guess at the photo competition at the bottom of my last post - or I'll think you've all gone away.

Competition Ain't Nothin' - Carl Carlton
(I wonder if there's some way I could put a link so you could listen to my musical references??)

Friday, 3 December 2010


I've not been very good at this blogging business recently have I?  It's taken longer than I expected to settle back to real life since my trip - not that I'm fed up or anything, far from it - I've just remained in a relaxed holiday state of mind, and can't seem to rush about doing much.  I'd love to tell you that I've finished all my Christmas shopping, written all my cards, made my Christmas puddings and iced the cake, but it would be untrue, and as for the last two - I just know that most of you would accuse me of being a bare-faced liar.  I have made a few Christmas cards, and quite a lot of lists, but that's as far as it's gone.  
Anyway, this extended holiday blog has gone on for quite long enough, so this will be the final one. (I can almost hear your collective sighs of relief.  It's rather picture-heavy so bare with me. 
Sydney was brilliant - the highlight of the trip for me - we had a guided tour of the Opera House
We walked across the bridge
(not over the top I hasten to add, but you get just as good a view from the stone towers,

We went up the Sky Tower
took a ferry trip to Manly Beach, 
 and had a bus ride to Bondi Beach
Then it was off on the train to Melbourne (yes the train - it takes 12 hours but none of that messing about at airports, you get to see the scenery AND you can walk about.  I'd recommend it.)
We had a trip on the Murray river 
Apparently it's the most flooded it's been since my parents went about 15 years ago - looks like we should be used as 'Drought-Busters'
In Melbourne itself we went up more tall buildings
Explored the shops - I loved this one
and this caught my eye - my initials are GAL (the rest of the word GALLERY went round the corner)
and admired the graffitti. 
Oh, and lay on the floor of a Museum to take a photo of the fantastic stained glass ceiling

Then we fly off to Bali for the last few days of our trip - it was very very hot, and very beautiful - this was the view from our balcony
and this was the walk to breakfast
and this is the view from our breakfast table
As we were only there for three days, I'm afraid to say that we barely left the hotel grounds, but  I'd definitely like to go back there for a longer visit and explore the island.
Anyway, now the holiday posts have finally come to an end, here's the giveaway competition I promised - you just have to say where you think this beautiful sunrise photo was taken.  The person who makes the closest guess wins - something pretty and heart-shaped.
Sydney - by 'Puddle of Mudd'

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

T&B&P x 3

We both loved Byron Bay, and had a walk on the beach there and a wander round the shops, then the sky turned black, and yes, you've guessed it, another thunderstorm.  Fortunately we found a handy bar and sheltered in there with a couple of white wine spritzers.   The following day we continued south on the Pacific Highway passing another couple of oversized fruits - an avocado and later a banana (sorry, no photos, you'll just have to take my word for it.  
Far more exciting was the fact I saw my first real live kangaroos in the wild!  Okay, they didn't put themselves out in the way that the whales had - no back flips or somersaults, but I was still quite impressed.  Following directions to the next campsite at Coffs Harbour, we narrowly avoided taking the top off the van when we reached a very low bridge.  The clearance was 3.3m and our van was 3.5m.  I was all for taking a chance, and I even got Sarah to get out and check, but she was sure there wasn't enough leeway, so I had to make a 57 point turn in a VERY narrow road, but I have to say the drivers of the cars that were tailing back were much more understanding than they would have been over here.
The following day we were off again and stopped at Port Macquarie - and found a lovely campsite, right by the beach in the centre of town.  We wandered up to the local Koala Hospital for a guided tour
Aparently they sleep for about 18 hours a day, and I don't quite know how they manage it without falling out of the tree - it certainly doesn't look very comfortable

We left there - although not before Sarah decided to 'adopt a koala' called Oxley Holly - and made the most of the lovely day, by having a walk along a beautiful deserted beach (that's me paddling)
looking at the dozens of  'graffiti painted rocks'
and then sitting outside a bar, watching the sun go down.
Our next stop was Port Stephens where we had a long walk to Stockton Beach to see the shifting sand dunes.  As I looked along the beach, I could see something coming towards me that looked like a camel train, and sure enough, as it got nearer, I could see that it was.  I can't say that I'd associated Australia with camels.
And then it was on towards Sydney.  We visited my Dad's cousin Mike and his family in Pennant Hills, just north of Sydney and had a lovely day with them, then the next day we went on to see my cousin Laura and spent a couple of days with her family.  It was good to sleep in a real bed with a real bathroom just next door and not have to trail across a campsite in the rain.  Oh sorry, did I say rain?  
At our request, they took us to the Blue Mountains - but unfortunately the weather let us down again.  We went to see the Three Sisters - three massive sandstone rock formations.  Unfortunately, given the severely inclement weather (very heavy rain and thick mist) we were unable to see hide nor hair of them, but we bought a postcard to see what they looked like.  You'll have to take my word for it again I'm afraid,  but they ARE in the background of the photograph. 
We then went to Katoomba, which is a 1920's holiday resort for Sydney residents - lots of Art Deco buildings, and we had coffee/elevenses in a fantastically well-preserved 1920's restaurant called The Paragon - it even had 1920's music playing.  We visited the Scenic centre and went down in a very steep railway - at 52 degrees apparently the steepest funicular railway in the world, and then back up in a cable car.  Fortunately the mist cleared sufficiently for us to enjoy some of the views

And then it was time to hand the van in and head for our hotel in Sydney.  It was a really good way to travel, and it makes you appreciate how vast a country it is.  We drove 3250 km in 17 days.
And, only one minor mishap which perhaps I should mention.  I misjudged the length of the vehicle as I manoeuvred in a petrol station, resulting in scraping the side of the van along a bollard.  No real damage done to the van, although there were considerable signs of yellow and grey paint on the side.  However, I bought a tin of the Aussie equivalent of 'T Cut' (other abrasive polishes are available) and polished all evidence away.  The petrol station happened to be a BP one, so I think they are fully aware that accidents happen, and to be honest a few scratches on a bollard on a station forecourt  was probably the least of their worries at the time.
When we handed the motorhome in I just kept the bloke talking when he checked the van, so he wouldn't have noticed anything untoward anyway!


Sunday, 14 November 2010

Trains and Boats and Planes - Part 2

Where were we?  Oh yeah, in Cairns with a massive truck.  We'd booked a 3 berth, but somehow we ended up with a six berth - great for the space inside, but slightly daunting when I had to think about driving it.  A bit of a change from my usual little Peugeot.  We set off, stopping briefly at a supermarket to get some supplies.  By the time we came outside it was absolutely pouring down with rain, which I assumed would just be a short cloudburst before normal service was resumed.  Oh, how wrong I was.  Anyway, the driving forward was fine - and we got to our first campsite and I even managed to reverse successfully - albeit slowly - onto our pitch.  We unpacked and settled in for the night, Sarah in the bed above the cab ...
(I must admit I didn't fight her for it) and me at the rear of the van.  I fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding on the roof, and I dreamt of Yorkie bars and becoming Eddie Stobart's top driver.

I think the rain must have continued throughout the night, because the following day, every news bulletin kept talking about the phenomenal rainfall, and our plans to stay at Airlee Beach the following night were thwarted by the fact that it was completely cut off as all the roads were flooded.  Mmmm.  And this is Australia, right?
As a result, we had to spend the next night at Bowen - a fairly uninspiring town which is only known for two things - a giant 20 foot mango, and the fact that most of the film Australia, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman was filmed there a few years ago.  So, unfortunately, we'd missed Hugh but at least we got to see the mango
and the sun made an all-too-brief appearance, after we'd heard reports that Bowen had had the heaviest rainfall in 24 hours for over 50 years.  Just call me lucky. 
Right, I'm not going to keep on banging on about the weather, except to say that it rained virtually everyday for ten days or so, and apparently it was Queenslands wettest September on record.  (At one point I did say that next year I'm going to holiday in the Lake District or Wales for better weather).
Anyway, despite the rain we had a brilliant time - some of the highlights on our drive down were Hervey Bay - the only campsite we stayed at for two nights, so that we could visit Fraser Island - the worlds largest sand island, with miles of beaches, rain forest and freshwater lakes.  We walked through the forests, 
paddled in the lakes
and drove along the sand in a 4 wheel drive bus, and then back again.  
Or at least Sarah went back in the bus, but I took a slightly more adventurous route back 
Obviously, I'd like you to believe that I flew it all by myself, hence the 'Amelia Earhart' pose, but in fact we had a pilot and six other passengers. I couldn't convince Sarah to come with me, but she's not what you'd call a keen flier.  It was certainly a great experience, and I can't image that I'll have too many opportunities to take off and land on a beach.  Great views - rain forests look like giant broccoli from the air.
The following day, we had booked a trip to go Whale watching.  They guarantee that you'll see whales, or you get your money back.  I imagined that we might see a bit of a whale somewhere in the distance, but it absolutely surpassed all our expectations.  We went out in a fast catamaran, 
out past Fraser Island (you'll notice that the sun is shining!) 
then parked up and after a short wait the whales appeared.  
It was almost as if they were putting on a display for us, 
with mothers showing off their calves and playing about right up close to the boat.  
Absolutely brilliant and worth every penny of the trip.
Having left Hervey Bay, we stayed at Noosa for the night, then down to Brisbane, where  we met up with my cousin Barbara, who took us for a walk at the seafront at Wynnum, 
 then to the Botanical Gardens
and to a lookout with fantastic views across the city
I'm glad Barbara was driving that day and I didn't have to negotiate our bus through the middle of Brisbane.
The following day we headed south again and stopped for lunch at Surfers Paradise, where the weather was glorious.
I guess we should have stayed there, because by the time we reached our next campsite, at Byron Bay, we were in the midst of yet another thunderstorm.  We got soaked just connecting the van up to the electricity.  Or at least Sarah did.  Well, I was doing all the driving!

(Are you sure you're not bored yet?