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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Year end musings.....

Seems popular with newspapers and the media to look back over the year now ending, so today my friends I am posting random thoughts. Have been making some notes, started with books, the pile bedside includes "The hundred year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared" by Jonas Jonasson. This has to be finished by Monday when the reading group is meeting for Christmas lunch, I am just a quarter of the way through. this doesn't look good, have had the book since beginning of December, however was absorbed by "The mystery of Princess Louise: Queen Victoria's rebellious daughter" by Lucinda Hawksley. Now that is finished, also in the queue is Emma Bridgewater's Toast & Marmalade and other stories, Knitting yarns: writers on knitting edited by Ann Hood (gift from DD) and yesterday's purchase "Walk the lines: the London Underground  Overground" by Mark Mason. 

Usual time problem, knit or crochet against reading, just try to do both but not simultaneously! On the needles at present are granny squares, crocheting them to use up stash of double knitting; a pair of socks in self striping blue yarn from Lidl, I am still making the trim from Twilley's Lyscordet cotton for a plain lampshade it is such fine work that I need a good light and reading specs on. 

No new year resolutions, just to try and do my best in all things, try to treat all how I would wish to be treated, on the Ravelry forums I have turned off the dislike button as it is so easy to hit it in error. One of my notes I have written 'Older versus Elderly' because I'm not sure what the difference is. We have decided Older is under eighty, Elderly is over eighty. I wish the press and media could adopt this, I am not elderly :)

If the weather turns warmer, it is Ian's influence, he has found his quilted jacket that he purchased to wear on his trips to Finland so the cold weather should go and the jacket can go back into it's hiding place. It was so chilly last evening, we went to Kew Gardens to walk along their illuminated walk.

Ian wearing his fedora silhouetted outside the Princess of Wales Conservatory, 

Think this sums up our evening, fun, romantic, chilly but warmed by hot chocolate with marshmallow. Ended up in the shop, a cushion was purchased and the Mark Mason book mentioned above. 

It is with pleasure I note that smoking  was not allowed in the Gardens in 1856 when this notice was published, wish it were still so especially near entrances to the buildings. It is one of my pet hates that smokers congregate around doorways, then become angry when their presence is questioned, another is if I have a coughing fit complete strangers tell me to give up smoking, if I have enough breath to speak I tell them politely that I have never smoked. 

Thoughts of 2014 that I will bring to the New Year are my delight that I completed the Beekeeper's Quilt, failure to do so was not an option. The picture below shows the 'wrong' side but shows the way mattress stitch has been used to butt the hexis together. 

All best wishes for 2015 to all who read this, I look forward to reading your musings and blogs during the next year. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Those on another shore.

I had been thinking about my father today, it is the anniversary of his unexpected death, 21st December 1986 was a Sunday too, coped well all day until the final prayers towards the end of the Nine Lessons and Carols when we remembered those on another shore. It is not only my father in our minds, Ian's father had died on Christmas Day two years previously, my Mother died on 9th January 1995 it was my father's birthday. It is a regret that our offspring were never able to develop that special bond with these grandparents and child as they were so young when their grandfathers died and my Mother was too ill. Fortunately Ian's mother lived long enough to see her grandchildren grow up and to enjoy a loving relationship with them. 

Remembering our parents is all part of family and Christmas, my Mother was very relaxed in her later life about Christmas, my parents would go to East Anglia to my father's relations, although she would decide finally very last minute, I would then spend the holiday with the family of which ever boyfriend was around at the time, especially if I was working up to Christmas Eve or immediately after the Bank Holiday. We have tried to be relaxed with our offspring, if they want to join us great, but we don't get upset if they feel drawn to be with their other half's family. No three line whip here, so it was with great joy that all six of us enjoyed a family day together last Saturday. Their Christmas  gift to us was lunch at Bibendum in the delightful Art Deco Michelin building, great food and surroundings and we have the memories and menu to remind us of a happy occasion. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Winning streak

Although there is a view that raffles lead on to full scale gambling we are happy to buy a few tickets at charitable events, considering such purchases as a donation without the gift aid, feeling pleased if we win something. Thus we were delighted to receive an email telling us both had won a prize at a church winter fair we attended - we hadn't stayed till the end so missed the prize giving. 

Ian's prize was an amazing, a genuine Mulberry travel wallet,

We know it is genuine, not fake, as we were told the provinance, my prize marked up as first prize was the foodie contents of a big basket, great presentation too.  

Apart from the big raffle came away with a owl mug and an amaryllis, but I think fairs are more than just fund raisers, it is the social interaction, making new acquaintances and a feeling of fellowship and acceptance. Prizes and purchases are secondary to this. 

Just in case you thought I had abandoned knitting and crochet news I have been using up stash of double knitting to crochet a blanket of granny squares, another portable project but much quicker than the hexipuff quilt. Felt very saddened this weekend when I found I had worn out the heel of my pink socks, one of the earliest pairs I knitted and the best fitting. I have pattern and yarn to make a replacement pair, but there will never be the satisfaction of first mastering turning a heel. The socks were finished in Augsut 2011 from bamboo yarn, not as hard wearing as I thought. 

Socks as WIP, there are further details in my Ravelry projects page. 

Right, now back to writing Christmas cards, may I send my best wishes for Christmas and for the new year to everyone who reads this, whether they are known to me in cyberspace or in real life. Thank you all for your kindness and comments. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Bond girl

I am not a great film buff so it was with great amusement this week that I learnt that one of James Bond girls has been given my names, both Christian name and surname and spelt correctly. I like Bond girl better than Bond lady, it sounds more ditzy and frivolous, not really me but one can pretend 

In one newspaper there were comments about the Proust connection, however I see it as fun, I have found as an adult having a slightly unusual Christian name has been an advantage although as a child I wasn't so keen, fortunately my married name goes well with it too.

What larks! No pictures of me, I am in PJs still, have to look the best for my public now. 

Madeleine Swann aka PixieMum aka Bond girl. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Out and about

Last week I travelled by train to Winchester to meet with a school friend, apart from that link she taught both my children at their different secondary schools so she's interested in their progress too. On our way to the cathedral we passed the public library, of course I had to have a peep inside, does this count as Continuing Professional Development? Very impressed, well arranged, also something new to me was the loan of periodicals like Ideal Home, Good Housekeeping, Country Living, Mollie Makes. 

Almost as expected there was a First World War exhibition, the display of poppies had become to me a thoughtful art work.

After refreshments in the Cathedral Refectory we spent a long time in the Cathedral, on my previous visit there hadn't been time for this, unfortunately it meant I didn't see the Winchester bible as there is much building and restoration work afoot and the library and its treasures won't be available for a couple of years. We joined a tour group led by the most knowledgeable Hugh, a trainee guide pointed out windows designed but not executed by William Morris, I could see the links with some of his wallpaper and fabric designs, especially the leaves here in in Arbutus. 

On the train home was amused by the announcements approaching Basingstoke when passengers were told to "change here for Oxford, [pause] The Midlands and [another pause] The North".  It made the last two destinations sound a long way off,  rather exotic and a strange country. Oh, no it shouldn't be passengers, we are all customers now. I was in a quiet carriage, but that didn't  exclude chatter and noisy conversations with colleagues and other travellers, these presumably are allowed as not phone calls or loud music. 

Still a preferable way to travel rather than driving in the dark on the M3 with attendant road works between junctions 1 and 4A for I managed to crochet quite a few granny squares. 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A surprise

The big surprise was that England won their match against Samoa, especially so as Ian and I were there to watch it. What we call The Rugby Ground in popular local parlance and is officially the Twickenham Stadium is less than 30 minutes walk from Pixie Towers.  Good cardiovascular walk too, we are not dawdlers, the exercise was good for me, even more exercise walking up and round the concrete grey spiral that replaces stairs on the new south stand. 

The spiral can be seen in the lower circle of lights in this picture, taken on my phone as we were walking away from the stadium. The photographs from my phone have mysteriously appeared as "photo stream" on my iPad, not sure why they are so small here though.

The atmosphere was very jolly at the match, even in such huge crowds, with over 82,000 people we felt quite comfortable, even in the rather small seats where my knees were rather pushed against the seat in front, no one complained. the respect shown when everyone stood for both teams' national anthems, the humour in frequent Mexican waves and singing of Swing low, sweet chariot - just the first two lines of the first verse - and oohs and aarghs to action on the pitch. 

Fireworks and action before the start,

Then some action, I think we need to read Rugby for dummies to understand the action properly but it was entertaining. Write up in the paper today is a little more critical of England, there was plenty of play in the middle of the pitch and no one appeared to run full pelt down the side from one end to the other, but we enjoyed everything about our evening out. Even the weather favoured us, we had wrapped u p warmly,  it wasn't chilly and the rain stayed away whilst we walked there and back. 

There was a form of ticker tape running around the top of the stadium, which did explain a little what was happening, especially when players went off and substitutes came on. Why substitutes when no one was injured? Also there are large screens so if the action was a long way off one could watch the action in close up.  I did notice the red of the England kit looked more scarlet on the screen than on the pitch, part of seeing colours differently especially on a screen or when the background is different. 

It was different for us, it made us happy, we had exercise, fresh air and it has provided something about which to write for this blog that isn't knitting or serious. I did regret not taking knitting or crochet, weather was mild enough to have worked on a project between the two halves. 

Found this in my 'drafts' box, not sure why it wasn't published in early December, instead am publishing now. 

Saturday, 15 November 2014

More goodness.

Locally during November we have a literature festival, so far I have been to two talks, Ian went to one alone as I wasn't feeling up to it, tired and sinusy so coughing which wouldn't have been good for the audience to hear.  First talk was by Emma Bridgewater, well it was more a question and answer session, none the worse for that for she was so enthusiastic in her encouragement of British industry, of design and doing something that was against the trend by manufacturing in this country. What other products could gain from her insight?

Emma stressed the importance of craft, patchwork is for relaxation in the evenings, so she can be with her children whilst watching TV, or rather as she says listen and sew. We learnt her degree was in English literature, medieval I think, the ceramics appeared at first to be something into which she drifted whilst living in a house share in South London.  Certainly I would like to visit the factory, maybe try my hand then at decorating a bowl. DS and DiL have done this and praise the experience highly. 

A complete contrast was the talk about Ancient Greeks by Peter Jones, I believe he was on TV and has written about the Romans too.  Just hearing about the Greeks, the alphabet, language and just interesting snippets about the expansion being limited to places accessible by sea rather overland travel, about how women didn't count in their democracy, about their architectural designs still in use today left me wanting to learn more. There never seems enough time for craft, reading, domestic stuff, volunteering and socialising. 

Now we are booking another talk, keeps to my mantra of continuing to learn. 

Another good piece of news, today I made our Christmas cake, using a recipe from the Stork Cookery book that we were given in the sixth form at school, the same recipe I have used over the years, for my wedding cake and for Christmas. Only difference from the recipe is that I used unsalted butter rather than margarine, a product we never buy nowadays. Cake took over 4 hours to bak at Gas mark 1. 

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Beekeeper's Quilt.

Oodles of happiness here today as after 3 years and 3 months I completed the Beekeeper's Quilt. It started as a project to use up ends of sock yarn, at the time I had made just three pairs, most of the other 4ply yarn has come from other sources. 

The picture was taken by Ian standing on a chair, the quilt is on our hall floor, I will attempts have more photos of it in place,  am so delighted that it has turned out well. 

I have sewn it up using mattress stitch so the puffs butt up against each other, rather than following the instructions to tie them together at the corners. It has made for a less floppy, more solid quilt that is lovely and warm. 

I would like this to become a family heirloom, passed down the generations, like my mother's christening robe, first used in 1916, and made from a boderie anglais dress worn by my grandmother's bridesmaid when my maternal grandparents married in May 1914. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Some good things

It has been noticed that in various online places that folks are posting five good things in their lives, sometimes it is five good things for five days. Rather than commit myself to such discipline this procrastinator will post good things here with no regard for number or frequency.

Firstly, our garden, Ian has worked so hard in his green gym to make this look beautiful, last week he surprised the shop keeper by buying a whole tray of cyclamen to plant amongst the trees. 

Both pictures were taken with my iPad, not sure why they are different shape but I am still learning, not sure how to blow them up for those reading this on computers rather than tablets. 

Another delight in the garden is the bird feeders, if we eat breakfast in the kitchen rather than the dining room we are entertained by birds at the feeders, far better than Breakfast TV, especially when one is watching three parakeets trying to balance and feed. I am cruel enough to chase away the large number of pigeons who do the same acrobatics. 

A bit mundane, another delight for me is the home comfort afforded by domestic machinery and controls. This chilly morning I was just able to tap the plus symbol on the heating controls to ensure a warm house; a few minutes ago the washing machine pinged to tell me the laundry run was finished so I could put it in the dryer. When I compare this with the twin tub, the Redfire (?) with the coal scuttle filled from the coal bunker using a rusty cold shovel and washing freezing out on the washing line I am so appreciative. 

Finally, a good thing I have succeeded in making coasters to under under plant holders. I had quite a lot of bright coloured Rowan Big Wool to use up so made these five coasters for the orchids on the window cill. Must say that we have net curtains purely for security, I don't like them but blinds or shutters would look so wrong in a 1930s bay window with traditional furniture of that era. 

the coaster below matches the plant holder that came from my parent's home. It was on their dining room hearth too, but matches our blue tiles so well. Having a few items from our family homes is another small source of pleasure, for example two of our chiming clocks belonged to our respective grandparents. The main challenge is to have all three chiming clocks synchronised, another source of happiness. 

Below is my attempt at an aerial shot of the Granny Square without the pot on top.

Monday, 20 October 2014

It's so nice to go travelling .....

Yes, we have been travelling, over the seas in a plane to Ireland to Killarney, Ring of Kerry and then Dublin. 

As I didn't kiss the Blarney Stone when we went to Blarney Castle it may be better to post a few photos, some taken with my iPad as well as my traditional camera. Not sure traditional is the right adjective for a camera that doesn't have a roll of film. We were impressed with the widespread availability of Wifi, even in the hotel bedrooms, so I was pleased I had taken my iPad, but regretted I'd forgotten the widget to transfer photos from my camera.  

We travelled to Killarney National Park by horse drawn Jaunting Cars, sitting up front by the driver so had delightful views as Bluebell pulled the car towards Ross Castle. 

In the afternoon, it was a boat trip to Garinish Island, a bonus on the way were seals on a quite small rock, pity the vessels couldn't get nearer. 

For some reason I don't appear to have photos of journey around the Ring of Kerry, there were plenty of Kodak Corner opportunities, instead my memories are of friendly people in towns and villages where we stopped for breaks, clean and tidy settlements with no graffiti. some of the houses reminded me of American style, single storey with three windows, two to one side of the door and one on the other side. The grounds surrounding homes seemed all laid to grass, few flower beds, formal layout  or trees, all very neat and slightly severe.

Next three illustrations are Blarney castle, just to prove we went there whilst transferring from Killarney to Dublin, wouldn't want this post to be a pile of blarney. 

Just thought these Autumn bulbs were beautiful, spotted in the grounds. 

On the penultimate day we decided not to stay with the group who were visiting Wicklow Mountains, some more gardens and a rebuilt stately home but to wander around Dublin on our own. We had been shown Dublin's highlights from the coach, one evening we ate in Madigan's Bar where one of the staff advised us it would be more interesting to see the city. It may be gathered from my witterings that we are townies, not against the countryside as such but sometimes we need a break from viewing countryside from a coach, to look at the architectural details or the plaques of a building, to window shop or people watch. 

Our coffee break was in Dublin Castle, very impressed with yummy cakes everywhere, also wide availability of different teas and coffees in quite remote small places. A short walk brought us to Christ Church Cathedral just five minutes before the daily said Eucharist started at 12.45, it was meant to be, we hastened to the Lady Chapel, the words used were from 1928 service, so familiar from my youth, yet one had to think what the words meant. It is one of our traditions to try to go to church when we are on holiday so playing hookey from the rest of the party played unexpected spiritual dividends. 

Lunch was taken in a cafe called Urban Picnic, the owner and chef made us risotto from scratch, so delicious, his CV was on the back of the menu, he told us he hoped to open a restaurant in London. Great meal, although it must be said it wouldn't be good if one had a tight schedule. The cafe was in St George's Arcade and had been recommended by the owner of a secondhand bookshop in the arcade. He even closed up the bookshop to take us to the cafe, the shop and it's owner recalled a play "The Index has gone fishing" seen on TV once. 
Nearby was Powerscourt Centre, a rather upmarket shopping experience, it just happened I knew there was a yarn shop there, This is Knit again friendly staff, I came away with this Dublin Dye Company Yarn with which to make socks, also bought Debbie Bliss DK.  I had taken double knitting yarn leftovers from various projects to crochet whilst travelling, my supplies looked likely to dry up before we returned so chose a lovely scarlet. I will need to make 144 Granny squares for a blanket, this is becoming my travel project once the Beekeeper's Quilt is completed. 

To return to our trip away, just have to add we were fortunate with the weather, we had been delayed out of Heathrow because of rain and high winds, yet until our last day we had mostly good weather until the last day when we visited the Botanical Gardens on the way to Dublin airport. We had a tour, emerged from the glass houses to rain so weren't able to walk around so much time had to spent in the restaurant. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Just some thoughts

This past week has been one where we have been out and about, last Tuesday evening found us in Richmond to hear a talk from Simon Thurley about Richmond, its palace and the name change from Sheen.  We parked near The Green and walked along the towpath to the Old town Hall as the light was fading, took these pictures of one of my favourite views, especially with the Hill beyond the bridge.

This is looking in the other direction, i.e. towards London, we are so fortunate to have such scenery on our doorstep. 

Wednesday was another day out, in the morning we went to the Tower of London to see the poppies in the moat, a moving way of marking the hundred years since the First World War started. Again we are at war, why cannot we offer humanitarian assistance instead of dropping bombs? Probably far too simplistic that we became a neutral nation instead of rushing in to each conflict. 

The red in the uniform of the Beefeater mimics the poppy red. 

After lunch Ian and I went our separate ways, he saw the Ming exhibition at the British Museum whereas I headed for Tate Britain to meet Friend P. to see the Late Turner exhibit. We were slightly disappointed, it seemed in some rooms that as the gallery has all these late works of Turner they had better show them, but for non specialists they weren't very interesting. 

The answer to this was tea and cake, a most scrumptious chocolate cake, made without flour and a thick layer of chocolate on top and side.  

These refreshments stood us in good stead, our journeys home were horrendous, it took P. four hours to reach Harpenden, problems at St Pancras.  My journey took a couple of hours, Ian and I coincidentally were travelling on the same District Line train - not that we knew it at the time - the train was shown as going to Wimbledon but suddenly announcements were made to transmogrify it into a Richmond train. Maybe that was why the train was so packed, fortunately a few stops after Victoria a lady offered me her seat, I was grateful for the train was crowded all the way. As I was seated at the front I just managed to catch the late running Windsor train at Richmond, Ian wasn't so fortunate so had a 25 minute wait for the next Whitton train. Neither of us could believe how busy London was, it hadn't helped that the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines were partly closed. On Thursday I was in Richmond, volunteering at the local archives, again the traffic was jammed up so instead of travelling home by bus I took the train, the station and train was busier than I am used to. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Never stop learning

As I may have mentioned here I have been creating a Beekeeper's Quilt, made from over 400 squishy hexagons, these have been my constant travelling companions. Now that the end is nigh I will need a new yarn based creation to take in the car, on buses, trains and planes. 

After making the stripy cushion cover I had plenty of Rowan big yarn left, all odds and ends, needing to be used but not to make the same again. Not all the Rowan big yarn was left over, I have been acquiring all shades of blues and creams to male a throw or bed cover for our king size bed. 

The need was to practice before hand, yes, I know that isn't very English and it spoils the game but I am a perfectionist. As I thought I had plenty of yarn I decided to make granny squares to join together for a cushion cover for one of the pads purchased at Cotswold Woollen Weavers during our holiday.  It is many years since I learnt to make these squares, before it was in fine cotton with a tiny hook when my Mother and I went to evening crochet classes in the days when local authorities held classes for craft, I had learnt to dressmake this way too. 

Most of the instructions seemed to assume hat a change of colour was needed in every round, I had a big read up both online and in my library, then late at night when I couldn't sleep I remembered this booklet, hidden away in a bag with fine crochet thread from the time when we made doilies and duchess sets. 

It was purchased at Craftsmith, part of W. H Smith that didn't last long, this 6th edition cost 15p. No colour, no photographs, just line drawings and text but the problem of using the same colour for one round was solved. 

So, I spent yesterday making a square, unravelling many squares but finally satisfaction was achieved:-

This is pictured on my lovely pink Moomin tray, a recent birthday gift from Martha, ideal size to put bits and pieces on whilst I am joining up hexipuffs, means I don't mislay sewing needle, scissors, mobile phone when I am knitting/sewing/crocheting outside or inside. There was much consultation with my design consultant aka Ian as to whether I keep working this square until it is cushion size or whether I make lots of squares to be joined together. 

Decision has been made, make lots of individual squares, this will fulfil the portability criteria, also I will then need to learn how to join the squares together. More searching of Internet, books and UTube when the cover is ready to be assembled. The cushion is a fat 18" x 18" so plenty of squares to hook. 

Meanwhile, off to climb Mount Ironmore, left it yesterday whilst planning this new project. Edited to say that the ironing was left again, the sunshine won and I sat in the garden joining the hexipuffs and soaking up Vitamin D. 

Monday, 29 September 2014


Now it is a over a week since I joined the second Great London Yarn Crawl, still I have not come here to tell my readers all about my long day. Others have posted about the day with great eloquence that I cannot match, do head over to to read their blogs. It is to celebrate that the charity, Refuge has benefitted by £812 and 149 knitted and crochet garments were donated for mothers and children. 

The were 9 teams, all named after sheep, I had chosen Cheviot, our first shop was Knit with Attitude in Shoreditch High Street, they didn't open till 10am so we met in a nearby cafe, Lazy Social. Here our leader, or shepherd, Natalie, distributed our goody bags whilst we knitted at every moment possible. 

The team serving us, do admire the crochet granny squares around the counter. 

These two photos are the interior of Prick your Finger in Bethnal Greenso amazing that so much has been squeezed into this tiny treasure trove. 

After lunching in the York in Camden, Cheviot team headed to Loot in Camden Passage, spoken about in awesome terms by crafters, certainly a larger store on two floors, we gathered outside with our treasure. (Our leader wears a white Keep Calm and Yarn Crawl t-shirt)

From here we travelled on the top of two buses to Crouch End, on the first managed to bag a seat right at the front to travel north, so regret not using my camera, but in my defence was quite loaded with three bags, enjoyed viewing the Victorian villas and the architecture, also the area was quite hilly. The bus and short tube journeys meant it wasn't practical to knit whilst travelling between shops, The 50 minute journey to Seven Sisters station meant more progress on making hexipuffs, knitted in pub at lunchtime and whilst drinking tea in Nest. 

 Quite pleased how I coped with clambering to the top decks of buses, steps up and down to the tube stations, walking, socialising with people I had never met before, not easy for me, I worry about whether my small talk is too banal, or if I am boring my victim. 

Left home at 7.30 am travelling, with ClematisKnitter who lives nearby and was in Cheviot team too, staggered back indoors at about 8.30 pm clutching these goodies. 

We ended up at the Parcel Yard, the pub at Kings Cross Station, for the after crawl party with all the other teams, it was fun that Cheviot had a table right in the centre so we could see what was going on. Many companies had been generous with door prizes, I won an e-book download of patterns from Ysolda so yummy designs drop into my Ravelry library from:-

Mugs of tea for ClematisKnitter and myself to keep us going for the trek home on the Piccadilly and District Lines, she and  her husband kindly gave me a lift from the station. 

The date for next year has been announced, it is my intention - health permitting - to do this again, it follows my mantra of living for the day, learning new skills and I do like the charitable element too. Next time I will know to knit or crochet more goodies for Refuge, not just the one cowl I made.