Friday 30 November 2018

Prepping for a weekend sew-in

When I finished work yesterday I braved the really strong winds and headed to a fabric shop. The town where I'd been working doesn't have a quilting shop but it does have a small fabric shop that sells a small amount of quilting fabric alongside their fashion fabric range. I found some quilting cotton that will work well in the quilt I'm making and my plan for the weekend is to get the quilt to the flimsy stage. This would leave me next week and the weekend to do the quilting. I also managed to get a cushion pad for the cover I've made. 

The journey back to the car park was interesting as the wind had increased in force whilst I'd been shopping. I was now heading into the wind and it was very hard going. When I reached the safety of the car my legs were aching and felt like jelly. It had also started raining hard so I sat for a little while to see if it would improve at all but in the end I started the drive home with the wind buffeting the car and the rain considerably reducing the visibility. Fortunately the wind dropped as I got closer to London and eventually the rain stopped but I was completely drained by the time I arrived at home. I had planned on getting the fabric cut but after dinner I sat with Scamp on my lap and did some knitting whilst watching TV.

Today I was working but as soon as possible I cut out and headed for home. I'm going to try and get all the fabric cut tonight and I need to trim the blocks I've made for this quilt so that I can get sewing first thing in the morning. I also need to pop out to the local grocery store and pick up some sewing snacks for the weekend and sort out some podcasts or an audio book to listen to whilst I sew.  That's almost too many decisions for a Friday evening. 

Whilst knitting last night I realised how much fitter I am these days. Last year I tired very quickly and knitting and hand stitching caused me pain if I did it for too long or too often. Last night I was simply flying through the rows and although I was drained by my tiring drive home I soon felt better. I am also so much happier having unpicked all the knitting and restarted it in a bigger size. When I feel something isn't going well or it's not going to fit then I tend to put it to the back of my storage cupboard.

When I got back from Ethiopia I started to tell you about the trip but didn't get very far so I thought I'd share the next bit with you now. I forgot to take a photo of our hotel room for the first night but it was very comfortable and the coffee available in the room made a delicious start to the day. We were up at 7 for breakfast as we had to be at the airport at 9;30 for a 10:50 flight. The security took ages to get through even though it was an internal flight. The flight was only an hour and a half. Here's the view from the window.

The good bit about being part of a party is that the luggage was collected by the support team and transported to our hotel ahead of us. This happened throughout our trip.

We'd flown to Mekelle airport. From here we went straight to lunch at a restaurant in the local town where we were treated to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony for the first time. This was an event that happened several times over the trip but this was by far the best tasting coffee we were served. We found that you can't rush lunch in Ethiopia and this was to cause several of our days to run late.

We'd come to this area to visit the rock churches. These churches have been cut out of solid rock and looked amazing.  We visited the first one in the afternoon and this involved a long drive along a very windy road with lots of hairpin bends that climbed up and up. When you could see the drop it was quite scary. The church is the oldest of the rock churches. Here you can see the rock on the left of the picture. In the middle part of the picture is where the rock has been cut away and the rock has been carved out of the inside to form the church interior.

You had to take your shoes off to enter the church and women needed to cover their head. The doors into the church were massive.

The paintings on the walls were beautiful and the colours were very bright. You couldn't use flash in the churches to prevent damage to the paintings.

A few years ago the church was vandalised with fire and we saw the damage on the roof decorations.

Chanting and drumming plays an important part in Ethiopian religion. The drums are a traditional shape.

There were good views across the countryside

Back down the scary zigzaggy road and a long drive to Adigrat where we were spending the night. When we arrived at the hotel the electricity was off so there were candles in the reception and dining rooms. We checked our luggage into our room by torch light. Our instructions for the trip had told us to pack a torch as the electricity can be unreliable right across the country. The lights came on halfway through our dinner but the power cut really helped the group to gel. We all drank a little too much beer and wine and enjoyed our food.

In the morning I took a photo of our lodge room to show you.This was the most basic of our hotel rooms.

The electrics were rather interest.

As we walked out of our room this was our view.

The new day was very warm and sunny and after breakfast we were all ready for the next visit.

Tomorrow I'll tell you how my sewing went and give you day three of our trip.


Monday 26 November 2018

Virtual Cookie Blog Hop

I'm taking part in the Virtual Cookie Exchange blog hop and today is my day for sharing. A big thank you to Carol from Just Let me quilt for organising the hop. The hop is about sharing a Christmas recipe but also traditions or quilts. I love sharing and sharing recipes and traditions from Christmas is always good fun.

We always have a Christmas cake at home and from the time I left home to start my nurse training I took over making the Christmas cake. As a family we like a rich fruit cake and I've used the same recipe for as long as I can remember. I even used this recipe to make my wedding cake. It comes from the Good housekeeping recipe book, which has been used so often over the years that it is falling in pieces. It would have a lot of pages missing it they weren't held in place with sellotape.

Traditionally we made the Christmas cake during the October half term and then every weekend we would pour a little brandy over it to keep it nice and moist. At the beginning of December the almond paste or marzipan would be added to cover the cake prior to the icing. The introduction of moulding icing made decorating the cake much easier and far more fun.As we had been away on holiday I made the cake on the 17th November and this coming weekend I will add the almond paste. The cake decorations are different every year. In 2016 it was a very simple design with white icing and white and blue snowflakes sprinkled over the icing. One Christmas we had polar bears on one half of the cake and penguins on the other. I haven't worked out the decoration for this year but I want to use more colour, maybe Santa in his sleigh with a large bag of presents.

Another tradition that we have done over the years is to make sugar mice in the lead up to Christmas. Sometimes we add food colouring to make them brighter but in 2016 we left them white. These days we use the moulding icing to create the mice

Every year I buy stollen as John and I love it but this year I decided to have a go at making it. Last year I was given this recipe book and the recipe for stollen is in it.

Stollen is a traditional Austrian fruity yeast bread that is filled with almond icing (marzipan) The top can be glazed with a light glace icing but I prefer it just with icing sugar over it. It is so tasty served warm. If it doesn't all get eaten while it is fresh, it can be toasted . It also freezes very well. You can get Delia's recipe HERE  The recipe goes together quickly and it worked very well. Once cooked and cooled  I sprinkled icing sugar over it.

When you cut into it it looks very pretty with the different dried fruits. I should have used white marzipan but I only had the yellow marzipan.

A very important part of the lead up to Christmas is our advent calendar. I made this when the children were very small but we have been using it every year since.The pockets aren't very big but we manage to get enough sweets for one sweet each every day. 

A few years back I won the fabric used for this Christmas quilt in a blog hop. It is a favourite family Christmas quilt. It looks beautiful on my bed but we tend to bring it downstairs and cuddle under it whilst watching TV.

I love Christmas and have got quite excited just thinking about it. Last year I was still feeling the effects of my cancer treatment but this year I feel very well and happy so I'm hoping for some snow at Christmas and looking forward to a very family centred time.

Now you need to go and see what everyone has posted on their blogs. Thank you for popping by and I hope to see you again soon.

November 27

November 28

November 29

See you all soon. I'm going to make a cup of tea, cut a slice of stollen and enjoy reading all of todays posts.

Take care


Sunday 25 November 2018

Catching up with sewing.

Well this week really flew past and I seemed to spend the whole time trying to catch up with sleep. Our trip to Ethiopia was extremely interesting and enjoyable but we packed a lot of activity into the days. We were moving from place to place and on several occasions we only spent 1 night at a particular hotel. The first night I stay anywhere I often don't sleep very well and as a result I ended up a little short of sleep over the holiday. Over the week I finally caught up on sleep and so this weekend I found the energy to get my sewing machine out.

In the run up to Christmas I wanted to make a couple of presents so yesterday I pulled out some fabric from my subscription box and a pattern for a Dresden plate pillow. The fabric is by Liberty and feels beautiful. I had to cut the template for the blades and then cut the fabric. It didn't take long and the whole pattern went together quite quickly. When I stopped yesterday evening I had the back of the pillow all pieced together and the front was ready for quilting. This morning I finished the front and sewed the front and back together. Once finished I pressed the cover. Now all I need to do is get a pillow pad and the present is complete. I love the finished project.

Although I was tired last weekend I took time out to make my Christmas cake. I usually make it a little earlier, normally at the end of October but I was busy with other things. Anyway I soaked the dried fruit and then got on with the cake. When I'm baking cakes I like to prep all the ingredients first and then it all goes together much more quickly.

The cake has brandy in it and for a couple of weeks I pour a couple of tablespoonfuls of Brandy over it. It keeps the cake very moist and it's very tasty. However I always make sure family and friends are aware that it has alcohol in it, especially if they're driving.

Earlier this week I pulled out the jumper I'm knitting for John. I spent some time reminding myself about the pattern and vowed to get on with the knitting the next day. When I went downstairs the next morning I found that Picasso and Scamp had been 'playing' with the knitting and had managed to pull it of the needles. Quite a lot had been pulled undone and the yarn was tied in knots. It took ages it get it all sorted out and then I had a slight 'moment'. I had been worried that it wasn't going to fit properly. John likes his thick jumpers to be slightly large and I'd thought that it was knitting up rather small. I measured everything very carefully and then made the decision to undo it all and re knit it in one size larger. I decided to start with the sleeves and I completed the first sleeve on Friday evening. I'm part way up the second sleeve now and hope to have it finished by Tuesday. I haven't taken a new photo so here is  one I took when I knitted this up before.

The yarn is beautiful It's made with the wool of three different breeds of sheep. It has a lovely soft feel and is quite delightful to knit with. I use bamboo needles to knit as they are lighter and don't hurt my hands. 

Tomorrow I'll tell you some more about my trip to Ethiopia. For now I'm linking this post with Kathy for her Slow Sunday Stitching Then I'll knit a couple more rows before heading to bed.


Saturday 17 November 2018

A trip to Ethiopia

I haven't posted on my blog for several weeks and I'm very sorry about that. I had lots to do to get ready for our trip to Ethiopia. First I had a lot of marking and lesson prep for work. I also needed to make sure everything was organised for Brownies as Lucy would be running the groups with help from Richard, our son. I wanted to be able to enjoy my holiday without worrying I'd forgotten to do something/

Anyway On Sunday 4th November John and I set off from our home in South London to head for Heathrow airport. We travelled by underground as it isn't a long journey and we get free travel, a perk of being over 60. Unfortunately the journey wasn't as quick as we expected due to engineering works on the lines and a broken down train. We did arrive on time even with those problems and we got our flight. 

The flight was overnight and during that time I watched 3 movies and played lots of games. I just couldn't sleep but John slumbered happily next to me.  As we came into land at Addis Ababa airport I managed to get a good view of the magnificent sunrise, the colour was amazing.

Our trip to Ethiopia had been organised by the priest from the church we attend. There were 19 members of the church on the trip and it was about discovering the country but also following the development of Christianity in Ethiopia. It took some time to clear the airport as we had to get a visa in order to enter the country. Eventually our whole group had our visas and we could pass into the luggage hall, collect our bags and meet our guide for the trip. We travelled to our hotel so we could have a short rest before our first visit. I certainly needed a short lie down and a cup of coffee.

Our first visit was to The Holy Trinity Cathedral, the highest ranking Ethiopian orthodox church and the second most important  place of worship in the country.  The church was built to celebrate the country's liberation from Italian occupation.

The church compound is the burial ground of those people who fought against the Italian occupation.  We found the grave of Sylvia Pankhurst in the compound and that of her son.  She was an English campaigner for the suffragette movement, a prominent left communist. Later in her life she spent much of her time agitating on behalf of Ethiopia. At the invitation of Haille Selassie she moved to Addis in 1956 with her son Richard. She died in Addis Ababa in 1960 and was buried in the compound in front of the cathedral. She is the only foreigner to be buried there.

 Inside the church there were some very colourful stained glass windows, depicting bible stories.

After visiting the church we had a look round the compound and then we visited the National museum to see Lucy. Lucy is the name given to the the bones of a 3.2 million year old skeleton found near the village of Hadar. She was called Lucy because the Beatles song, 'Lucy in the sky with diamonds' was playing very loudly and on repeat all evening of the first day of work at the recovery site.

Whilst I was in the museum the journey and lack of sleep caught up with me and I had to sit down for a while. Once back on my feet I checked out some of the textiles on display. They were outfits worn by officials and were beautifully embroidered.

The lighting was very dim as the fabrics were very fragile. As they were in glass cases I got the reflection on the glass. 

This one had feathers and fur .

In one of the upstairs rooms there were several paintings .

Outside in the garden we found a couple of huge tortoises. Unfortunately there was nothing to give an idea of size.

There were a lot of colourful flowers in the garden and lots of birds. Several people on the trip were very interested in bird watching so we regularly had to stop to identify the birds and plants.

There was a huge amount of building going on in the city and we were fascinated by the scaffolding. They used eucalyptus wood to make the scaffold poles and they were nailed together. It looked a little dangerous.

By this time the light was beginning to fade so we headed back to the hotel for dinner and a good sleep.

I took some embroidery with me but unfortunately the lighting in the hotel rooms was rather dim so by evening I couldn't see clearly enough to do any stitching. Instead I read a chapter of the book I had with me before bed.

I'll tell you some more about the trip tomorrow. For now I'm off to bed as I'm so tired from the trip. Whenever I sit down for a few minutes I find I've fallen asleep.