Thursday 27 December 2018

The Best of 2018

It's always fun to look back over the year and enjoy the best bits. Every year has it's up and downs but overall 2018 has been a good year with more highs than lows. I'm crossing my fingers that 2019 will continue in the same vain. Cheryl over at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting her Best of 2018 link party. There are no set rules, just pick your 5 best posts of 2018 and link them up. I love things that have no particular rules and are easy to do so let me see what I can come up with.

The post that had the most views surprised me because I was sure it was going to be a blog hop post or quilters meet and greet but no the one with the most views was a  Friday Finish at the end of March where I showed off Beulah who I had just finished stitching.

I still have a couple more bag ladies to finish stitching before I can make the quilt top. That's on my list of things to do in 2019.

In September I showed off my favourite quilt, The Mariners Compass Quilt. John bought me the fabric for this quilt for Christmas 2016 and I worked on it throughout 2017.  I renamed it my rescue quilt. It took a lot of concentration to get the pattern right and due to my neuropathy and poor concentration the points aren't perfect and neither are the joins between blocks but I love this quilt. I played with the quilting and practised my free motion quilting. It's now on my bed and I'm very proud of it.

I love spending time with my family and over the year John, Lucy and I have shared many walks. This pair are great walking companions. They like to stop and look at things, enjoy coffee and cake and chat a lot as we walk. What more can you ask of your walking partners.

When I post pictures of our walks I receive a lot of comments. I'm thrilled that people in other countries want to see more of Britain. We are very lucky to have a rich history with lots of ancient monuments and castles but also beautiful countryside.

I love taking part in blog hops, they're such fun and visiting everyone is so inspiring. Carol from Just Let me Quilt has run several blog hops this year and I've taken part in all of them (if my memory is working correctly.) One of my favourites was the virtual cookie hop where we could share Christmas recipes, decorations and quilts. It gave me a chance to show off my stollen that I made for the first time. I always thought it must be really difficult to make so hadn't attempted it before. I just wish I'd been able to get hold of white marzipan rather than the golden that was available in our nearest grocery store.

The final 'best' of 2018 is all of you out in blog land. You inspire me with the quilts and items you make, you teach me so many new techniques and help with decision making. I love reading the blogs I follow and also dipping into others. It's a shame there isn't more time to read more blogs but if I did that I'd never get anything made.

2018 has been a good year. I haven't made that many things but I've had fun and learnt some new skills along the way. I'm looking forward to 2019 and developing my quilting and stitching skills even more.

Click on the best of 2018 button on the sidebar to go and see what other people are linking up. 


Tuesday 25 December 2018

Wishing you all a merry Christmas.

You risked the crowds to buy the food and presents,

You've cleaned and decorated the house in preparation.

You've  spent time cooking and baking

You may have visited your place of worship

Now  take time to enjoy Christmas and the joy of sharing it with those close and important to you.

Merry Christmas to you.


Wednesday 19 December 2018

A weekend away.

On Friday night John and I did our packing for the weekend, not that there was a lot of personal items to pack as we were only staying one night but there were a lot of other things. We were heading up to a marina near Leicester where my younger brother lives on his canal boat, Water Pixie. He didn't name the boat as this was chosen by the previous owner but he likes it and is planning on painting a water pixie on the bow. That will happen in the summer and once he's decided what a water pixie should look like. 

The boat is moored in a marina on the river Soar. We arrived well before lunch even though I had delayed getting out of bed as I was so comfortable and wanted to savour my morning cup of tea. The journey wasn't bad as it was light and there was no rain. We got held up by road works but that's an everyday problem.  

I remembered to take my camera with me and later in the evening I remembered to take some pictures although I forgot to get a photo of the boat itself. I think he said it was a 54  foot boat but it could be a little longer. I took this picture from the boat's Facebook page

At the back of the boat i.e. the end with the tiller the first area is the kitchen. I took a quick photo of Alex as he made some coffee

Then there's a narrow corridor past some cupboards, bedroom and the bathroom.

The bed is very comfy but quite high off the floor. He has a TV here but uses it to play videos whilst snuggled in bed before settling to sleep. There's also lots of handy shelves at both ends of the bed for books and clocks etc. His boat has one porthole which is here in the bedroom. Instead of a curtain he has a 'porthole cushion' for use at night.

I didn't photograph the bathroom but he had a bath with a shower over it, washbasin and of course a toilet.  The main living area is at the front of the boat. It was neat and tidy until we arrived and dumped our things.

The boat has central heating but in the corner it also has a fire which was very efficient and heated the room really well.

Looking back the other way he has more storage space on the wall between the main room and the bathroom. Under the windows on the right hand side were book shelves.

He was starting to decorate for Christmas and I loved this light.

We had a great weekend and I was able to show Alex his quilt. The scrappy quilt I am hoping to finish this month is for him and although there is still quite a bit to do on it I decided to take it with me to show him. He was very pleased with it and we arranged another trip early in the new year, weather permitting, so I can give it to him. The pillow was for his friend Jacqui and she was really happy with it especially as the colour suited her living room very well. I've been looking after two of Alex's guitars, one being a large twelve string. I'm not sure where he will store them on the boat but he was very happy to be reunited with them

The journey home from Alex's was good until we reached London when it began to rain heavily. It made the last part of the journey rather tiring and once home I didn't have the energy to do anything. That rain has set the pattern for the week and again today I found myself driving through heavy rain.

I always make a Christmas cake and this year I cut it into pieces, first in half and the I cut one half in half again. The half cake we have kept for ourselves. I usually make some special decorations out of sugar paste but this year I just didn't have the time so I bought a pack of these little decorations. On the other two pieces I used the holly leaves which left the puddings for my cake. I gave one quarter to Alex and one to Katy. I know Alex liked his as he's nearly finished it. I'll find out what Katy thought this weekend. I haven't finished the edging on my piece of cake so I'll do that later this week and it will be ready to share with friends this weekend 

When John and I went to the Stitching and Knitting exhibition In October I saw an embroidery kit I really liked but it was quite large. John said he'd buy it for my birthday but I opted for this small piece. If I enjoy making this I will get the larger piece. The kit has all the threads and fabric you need. The poppies are made using red silk. The piece is small at just a little short of 4 inches by 4 inches and I can't wait to get started on it.

This week I received my subscription box for the month. I love the fabrics in this months box. Having made the Dresden plate cushion for Jacqui I want to make one for myself using this red fabric. I love the coaster that was included in the box and the pack of tissues for dressmakers or stitchers but the best bit is the 15% off voucher for use in January 2019. Not that I need anymore fabric but since when did you have to need fabric?

Last night John and I went to our local pub as they had the London Welsh male voice choir there to start the build up to Christmas with some Christmas carols and songs. They were very good and we all joined in. It was great fun and the perfect way to get ready for Christmas

I have two more days to work until I'm on holiday for two weeks. I have lots of sewing to do over the two weeks and I can't wait.

I hope you Christmas preparations are going well. I still have a lot of grocery shopping to do but it will all get done in time. I also need a couple of presents and then I'll be ready. 


Friday 14 December 2018

Quilting update and a birthday

My goal for December is to quilt my scrappy quilt. In fact I need this before Christmas as it's a gift for someone.

I've put in a lot of hours so far and I'm about half done, possibly a little more. For now I've had to stop as I've run out of thread and I'm away for the weekend. I'm confident it will be completed before Christmas but it will go right down to the line. In the meantime I've put my knitting on hold as this takes priority.

This time of year is very busy for everyone, well everyone who celebrates Christmas. I'm visiting my younger brother Alex this weekend. I haven't seen him for two years. It's not that he lives thousands of miles away, it's just coordinating times was a problem since I spent last year having various treatments. Since I last saw him he's moved house and now lives in a marina on a canal barge. I'll post pictures next week. Since I last saw him he's had major surgery on his neck to stabilise his spine and stop it compressing his spinal cord. He had reached the point of having difficulties walking and his hands had gone numb so he couldn't play his guitars. The surgery went well and he has good hand movement and feeling but still uses crutches. I seem to remember that he told me his doctor said he needed to practice without them but that would be worrying around the water. Anyway it is going to be fabulous seeing him again

Alex is my younger brother by eleven years. I also have an older brother Ian and again we haven't seen each other for a few years. Every year we exchange birthday and Christmas cards and last week I received my birthday card. Ian had included a letter which was lovely and we are arranging to meet up in the new year. 

So last weekend I celebrated my 65th birthday. Normally my birthday celebrations last for one day but this year my family had other plans and I enjoyed a whole weekend of birthday fun. I was working on Friday but John had tickets for us to see Ralph McTell at the Queen Elizabeth hall at the South bank. We travelled by tube which meant I was able to drink. I always act as the nominated driver if we go out and one of us has to drive. If I'm driving I don't drink any alcohol. We decided to have a pizza at Pizza Express before the concert which was delicious and the gingerbread cheese cake with mascarpone was very tasty. 

I've loved Ralph McTell's music since I was a teenager so I've grown up with him. He has a fabulous voice, that has got better as he's got older and that really suits the folk music that he writes and sings. Here's a video from YouTube.

Saturday was my birthday and Kathryn came over for the day. She had some work to prepare as examples for her art students so Lucy and I helped. It was fun sitting together round the dining table working and drinking red wine. John cooked a fabulous meal and we had a great family time. Katy's partner Olly was working as was Richard but Lucy's boyfriend Dan came over and had bought me some fat quarters. The boy learns fast!

Sunday Lucy and Katy had booked for the three of us to go to the Cauldron, a magical cocktail bar where you have a magic class of mixing cocktails. When we arrived we got our cloaks and our wand. These are timed sessions and this is how the venue looked prior to the next customers entering.

The wooden box on the table was magical. It had runes on the door and you had to work out how to open it. This is where the wand came into its own

Once the door was open you got your first drink and the slate which explained the letters.

There was a menu to choose from and then the ingredients were bought to the table in a box. We had to do the mixing.

For this one you had to heat the various liquids, a mixture of alcohol and fruit in the hourglass. As the liquid heated it was pushed up into the top of the hourglass where the spices and orange peel infused it. Our burner ran out of gas so we had to use our wand to magic up our server to help us.

Once fully mixed and an 'owl pellet' added it was time to pour our cocktail. It was warm, tasty and very alcoholic.

For our next cocktail we needed to use the box so that we could mix the ingredients. You put the jar on the box and used your wand. Hey presto it spun the liquid round. You have to love electromagnets.

This one was the blood curse or something like that. I can't remember exactly as I was having too much fun with the mixing. This one kept on bubbling whilst you drank it

Our final cocktail was an amazing green and I loved it. 

We all really enjoyed ourselves. There was no nibbles available in the venue so when we left we risked life and limb crossing a major and very busy road to visit the shop opposite so we could buy crisps. We bought some creamy mushroom flavoured crisps which we had never had before. They were delicious. What a great outing, grown up cocktails whilst pretending to be young witches practising our spells. When we got home John had prepared dinner and it was almost cooked. I had a fabulous birthday weekend and didn't have to do any grocery shopping or cooking all weekend.

Now I'm working on the run up to Christmas. I still have a couple of presents to get and I need to do some shopping. I've started on my pre Christmas cleaning and will continue that after the weekend. This evening I'm going to sort out what I need for the weekend and then I'll do some knitting. We decided to drive up to Alex's in the morning and we plan on getting up at 6 so I want to go to be a little earlier than usual.

I hope you Christmas preparations are going well.


Thursday 13 December 2018

A trip to the summer exhibition

Back at the end of July John and I visited the Royal Academy of Art  summer exhibition. This is always a fun event and this year was a little special as the exhibition was celebrating 250 years. The work being exhibited covers the whole range from very traditional to totally wild and wacky. That's what makes it fun. Whatever your tastes in art there is sure to be something you like. This year the coordinator for the exhibition was Grayson Perry so we knew it was sure to be colourful and fun and it certainly lived up to expectations. This is a picture heavy post and while I'll indicate why I liked the pieces or chose to take a photo I'll leave you to decide what you think. This is a very small representation of a huge exhibition.  I'm posting this now as I've just managed to get the photos to download properly from my phone. 

As we turned into the courtyard outside the RA this is what we saw. I'm not sure what the title of this piece was but it was certainly large. As you can see from the ground it was slightly damp having been drizzling. Seconds later the heavens opened and we had to run to get indoors.

In the entrance to the exhibition was this large fabric piece. I loved the applique and the knitting. It was hanging from the ceiling and very difficult to get a picture of all of it. I got a photo from a different angle as we finished the exhibition and it shows some more of it. I've put this as the last photo.

How about this very large pink panther inter woven in the piece?

I liked this tree but it could have been red paint that had been blown around with a straw. Do you remember doing paint blowing as a child.

This one was getting quite a bit of attention.

It's always difficult to get a good picture when it's behind glass. This was the view in the first room of the exhibition.

They were serving champagne and gin so you could sip whilst viewing. We didn't bother as it seems a bit pretentious and I prefer to do my sipping of champagne with company I know. Also you can't take photos and balance a glass at the same time...well I can't.

Some of the work in the exhibition is by famous artists but most is by ordinary folk who can send in their work and hope it gets picked for display. Most of the works were also on sale but there wasn't anything that really grabbed my attention that was in my price range..

There was a fair amount of fabric art amongst the pieces on display.. This piece was causing a lot of discussion.

as was this one

I'd already seen this one on a documentary about the exhibition . I liked it more in person.

I liked this picture as it reminded me of trips to the beach

and this one is very wistful.

Some exhibits were difficult to identify as exhibits as they looked like someone had left them behind. 

This dog was getting lots of comments

It had a lot of bling making up its fur

and its muzzle was amazing and made up of lots of springs

This one stood on the opposite side of the doorway. Made from nails, nuts and bolts.

This head was made using eggshells. It's very effective especially from across the other side of the room.

and then there was this bear stepping out from the carpet. People were standing in front of this one for ages.

There were also a lot of architectural models but they were very difficult to get good pictures of.

I really liked this piece mostly because it was so simple.

I also liked the model of the cassette player and the cassettes. I did laugh at one mother explaining about cassettes to her son who must have been about 12/13 years old.

This picture by David Hockney was huge but didn't get into my top exhibits list.

This one with the horses I did like.

There was string, twigs wire and grass in the items used to make it.

This picture was my favourite at the exhibition. Having been bald last summer I hope I looked half as good and as happy as she does. The title of the piece is fortitude and is part of a series.

These three made me smile a lot.

Finally so you can see the full height and size of the fabric piece I showed you at the beginning

and a little clearer detail.