Archive for category Life in France

Out For A Ruby

I think I have said on this blog before that life is too short to stuff a mushroom but, evidently, it’s not too short to paint rose petals with egg white and dust them with sugar.

Why, I hear you ask, were you engaging in the sort of shenanigans usually only bothered with by celebrity chefs and contestants in baking competitions?  Because I was making a dessert for a Ruby Wedding celebration is my answer and I thought it appropriate to have red rose petals sprinkled artfully over and around said dessert.  Well – they were definitely red to start with but after a brush with the egg white they turned a pinker shade of red.  No matter – they were pretty anyway and I move even closer to my Domestic Goddess status .

Some friends of ours were celebrating 40 years of marriage – and look! they’re still laughing.

A mixture of French and Brits were present to help them celebrate and, of course, being a Ruby Wedding Anniversary, there had to be a Ruby Murray on offer.  Firstly because you can’t get a decent curry here for love nor money unless you make your own , secondly because we are Brits and we have to have curry occasionally in order to survive and what better excuse than when the name is in both titles?  For those not in the know a ‘Ruby Murray’ is cockney rhyming slang for a curry.

The occasion demanded another foray into my new passion for freehand machine embroidery.

Colin is a massive Chelsea Football fan and so I had to portray him wearing something with the crest on it and Jan has got a gorgeous mass of curly hair.  They are dog lovers and have a particular soft spot for golden retrievers which they generally find in re-homing centres and so they had to be in the picture too.  I must perfect my dog breed representation but you get the drift.  I was gratified to see that, despite not having seen my gift at that point, Colin had dressed to match it.

I had a bit of a scare because when I showed my French sewing buddy the embroidery last week she told me that a Ruby Wedding is not 40 years of marriage and, even though I would practically have signed away my house on the certainty that I was right, I did have to Google it when I got home and discovered that the French call it a Ruby Wedding at 35 years – trust them to be different 🙂

So, I didn’t have to undo any stitching and the French friends and neighbours present at the ‘do’ all happily went along with our quaint foreign ways anyway  – even sampling the curry!

Anyway, back to the rose petals which I used to adorn a fruit tart  – my contribution to the dessert table.   If I tell you it was an adaptation of a Nigella Lawson recipe it won’t surprise you to know that it probably didn’t do anybody’s cholesterol levels any favours.  Originally a black and white tart – using blackberries and whitecurrants – this was, once again, from her ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ book which is now my go to bible for puddings/cakes and other wickedness having rediscovered it on my bookshelves recently.

I thought the raspberries would look like little rubies – well big ones actually –  if you had one that size in a ring or a couple in a pair of earrings you wouldn’t complain would you? **  

The digestive biscuit base was ‘enhanced’ by a spoonful of cocoa powder and the mascarpone filling was ‘further enhanced’ by some melted white chocolate, the remainder of which was grated on top (well, most of the remainder, some might have found its way elsewhere 😉 )  Anyway, I think it was good but, by the time I got up to the dessert table, it had all gone.

The dessert table – before

I should have nabbed a slice instead of taking photos 😦   Luckily, I have made it once before, without the cocoa and the white chocolate and I know that version was good and, as it so happens I have a photo of it too, albeit taken on my phone in artificial light.

I only paint rose petals on special occasions 😉

 

** I was reminded here of one of my favourite one-liners from Only Fools and Horses  where Del buys Grandad some strawberries and he complains they’re not very big to which Del replies ‘What do you mean they’re not very big? You wouldn’t want one of those up yer nose for a wart would yer?’

 

What do you mean they ain't 
                                          very big? You wouldn't like 
                                          one of those up yer nose for 
                                          a wart would ye
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A Bit of Tech Talk, A Quilting Capitulation, A Hatbox Hiatus and a Very Special Link

I have recently emerged from a 5 day internet blackout due to some twonk disconnecting our cable whilst connecting somebody else up.  It didn’t help that it happened the day before a public holiday which fell on a Thursday and, it being France, they like to take the Friday off as well so that they get a nice long weekend – a phenomenon I won’t comment on as I have to live here.   I would like to tell you that it was a refreshing change of pace for me and enabled me to catch up on projects and chores long forgotten but, in reality, it was a pain in the arse.  I had no fixed phone line on which to make international calls so couldn’t contact my Mum, husband or eldest daughter, no telly, no Spotify and, what was worse, no Google.  Mr. T had to cancel his flight home as he needed to have an internet connection on the Friday and I closed my Etsy shops in case anybody bought anything as I wouldn’t have known about it.  What about your mobile I hear you ask.  Well, I did eventually set up a hot spot to check my emails and so many came through – some with photos! – that I whizzed through my data allowance pretty quickly – well, I did stream a Netflix film through it too on Saturday night which might not have helped so now I am data-less until 22nd June.   However, it did make me think that I could pay to have a whopping amount of data and do away with the dreaded ‘livebox’ and reliance on the wobbly pole that holds all the cables over the road.  The only thing stopping me – I think, as I have to look into it a bit more – is the international calls which come free with our current tariff.  Does anybody exist with just their mobile/cell/portable – how is it for you?

Now, having bored you rigid with my decidedly non-tech tech-talk, on to the ‘quilting capitulation’ of the title .  Remember this quilt top that I had put together and even got as far as spray basting it with the batting and backing?

 I decided to machine quilt it by following the lines of the ‘braids’ across the width of the quilt.  I was soon disabused of this notion as the constant stopping and changing direction for the chevrons was making my layers shift  – which is actually a very good euphemism for how I was feeling.

So, I said ‘enough’ -or another couple of words that I won’t put into print – and decided to act on my previous deliberations and send it off to be professionally quilted.  I have never done this before but I thought I’d give it a try.  It has been done and, as we speak, being sent back to Mr. T.’s office in the U.K. and he will probably be able to bring it back with him next Thursday so I am waiting with excitement – and a little trepidation – to see how it has turned out.  I found the price for quilting very reasonable although, once the batting and backing materials were added on it gave me a jolt but then I would have had to have bought those in any case – it’s just seeing the cost all in one place.  Anyway, as soon as it has arrived and I have put the binding on I will let you know how it went.  I could have had the binding put on professionally too but I thought doing it myself would allow me to ‘reconnect’ with the quilt again which sounds really pretentious but you get my drift.

So, on to the ‘hatbox hiatus’.  It is the end of the month and Kate over at Tall Tales from Chiconia and I are still busy with our hatboxes.  Mine are all finished now as I only needed twelve for a wall hanging but Kate is making a full size quilt so is still constructing her boxes.  I now need to make decisions regarding sashing and backing.  Here are my blocks, just to remind you, and they are definitely not in their final layout due to the pesky but lovely deep gold and pink one which I’m finding hard to place but I’ll get there in the end.

The backing doesn’t really matter as you won’t see it – although I’ll know it’s there so I don’t want anything too nasty – but I’m not sure whether to use a plain colour for the sashing (which will only be about an inch/2.5cm wide) or something patterned.  These blocks are 12.5 inches square each so I don’t think I’ll put on a border as it might make too much of a statement on the bedroom wall and Mr. T. might complain.  Anyway, there it is at the end of May and, by the end of June, I should not only have made some decisions but acted on them too.

Speaking of Kate, I haven’t shown you better photos of my Walthamstow Market fabric haul yet but I will sneak this one in as it will be used to make a couple of blocks for the new quilt Kate will be assembling for auction in aid of Ovarian Cancer Australia.  You may know that the ribbon colour for Ovarian Cancer is teal blue and the quilts Kate makes primarily by her own efforts but also with donated blocks feature a lot of teal fabrics and the names she gives each quilt reflects her love of puns.  So far we’ve had ‘Time for Teal’ (which featured lots of teapots, cups and saucers) and  ‘Tealed with a Kiss’ (lots of crosses).  Anyway, the next one is called ‘Signed, Tealed, Delivered’ and will have a postcard, letter type theme.  So, look what I found.

I’m looking forward to paper piecing a few envelopes as I haven’t had much call to do FPP lately and I don’t want to get out of the habit as I was progressing nicely.

Remember I told you my daughter was going to Comic-Con London 2017 dressed as the above character  – who is called Link and is the main protagonist in a popular Nintendo game called ‘Legend of Zelda’.  (FYI Comic-Con is a multi genre fan convention mostly featuring comic books, science fiction, fantasy, art and design etc. and people often go in costume – the biggest one is in San Diego)

So here is my very ‘special Link’ .  She made her tunic and hat

her Dad make all the leather bits – straps, belt pouches, sword scabbard, arm protector thingy but not the boots which were from eBay.

and for any of my readers who are Doctor Who fans.

I wish now we’d done something about her ears when she was a baby 😉

 

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Walkies

WARNING: Photo Heavy and mainly of dogs, cats and plantlife – look away now if you are here for knitting/crochet/sewing/baking.

When Alys at ‘Gardening Nirvana‘ recently compiled a video of the lovely plants in her Californian garden, I commented that we didn’t grow cultivated sweet peas (she has lots and lots) but we do have wild ones up on the hillside and she said she’d be interested in seeing some of my garden so I took my camera with me on the morning dog walk and, even though the wild sweet peas aren’t in bloom yet and we are desperate for rain, here it is now in mid-April in S.W. France in the midi-Pyrenees.  Our garden is very large and very steep and terraced.  We only plant up the first couple of terraces – the rest we keep brushcut but only lightly so that it is a haven for insects and birds. ((Note, the use of the word ‘we’.  It should really be ‘he’)

Sometimes one of the cats accompanies us …….

….and sometimes one of the dogs spots it

He should have paid attention to the notice!  I put this here at the top of the garden to prevent people thinking it’s a public footpath although it doesn’t always work.

This Judas Tree has been quite spectacular in previous years but seems to be getting a bit old now and the purple flowers are a bit more sparse.  You can see it from Montségur which is on the green mound just underneath the highest snowy peak opposite.  The Château de Montségur is famous as the last Cathar stronghold, which fell after a 10 month siege in 1244.   A field below the hilltop castle is reputed to be the site where over 200 Cathars were burned alive, having refused to renounce their faith.  It’s quite a climb up to the ruins but the views are amazing and it gives me the opportunity, when my heartbeat has returned to normal and I can speak again, to say                                 ‘you can see our house from here’.

Back on our walk – Flo usually leads the way.

I keep Stan on the lead on the way up, and Flo on the way down, otherwise they tend to run off together and make mischief – which usually involves fox poo and a wash down afterward.

Taz is our old boy who usually brings up the rear.

Somebody has made a little monument.  I don’t know who as we don’t walk on the public footpath and it is rare to see anybody else up here.   The hunters come through in the season but I can’t imagine them faffing about with something like this.   I like to think it’s a secret admirer who has found an ‘L’ shaped rock and placed it as a little message to me.  Actually, I hope not as that would be beyond creepy.

Although the wild sweet peas aren’t out yet, the wild orchids are.

Back down through the garden gate now and the ball game can begin.

Though somebody is only interested in the newly turned out compost bin contents.

I love this viburnum which, soon, will turn white and look like lots of little snowballs.

Phlox does very well here and this is growing over one of our many dry stone walls.

A beautiful tree peony being photobombed by Flo.

The chooks in their lilac bower.  This is just one of many lilacs we have and the scent in the late evenings and early mornings is lovely.

A tiny yellow rose growing up another stone wall on our terrace.  It blooms its little heart out for ages and, if we’re lucky, we get a second flush of flowers a bit later on.

Just in case you were worried about Leon.

He made it down the tree and back down the garden safely.

He’s not a year old yet and not a large framed cat and I couldn’t understand why he has such a saggy tum.

After a bit of research I discovered that some cats are genetically prone to something called a ‘primordial pouch’.  This is meant to protect their internal organs from damage in a cat fight and also provides extra space to stuff with food in times of shortage.  It also gives them more leeway to bend and stretch .  That’s something new I’ve learnt and also saved money by not buying special diet food from the vet.  So, if you have a cat that looks a bit saggy underneath, this may well be the reason.  I wonder if the same principle can be applied to muffin tops.

I’m not fat – it’s my primordial pouch.

 

Last but not least – the first poppies are opening.

How’s your garden doing at the moment – is it too dry like ours or are you having too much rain?  Are there plants you would really like to grow but aren’t suited to your soil or climate?  I would love some foxgloves but they wouldn’t grow well here

 

 

 

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What I’m Doing Instead of Zumba this Saturday Morning

**Warning: Heavy with craft photos and dog related text but all for a good cause.

This is Taz my ‘who knows what mixture of breeds?’ dog – we have had him since he was a pup.

Elderly Dog

He’s getting on now and, at eleven years old, he’s going grey, losing his hair and getting a bit grumpy.  Just like a lot of  humans really.  Much as I love him, he is a bit of a pain in his dotage.  He spends his days foraging for food, grumbling at the cats, lying across the kitchen floor in front of the fridge/cooker/cupboard/wherever you need to get to and bumping into things as his sight is going.  He spends his evenings sleeping, snoring and ‘scenting’ the air with the gaseous results of his aforementioned foraging and his nights wandering the corridor and aimlessly scraping at doors before sinking into a deep sleep.

I can only imagine then, what it must be like to care for 30 old dogs in your own home.  I don’t think I could do it but, luckily, there are people that can.  Mike and Leeanne came to France from the U.K. and have somehow found themselves dedicated to the care and comfort of elderly and disabled dogs by starting the Twilight Retirement Home for Dogs or, as we are in France, Twilight Maison de Retraite pour les chiens you can read all about them here .

Twilight Maison de Retraite

This Saturday we are holding a fundraising event for Twilight and, although I don’t do craft fairs as a rule, I’m going along with some of my wares to see if we can’t help with the food, extensive vet bills and general running costs of caring for so many ‘retired’ dogs all in one place that Mike and Leanne face.

Of course, I will have my dog collars for sale….

Hand Made Dog Collars for Fundraising

Some dog bandanas……

Dog Bandanas for Fundraising

some simple tote bags (who let the cats in?)……..

Simple Tote Bags for Fundraising

some more cats disguised as angels……

Scented Cat Hanging Decs

a couple of knitted dog coats…….

Knitted Dog Coats

a few key fobs made with the leftover dog collar materials……

Key Fobs for Fundraising

the results of my recent foray into needlecases……

Quilted Needlecases

some mini poufs that have been taking up space in my workroom for a little while…….

Hexagon Cushions

likewise some doorstops……

Fabric Doorstops

four or five padded message boards……

Padded Noticeboards

a set of coasters…..

Reindeer Coasters

a rather fetching linen handbag I made which has Eiffel Towers on the lining fabric – très chic …..

Linen Purse

and a partridge in a pear tree an owl with a Christmas tree

Bookend

I just hope there will be people looking to buy some stocking fillers and I don’t come home with all of it .  I usually do my part by buying home made cakes (especially the ginger cake and Christmas pudding as they aren’t easy to come by here and Debbie makes some scrummy ones),  the bottle tombola (the bottles are generally full of something alcoholic) , some second hand books and whatever else takes my fancy.

I can always go and fling myself around in Zumba next Saturday but I’ll leave the last words to Mike and Leeanne to explain how Twilight came about.

*****************

We started Twilight in the summer of 2009, in memory of losing our Kizzy, and needing to find a friend for our elderly but happy retriever, Teg.
It became evident, searching the pounds and refuges, that if you were an old
dog, life was not always so good, and your ending might be premature and/or without dignity.
So now we offer limited places for elderly dogs who are lost, abandoned or bereaved of their owners.

We are not a formal refuge, just mere volunteers with the time, space and love to share our calm home with the dogs ?en famille?. Twilight, La Maison de Retraite pour Les Chiens, the old doggies home.

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I Used To Wear High Heels

As I sit here typing this short post and listening to my dogs expelling the noxious gases that have resulted from them eating all the fallen plums in the garden, I find myself reflecting on how the townie I once was could have ended up in rural France with too many dogs, cats and chickens.

You may remember the cockerel, Darth.  I included a bit about him in a previous post when I was researching humane ways to put him out of his misery as he kept falling over and having problems getting up again.  Having rejected the suggested methods, one of which was putting him in a bucket attached to the exhaust pipe of the car, I decided to let nature take its course and see what happened.  Fifteen months later he is still strutting around and making a racket – maybe somebody tipped him off to what I was thinking.

CockerelAged 9

Mlle. Tialys the Younger phoned me when I was at my friend’s house the other day because, on one of her rare trips into the light of day, she noticed Darth was falling over again.  When I got home I had a look at him and realised his spurs had grown so long he had to perform a ridiculous high step to get one leg past the other without impaling himself on them.  I Googled.  I put on my waterproof walking trousers in case of blood or chicken poo, armed myself with a thick towel, virginal garden gloves (Mr. Tialys buys me them in the hope that I might actually do some gardening), the dogs’ nail clippers, some kitchen roll, some disinfectant and one of these –

Baked Potato

Well, my one wasn’t cut open and didn’t have butter on it but a baked potato it was.

As directed on YouTube, I stuck the overgrown spurs of my astounded cockerel into hot potatoes (I took two up with me – one for each leg), patiently waited a few minutes and then had a bit of a twist with the nail clippers.  I should have had pliers but couldn’t find them in Mr. T’s fiendishly disorganised shed.  I didn’t think anything was going to happen but then, suddenly, I felt it give and I got myself a little trophy.

Removed chicken spur

(cotton reel for scale)

This procedure exposed a couple of little bloody stumps  which I squirted with animal disinfectant and, almost immediately, he appeared much more comfortable.

If you had known me back in the day, you would never, ever have believed this was the sort of thing I would end up doing.

Ain’t life funny?

A short post (for me) as I’m off on my holiday soon and I didn’t want you to think I’d given up blogging as I gave up Facebook this week (not difficult) but that’s another story for another time.

Hasta la vista (guess where I’m going).

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Putting off Pants

I know I’m English and we call pants ‘trousers’ but I do like a touch of alliteration and I have some readers from the States so, if you thought this was going to be about  men’s knickers, sorry to disappoint.  The reality is much less exciting I’m afraid, being more concerned with knitted stuff so there you have your heads up and can leave without anybody ever knowing you were here.

Here’s a very French village photo for you.  It is my lonely stall set up outside the Mairie (town hall) a couple of weeks ago.  It does look like I’m Billy No Mates but, inside there were lots of other stalls raising money for Dog Rescue Carcassonne.  I chose to set up outside partly because it was a lovely sunny morning and partly because I had to leave early to take my Mum back to the airport so I sold a few dog collars and bandanas and said my goodbyes without creating havoc inside amongst the other stalls.

French Mairie

So, when my Mum visits, I knit to be more sociable and generally only use the computer or sew when she is catching some ‘Zs’ which is fairly often these days it has to be said.

This is my second completed humungus cable blanket.  It is a subtle, flecked duck egg blue but I couldn’t, for the life of me, get that colour to come out properly in the photograph so it looks much more like a light grey, which it isn’t.  I did try – I even turned off the ‘auto’ setting and dipped into the realms of manually setting the aperture and all that scary stuff .  Any photography tips on how to tackle this sort of problem would be gratefully received.

2ndHugeBlanketDuckEggBlue

 It’s actually like this.

james c. brett rustic aran

 (manufacturer’s photo!)

I love this blanket so much.  I’ve already ordered enough yarn to make another two which is a bit mad because, now the summer is starting to kick in, I shall probably die of heat and suffocation under more than 2kg of wool.

This light and airy baby blanket, on the other hand, is made using the same size needles – 20mm – but with only one strand of yarn rather than six strands, as used in the humungus one, so it is more ‘summer friendly’.  Having no babies any more, I had to use this bear as a model.  I could have used one of my baby mannequins but they are far too creepy – the bear looks cuter, trust me.

BabyBlanket (2)To supplement my dog collars and bandanas range, I thought I’d have a go at knitting some dog coats.  I know it is the wrong time of year but you know how quickly the year passes and soon it will be time for those who like or need to put a little jumper on their dog to do so again.

KnittedDogCoatsThis is James C. Brett Marble Chunky and it is great to knit with and comes up with some lovely colour variations.  The grey one at the top has been a little overshadowed by the lovely, rust and teal tones of the one beneath but it is still smart and for the less ‘showy’ dog about town.  My problem is, I made these two versions in a ‘medium’ size and my own dogs are larger than that and nobody I know has ‘medium’ dogs – only large or small.  I feel like taking one out and about with me and, when I see somebody with an appropriately sized dog, ask if I can put a little knitted coat on their pet and take a photo.

That way madness lies.

Anyway, Flo, having graciously tried on the grey coat but finding it a little snug, continued with her collar modelling and, although this photo was no good to show off the collar, as it wasn’t properly in focus, it’s such a gorgeous one of her I had to include it anyway.

Black and White Dog

You’re probably past caring by now but, just in case you were wondering about the title, I no longer have any excuse not to get started on a pair of trousers (pants!) for my daughter.  I have the pattern, I have the fabric, I have the zip.  It’s just that I’ve never made trousers before and my daughter is not a ‘standard’ size and I suspect I might be better at procrastination than pants making.

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Bird Calls

 I love the winter days when the sky is blue, the air is crisp and you can see snow but it’s not right on your doorstep.

Pyrenees in January

   The skiers are complaining as there’s not enough snow but that’s fine by me.  I find skiing too much of a faff – far too much equipment to grapple with, too many clothes to get on and off, the roads are slippy and dangerous leading up to the slopes and it’s too cold for my liking.  Those mountain tops are a half hour’s drive away and I’m satisfied with just looking.  I wish the French would bury their wires though 😦  I could have got a view without the wires from higher up in my garden but I was in my bedroom, the camera was to hand and, anyway, this is the reality.

Still, with all that on my doorstep, I do get homesick from time to time so I have inflicted this reminder on the local wildlife.

British Telephone Box for Birds

It was a toss up between this one and Dr. Who’s Tardis.  Maybe I should have gone for that as it would probably have been bigger on the inside 😉

Can anyone explain why the birds are leaving those fat balls alone in favour of the sunflower seeds yet, at other times, it seems to be the other way round?   We get blue tits, nuthatches, robins, coal tits and finches mostly.  If it’s very cold the occasional blackbird and dove fly up on to the balcony.   Unsurprisingly, we get lots of sunflowers springing up under the balcony in the summer.

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A Very French Affair

Not that sort of affair – as if I’d tell – but one where I have made a dress from a French indie designer and will be wearing it – weather permitting – to the biggest flea market in the whole of France this weekend and eating copious amounts of moules frites.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Dress (2)

 Lille was only known to me before as a train station where one would change trains if travelling to Disneyland Paris from the U.K. on the Eurostar but it is also host, on the first weekend of September every year, to a huge, ginormous flea market which usually sees between 2 and 3 million visitors thronging the streets in search of interesting antiques,  retro home decor, vintage clothing and everything in between.  The streets are closed to traffic and there are all sorts of vendors there from people clearing out their houses to big antique dealers.  It is the largest in France and there will be around 10,000 stalls – should keep us busy.

Braderie Lille

I’ve fancied going there since I heard about it a few years ago and now I have a willing accomplice who is coming with me.  We are actually flying up as we are in the south of France and have already started panicking about the luggage allowance –  2kg in the hold and a 55x40x20cm cabin bag allowance – how will we manage when we just know we are going to want to bring back much more?  The alternative would have been to drive up but that would take around 10 hours and add another day on to either side of our trip so we abandoned that idea.  The hotels fill up really quickly but we found an apartment to stay in  which is right in the centre of the activity – – the owner is fleeing the place for the duration!

Mussel Mountain Lille

Apparently moules frites must be eaten and the restaurants have a competition to see who can build the biggest mussel shell mountain outside of their establishment.

We will arrive on the Friday and settle in ready for the onslaught on Saturday.  Apparently, making use of the streets being closed to traffic, a half marathon is run through the city on the Saturday morning – we won’t be participating in this needless to say as I haven’t got any room in my case for unnecessary things like running shoes and lycra shorts.  Shame, but there you are.    The market goes through the night and all through Sunday and I expect to be thoroughly exhausted by the time we arrive back on Monday afternoon not least because my friend who is coming with me is French and takes no prisoners with the speed of her speech so I will be suffering from French Language Overload a condition none the less real just because I’ve made it up.

Thinking ahead about treading the streets of a city shoulder to shoulder with a couple of million other people, I have chosen my armoury.

Comfy shoes – 3 pairs

I have heard much about these Swedish cloggy things and understand that they are very comfortable and made for people who are on their feet all day.  We will see.  I hope it is true as I’ve bought two  pairs – the other pair has higher heels and a completely wooden sole.  They are not my ‘go to’ style of choice if I’m honest but, on the day, comfort will be paramount.  I will also put my beat up pair of Birkenstocks in as they are very light and I can carry them around in case I need to change halfway through the day.

Lotta of Stockholm Soft Sole Clogs

Bag on Wheels 

Oh look it matches the shoes.  I hope this isn’t too far down the road towards an old lady bag in tartan with a rigid handle but it’s a cabin bag that I can also use as a flea market shopping bag.  It was designed specially to fit Ryanair’s cabin bag size restrictions and, although I’m not flying with them, it suits the other economy carriers too.  I like the way the manufacturers have printed the dimensions on the front of the bag as if to say  ‘so there!’ to the check-in staff.   The plan is to carry it around the market over my shoulder until I can bear the weight no longer and then wheel it.

DSC_0053

which brings me to

Portable Weighing Scales

To weigh any prospective purchase if it looks like it  might take up too much of my allowance, and to ensure my suitcase, which will be stuffed to the gills, doesn’t go over 20 kilos.

Bum Bag (or Fanny Bag *snigger, snigger* for those of you across the pond)

To keep the thieving buggers, who are bound to be there preying on the crowds, out of my cash.  This, after my mother had her shoulder bag split open from behind and her purse stolen whilst alone in a Spanish market – she’s 82, have they no shame?  (Just a mini rant there, sorry).

To save space in my case on the way out (it will be packed with bubble wrap), I will wear jeans and just take a couple of tops.  However, if we venture out for our banquet of Moules Frites in the evening, and it is warm, I will wear my new dress that I finished yesterday.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Dress 1

This is the Deer and Doe Reglisse dress.  Deer and Doe are a French indie design company so it was good to be able to buy ‘local’ and get free postage -a rare thing in France unless you first spend gazillions of euros.

As you know, I will do anything to avoid buttons, zips and other fiddling about but, in order to do so, I generally have to cut on the bias and buy multi metres of fabric – this dress takes around 3 metres – but I love the resulting swishy skirt.   I made the dress according to the pattern without any alterations.   I’d already made a blouse from the pattern using a hack from another blogger so I knew what size to make.  However, the pattern calls for cotton chambray or similar and I thought it would look good in a drapier fabric so, instead of putting bias binding round the hem I did a rolled hem on the overlocker to avoid it looking too ‘weighted down’.  Apart from that, no changes.

Deer and Doe Reglisse Dress 3

I think this is a dress I will get a lot of wear out of.  It’s comfortable and can be dressed up or down (usually down in my case!) and I think it will be ideal for taking this weekend as my one and only ‘frock’ as, if the sun doesn’t shine, it will look fine with a thin jacket or cardi over the top.

A bientôt .

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A Rant, Another Knitting Dilemma and More Mannequin Madness

Warning:  Sensitive cyclists do not read on.

Disclaimer:  Some of my best friends are cyclists.  True.  One such madwoman friend is cycling from Paris to where I live in the South of France which is almost 800 km – a distance I consider fit only for an aircraft.

Vintage French Cycling Postcard

They love cycling in France and it appears to take priority over other traffic be it pedestrian, car or ambulance.   I don’t love cycling.  I’m not talking about cycling down to the bakery to get your croissants or zipping round to see your friend on the other side of town or gently trundling along taking in some beautiful scenery.  I’m talking about vast armies of cyclists, five or six abreast, steaming down country roads, grimly determined and in my way.  I don’t like the hideous lycra they wear or the way they hog more than one lane.  I can’t understand the attraction of standing by the side of the road watching streams of bikes going by in a blur or parking your vehicle on a bend to watch so that cars can’t get past you for 10 minutes in case they knock over one of the oncoming cyclists.   If  it had been suggested,  some years ago, that  men (as they mostly seem to be) put on skin tight body stockings and wore them in public the idea would have been laughed out of town.     It is particularly unappealing when they stop by the side of the road and, without bothering to conceal themselves in the trees, face the oncoming  traffic that is already being forced to go at a snail’s pace and take a pee –  although that is something observed regularly here in France even when there is not a bike race going on or lycra to contend with.  I can barely wait for the Tour de France next month.

They made me late for my yoga class this morning but I’m not bitter.

no cycling

Anyway, rant over (until the next time) and here is a sneak peak of my dress for the Outfit Along which, to be honest, I haven’t really been ‘alonging’ with but I’ve made it and it will be photographed and entered.  I have recently learnt – too recently for this dress – that you should make the size of dress or top  for your upper bust measurement, not your full bust because that will make the shoulders and neckline too big for you, and then you do a full bust adjustment.  Oops!  So that’s where I’ve been going wrong.  My last couple of dresses that have had fitted bodices have indeed been too big on the shoulders.  Next time……..

Simplicity 1803The cardigan part of the outfit has also had its problems.  I didn’t like the way I had picked up the stitches for the sleeves so I have frogged both of them and then I realised that I had cast off the stitches of the body too tightly and there was no way that ribbing was going to stretch round my waist.  So I, very carefully and with much trepidation, undid the cast off and redid it using Jenys Stretchy Bind Off.   Now it will!  Just got to do those sleeves again now.

Myrna CardiganDespite sharing my life with quite a few vintage French mannequins,   one of which I sent off to Canada a couple of weeks ago in a box big enough for a coffin, I decided I needed an adjustable mannequin to help me in my dressmaking endeavours.  My friend had a Lady Valet and I thought it looked good as well as being useful so I treated myself.

lady valet dress form

 Handsome aren’t they?

However, I had to buy the small size (the one on the right) for all my measurements including the chest but, though  I don’t like to brag,  that girl has got nothing on me in the bust department.  So, what to do?  I googled it, as I do most things I don’t know about, and found that you must not only adjust a dress form to your measurements but pad it a bit to make it feel more like flesh and, if need be, put one of your bras on it and pad to the desired fullness.  Then you must cover the whole thing in a body stocking of sorts – should have nabbed one of those cyclists this morning – or use, as I did, a sort of body shaping slip that I sometimes wear if I have a very fitted dress and don’t want lines of underwear showing.  So now, instead of my beautiful, clean looking mannequin on her lovely wooden stand, I have this.
DSC_0011 Note the chest cracked open as if for heart surgery as I struggled to make a doppelganger of myself.  I must neither gain nor lose weight as I don’t want to go through that process again and my plans for noting down the measurements of the Tialys madamoiselles and altering the dress form to suit when I’m making something for them will also not be implemented any time soon.

On the subject of mannequins, you may recall that I bought a baby sized one recently in order to get better photographs of the baby clothes I’m making.  Just to remind you here it is

Baby Mannequin

Well, guess what, it’s too big.  So now, having got the idea in my head, I’ve had to find another, smaller one.  No matter, this one can go in my shop – it’s from Paris dontchaknow.  Unfortunately, despite these tiny ones giving me the creeps and being grateful it had no face the one winging its way to me as we speak actually does have a head.  Plus, and I don’t know whether this makes matters better or worse, you can remove  it.  I feel a nightmare coming on.

I am no longer ‘waiting for the wadding’ as mentioned in my last post.   It is sandwiched between the front and back layers of my quilt and basted with curvy safety pins.  Off to start quilting it as it’s taking up my workroom floor and I won’t be able to get anything else done until it is at least de-masking taped from the floorboards.

 

* Post not sponsored by Lycra

 

 

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Early Birds

Today it is (yet another) public holiday here in France.  We got up early because, we both need to drive to the airport this afternoon, one of us to leave for a few days and the other to pick up Mlle Tialys the elder who is visiting  home for the rest of the month to get her breath back after the endless parties and general student goings on studying of the past university year.  But first we wanted to go to a plant and brocante market and the village which holds this annual event also has its usual market day on Monday mornings so it gets absolutely packed and it is difficult to park, walk or breathe if you leave it too late.  Ask me how I know.  Also it is really  hot at the moment and it is better to get these things done in the relative cool of the morning.

Garden Gargoyle

Not a photo of me this morning – though quite close.  Do you think he looks prettier for having a rose growing behind his ear?  This had happened by accident, not design, which is why I took the photo.

We went to the market with the intention of buying a plant or tree to go over the final resting place of our old German Shepherd, Phoebe, who died last year and was buried (with much exertion and dedication – she weighed 45kg) on one of the higher terraces in our garden.  At the moment she is covered in Iris flowers but we wanted something more permanent.  However, it was mostly herbaceous plants for sale so we ended up with a plumbago for the terrace

plumbago

and a bignone for somewhere else in the garden but we don’t know where yet.

bignone

Of course the brocante part was not neglected and I found this lovely brass cherub holding aloft a diamond cut glass coupe surrounded by flying birds.  Over the top?  Mais, non!  Well, a bit I suppose but it is very Paris Appartment as I like to call this style (or Hollywood Glamour if you prefer)

DSC_0009

I have an obsession with old French cutting boards at the moment. I love that they were probably made by the man of the house and used to death for years and years.  I love the primitive way they have been fashioned, the visible marks of years of use and the grain and texture of the wood.   Most of them I find are in an unloved state but I give them a light sanding and a coat or two of food safe oil and this usually brings the grain up to its former glory.  These old cutting boards are made in very primitive fashion, practically hewn out of the trunk – I’ve had some still with the bark on before.  They are generally really thick and chunky and lopsided, covered in knife cuts and with deep depressions where food has been chopped or bread sliced for many years.  They are gorgeous.

Here are some I’ve had in the past all with their own characters and now in new homes for an even more extended useful (or decorative) life.

Old French Chopping Board

It doesn’t matter if they are split, scratched and holey.

Large French Chopping Board

This handle has worn smooth with use and has a deep depression in the centre where most of the chopping and cutting went on.

Primitive French Chopping BoardI’m not sure how much wine had been consumed when this one was made – look at the handle and the remains of bark.

Old French Bread Board with Knot

A lovely big knot in this one.

Usually, I am persuaded(!) that we cannot keep more than one cutting board – although I have kept a gorgeous small version which is easily concealed – but today I found one that I won’t be parting with.

It weighs nearly 3kg (around 6.6lbs)

antique french chopping boardit is 46cm (18 inches) long and 8cm (3 inches) thick in places

Antique French Bread Boardand whoever made it carved his initials into the handle

French Chopping Board with Initials

what’s not to love?

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