Archive for category Life in General
We went on holiday – the first one on our own (longer than a weekend) since the girls were born. We pleased ourselves what we did and when we did it. The Mademoiselles (plus the boyfriend of one of them) were the guardians of home, dogs and cats and, astonishingly, the house was still standing and the animals still present and correct when we got back.
Remember the t-shirts, years ago, that said ‘My Parents Went On Holiday and All They Bought Me Was This T-Shirt’ ? Well, due to her father’s sense of humour, this is what Mlle T. the elder got for her trouble
She wasn’t amused when I texted her this photo from the apartment we were renting in Girona. It didn’t help that the weather in France hadn’t been very good while we’d been away and she’d been looking forward to sunning herself by the pool. She’s a sensitive soul – but we gave it to her anyway.
We started off by going across the border into Andorra where, every year the Cirque du Soleil give free performances throughout the month of July. No photos but I’m sure you’ve seen events on T.V. or been to one yourself so you know they are amazing spectacles peopled by incredibly bendy, muscular and (usually) tiny athletic types.
We then crossed over on to the Spanish side of the Pyrenees and proceeded on some very windy roads to a village called Bonansa and, yes, I kept humming the theme tune because I’m that old.
Around the village were several of these ermitages which are centuries old (those parts that haven’t been restored) and were used both defensively against invaders
and as places of sanctuary.
We then went further West into Aragon and to a magical medieval Moorish town called Alquezar which has labyrinthine old streets and is cut into a hillside surrounded by deep gorges.
Lots of people go canyoning but we contented ourselves with walking
of the slightly precarious kind
These walkways have been attached to the rock face so that, when the river below is in full ‘gush’, you can still walk through the gorge. I had no trouble but Mr. T is very tall and had to almost bend double to get under some of the overhanging rocks.
When we reached the end, we saw one of the paths that had been closed and, if you zoom in (click twice), you can see why.
I was glad we’d already done a circuit otherwise it might have put me off.
Oh, and we also did lots of sitting around tlaking and eating. I love it in Spain because they don’t even start dinner until around 8.30 whereas the French restaurants where I live are thinking about closing around about then.
From this vantage point we looked down into an olive grove where an old man tended his little herd of goats until late at night and the local feral cat population begged for food from the diners above.
This one nearly came home with us.
A face only a mother could love?
Then we continued on to Girona – very much back in Catalan country, with the flag of Catalonia hanging from many balconies – and spent the rest of the week there in an apartment in the old town and right on the riverside.
You know how I love to say ‘you can see our house from here’ – well, for three days I could say it every time we crossed the bridge.
We walked the old city walls for the views and to work off some of the excess eating (and drinking)
Quite a few scenes of ‘Game of Thrones’ were filmed here and (spoiler alert) one of the ice cream parlours make an ice cream in the shape of Jamie Lannister’s severed hand.
Here he is on the steps of the cathedral – I had a very nice Mojito at a café just at the foot of these steps although the people milling about on the steps looked a bit different when I was there.
I hope the cast didn’t need to use the loo too often though as this one is very high up on the old city wall and just empties directly on to the street below
So, that’s the holiday snaps over with – sorry about that but it’s nice for me to have a record of our visit and my blog’s the best place for me to put it. Back to normal i.e. sewing, crochet, knitting, patchwork, dogs and cats, next time.
On a side note, as it was my holiday reading so therefore a little bit pertinent, I read ‘Daughters of the Dragon‘ by William Andrews. Not your usual escapist holiday read but a very good fictional account (though based on historical facts) of the so called ‘comfort women’ taken from Korea as young as thirteen and used as sex slaves by the Japanese army in World War II. Tortured and abused some of the survivors – women now in their seventies and eighties – are still asking for acknowledgement and some sort of repentance from the Japanese government who were aware of the provision of these ‘comfort stations’. Shocking but also an interesting look into Korean history, the author was inspired to write the story by his Korean daughter and asks that readers spread the word by leaving reviews and mentioning it on social media in order to increase the awareness of the fate of these, often forgotten, women. I’m happy to oblige.
Today I spotted some unusual mushrooms in the garden
An unusual turquoise-y green colour I thought might be poisonous so I didn’t touch them.
It crossed my mind they might be birds’ eggs fallen out of a nest.
I was going to Google ‘small turquoise fungi’ after walking the dogs but on my way back down the hill from our walk I realised it wasn’t necessary.
Sometimes I worry.
Another ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’ moment?
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
Even though the patchwork block swap I’ve been participating in hasn’t quite finished yet – there’s one month to go – I have actually made all the blocks I need to and I’ve already started getting withdrawal symptoms. Kate and Sue who have run the F2F (Foot Square Freestyle) swap for the past two years, have decided they need a break from organising duties and as I am more of a participant than an organiser I didn’t offer to take it over so, sadly, when Claire receives her 24 blocks from 8 other quilters around the world by the end of February, that will be it.
I found that participating in the swap really motivated me to improve my work, try out some new techniques and get things finished on time
So, what to do next?
I searched around the web for other swaps but the few I managed to find had either already started or didn’t appeal.
Kate has started making a quilt – unusually it will be for herself – from a book both she and I have had for years.
We’ve both been in love with one particular quilt inside it – I even made the templates for it and one block back in the mists of time – but never got any further.
It’s rows of vintage hatboxes made to look as if they’ve been covered in wallpaper, as olden day people used to do, and each one set in the angle of a little cubby hole with a floor and two walls. So, lots of design decisions to be made.
Kate has been busy with it for a few months now – you can see her progress here – and I decided I would join in with her and we would aim to make three blocks per month and publish them on our blogs at the end of the month. This will be my motivation.
I am making a wall hanging for my bedroom rather than a quilt – there is an empty wall behind the bed and I thought this might go well there rather than a picture. I don’t want it to dominate the room or anything so I’m not making it too large, just four blocks wide x three blocks high. If I make three blocks per month, it should be ready to start putting together in May.
Each ‘cubby hole’ is constructed by joining two trapezoids, one reversed, plus an 8.5 inch square which is set in to the angle of the trapezoids. Eek! I was so pleased when I got it right first time and then realised my perfect seam would be covered up with the hatbox appliquéd on top – still, that’s patchwork for you. Here’s a ‘blank’ just so you know I can do it.
And here’s the block after the hatbox has been added.
I decided to use scraps for the backgrounds where possible and Liberty tana lawn for the hatboxes. I realised too late that, because the tana lawn is so fine, you have to be careful what you put underneath it. You can see the stripes of my ‘flooring’ vaguely show through but I thought it sort of looks like part of the design on the box so I’ve left it.
This one is a darker print so I got away with it here but, for the other blocks, I won’t use that particular striped fabric. I am not usually an ‘appliqué person’ but Kate has got me trying several techniques I’ve either never done before or previously said I’d never do such as foundation paper piecing so here’s one more to add to the list. I am using Bondaweb to attach the hatbox shapes and then using a turquoise thread and machine appliquéing on to the background.
This next one had to be re-done because I had used light coloured tana lawn for the hatbox and the ‘floor’ was showing through and making it look as if there was a shadow across the box. I had to peel it off – a tragic waste of both Liberty and Bondaweb -and use a darker design. You live and learn.
I’m enjoying making these hatboxes but my workroom is a mess – strewn with fabrics over every surface as I audition them for ‘wallpaper’, ‘flooring’ , the hatboxes themselves and the bands. Decisions, decisions……
I will finish by proudly announcing that I have managed to complete Dry January without a drop of alcohol passing my lips – apart from that used in cooking which doesn’t count because all the alcohol comes off as vapour (boo!) . I never usually touch Pastis – the favourite aperitif of the French – because wine is my poison and the aniseedy alcoholic tipple makes me go woozy very quickly which is a feat in itself. However, Ricard (the favoured brand of the French when imbibing their favourite aperitif) make a version called Pacific which has no alcohol, no sugar, no calories, no nuffink apart from quite a few E numbers but I haven’t looked them up to see whether they are dodgy ones. As with the real stuff, you dilute it with 5 parts water but, unlike the real stuff, it is already a cloudy colour.
This, and Bucklers non alcoholic beer (which is really Lager if you are British) , kept me on the straight and narrow when temptation threatened to overcome me. I don’t know whether you can get it (or Bucklers) outside of France but, if you can, and you are the designated driver or want an alcohol free evening for any other reason, I would recommend it.
A bit of culture for you today – you can’t say my blog posts aren’t eclectic.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
from The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot (1922)
Yes, yes, that’s all very well but it’s obvious that Mr. Eliot had never tried ‘Dry January’ because I can’t tell you how glad I will be when the 1st of February comes around and I can have a glass of wine. Here are my own thoughts on which month has a lot to answer for –
January is the cruellest month, drinking
Water is dead boring, mixing
Syrup and lemonade, stirring
Dull concoctions without wine.
from The Wagon, Tialys (2017)
Just to be clear – I haven’t got a drink problem but I do like a glass of wine (or two) when I’m cooking the evening meal (and when I’m eating it) – but only at weekends, although I do count Friday as being the weekend.
I expect my liver will thank me but there are four weekends in January – one more to go! – and it has seemed like an incredibly long month. Now I know how to slow down time.
Despite having six cats and three dogs roaming around the place, we put up a large ‘real’ Christmas tree in one room and a smaller ‘artificial tree’ in another. They survived – relatively unscathed – until the new kitten (don’t ask) discovered he could shin up the centre of the artificial one creating havoc and mayhem among any food and drink stuffed, semi-comatose humans in the vicinity who were then forced to move at an unwelcome rate in order to prevent bauble breakage on a massive scale. I suppose he found it all very amusing as, once achieved, he repeated it ad nauseum until, last night, I got fed up and took it down.
Having mulled (and drunk) enough red wine not to want to count the empty bottles, I decided to get up off my arse while still possible and hike up a small mountainside with the dogs. I made Mr. T. take a photo of me to show me wearing my hat that came in one of my Stitching Santa parcels. Despite the dark glasses and luminous dog harness I am not registered blind – just saying as I suddenly realised it might look like that. Stan’s harness actually says ‘Ball Junkie’ and not ‘Guide Dog’.
Ignore the clove stuck orange – she didn’t send me that – I was on the way to mull (yet more) wine when the photography urge came upon me.
Pippa had made some very useful pouches and a bag for me to keep stuff in and even a length of bias binding she had made. Can you spot the blue fabric in the middle? I did take larger photos of it but the colour didn’t come out right so this is the best view of it. It is boiled wool jersey which I have never used before. Any tips or suggestions on what to make with it? Pippa suggested a sweater. I have 1.5m and it has a slight stretch to it.
Also in the parcel was a useful pattern and one of her lovely knitted hats which I am modelling for you in the above dog walking picture just to prove to her that I will actually wear it – she seemed doubtful for some reason.
As I’m a knitting person as well as a sewing one, I thought I’d go for the knitting Santa too and, just in the nick of time, a day or two before Christmas, my package from Anne in Australia arrived.
(There’s that orange again – don’t worry you won’t see it again as it is now saturated with spiced wine – a bit like me – at the bottom of the bin)
Anne chose two lovely hanks of wool from Plant Craft Cottage in the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne where the yarn is hand dyed – these ones with eucalyptus leaves apparently – so I’m now looking for something to knit with them – there is 25g of each colour, it is 8 ply Australian wool, needle size 4mm and gauge 22st to 10cm. Any ideas knitting friends?
Three beautiful ceramic buttons were in the package
Plus a lovely pencil drawing of a shell from Anne who is a talented nature and botanic artist so I’m very happy to have a little example of her work.
I was chuffed to bits to receive all these generous gifts and thanks again to Sheila for organising us all. Sign me up again for next year!!
There was another gift that wasn’t quite so successful. A few days before Christmas I went out to lunch with a friend of mine and we browsed about in some shops for a while. We went into a home décor shop where each section was themed by colour and, as we passed through the orange and yellow ‘retro’ section she said ‘I can’t stand those two colours – I wouldn’t have them in my house’
Which was a shame because this was what was in the gift bag I’d handed her to put under her tree when I picked her up at her house earlier.
A more successful gift was this satchel that Mr. Tialys made for a close friend of ours who spent Christmas Day with us this year.
It is modelling for me on the bonnet/hood of her car as she was leaving the next morning with the bag stashed in her boot/trunk and I remembered I hadn’t recorded it for posterity and made her unpack it again.
So, that is that for another year. I have made a couple of New Year’s resolutions but, after the disasters last year of my Firsty February (where I attempted not to drink any alcohol for a month and failed) and my Fabric Fast (which lasted 4 months instead of my pledged twelve) I will let you know what this year’s ones are if I actually manage to keep them and, if I don’t, nobody but me will be any the wiser.
Have a brilliant 2017 and I hope everything you wish for comes true.