Archive for category Life in General

The Last Makes of Winter

Well, I’ve been back from my visit to see Mlle. Tialys the Elder in the U.K. for a week now but, as usual with me, it takes a while to get back into what passes for any sort of routine in my life.

I was very lucky with the weather and I know this because people were in shorts, t-shirts and other summer clothing and frolicking on Bournemouth’s sandy beach while the ice cream vans were doing a great trade.  England in February is not how I remember it but, being made soft by the warmer climes in S.W. France, I still had my coat on and, at times, a scarf despite it being the hottest February day ever (allegedly).  When I got back to Toulouse last week the temperature was 25 degrees C and that’s not right either although it has dropped to ‘normal for the time of year’ here now and I believe the British tabloids are predicting an ‘icy blast’ for the U.K. which remains to be seen but I think they are even more obsessed than usual with the weather in a bid to write about anything other than Brexit.

I did the usual things – fish & chips, Dorset cream teas, curry, Sunday brunch,  bizarrely flavoured hot cross buns from M & S  and even popped into a Japanese restaurant for our last evening there which happened to be the birthday of Mlle. Tialys the Younger – lover of all things Japanese.  I descended on the ubiquitous charity shops and had a lovely smoked haddock dish in a quayside pub (the smoked haddock here is over-dyed to the brightest orange you’ve ever seen and very expensive).  I also had the best facial treatment I’ve ever had, using the voucher Mlle T. the Elder gave to me for Christmas, in the spa section of the original Lush shop in Poole.  I was so relaxed I didn’t even feel the urge to shoot the seagulls keeping me awake at night until two days later.

We went to the Oceanarium right on the beach in Bournemouth which was good – especially their lovely sea turtle. ( NOTE;  Re-reading this I realise it makes it sound like a restaurant 😱)  We were lectured on the terrible problems of plastics in the ocean and the top ten single use plastic items found in the sea.  As is usual with most such places now we were forced to walk through the gift shop before we could exit which was ironic considering it was filled with a lot of plastic goods, including balloons which were in their top ten villains chart.  I feel a letter coming on.

I wore a dress I’d made but not blogged about.  It’s another Lady Skater dress – one of my go to patterns.  This was actually made for Mlle T. the Younger but due to the fabric being a very stable cotton jersey without a lot of widthways stretch, it didn’t fit her and I had to keep it instead.  Shame. I did have enough fabric left to make her a t-shirt though which she will probably get much more wear out of.  I don’t have as many winter dresses as summer dresses so it will come in useful.

Now where did I put the iron – that hem needs a press.

The two person coat making workshop my friend Sandra and I are doing on Wednesday afternoons has been held up by her missing a couple of weeks due to illness and by me going off to England.  However, I haven’t forgotten it and have done a few bits alone otherwise it won’t be ready for next Winter, let alone this one.

The sleeves are quite ‘snug’ but I’m not going to undo the top seam because the stitches just sink into that fabric and are hard to find, plus the fraying is horrendous if you fiddle about too much with it so I’ll just have to remember I can’t wear a thick jumper underneath which I don’t normally do with a coat anyway.  I wouldn’t mind but my arms are anything but thick so I would recommend sewing that top arm seam at 1cm rather than 1.5cm if you’re using this pattern.

You can see the swing shape in this back view.

‘Just’ got the facings to go on those fronts and then the collar to do and the exterior is finished.  Then comes the lining, which I’m scared of as it’s slippy and has to fit nicely inside and I’ve never lined a anything other than a skirt and a dress before.  It’s starting to look like I actually might successfully make a coat!

So, I have been reading all of your blogs but that’s an update of some of my goings on – should be able to get back to normal now I’ve written a post.

 

 

 

 

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Tight Lipped Tuesday #7

 

Do you ever get the feeling you’ve been given a glimpse into your future?

 

 

 

 

* photo taken from a story in La Stampa – an Italian newspaper – concerning a decision by city officials in Rome to clamp down on the unregulated feeding of the city’s 200,000 stray cats by the gattara, mostly elderly women, who lovingly feed and tend to them.  It looks to be an unpopular decision.

 

 

 

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Let The Festivities Begin

Remember a week or so ago when I was fretting that Mr. Tialys wouldn’t make it home because of various strikes and disruptions in the U.K. and France (but mostly in France).

I had run out of cut logs for the log burner, never used a chainsaw and not sure I want to start now.

I’d also got a Christmas tree outside but needed it bringing in and set up ready for decoration – it’s quite a big one.

Well, as you can see, he made it home but I was worried that, when he went back to the U.K., he would have difficulty getting back to France again because of the aforementioned strikes, demonstrations and general mayhem going on here at the moment.

Little did I think to worry about a drone (or drones) closing down Gatwick Airport for more than a day and causing travel chaos for thousands of people trying to get home to their families for Christmas.

There’s always something.  Last year the French air traffic controllers were randomly on strike.  Next year I’m going to insist he comes home a week early and stay here for the duration – I can’t stand the stress.

After rebooking himself and Mlle Tialys the Elder on a flight out of Heathrow (at vast expense) to make sure of arriving home in time for the festivities, including the now traditional dressing up of the dogs in festive manner, all is well,

Everybody’s here and we can relax.

I hope you are all able to be with the ones you want to be with this Christmas.

 

x x x

 

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Sunday Sevens

 

What?

Is that not what it means?

 

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A Bit Of A Rub Down

The other day a friend and I had a spot of lunch before mooching around a couple of junk shops.

Unlike the U.K., we are very ‘poor’ in charity shops (thrift/op stores) around here but we do have quite a large one within a half hour drive.  There is so much stock that some of it ends up outside to be rained upon and this includes furniture, sewing machines and all sorts.

You could be forgiven for thinking this photograph was taken outside the junk shop but, in fact, it’s part of the terrace at the back of my house – the shutters are a clue.  This, however, is the position this wardrobe door was found in – leaning up against an outside wall in all weathers – with the only damage being the veneer at the base starting to peel off a bit.

I’ve been looking for a full length mirror to put in my sewing room to help with fitting issues and I might not have thought of an old door separated from its wardrobe if my friend hadn’t suggested it.

Anyway, the door was purchased and (wo)manhandled by the two of us into my car – it was a tight squeeze .

I thought the wood veneer might look a bit ‘heavy’ in my workroom so decided to clean and lightly sand the surface …..

……… protect the lovely bevelled mirror with masking tape and whip out the chalk paint.

Here I include a word of warning to anyone over the age of about 40.  Never actually look at yourself when bending over a mirror – gravity is not your friend.

I love this bevelling.

Not much distressing of the chalk paint was necessary as the wood stain shows through a bit anyway so I just rubbed a bit at the mouldings and brushed some soft wax over it all.  I left the little lock cover on as it’s pretty and I’m not trying to hide the fact it was once a wardrobe door – it’s more interesting that way.

Not bad for 5 euros (about 6 US dollars)

Despite having this antique suitcase stuffed full of vintage linens that I must have a rummage through one of these days, we also went a bit mad in the linen department of the aforementioned junk shop.

I say ‘we’ but it was mostly ‘me’.

I find linens really hard to photograph which is probably why I still have a suitcase full of the stuff instead of having it in my online shop.  Well, that and I’m not very knowledgeable about embroidery or different kinds of lace so the descriptions are a challenge for me too.

This piece is lovely and only has a general, slightly tea-stained look about it – no single stains.  I know I have some readers who are vintage linen aficionados and wonder about the best and safest soak for an overall ‘freshen up’ for this piece.  (You should be able to click on all the photos to enlarge them)

I got told off by Mr. Tialys for buying this next piece because it definitely has some staining which the thread, in particular, has absorbed.  The work on it is so lovely though and the lace surround so pretty and there’s no other damage (more excuses ready if needed) that I had to buy it.

Obviously, the darker threads are stains although at first I thought the maker might have just run out of beige thread 🤔- but I also wonder why the light cream and the darker cream embroidered squares are placed in these positions – it seems a bit random.  I don’t think I’ll be able to get the staining out of those threads – unless you know different – but wondered about deliberately ‘tea-staining’ the whole thing.  Any thoughts from my knowledgeable readers much appreciated.

Changing the subject ever so slightly, I hear that mustard is big again this autumn which I hope is true or this –

will have been a waste of time.

Not that most people in the corner of rural France I live in would know or, still less, care but I do at least try to keep up appearances.

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Plant Finder

Just a quickie.

Can anybody identify this plant for me?

It’s got a very woody stem – part of which you can see poking up to the left of the flower head – and is currently around 50 inches tall (128cm).  It’s still in its pot as we’re not sure where to put it until we know what it is and what conditions it likes.

That’s all for today – I’m off to my fainting couch to sit out the mid to high 30 degrees heat we’re having at the moment.

Have a good weekend!

 

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Tight Lipped Tuesday ~ 2 (The Costa Brava one)

I rather like the idea of my Tight Lipped Tuesday series so will take the opportunity of boring the pants off you with my recent trip across the border into Spain (aka Catalonia) with lots of photos and few words (relatively speaking!). Feel free to go and do something more interesting but my blog seems to have become my photo album lately and means I have an online record to refer to – so, a bit selfish really.

Mr. Tialys and I took a break of four days and drove down to the Costa Brava.

Only about 3 hours drive away.

We walked the coastal path to work off all the mussels and Sangria. The water was crystal clear.

So different from the usual perception of this coastline.

Did I mention the Sangria?  The waiter raised an eyebrow when we ordered a litre jug between us but we were not deterred.

An interesting looking restaurant.

With a crafty touch.

and an atmospheric interior.

The town of Begur is awash with bougainvillea.

As well as Moorish and Spanish architecture there are neoclassical examples dating from the late 19th century when merchants from here went over to Cuba to make their fortunes and returned to build houses.  Lots of vaulted, decorated ceilings and beautiful tiled floors.

I love peeping in at courtyards.

We spotted this lovely view from the road and booked to have cocktails and tapas there in the evening to watch the sun go down.

On the way back home up the coast we stopped at Empuries which, according to Tripadvisor,  is one of the finest historic settings in Catalonia.Two cities, one Greek and one Roman, set by the sea at L’Escala on the south of the Bay of Roses, named by Unesco as one of the most beautiful in the world.

The archaeological digs are still going on as I think they’ve only uncovered about 20% of what’s there.

Some of the mosaics they’ve found in the Roman city are almost intact which is amazing when you consider how long they’ve been there.

My quilters eye was drawn to them instantly.

We only stayed away four days as Mlle. Tialys the elder had come over for two weeks to house-sit with her sister for a bit and, as we don’t see enough of her these days, we wanted to spend some time with her too.

Back in France, we took her to our favourite restaurant to say ‘thank you’.

Then the girls and I went across another border to Andorra  which is most famous for the skiing but, in Summer is very good for shopping hiking, cycling, etc.   Also, as we do every year now, we went to the free show that Cirque du Soleil put on here throughout July.  This year was probably my favourite as the music was so good – usually, it’s a bit more like wailing for atmosphere if you get my drift – and the ‘surely not human’ bendy people put on their usual amazing spectacle.

Plus, it is tax free so it seemed a shame to go home without a bottle of gin or two.

Here’s a brief look at the Cirque du Soleil show – as usual with these shows I have very little idea what the story was about and the sound quality’s not great on this clip but you get the idea.  I want those long stripey socks!

Not that tight lipped after all. Sorry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May All Your Weeds Be Wildflowers

If only!

A post in which I, uncharacteristically, put loads of flower pictures up and don’t say much – although I was just going to call this ‘Tight Lipped Tuesday’ or some such thing and say nothing at all which, of course, I couldn’t quite manage.

Our garden is large and terraced – up at the back there are woods which is where we walk the dogs.  On Saturday, Flo decided to take herself off after a rabbit or something causing much consternation.

I re-traced our steps of the morning walk through the woods and, to keep my mind a little less stressed, took photos of the wildflowers in between shouts and whistles.

As Mr. T. has a full time job he has a bit of trouble keeping on top of the gardening, especially with all the rain we’ve had lately, and we tend to only keep the lower two or three terraces mown and cultivated.  He has a healthy attitude to gardening though as the stuff that hasn’t been attacked with the brushcutter (too steep for a mower higher up) he proclaims is very good for insects so bees, mantis, grasshoppers and all sorts of beasties have a whale of a time up there and it’s probably worth getting a few itchy bits on my legs when I walk through it all in the summer months.

With all the beautiful flowers growing in the wild for free and needing no care and attention an alien landing on Earth might wonder why we spend so much time, money and effort on forcing other things to grow where we want them to and not where they might choose.

If I know the name of any of these, you probably do too so I’ll let the images do the talking (for a change 😉 )

A lot have already ‘gone over’ but I think that’s enough weedy eye candy for one blog post and, by chance, Cathy went wild in Yorkshire today and she has actually named some of the wildflowers for you (or her readers have) so, although this is S.W. France, there are quite a few similarities.

It’s bloomin’ hot out there now so I’ve moved me and my jug of wildflowers into the shade.

Oh yes, and guess who came back after around three hours with something that could have been blood on her paw and neck which wasn’t hers.

We are now missing a cat though – Salem, the black one on top,  although I doubt he chased a rabbit.

I’ll keep you posted about him.

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Knit Two Together

Once upon a time, back when we called yarn ‘wool’ and there was often a little wool shop or  ‘kiosk’ in even the smallest of towns and independent knitwear designers were twinkles in their grandparents’ eyes, my Mum taught me how to knit.

Actually, I think she first used me as a living wool winder as I remember my early encounters with wool involved standing for a long time, arms outstretched, whilst a skein was converted into a ball.  Despite this unpromising apprenticeship, I took up the needles at a young age and have continued, on and off, ever since.

I don’t remember my maternal grandmother ever yielding a pair of knitting needles so I wonder what started my mother off on her lifelong hobby.

Perhaps it was this. ….

…..which  would have been just a little after the time she looked like this.

I wonder if she made those pompoms herself.

When I moved to France almost thirteen years ago Mum would come and visit several times a year as well as at Christmas and, what with my sister living in Spain, she was nearly always on her holidays which I hope compensated just a little for us not living next door.   Regular readers will know that, during these visits, all other activities were practically abandoned in favour of knitting and chatting together.

This is Mum with Mlle. Tialys the Elder who, while not having caught the knitting bug at the time of writing, is a dressmaker and cross stitcher and could probably be brought into the fold at some future stage.

She made this for her Nan as an early Christmas present.

Back in 2013 Mum was nominated for a voluntary carers’ award for visiting a housebound elderly lady every week – almost without fail – for  ten years.  She was 80 herself at that point but this was the sort of thing she did.   She wasn’t going to attend the award ceremony – being far too shy and modest – but I said I’d go with her and she agreed to go.  She received a framed certificate from the Lady Mayor and afterwards we had a traditional English tea (another one!!) in lovely gardens in the sunshine.

While I was in England caring for my Mum with my two sisters, I knitted this little scarflet for my Stitching Santa partner.

Even though Mum didn’t have the strength to knit herself any longer by this stage it still felt like a bonding experience as I’m sure she could probably hear the clicking needles and the quiet chatting  as my youngest sister began to knit a bear and my other sister started to knit squares for a blanket.  One of my nieces visited, saw the three of us companionably knitting,  and wanted to learn.  And so the passing on of skills continues.

I have to say – and I know she’d agree with me – that Mum never really progressed beyond ‘enthusiastic amateur’ status.  Mainly due to the fact that she hated ‘the sewing up bit’ and looked at me as if I were mad if I ever suggested anything as radical as ‘blocking’ a finished garment.  She was the Queen of UFOs (unfinished objects) – her loft was full of half finished jumpers, cardigans, baby clothes, etc. – but even those things she finished weren’t deemed good enough to wear or pass on to the new babies of the family.  The little baby jackets, cardigans and bootees we found cast off,  in both senses,  was poignant to say the least.  The joy for her though was in the choosing of the pattern, the yarn  wool and the actual knitting – if something decent came off the needles that was a bonus.

You may remember my recent post about the Ugly Christmas Jumper and how it came to be and I hope you will be pleased to know that it was finally finished (once I’d added proper ribbing to the sleeves and lengthened the body) and handed to ‘the nephew’ one week before Mum died.  I think he will treasure it forever.

It was a shame, as she loved Christmas so much, that she died the day before the first window of her advent calendar was to be opened, especially as there was a chocolate inside.

Family was everything to my Mum and I am so pleased that my sisters and I were able to be with her, in her own home, in the last few weeks of her life and could be there for her final, peaceful breaths as she had been there for our first ones.  I am finding that a huge comfort at this difficult time.


Wherever you are now Mum, I hope there’s lots of wool and chocolate and laughter.

10th September 1932 – 30th November 2017

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The Tale of One Ugly Christmas Jumper and How It Came To Be

A bit of an explanation for those of you who might have noticed an absence of my usual waffle in the comments section of your blog posts.  I have been to the U.K. for a week but not for the usual fish and chips, underwear grab in Marks and Spencer and other frivolities.  Unfortunately my Mother is ill and my sisters and I are taking it in turns to keep her company while she receives palliative care at her home.  Logistically it’s quite difficult as I am in France, one of my sisters is in Spain and the youngest is in Wales which – though in the U.K.,  is still a 3.5 hour drive away from where my Mum lives.  Still, whilst it is still possible, she wants to stay in her own familiar surroundings so we are doing our best to make sure she has one of us there at all times.  I did take my iPad but screen time was sacrificed to quality time and, although I have certainly read most of your posts, I haven’t been commenting.  In fact, since I returned home yesterday I had just under 300 emails and had to be ruthless with the delete button – just so you know.

Anyway, despite taking a new crochet project with me and some small sewing bits to keep me occupied, it was all put aside in favour of ‘the Christmas jumper’.  This project was entrusted to Mum, just after she received her diagnosis, by my nephew.  I think he thought it would give her something to work on and keep her mind occupied.  She was actually knitting a rather lovely top for herself at the time but, as the sun shines out of his proverbial, as far as my Mum is concerned, all else was swept aside in her desperation to finish it for him and the boring stocking stitch began.

My nephew knows absolutely nothing about knitting and printed a very basic pattern off the internet and told her that was what he wanted.  Despite knitting for years, my Mum has never got the hang of intarsia knitting and the chart left her dumbfounded.  My middle sister was with her at that stage and decided to make the Christmas tree in felt and appliqué it on to the front.  It was, I am told, a disaster.  So, despite not even being a regular knitter herself, she came up with a separate knitted version of the tree, complete with pompoms for the baubles and star,  and sewed that on.  Mum completed the back before the extreme fatigue she is now suffering from kicked in, the same sister took some of the yarn back to Spain with her and did the sleeves and my task was to pick up the stitches and do the neckband and then sew it all together.

Et voila!

Could this be the weirdest Christmas jumper you see this year? It is like the Frankenstein of woolen wear – being made by different makers at different times and all of different abilities.  Unfortunately, my sister was unsupervised when she knitted the sleeves in Spain and so mistook k1, p1 rib for moss stitch so there is absolutely no difference between the width of the cuffs and the width of the sleeves.  I didn’t have time to do anything other than to sew it all together but it did occur to me that it might be worth picking up around the ends of the cuffs and knitting a proper ribbed piece on.  What do you knitters think? Would that work?  I know that the moss stitch piece would have to stay but we could call that a design feature.

He will be delighted to get this for Christmas.  No, really!

I am sure of  two things however:  it will be the only one of its kind and he will never wear it in public.

Did I mention he is 35 years old?

This is my old boy Taz – he turned 12 in September. He is in recovery mode.

The day before I was due to leave for the U.K. I had slept very badly because, not only was I very nervous about my trip not knowing how I would find my Mum and worried about my caregiving abilites but  I could hear the dogs marauding about downstairs in a restless manner.  I got up to let them out in case they needed to pee and then I noticed that Taz’s stomach was hugely distended and rock hard.  I thought it might be the very dangerous condition called ‘bloat’  which  happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand causing it to put pressure on the other organs. I wondered about calling out an emergency vet – it was 5.30 in the morning – but suddenly he was incredibly sick and I remembered that I had found the dog food delivery ‘tampered with’ the evening before and a kilo of one of the two 15kg sacks stored downstairs suspiciously missing so I put it down to him gorging himself.  So, instead of rushing to the vet, I took my daughter to work at the normal time but, when I got back , I thought I’d take him to the vet anyway as he needed some more pills for his arthritis and let her have a look at his stomach – ‘just in case’.  Luckily I did because she did an echogram, saw his spleen was in a bad condition and decided to whip it out on the spot.  So, he lives to scent our lives with his gaseous emissions another day – while he was having the echogram the nurse was at the wrong end holding his feet still and had to run and fling open a window.  ‘Welcome to my life’ I told her.  Luckily, Mr. Tialys was on his way home from the U.K. to cover for me while I went to the U.K. and we picked him up at the end of the day.  We put him in one of the girls’ t-shirts instead of a buster collar and, just over a week later, he appears to have recovered well.

Just what I needed before setting off for a week of grappling with multitudinous medications and daytime television but I am now an expert in both.

Not being a daytime t.v. viewer myself I am amazed at what gets discussed, dissected and repeated over and over again between the hours of 08.00 and 17.00.  The worst of it is, because the target audience is obviously older the adverts are nearly all for life insurance ‘so your children aren’t burdened with your funeral expenses’,  fund raising pleas for cancer charities with images of patients and, as it was Halloween while I was there, numerous coffins and other death related paraphernalia – all very uncomfortable viewing when watching with an elderly, sick loved one :/   It was worse than an unexpected explicit sex scene coming up while watching with all the family round at Christmas time.

Still, there was always the Jeremy Kyle Show on to remind us that perhaps a more rigorous programme of contraception ought to be promoted amongst people who can shout at more than 90 decibels and use one swear word for every two ordinary ones in any given sentence whilst demanding to hear the results of the DNA test to prove who, out of a number of possible candidates, is the father of their unfortunate child.

Anyway, I’m back now.

 

 

 

 

 

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