Wednesday 27 November 2013

Winter projects

This is the weather for home-made soup, although this turned into more of a stew by the time I added the pasta spirals, which sucked up all the soup-juice.  A real rib-sticker and just what you need to warm from the inside out.  This one was made with some beef mince, 2 onions, a tin of chopped tomatoes and some tomato puree, and a pint of beef Oxo stock, plus some of a big portion of Ratatouille I had made back in the summer, and pasta.  Scrummy.

This morning is VERY much warmer, I am glad to say.  Of course, that also means we have grey skies, but it's dry, and I can cope with that.  Frosty mornings are nice to look at, but as I get older, warm, grey and dry suit me better!

I have put today aside to write the annual Christmas letter, and get the overseas cards written ready to post tomorrow.  I managed to get some Christmas shopping done yesterday, so have broken the back of it.  It was a welcome break in the marathon car-sitting-whilst-OH-is-at-the-auction.  We had gone in first thing to view it, and he had noted a couple of things of interest.  Of course, they were a couple of hundred lots apart, which is Sod's Law.  There was no point in going home (and a waste of fuel), so we decided to wait it out.

I have to say, viewing an auction which is full of really lovely antique furniture from a Big House, always feels like a privilege.  I love to see Elizabethan four poster beds, and old oak Court Cupboards, and Tridarns, and Wainscott Chairs, and little side-tables hundreds of years old and polished like glass.  I run my hands over them, sensing their history, and what a tale some of this stuff could tell.  The love stories, the heartbreak, the son who made good, the Black Sheep who brought the estate to ruination, the births, the deaths.  At one auction I went to (more down-market than this), under the table was a box of bed-linen, and the detritis of a linen cupboard.  Whoever it had belonged to had not resolved herself to death being final, for she was very much present and absolutely FURIOUS that her stuff had ended up there.  I made a mental note NOT to bid on that box.  Some of you are probably thinking I am a fruit-loop, but there are certain things I pick up on - atmospheres, emotions particularly, associated with places and - "things" - belongings that is, and it is not just a figment of my imagination. Most of you could pick up the atmosphere in a room where there has just been a furious argument, even more so if the people who had argued were still in that room.  Well, my ability is like that, only stronger.  I call it being empathic.

Anyway, I whiled away my time in the car by sewing the Christmas wall-hanging.  Here is a reminder of it:

This is it, straight from the shop.

I did the first panel on Monday evening.  Then the other two yesterday afternoon.  Several hours of quilting there.

As you can see, I made good progress.

I am quite meticulous, quilting round bits other people
would probably leave, but I enjoy doing it, and let's
face it, I had nothing else to do.

Finally it got a bit chilly, and the light was fading, so
I had a walk around The Range to warm up before
my husband finally appeared, with the two items he
had been successful in buying.

On Monday we went down to Swansea to meet
up with our middle daughter, G, who took us out
to lunch, bless her.

I finally got her inside a fabric shop, and she chose
and bought the material for an old rocking chair my
husband had rescued from a car  boot sale for the
princely sum of £1.  I've painted the woodwork and
just had to wait for G to decide on the fabric.  A job
for a dreary January day I think.

We also bought material for cushions, and for reupholstering the drop-in seats on 6 Victorian Balloon Back dining chairs which have been languishing about the house for several years now (and bought when the market was still buoyant, so we have a goodly amount tied up in them).  Another January job.

In the meantime, I am waiting for the Patchwork shop to take possession of the white fabrics I need so that I can carry on with the quilt making.  We drove along to the Mumbles on Monday, in the hope of getting the white fabrics from the Patchwork shop there, but it was not open.  Sigh.  They will definitely NOT be finished in time, but I hope to have both tops completely pieced.  As long as life doesn't get in the way that is, which it has a habit of doing.

We did get some sea air, hhowever, and a walk along by the waterfront, which I have to say, is not very inspiring once the tide is dropping.  No sand to speak of, but lots of mud, and dirty rocks and a few sewage outlets . . .

The plumes of smoke from the steelworks at Port Talbot are across on the far side of Swansea Bay.

Finally, my daytime reading is Mary Webb's Seven for a Secret, which has been on my bookshelf for several years now, along with several other of Mary Webb's books.  My friend Ann suggested I read it, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  She had such a beautiful style of writing, wonderful expressions, and a real empathy with the backward-looking people of Shropshire in the early 1900s.  Before the days of radio, everyone was still tied to the beliefs of the generations that had gone before them.  What fascinating social history and folklore has been lost . . .

Friday 22 November 2013

November walk

We had some sunshine yesterday and so I set out for a walk along the valley bottom.  The trees are finally changing colour and losing their leaves.  Here, the little Larch plantation across the valley has turned to the colour of Lucozade.

The river has gone back to fairly normal levels again for this time of year.

Autumn colour on the beech trees on the riverbank.

Past the mill . . .

And down the lane after the junction.

Sunlight on a riverbank tree.

Looking across our neighbour's riverside fields.

The view up the pretty lane heading homewords.

The view through the trees.

Our beautiful river valley.

I even made it up our steep hill with just one stop, so fingers crossed.  Keep taking the tablets and all that!

Off to view an auction today, and a quick visit to the patchwork shop to see if the fabric I need is back in stock.

Monday 18 November 2013

I must get better at crochet . . .

Aren't these little crochet bits GORGEOUS?  They are finely worked and I want to try and up my ante to improve my skills and see if I can do smaller pieces like these little flowers.  I bought all of these, a little bag full, for £1, at yesterday's Fleamarket.  I like to think that the work of yet another skilled old lady is being appreciated and enjoyed, and if she is no longer with us, she might be having a little smile up in the wide blue yonder.

I tired for more closeups but this was the only one which turned out properly.  I hae just been seeing what crochet cottons I have - mine are all too heavyweight for anything like this.  One vendor on e-Bay is selling embroidery floss which she claims can be used for fine crochet work.  Now there's a thought, as I have PLENTY of that . . .  May give it a whirl later.

Tired out today. Really weary, so not much will be done that involves standing up!

Friday 15 November 2013

Doing those little jobs I should have done months ago . . .

That's how I spent my day today, finally getting things done that I had "put off till tomorrow".  I'm very good at that!

Firstly, these lovely heavily embroidered Crinoline Lady cushions needed cushion pads and then some gentle stitching along the top edge to make them up.  Tick.

I finally sewed the corners and glued the gimp on this little footstool . . .  Tick.

This beautiful 1980s Pollyanna Pickering print needed a new frame and we chose this lovely Sky Blue for the mounting board.  I don't really want to sell it, so if it doesn't go, I shan't mind too much.  Tick.

This old narrow loom Welsh blanket needed hemming, which I did recently, and also a couple of darns.  Tick.

The top of the table we got yesterday was very pale and wan from being in the sunlight, so my husband gave it some tlc and a couple of coats of oil really brought the colour out.  Tick.

Still to do:

I have two lovely and skillfully embroidered Crinoline Lady chairbacks to turn into cushion covers.

Amongst my souvenirs I found a little tablecloth which an old lady had started off neatly enough, but then eyesight or dementia had spoiled it, so I am unpicking it and re-embroidering . . .  Still at the unpicking stage now.

Thursday 14 November 2013

My little unexpected reward

We went to auction yesterday, and bought three things, then left bids on two others.  I phoned late afternoon to see if I'd been successful with either of the tables I'd bid on, but was told no.  Anyway, in the - lunchtime! - post today, I had a bill from the auctioneers for the sewing table I had bought!  (£20 plus VAT).  Well . . .

It is solid oak, and Arts and Crafts in design.  The top would once have held the Frister and Rossmann Modern Cylinder Shuttle Sewing Machine Type D - I know because the little booklet for it was still inside the top.

Underneath - an unusual and rather Gothic cut out design, and above it the scooped base of the table top "cupboard".

Inside was a collection of Royal wedding memorabilia which is worth more than I paid for the table!  Here is a poem by John Drinkwater for the Coronation.  Drinkwater was one of the Dymock poets, and friend of Edward Thomas.

This alone is worth about £20 now, if ebay prices are anything to go by!  There are lots of newspapers and magazines dealing with Royal Weddings, which make very interesting reading.

Wintry ponderings

 Here are my beautiful boys - Theo, Little Whale and Alfie - making sure that the sofa stays well-aired and free from mice!

 We have had a stray tom about the place for about a year now (Ghenghis Khan, aka Moonface, as he has a round face and very round saucer-like eyes).  He is a sort of washed-out tabby.  As the weather's got colder, he has made sure he appears every day at mealtimes (we feed two outside cats, both spayed females, Amber, and Miffy, the boys' mother).  Anyway, although he has pretty well given up pestering all our spayed girls for cuddles, he attacks the boys every time he comes across them.  I have been taming him, and can now stroke him and even pick him up a bit, with the plan to take him to the vets and get him neutered.  I think I will have to up the timing of this . . .

Poor Alfie covered in cow sh*t after being duffed up by Ghenghis Khan.  Last week it was Theo who got rolled in the mud (he was plastered in it, but it brushed off).  Alfie had to have a good scrub down . . .

I've been busy in the kitchen this morning and cooked for the freezer.  Here are some Cottage Pies, and I have an Apple Crumble cooking now.  I went through the fridge veg, and as I hate waste, I took some bendy carrots and half a cabbage and now have them blanched, chilled and in the freezer for soup.  Ditto two more of my home-grown courgettes and 4 red peppers I had bought to make chutney with (to go with the courgettes), but I haven't been in the mood to do.  Halo please!

I found this book in the Works last week.  It is a Japanese quilting book and I think it is a real insight into how the Japanese psyche works, as it is incredibly detailed, and TOTALLY meticulous in its methodology and all the quilts are hand-quilted. I will find it very helpful as it does explain and show each step.  Perfect for numpties like me!

Here's the old Bradbury sewing machine I bought recently.  Needs a bit of spit and polish, but it is dated back to 1885, and still has the original tools with it, quilting feet etc, and the original handbook (though that's falling apart).

Above and below, the unfinished embroidered tablecloth I bought in the summer and have now finished.  I am going over it now, doing a bit of unpicking and resewing though, as the old lady who was unable to finish it, had eyesight problems I think and in a couple of places, towards the end of her working on it, the stitching got a bit untidy. 

Time to blow the dust off my sewing machine now . . . 

Monday 11 November 2013

A day out in Somerset

It was my husband's birthday this weekend.  We planned to visit Shepton Mallet Antiques & Collectables Fair and set out early on Saturday morning, only to hit heavy rain, and then just outside Cardiff, the driver's side windscreen wiper jammed.  We managed to pull over onto a reasonably curvaceous stretch of hard shoulder so wwere even off the hard shoulder, and tried fixing it.  No joy.  We ended up taking an A road up towards the valleys and lurking in a pub car park until the AA came out to try and fix it.  A temporary repair was carried out, and we limped home.

Attempt No. 2 was yesterday, and we made it . . .  Here is the "new" bridge over the Severn into England . . .

Whilst we had an enjoyable day, it was a little disappointing as very few outside stalls set up (who can blame them, after Saturday's weather), and there wasn't the same amount of "house clearance stuff in the back sheds" which we know and love at Builth and which we were hoping to find here.

Back in England!

There were lots of nice little tented stalls to explore - the shabby-chic Country Living look where folk had bought tatty furniture and rendered it even tattier with a layer of Farrow and Ball paint and a rub-back.  And some "fashionable" lamp-shade updates, though tbh, I don't think the sacking look will ever take off . . .

The "country look" was popular and I loved the beautiful wooden mould/spoon? next to the iron.

Then there was the unusual - a vast elephant foot and a very expensive collection of corals (more out of shot).

Some vintage kitchenalia . . .

This was perhaps my favourite stall.  She had a good eye and wonderful displays.

This little Victorian caravan and contents was AMAZING.  I became a child again and wanted to take it all out and play with it.  I didn't dare ask the price.  The little horse that pulled it was gorgeous too, and the stall holder said she had such a soft spot for him, as he had a floppy head where his stuffing had moved (probably into his legs!)  What a unique thing to sell.  Wish I'd found it going cheap!!

Inside the showground buildings (it is a permanent show site for the Bath and West Show) other people had set up their stalls.

And a grander setting . . .

This was another favourite stall, with some interesting kitchenalia.

One of the few things I'd have liked was this painting of a blue roan hunter.  Lots of TB about him and he was obviously someone's pride and joy in the late Victorian period.  Another thing I'd have liked was a lovely Newlyn copper candlestick I saw on another stall (£230 please . . .)

Prices were eye-watering, but we discovered that it is truly an arm and a leg to have a stall here (£300 for the best indoor area and £139 or so for an outside stand).  But people came and bought, and presumably didn't haggle too much.  Don't think we will be doing a stall there as it's too far to go really, for us in far off distant foreign lands . . .

There were a few quilts, but I didn't see any prices . . .

This was pretty but I don't know if it was of any great age.

A modern quilt, but a good display background.

And then we were heading home . . .

Kath - I know, we were so close.  One of these days we will arrange a meet up when we aren't dashing off somewhere else!  Promise : )

Post tomorrow will show the few things we could afford to buy . . .