Monday, 29 September 2014

Harrogate Quilt Show 2014

Sadly we didn't get to Yarndale last weekend as we were still recovering from the plague.
However, I did make it to the Harrogate Quilt Show in August, with the village quilting group; and so here is a purely personal tour through some of the gorgeous works of art that were there.  
I do have to apologise as I stupidly didn't take any notes of the names of the talented artists who appear here.

Prepare to be amazed by the skill and sheer creativity that these quilts display.

The show had masses of top quality vendors selling an amazing range of  fabulous fabrics, haberdashery and equipment - heaven.

My favourite quilt from the whole show was this one.
It was stunning.  An amazing landscape that was redolent of  the stark beauty of the desert.  The level of skill this quilt displays just struck me speechless - I had to go back three times just to look at it again.
Here are some close ups of it so you can share it's gorgeousness.
 Pieced star and machine quilting

 A fantastic range of colours build up into rocks, mountains and vistas of startling beauty.

The quilting, embroidery and dew like crystals add to texture and sumptuousness of this utterly wonderful quilt.
Did I mention this one was my favourite?

 And then I found these jackets. Wow!

Wearable art.

There was a lot of tweed being used in really interesting and inventive ways and I bought some beautiful scraps to play with - really bright and cheerful colours, not the usual muddy colours we tend to associate with tweed.  A real eye opener for me and one of the best reasons to go to a show - to have your boundaries expanded.

 These two quilts were made by the same artist.  I love the landscape - it's so three dimensional and quintessentially British, with a really subtle use of colour and tone.
The one below is a masterpiece of piecing (unintentional pun there) made from hexagons and diamonds.

There were miniatures - absolute gems of loveliness.
Yes that quilt really is that tiny one on the middle left between the two ladies.

 This absolute miracle of piecing was stunningly gorgeous and for some reason reminded me of  blueberry ripple ice cream.  Just look at the precision and crispness of that piecing! 

 There was applique - this one reminded me of an Arts and Crafts tapestry.
Exquisite applique with bees and dragonflies.

And finally - I don't really do celebrity worshipping but in the midst of all this artistry and sewing skill I espied this man...
Stewart Hillard, one of the contestants from the 1st Great British Sewing Bee.  He was charming, polite and in no way fazed by my asking to take a photo.  Of course he didn't see me then dart behind a stall and frantically text my sister with the news - she was equally thrilled - whilst jumping up and down with glee.   
Some people are just a pleasure to meet and Stewart Hillard was one.

It was energising, inspiring and full of gobsmackingly, achingly beautiful quilts.  The women who made them are true artists and it was a privilege and a pleasure to view their work.

I've got loads of ideas, some fabulous fabric to try out...all I need now is some time to do it all in.

I hope you enjoy this small selection of a truly amazing exhibition.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Not Well

Jean-Luc and I have had flu/ horrendous colds - thanks to a very generous friend.
We've had aches, temperatures, sweats, sore throats and very blocked noses.

Sadly we ran out of tissues and are now using the far less glamorous toilet rolls instead.
We have been trying to eat properly but our appetites have been small and we've spent a lot of time snuggling under blankets, drinking tea, sipping Jack Daniels with honey (wonderful for sore throats and helps you get off to sleep), sleeping and engaging in competative coughing.

Our bottom lips have very definitely been stuck out.

But we've turned the corner and are feeling much better now.  You never know I may even make it to Yarndale this weekend - 'cos you can never have too much yarn.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Autumn Equinox

The weather has definitely changed and Autumn is upon us in all its gorgeous finery.  Autumn is perhaps, the most luxuriant of seasons; appareled in sumptuous scarlet, crimson, burgundy, gold, orange, rusts and russets; dripping with the rubies, garnets and carnelians of berries and fruits.
A fantastic crop of hawthorn berries - the wildlife will be very grateful for this bounty.

Normally Autumn accessorises with crisp blue skies and scudding clouds, but as the season progresses it adds the veils and shawls of mists; a subtle counterpoint of pearlescent greys that soften and complement the autumnal riches.

The garden is full of spiders, the ones I most often come across are Araneus diadematus, or the European common garden spider; most of them are the various shades of brown, beige and fawn while a few are a more greys and white - both are beautiful and welcome pest controllers, as well as being one of my secret joys of Autumn - the perfect harbingers of the Autumn equinox.

We've also had this visitor - a beautiful Rosemary Leaf Beetle.
Apparently these beauties are migrants from Europe that have been moving into Britain but are mainly found in the south of the UK, so this one's a bit unusual in being so far north in Lancashire.  They like to nibble on the rosemary and lavender but I think they are lovely.

This weekend I spent making up laundry liquid, started steeping calendula petals in olive oil to make some calendula salve - it's great for healing cuts, bruises and burns.  I also managed to rustle up some rolls and a hearty chorizo and chickpea stew using yet more of our homegrown tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients from our store cupboard.  A fulfilling and productive weekend.

Laundry Liquid
1 cup soap - either flakes or grated
½ cup washing soda
½ cup borax
 Add it to 1 ½ litres/quarts of water in a saucepan. 

Put the saucepan on the stove and heat the water and soap flakes. Once it’s completely dissolved stir in the other ingredients; once these are completely dissolved, remove it from the heat. 

Get a large container - a bucket or tub that holds at least 10 litres/quarts, and add the hot soapy mixture, then add in enough cold water to make it up to 10 litres and stir.

That's it! As it cools, the mixture will turn to gel. You can add fragrance at this point if you want to; I usually add tea tree and lime essential oils.
Gather some containers and pour it in. 

Please note: the gel gets quite thick, so make sure you use a wide mouthed container or leave enough room in the container to allow you to shake it well before you use it.

Add about ½ cup of this liquid to your machine for a good wash. It's also fine in a cold water wash.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Temporal Age = 50; Cycling Age = 4 3/4

 This week while Jean- Luc has been turning 50, I have been reverting to childhood and learning to ....cycle!

I know! How could I get to 50 without learning to cycle (especially when I used to live and work in Cambridge - the UK's capital city of cycling); but I have and now I have to learn.
I have to learn to do what most people learn at 5 or 6 years old and while you can teach old dogs new tricks it's becoming obvious it takes a lot longer and is much harder to do so.

 Very young children able to cycle - oh if only it was so easy for me!

Luckily we found a great place to teach me - Tracs at Delamere Forest.
Tracs is run by the wonderfully patient Tony, an ex Army and Policeman; who is a wonderful mixture of hard task master (Pedal harder!) and inspiration (You're doing great, you couldn't do that an hour ago).
This magical man managed to get me from complete beginner, who'd never pedaled an inch to someone who could ride a bike (albeit not always in a straight line) in just 1 1/2 hours.
I can't describe the rush of joy at being able to get on a bike and pedal off.  Such a simple thing and such an amazing feeling - and I only fell off twice!

Two days later and we were back again.  This time Jean-Luc took a bike out and spent a couple of hours cycling 14 miles round a mountain bike track (I was impressed as he'd not been on a bike for about 10 years); and I cycled round the Gruffalo Trail with Tony - in fits and starts.  This is a very easy 1mile trail where small kids take their parents on a Gruffalo hunt.  It took me an hour to get round it and I did see the Gruffalo, very briefly as I cycled past it. 
Yes dear reader, you read correctly - I CYCLED past it!

I puffed, I panted, I 'pedaled harder', I panic braked and got bitten by the bike more than once (usually when passing children out of fear I would plough into them), I only fell off once and I realised how woefully unfit I am and made a commitment to spend more time with the exercise bike.  But sometimes for a few minutes (and usually before I panic braked and came a cropper with the gears again) I wasn't battling with my inexperience; sometimes for a few moments I was cycling through the woods and it was fantastic.

I didn't come away completely unscathed. Warning - following photo isn't for the faint hearted.
But no pain - no gain.

I have say here that these bruises in no way reflect the care and safety concerns of Tony my trainer.  These were caused by me and me alone panic braking and running the bike gears into my legs.  Tony was a veritable icon of patience and calm and kept me from steering into ditches and down steep banks on countless occasions and I felt completely safe with him there to guide me through the trail.
The bruises are a result of a clumsy learner not knowing what she's doing; but this clumsy learner is learning and the absolute thrill of being able to say 'I went cycling in Delamere Forest' is beyond measure.

I am still bouncing from the thrill and will be going back to practice some more with Jean-Luc; although I may wait a little longer than planned for the bruises to go down, but I will definitely be going back for more.
It was great - thanks to Tony from Tracs - I have learnt to cycle.

ps. this is not a sponsored post, I don't do sponsored posts.  This is just me thanking a terrific trainer for helping me achieve something completely new and utterly wonderful.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Nu Look

We're finally getting round to painting the house.  We moved in 11 months ago and decided not to decorate straight away as we had a few things we wanted to do first (the built in bookcases for a start); and a whole load of making good on some issues we found (i.e. a thermostat on the heating boiler).  We also had to wait for the plaster  to dry on the walls of our bedrooom (not the front bedroom but the back bedroom which has better views across the fields and is quieter - if you don't count owls, donkeys, foxes and chickens - and we don't).  On top of this we wanted to live in the house a while in different seasons to see what the light was like.

So having let the plaster mature, sorted out our major and 'making good' jobs (boy were there a lot of making good jobs the previous owners had left for us to do) having  seen the seasons through; it's time to dive into paint charts and start daubing the walls with test pots (what? oh sorry! Jean-Luc says no test pot squares - whoops too late!).

Anyway we popped into the local DIY place and bought home some swatch samples.  We were quite enamoured of the surround of one of the pictures that Jean-Luc painted of the Nu over two years ago.  Obviously with such an important aesthetic decision to make and with it based on her elegance and beauty; the Nu felt she had to approve it.

Do I not look beautiful?  See how the colours compliment my luscious pelt?
I will let them proceed!

ps for anyone still interested we're going for the second green on the right tucked into the picture frame for one and bit (above the bookshelves) walls and the rest will probably be magnolia to add a bit of light and warmth.  Fingers crossed the Nu approves of it. 

pps Autumn must be here as the Nu is now spending part of the evening on the sofa as opposed to laying waste to the local rodent population.  If you listen carefully you can hear a collective mouse sigh of relief.  Death of Rats is also glad to be able to take a break.

Gorgeous Gluts and Perfect Preserves

I've not been around to blog for a while as I've been dealing with a wide range of preserving issues (on top of work - sometimes it really gets in the way of living; but it  pays the mortgage).
Amazingly the tomatoes which had blight have responded to my drastic cutting out of any infected material  by giving us a fantastic crop.  We've had about 8 or 9 kilos of tomatoes so far and there are still more on the vine; although it's fairly obvious that the tomato season is coming to an end.

So with all this bounty, it's proved impossible to eat them all so I've taken to the preserving pan.  

I've turned 2 kilos into Italian sauce, 1 kilo into tomato and chilli jam and 2.5 kilos into tomato and roasted pepper chutney and we have frozen about 1 kilo in the new freezer.  And we still have more to go!

A vast amount of tomato bounty.

Roasted peppers - I keep the skins on as I like the slightly smoky taste of the charred skins.

 Tomatoes reducing with peppers, onion, sugar and white wine vinegar - yep it's that simple!

 The finished tomato and roasted pepper chutney in some very cute jars from Wilko's.  In all we have 8 jars now lurking in the pantry.

 Chillies and tomatoes reducing to jam.

Three jars of delicious jam, sweet yet piquant and perfect with sausages, chops, various meat dishes and sandwiches.

We were also very lucky as a neighbour had a fantastic crop of damsons this year and very generously allowed me to pick a whole basket.
Wow! don't they look lucious!

So I set about stoning and halving 3 kilos of damsons.   My hands were yellow by the end of this session - and it didn't scrub out of my nails immediately.  Oh well, it led to an interesting conversation at work; apparently not everyone spends the weekend at various stages of the preserving process - who'd have thought it.

I made 1 kilo into damson chutney and froze the other two kilos for later - either pies or more chutney.

Speaking of the freezer; we now have a second freezer.  Jean-Luc and I had been discussing getting a small second freezer for a while; not only to cope with our present and (hopefully) future crops but also to hold the vast amount of extra chilli and curry that Jean-Luc wants to make.  So he went to the pub, had a chat with some guys and ended up with a small chest freezer that someone had for spare in return for a whole passel of tomatoes and damsons.
 Chilli con carne and beef and vegetable curry for freezing.  The chilli has only our homegrown jalapenos in it  and tastes pretty damn good and hot.

Yes dear reader we bartered for a freezer - alternative economy rocks!

PS some friends have just asked if we want some damsons - apparently it's a bumper year for fruit (there was a slight not of desperation in their voice).  We will be taking advantage of their lovely offer and trading some of the already made preserves in return.