Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

Jacques Yves Cousteau

Sewing Bee

It was like receiving an unbirthday present!

I had a bit of a mad creative burst over the weekend. Inspired by the latest Great British Sewing Bee programme I decided I wanted to make something to wear!

In all honesty how this normally pans out is that I get all motivated, go and buy a pattern, look at some fabric, think ‘wow, that’s expensive’ and then lose all interest for several months. I used to make lots of things but haven’t done for quite some while. Last year I rediscovered Clothkits, the home sewing company from the 1970’s and 80's that has undergone a fashionable revival, being relaunched to a whole new audience in 2008. I ordered their 1950’s teadress and then got no further with it.

However, this time I was determined it would be different! One of their beautiful skirts was on special offer so I ordered it on Friday, it arrived on Saturday, wrapped like a present, and so on Sunday I made it.. Yes, I actually did it :)

 The pattern was very easy, all the pieces are printed onto the fabric and the instructions are simple to follow – my only problem was machine related, I have never been able to get the tension quite right with my electric sewing machine. I managed all the seams ok but once I’d changed the foot to put the zip in (on the sewing machine, not my actual foot) the tension went completely mad. I ended up dusting down my treasured 1930’s hand powered Singer sewing machine to complete this task and it didn't let me down!

Yes, I know, I should have ironed it first....

Once completed I was thrilled with the results. I could have easily made a size smaller as the fit is a little loose but that, again, was my mistake..... and better too big than too small. Extra room in case I overindulge on scones and pork pies.

Clothkit details.....

Following on from this success I ordered a pattern from Tilly and the Buttons. Tilly Walnes was a contestant on the first series of TGBSB and has her own fab blog and has just launched a range of printed patterns. I chose Coco and am very excited to get started. I might even dig out that teadress and get started on that before the summer :)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” 
Gloria Steinem

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Our Big Adventure - Part 3

Not the best photo, sorry!

DH and I do like a castle – I may have mentioned it before. We hadn’t fully decided which one to visit over the weekend. I have to admit I love Warwick Castle but recently it has been super expensive and a bit theme park like. So we decided to try Kenilworth as neither of us had visited this one before.

I’m so glad we made this decision – it was an awesome place. Firstly, the buildings are made of very red coloured stone which looked so fabulous rising up against the brilliant blue skies. It was busy but not overwhelming and it wasn’t too expensive at £9 each (although we did get swayed by the superior selling techniques of the English Heritage gentleman and ended up buying a membership!)

The Elizabethan gardens were lovely - they had recreated one of the fountains from records.

Kenilworth dates from the 1120’s and bore witness to one of the very few full scale mediaeval sieges in this country. Supporters of the defeated (and dead) Simon de Montfort holed up here to defend the castle against King Henry III after the battle of Evesham in 1265. They managed to withstand heavy assaults on the castle but finally had to surrender in 1266 due to disease and lack of supplies.

Further into Kenilworth’s history saw the estate given to Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester and favourite of Elizabeth I. Now this is one of my personal favourite periods in history and so to actually stand in the grounds where they would have stood was pretty exciting! English Heritage are currently installing viewing platforms in the building that he built especially for her 1575 visit (she had visited 3 times before this). Once these platforms are complete you will be able to look through window spaces that no one has looked through for 300 years – how mind blowing is that?
In a further building are the remaining fittings that Dudley had installed, albeit elsewhere in the building, so you can look at a marble fireplace and carved wooden panel that both he and Elizabeth would actually have seen and touched. It’s these links to the past that really make history so moving.

I like castles :)

All around the site there is carved graffiti too. I took a few photographs and we marvelled at how old some of it was. But then as we were tutting at the “Gaz woz ‘ere 2012” and “Gemma luvs Mark” we wondered if past 1800’s visitors did the same over “Mr Cooke’s” efforts or “Joe Hart – 1840” and when does carved graffiti move from vandalism to historic interest? Possibly when the quality went downhill which I assume was probably when ‘stonecarver’ became a somewhat undervalued profession. Gaz clearly spent nowhere near as much time and care over his offering as Mr Cooke although in fairness he was probably trying to carve into 800 year old stone with a crappy nail file nicked off his girlfriend :)

I only photographed the old stuff, sorry Gaz

This isn't one of mine, honest!

If you are ever in the area I would highly recommend a visit to Kenilworth Castle – I would also highly recommend a visit to the gift shop where they are known to do tastings of the fine alcoholic beverages that they sell – but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

Detail from the windows Robert Dudley had installed - apparently they were groundbreaking in size.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Our Big Adventure - Part 2

Blighty Bazaar - I could have lived here quite happily :)

I had done a little bit of homework around shopping opportunities in Leamington before we left. It would have been remiss of me not to! And it was from such homework that I discovered the joy that is Blighty Bazaar.

This establishment is vintage heaven – lots of different sellers in one glorious place offering everything from clothing to kitchenware, books to furniture. They have a café and even a beauty parlour where you can be vintagely beautified J

Weirdly we had ended up parking really close by and so I didn’t have too far to struggle with my new purchases. We found a lush Thermos giant flask thing for future vintage picnics. I also discovered a whole bunch of early 1900’s Christmas cards which will fit nicely with my love of old postcards. They are truly things of beauty, each one a work of art in its own right.

Christmas cards from c1910

I was also thrilled to find a 1940’s Ponds Face Powder pack complete with remaining powder (though not my colour!) and a similarly aged cigarette packet – all good stuff for my WW2 alter ego, the wonderful Peggy!

I was very taken with a vintage Sunbeam Mix Master food mixer dating from the late 1940's/early 1950's but being a sensible sort I decided I didn't really need it, didn't have space and couldn't be sure it actually worked as it still had a very dodgy looking flex and very antique looking plug! However, the Sunbeam then decided to dance around my head all night suggesting that I DID need it, I COULD find room and DH had mentioned that he could easily replace the flex and plug and probably fix anything that might be wrong with it . Apparently they don’t build ‘em like they used to! So, Sunday morning saw me grovelling and begging to go back to BB in case they still had the Sunbeam. You’ll be relieved to know the story had a happy ending – it was still there, DH managed to replace the flex and it works! If I don’t manage to find room for it then the weight of it will ensure it has a place as a doorstop or burglar deterrent. “Excuse me Mr Burglar, could you just stand there for ½ hour while I manhandle this weighty piece of kitchen equipment over to bash you on the head? In fact could you kneel down as it’s too heavy to raise above head height!”

The Sunbeam in all its glory - bring on the scone making!

My other star find was in the Oxfam bookshop. They had a whole basket full of The War Illustrated Magazine from WW2. I couldn’t buy the whole lot so I picked a few choice ones from the early days of the war. It’s a cracking read with lots of stories of brave British exploits and dastardly jerries doing all manner of unsporting things. There’s an amazing section entitled Odd Facts About the War. I never knew that penguins from London Zoo were ‘fobbed off’ with pieces of meat doused in cod liver oil! Presumably later in the war the lions were similarly fobbed off with penguins doused in Bovril!

Read all about it.... penguins get fed!!

My new purchases have now been lovingly installed at home – all except the Sunbeam which is currently living on the floor and proving to be a toe related Health and Safety issue :)

One happy girlie!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Our Big Adventure - Part One

We are quite amused

This weekend, DH and I had a rare weekend away which we spent in Royal Leamington Spa. We enjoyed glorious weather and had a most excellent time J

Highlights of the trip included a proper afternoon tea at a vintage tea room called ’Vinteas’. Each table had mismatched cups and saucers and side plates with lovely cutlery (and flatware!!). We ordered the works, and they arrived piled high on a beautiful cake stand. Assorted finger sandwiches, scones with jam and cream (cream first or jam?), mini pork pies and scotch eggs and a selection of cake to choose from. Along with this we had real loose leaf tea in a vintage teapot. I felt I really should have dressed more appropriately for the occasion! We left there clutching bags filled with the goodies we just couldn't eat, a packet of loose leaf tea and the inspiration to recreate afternoon tea at home.
Some of the delicious goodies for afternoon tea.

Jephson Gardens were another true delight. The Spring weather was certainly having an effect and everything was blooming and blossoming –even the squirrels! These gardens are named for Dr Henry Jephson who was a leading light in promoting health benefits in Leamington in the 1800’s. They have been recently restored and include some wonderful wood carvings, a hothouse of tropical plants and lovely opportunities to walk and enjoy some peace and tranquillity.

A detail of one of the plants in the hothouse - no idea what it is and I forgot to write it down!

We stayed at a Best Western hotel – I often wonder why they don’t make more of an effort to go with the whole ‘Western’ theme, such a missed opportunity! Instead, this one went for ‘delusions of grandeur’ which I think they captured most beautifully. I have never seen so many chandeliers and overly ornate furniture. Our bedroom had a specially nice view of a blank wall but if you really stretched you could just glimpse a rat bait box! But it was comfortable, clean and the staff were polite.

The shops in Leamington were everything that I had been promised – a huge variety of independent shops alongside the big town regulars. There were plenty of charity shops and some stunning vintage treats too. I managed to score some real bargains – but more of those in Part 2.

Architecture and sunshine :)

On Sunday morning we took another walk around the Gardens and further into the old town to look at the impressive architecture. You can see where the old railway bridge used to be and above the slightly shabby shops you can still see the impressive carvings and details from when the spa town was in its heyday. We visited All Saints Church which dates from 1843. A Sunday service was taking place so we did not venture inside but outside was breath-taking enough! We didn't linger too long, the bells were very loud!!

All Saints Church - the bells are getting louder...

We left Leamington and headed off to visit Kenilworth Castle – covered in Part 3 – before gently heading towards home and back to reality. It was just the break I needed and I am going to do my best to take this nice relaxed feeling right into the frantic pace of being back at work….. I’ll let you know how that works out!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

"Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility."

Saint Augustine

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking

Pussy Willow and Blue Skies.

What a beautiful weekend. The glorious weather seems to have lifted everyone’s spirits and I have definitely seen a new enthusiasm especially in the garden. But more of that later. I’ll get my confessional moan out of the way first :)

This last week has been a challenge for me in lots of ways. It has got me thinking about the kind of thoughts I have and how they impact on the way I feel. I have actually had a fantastic week at work – done things that have put me outside my comfort zone and been thrilled with the results. I have run training on my own, organised team days, led meetings and started all manner of new projects. Outside of work I even managed a lovely night out with DH, a meal and trip to the cinema. BUT.... I did make one mistake. Admittedly it was a fairly big one but it was dealt with and sorted and I owned up and made good. So, why did this one thing overshadow the rest of all the good stuff that happened this week? I have had to actually force myself to recognise all the positives and yet still this one negative kept jumping up and waving its little arms, shouting  “don’t’ forget the stuff up! Don’t forget the mistake you made!” This has had a huge impact on everything else. I have felt bad, eaten too much, didn’t make the effort to go to the gym, watched too much TV and generally wallowed in self pity.

Blossom in the garden.

So this morning I decided enough was enough. I was up early, at the gym for opening time then came home via the allotment so I could admire the work that DH did there yesterday while I wallowed. Hooray for rotavators! Once home I did a few yoga stretches to clear my mind (note to self, do not do this in the same room as a teenager watching Pewdie Pie videos) and gave myself a stern talking to. I then vowed to spend the day doing nourishing and positive things. DH and I went for a long walk across the fields to check how our beehives have fared overwinter. There honestly is nothing like nature to put you in a better frame of mind. All the budding leaves and wildlife. We saw butterflies, bugs, herons, buzzards, rabbits, so many things. And to make it even better it would appear that two hives still have signs of bees. This was totally unexpected as we thought we had lost them all. We won’t peek inside just yet but the signs are good! Later we will make our lists of seeds for the allotment and garden. I love this part of the year, all the promise of good things to come :)

At last - some dry weather!

Busy little bees - not that you can see them here!

To finish off the day I have a meal with the whole family planned and then I am going to settle down with a glass of something nice and lose myself in the world of Mr Selfridge for a hour. After that? Bed and positive thoughts of all the good things I have to be grateful for. And “meh” to the odd mistakes that I might make along the way.....

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

The spiral in a snail's shell is the same mathematically as the spiral in the Milky Way galaxy, and it's also the same mathematically as the spirals in our DNA. It's the same ratio that you'll find in very basic music that transcends cultures all over the world.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt