Thursday, 26 November 2009

I love it when I finish something.

I've just finished sewing all the binding on my Paris Squares quilt. I am pleased with the outer border quilting.Here it is before it goes in the washing machine:I like to wash my quilts (on a 60 degree, white wash) as soon as they are finished for a number of reasons, the main one being I like the crinkled 'old' look that the quilt takes on as the wadding shrinks. I use an unwashed (mainly) cotton or alpaca wadding both of which shrink when washed for the first time. Depending on what style quilt or wallhanging, I either wash the wadding first or I use a firm needled polyester wadding. 'Soft and Bright'* is my favourite one for wallhangings, but it's not very good for cuddly quilts as it doesn't really 'drape'.

Washing is also good because it washes away any quilt markings, spray baste and of course all traces of starch.

When the quilt comes out of the machine, I will lay it flat on some towels to dry out and if it looks distorted I will need to block it.

*I buy my waddings from either Doughtys or Asding - both offer good prices, and are fast with their deliveries.

The demon drink......

Himself, Chic Girl, The Wizz Kid and I went to an Averys wine tasting at Bristol Grammar school on Saturday evening. Oooh how innocent that sounds! I didn't know what to expect...

Firstly we went through two, thick, oak, double height doors, we were following everyone else up a sweeping staircase, which then opened into a big hall. There we saw huge oak beams with lots of carvings, wooden dark oak panelling and built in seating half way up the walls with lots of heraldic shields above the panelling. It was as if we had stepped straight into a Harry Potter film! (Oh how I wish I had taken my camera.) Before us were tables laden with polished, empty, wine glasses. We were invited to take a glass each, enjoy ourselves and sample the wines. We were then given a small goody bag with pen and notes. I must admit my bag got discarded pretty quickly.

Around the room were at least twenty five long tables, each with a snowy white tablecloth, a jug of water, a plate of water biscuits and anything from six to ten bottles of wine on each from all the different wine regions. An eager member of staff stood behind each table, keen both to pour us a glass and talk about their wines. Readers, we (and quite a few other people) went for it! It was busy and buzzing, but never overcrowded. We also noticed big black bins by each table with sawdust in the base, where people could rinse out their glasses and dotted around the rooms were a few waist high stainless steel 'spittoons', although we observed most people swallowed!

We spotted a cheese counter in one corner offering tastings of some delicious locally made cheeses and promptly bought some both to eat now and some to take home. My own favourites were a creamy goats cheese and a Caerphilly that was a revelation - The stuff from Sainsburys will just not taste the same anymore.

Himself and Chic Girl then paired up and went off with purpose, notes in hand and were clearly 'going to do this properly'. The Whizz Kid and I were, erm, not. I spotted the champagne tables almost immediately, but though I might peak too soon if I started the evening with a glass of Bollinger, so with huge (and almost unheard of) restraint and a small sigh, I turned away and we went over to one of the other tables. We asked for something white and 'fruity' to start. Mmmmm, it was lovely. So just in case it was a flash in the pan, I had another glass. Mmmmm - yes, still lovely. But with so many more to try, we had to move on. Turns out the Whizz Kid and I liked the same wines throughout the evening.

We met up with the other two every now and again and discussed our findings. After a while the Whizz Kid suggested the champagne tables might need our presence, so it would be rude to ignore them wouldn't it? We admitted to each other that we were feeling more than a little squiffy, but a drop or three of champagne would buck us up. It would have done too, had we stopped at one glass, but as we liked the white, we were encouraged to try a rose champagne - mmm that was very nice too, "well in that case try these" and so on, well, it would have been churlish to refuse wouldn't it? Mmmm, also all very nice. The Whizz Kid then spotted a bottle of white liquid with a very intricate and pretty design etched on to the glass and pointed it out to me, where upon I quoted "I've been told one should never buy a wine because it had a pretty label" a beaming chap in a white pinny agreed with me and said "it was a good maxim, but this was a premium vodka, so it didn't count - and would we like to try some?" Now it'll come as no shock to anyone who knows either of us, but we do like to try different things, so we said "yes please". I normally couldn't drink neat Smirnoff, thinking it akin to swallowing petrol (although vodka with a taming, tonic water, is lovely) but this vodka was delicious, goodness knows what it was called, but I could happily drink more. I didn't, because we were then offered a glass of Cognac, the Whizz Kid said "it was very, very smooth and slipped down a treat". I didn't dare touch it, because I knew I was at the point of slipping down a treat myself and figured I might not get invited out again if I collapsed in a heap on the floor. After a reviving glass of water, we moved on.

Himself and Chic Girl had discovered a table with Beaujolais and a very knowledgable and chatty wine pourer who was very gently flirting with Chic Girl, although once she made it known that the Whizz Kid was her beau, the wine pourer all but stopped the flirting, but carried on chatting. Sadly the wine evening eventually came to an end and after placing an order for some of our favourite wine*, we collected our coats and headed off into the rain in search of some food - which we found in the shape of a lovely South Indian (I know, I know. What a cliche, but at least it wasn't a kebab from a van, eh?) restaurant called Krishna's Inn . The food was very different to the usual fayre. Lots of fish and vegetables, much 'lighter' sauces and very sparse with the oil and ghee. I especially loved the dosas we had as a starter, mmmm, feeling peckish just thinking about them:-) It was a really delicious meal and I was surprised at just how hungry I was, although after eating a such good supper, even my 'pudding' tummy was so full up, that I couldn't manage a kulfi or even a cup of chai. We will have to go back there and eat again.

I slept like a baby that night and no hangover on Sunday morning either, so that's a Brucie bonus:-)

* No, no - despite what you are thinking, I promise I wasn't so pickled that I couldn't decide which wine I liked best.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

What a busy week!

Wooosh. That was last week flying by.

Last Monday, four of us from the UK sewing list got together at AR's house, had a delicious lunch and talked all day. We all felt slightly guilty, because not one of us had done any dressmaking for ages. Oh well, lets discuss other things then.... AR has been card making and how - wow, she has made some really beautiful cards.

During the afternoon, one of AR's neighbours brought her a brace of pheasants and the three of us were like giddy school girls, never having seen pheasants up so close. We are such townies! Who knew pheasant feathers were so beautiful and so varied?Honestly the colours easily rivalled any exotic jungle bird. So naturally, I came over all 'Japanese tourist' and whipped my camera out: AR suggested we plucked the birds for her before she popped them in the freezer. We declined. Although we did take out one or two feathers for study purposes. Actually, it felt very weird pulling feathers from a bird - not something I've ever done before.

Tuesday I spent the entire day moving furniture, rugs etc. away from all the windows, then clearing/cleaning all the window cills and finding temporary homes for all my plants, not easy when our conservatory resembles Kew gardens. Anyway I managed, which is just as well as on Wednesday at 7.45am the double glazing guys arrived - hey, what happened to the 9am start boys? Fortunatly, because my brother phoned me from Hawaii at 6am, (he always phones at stupid o'clock in the morning, good job I love him!) Himself and I were both up and dressed and ready for them, phew. Himself and I went to work for the next three days while the double glazing was being done, it was interesting coming home each evening to more cozyness and lovely new windows and a then a new front door as they worked their way through the house. Apparently they loved Bagel, although/because he was a complete tart, 'talking' to them as they worked and helping them to eat their cheese and onion hula hoops. Tch, so much for Bagel's diet then! The boys finished everything at about 7.30pm on Friday evening. Himself and I are very pleased with the double glazing company. From start to finish they have been great. I'm so glad we decided to go with a local independent company - rather than one of the 'big boys'. Our new front door - white on the inside, 'oak' on the outside.

Update - The ladybirds have settled down nicely in their jar, inside the wardrobe and are sleeping. There are just a few bugs bumbling sleepily around, but on the whole they look to be OK. No word yet from the Ladybird experts.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

They are taking over the world......

Argghhh. We've been invaded by ladybirds! Hundreds of 'em, all hibernating inside the workings of a venetian blind. We have had to take down all the curtains and blinds as the double glazing people are coming to fit new windows all over the house. When Himself removed the blind he 'spotted' (ha ha) this lot:It was a sunny day, so loads of them started waking up, and crawled away from their nest. They can really get a shift on when they want! We figured that a small artists paint brush and a little cup were the safest things to catch them with. Trouble is they were getting quiet lively and what with us disturbing their sleeping spots and it being warm, more and more were waking up, as fast as we collected them, they crawled out of the cup! Now we had both remarked in the summer about the number of ladybirds we seemed to get in this room, but put it down to the fact that we have the windows open a lot and it is a very sunny room. How naive! Little did we know they were nesting and planning on taking over. The thing is, are they British ladybirds or are they the 'dreaded' Harlequin ones, that like the grey squirrels are busy wiping out our native breed? Neither of us could tell and after much trawling the web, we were still unsure, so we took photos and filled in a form here , we await their verdict. In the meanwhile, Himself valiantly struggled to get them all unharmed into a large jar, it's a bit like herding cats (cats that can fly) and it took him over three hours to get well over two hundred ladybirds into that big jar and not leave any on the loose: we covered the top of the jar with a sheet of kitchen roll and waited until they all settled back down to sleep. The jar is now inside a cool, dark wardrobe until we hear more from the ladybird research group. What fun eh?

EDIT: 11.45pm - Himself has just spotted two wandering across the ceiling,. They can stay there.

Fun with feathers on Paris Squares

Ooh that title sounds rather dodgy, Himself raised an eyebrow when he saw the title on the DVD, but knew better than to ask if I had been buying mucky films!

The last bit of quilting is done, I'm loving the puffy effect of the feathers. I've now trimmed all the edges too - but next I've got to do the bit I really dislike doing - the binding. Urrgghhh. Miffed to realise I will not have enough fabric in any of the colours to do the binding, it will have to be in the white cotton.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Good Times -Bad Times

My computer appears to have stopped crashing . The Whizz Kid really is a whizz and did all sorts of tech-y things last night, while I was here and he was in Bristol. I have a 'Log Me In' facility - so useful as it means he can do diagnostics from his computer and 'take over' my computer, even though we are miles apart, he used to tease me by fooling around with my mouse, which was weird until I got used to him doing it - it's not so much fun for him now though, coz I don't squeal! We communicate on screen by using 'notepad'. So he tells me my main disc at 465gb (BigBoy*) is fine, hasn't been corrupted and still has plenty of room. My smaller disc (Dave*) however has come to the end of his usefulness, at 12gb he's just not man enough for the job anymore. Such a shame, as he's the only original bit of my computer from the year 2000, when I was told by the cocky salesman at PC World that the disc was HUGE and I'd never fill it. Ha ha ha ha. Wrong, wrong, diddly wrong! Although to be fair to him, I don't suppose he expected just how much computers play a part in our lives now, with so much software, digital photos, videos, i-Tunes etc. all needing disc space. So am going to get a new disc drive. But, what to call it....... Any ideas? I'll send a prize if anyone comes up with a really good name.

*Names carefully chosen by Lanky boy and Whizz Kid - bless 'em.
p.s. So not putting BigBoy as a 'label' as I suspect that could get me into all sorts of trouble...

EDIT: Gah - spoke too soon, it's crashed twice this afternoon already - very irritating when trying to watch a film to help relieve the tedium of the ever present ironing. Hmmm, trying to find the scene that you haven't watched yet is quite elusive......

Monday, 9 November 2009

Banana Muffins

Made these
Here's how:
Switch oven on to 200c
Get twelve paper* muffin cases or twelve silicon* muffin cases ready, in a muffin (deep) pan although a bun tin will do at a pinch.
1 x mug, sugar - any.
1/2 x mug, vegetable/sunflower oil.
2 x eggs (I use large, but med will do.)
3 ripe bananas. - although one extra or one less doesn't matter too much.
3 x tablespoons, milk - for dairy intolerant folk: goats milk/slightly watered down sheep(greek) yogurt works too.
1 x teaspoon, baking powder.
2 x mugs, self raising flour - sorry haven't yet tried out a gluten free version.
Nutmeg or ginger or cinnamon - optional.

With electric mix beat sugar and oil.

Add the eggs, beat them in thoroughly.

Add roughly broken up banana, allow mixer to break up banana until completely mashed in.

In a separate bowl /cup dissolve the baking powder in the milk, it will go very frothy.

Still using electric mixer, slowly add milk mixture to banana mixture. Sift the flour into the mixture and grate some nutmeg over the top.

With a large spoon, gently fold in the flour - do not be tempted to over mix or you will have concrete muffins, you want to stir just enough to get all the flour mixed in and no more.

Using a spoon and a small bowl scraper or even a knife, spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, you should get twelve good sized muffins from this recipe. (if you want to be posh you can sprinkle demerera sugar on top.)

Bake in the oven for twenty five minutes.Eat as soon as they have started to cool.

If they haven't all been scoffed on the first day, they do microwave nicely - twelve seconds on high - any more than fifteen seconds and you will burn your mouth. Any more than twenty and they turn into missiles!

* I bought some beautiful pastel coloured muffin cases - Tch, complete waste of time, on the right, you can see the supposedly yellow paper one, on the left the silicon case. I'll stick to silicon in the future and just use the pastel paper ones for 'decoration purposes' only.

Quilting Feathers

Spitting them too...... My computer keeps crashing and I've been trying to write an e-mail to someone and each time it crashes the e-mail doesn't 'save'. Gah, I've given up for the moment - will have to wait until some tech support gets home from work! Instead I thought I would show some of the quilting I've done....
I'm fairly pleased with the feathers, I could do with more practice though. After I quilted the first row of feathers I decided to echo quilt around each swag. (I stopped and took a photo after only one side had been echo quilted as all of my bobbins had been used and I need to sit down and wind another ten bobbins) so watched a bit more of my Patsy Thomson DVD. While I was watching, I noticed she wore gloves to do her quilting. I'm guessing it's coz she finds them useful rather than being reluctant to get a manicure! Well, I'm not about to fork out £££'s for a pair of genuine machine quilting gloves before having a little practice with something similar. So these 'exfoliating' gloves will do. They are waaaay too small for my hands, but they will stretch (to a certain extent). Not a perfect fit, but they'll do.I tried 'em and I liked 'em. Feels weird sewing with gloves on though. Himself walked into my sewing room and told me to switch on the boost for the central heating if I was that cold (it has turned blimmin' chilly here today.) He thinks I've lost my mind and didn't quite believe that sane women quilt with gloves on, but never mind, I'm gonna get me some proper ones now.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Yum yum/ I'm a party pooper

Himself arrived home safely from Switzerland and bought me a couple of prezzies. A bottle of my fav tipple - Bombay Sapphire:-) and a box of Luxembergli, which I know are horribly expensive but sooooo good. Sadly these got a bit squashed in his suitcase:-( They need eating quickly, see:so who am I to argue! Now which one to eat first.........Mmmmm, they still tasted very good indeed.

Himself & I went to a party at Bar Ha Ha in Cheltenham. It was a birthday party for one of his work colleagues, none of whom I've ever met before. It's a scary thing walking into a room containing well over a hundred people when you only know the person you have walked in with. I've slowly reached the realisation that I don't actually like parties any more. I must be an old fogey! I'm sure I remember parties used to consist of loud music, lots of dancing (or at least shuffling about) a little inane conversation and some drinking in between dancing your socks off. I like that. Now it seems, everyone stands around all evening (a killer, especially when I've been on my feet all day at work) talking and drinking - now don't get me wrong, I am fond of a drink, so that part I don't have a problem with, but no one dances any more. The music still plays though, making conversation very difficult for me because I'm as deaf as a post. Himself was lovely being the designated driver, drinking orange juice all evening* I was so pleased when the lovely AG turned up, who I know from when she lived and worked for 'The Company' in Swindon. Although AG doesn't work for 'The Company' any more she was invited to the party by the birthday girl as they are good friends. We were party poopers and left just after eleven o'clock. Well, it takes a while to drive home from Cheltenham.

* Himself had a really sore throat, presumably from all that juice. I didn't have a hangover at all - despite all the G&T's, there is no justice is there?!

I need to get a really good excuse lined up ready for the next party invite though..... Any ideas?

Vanishing ink...... Marking the spines

Ha ha, no, not something from Harry Potter, but one method I use to mark quilting patterns.
I use two different vanishing pens. The one that lasts me about an hour or so is a 'Collins vanishing fabric marker'. These seem to be available online all over the place for about £3 each.The other vanishing pen (the marks last a few hours) is a double ended, 'Chaco Ace disappearing marker'. I bought this at one of the quilt shows a year or two ago, and naturally I have no idea which stall it came from! I cannot seem to find anywhere in the UK, online that sells it either. Gah! Fortunately mine is still OK (a tip I learned is: always store pens horizontally) but I shall try and remember to keep my eyes open for another one at both Malvern/FOQ next year.

It seems bright light/sunshine makes the pen ink disappear much quicker, so try and keep the cloth covered.

I do also use 'wash away' pens: the 'Berol Handwriting' (red barrel, black or blue ink) which is designed to be washed out of clothes. I've never had a problem washing the ink out of any of my quilts, but I have heard of others that do (but then, I do tend to put my quilts on a 60 degree hot white wash) These pens are fairly cheap and available in most supermarkets.The other two pens I have are: the Chaco wash away pen and Prym wash away pen, though I tend to save these last two for trapunto and tracing out embroidery designs.
I have now marked the spines of the feathers I intend to quilt on the final border. I used the Berol handwriting pen for two corners and the wash away pens on the other two. The Berol is much easier to see!These are to be very informal types of feather, from the Fun with Feathers DVD, by Patsy Thompson. I use a bendy ruler to get the basic spine shape and draw in the curve. I can then quilt in the plumes free hand.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Paris squares - quilting the borders......

More quilting. Here I used a disappearing pen (the ink is supposed to show for 24-48 hours, but I'm lucky if a get an hour or two!)I raided my small change pot and pulled out the 2 pence pieces, placed two in the corners and then just spaced out the coins remembering to allow for the pen to go in between the coins. All the other coins then get put away and you just use these coins for each side of the quilt, then you know how many to use and don't have to keep checking there are the same amount of loops on each side. Here you can barely see the loops drawn in purple ink, so I need to go now and quilt this quickly.....
The inside part I just eyeballed and did the loops in joined up writing e e e e e's.
Next border is a large zig zag. First I draw a diagonal line out to each corner, then place the ruler across the border at a 45 degree angle. Draw a line across, I made each line 4" long. Then do the same on the opposite corner - keep drawing those zig zags, keeping each side level until you reach the middle, when hopefully they will meet! I didn't bother drawing in the little flowers, I just quilted them in as I went along. The next border was the tiny squares, so I did tiny squiggles in the white squares. Just one more border to quilt now....

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Clever Parents #2

I realised I didn't post any photos of my Father's work, bad daughter!

Since I didn't take any photos at my parents house I shall show you the three paintings of his that we own:
This is one of his earlier works, and Daddy has been very clever with the wording on this French shop, but I shan't say any more. I love the gentle colouring, this looks super hung in our hallway.
This painting is of one of our garden gates.... The one which leads to our garage, he's changed the colour of the buddlia flowers that are growing there, in reality they are purples and white, although red looks better for a picture. I especially like the sunshine and shadow on the ground
This one is a fairly recent painting, I like how my Dad really captures the mood and colours of an Italian street market.

p.s - I've just realised how to make the pictures on the blog much bigger - doh! I might go and replace some photos now.......

Now why didn't I do this years ago?

We 'inherited' a bookcase and it's sat in our dining room, filled with DVD's and some of my recipe books. The thing is, I've never actually liked it! I knew it wasn't precious, I think it's called utility furniture, knocked together cheaply after the war, using cheap, thin wood and plywood, covered in a treacly varnish and aimed at young married couples. Probably the MFI/Ikea furniture of it's day! So yesterday I decided to empty it, sand it down (oooh, I hate doing that job) and then paint it. Even with one coat of paint, I liked it better already. I used Farrow and Ball, Lime white, as an 'undercoat' but as I've used it before, I knew it would be too creamy a colour, so I've top coated it in F&B, Strong white. Now it's completely dry I've filled it up again, but this time the DVD's are arranged by colour instead of alphabetically, hee hee hee. Actually, I think it does look slightly neater. Himself will probably have a fit when he gets back from Switzerland and will almost certainly complain he cannot find anything.

Champagne (inside) and Bagel (outside) stared at each other through the conservatory door for ages, Now Bagel is a cat who prefers to use a door rather than squeeeeeze himself through the cat flap, so when I saw them still sitting there, I had to get a photo. Note the paw marks on the glass, this is just after Bagel has stretched himself up to ask/beg me to let him in, he's been walking over the grass which is still wet from the downpour we had this morning.