Saturday, 29 September 2012

Saturday 29th September 2012 

At last some sunshine today.. and after so much rain it seemed a good idea to go to Betws-y-coed in Snowdonia to see how the river was affected.. I love the gushing water there even during normal rainfall periods, all bubbling and full of life.
I went with my son and we drove through the mountains-always a beautiful drive-and managed to pull over to take a couple of quick photos :





In the centre of Betws you can look over a little stone bridge and this is where the water is always the most exciting :





We sat at our usual favourite picnic table eating piping hot chips...you know how delicious they are eaten out in the fresh cold air, especially with the sound of the river rushing by...mmmm. 
We then walked over to the railway station..as well as having a normal train line and station there's also a miniature train ride for kids and some lovely old preserved railway carriages which have been turned into a cafe/restaurant :


 

Beyond the station is an old church with such a lovely peaceful graveyard..lichen-covered headstones sit under a beautiful ancient tree..not a bad place to end your days!



Here's a couple of pics from inside the church..an old tombstone and some information about it :



A little way beyond the church is the river with the "wobbly bridge"..since they were tiny my kids have loved to jump about on the bridge and make it shake..sure enough today there was a teenage boy with his Dad and the boy was following the tradition..made me smile. You can just see the old church up left above the river,seen from the bridge. This is a place I always come to in hope of seeing kingfishers.I don't know why but it just feels the right place for them.I have yet to be spot any sadly..but one day maybe.The water here is always so still and is full of reflections of the trees. A tranquil spot.



I found some broken twigs on the ground.They had various lichens and mosses on them..tiny perfect life forms:


Back home again now and it feels a bit too quiet this evening : my daughter is at her boyfriend's house for the weekend. It's his 21st birthday this week so I made him this card..so much nicer to give a hand-made card, time permitting of course :



I have been researching how to join my crocheted granny squares in anticipation of actually having enough to make a blanket..one can live in hope..there seem to be as many methods as there are designs for the squares themselves. I tried a few methods I'd seen on YouTube and settled in the end for the instructions shown on a blog I started following recently, "Attic 24". They seemed to give a firm connection between the squares without giving too much of a ridged effect...if you're a crocheter you'll know what I mean.

Off to bed soon..all that fresh air and walking has made me tired..that is if I can sleep for laughing! I've got into the new book by Sue Townsend (who wrote the Adrian Mole books) called "The Woman Who Went To Sleep For A Year"..it's about a middle-aged empty-nest woman having a life-changing time, which sounds depressing but really,it's SO funny :-)  Not intellectual stuff or self-improving but vastly entertaining, and let's face it, that's just what you need to relax after a day being, well, yes, a middle-aged woman who has done the empty nest thing quite recently too.
All for now , wishing you all a happy weekend. xxx

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Saturday 22nd September 2012

Today I've been on the Helfagelf Art Trail (It's a Welsh thing!) visiting a group of textile artists in Llandudno..not in their studio as with most of the artists..but in a side room of a church in Mostyn Street.(Extremely handy as it happens as it's next door to Marks & Spencer!)
I saw the same group last year.They call themselves Arial Arts and today there were six women who were exhibiting various forms of textile art:felt work, embellishing, collage, embroidery, textured paint, weaving and so on.. all interesting stuff.  Honestly, it was bliss talking to these kind generous women who seem so keen to pass on all their knowledge..very similar to the wonderful Sandra Kedzlie of "Preston Threads" who I chatted to at the Creative Stitches show in Manchester last Saturday.
Anyway, today I talked mostly to two lovely women: Miriam Forder, who was demonstrating transfer paints and Carol Mcfee who actually co-wrote this wonderful book..I bought the book and she kindly signed it for me:


I also bought a covered sketchbook, textured and stitched in gold and coppery colours, from Carol. I can't decide whether to keep it or give it to my daughter who LOVES notebooks and would enjoy it. I now have no excuse to not get on with experimenting with textile art..the only thing holding me back might be too much choice.I was discussing this today with Miriam-sometimes there are just too many possibilities and ideas racing round your head and it's important to focus on an idea and follow it through...we shall see. 

I got home and,it being such a gorgeous sunny day,I tried to get out into the garden for a bit. Things are starting to die back and most of the flowers are fading but hooray, I still have plenty of tomatoes coming along nicely in the greenhouse.These long tomatoes are Santa variety and the orange ones at the back are Sungold..



                                       ...and I still have roses opening so how bad can life be?! 



..the apples will soon be falling in our "orchard" ..I say orchard..we only have three apple trees including two big trees with Bramley cooking apples.There are usually too many for us to use up and I often take a big bag into work for the cookery lessons.



I've been making soup again..there's something about soup that is comforting, it's easy to make and to eat, and I don't know anyone who doesn't  have at least one favourite soup...I seem to have about six! I made this fresh tomato and vegetable soup yesterday after being inspired by the soup we had recently at RSPB South Stack's lovely cafe. Not sure I got it exactly the same but it was lovely and full of flavour. I've been watching too many cookery programmes recently and feel bad if I just open a tin of Heinz tomato soup these days! This one has onions, carrots, courgettes all softened in oil, then a couple of dessertspoons of red lentils are added along with skinned and liquidised tomatoes and some water..a bit of simmering, maybe 10 minutes..a bit of thyme and seasoning, et voila! :



Yup, I think I've caught my first cold of the season..everyone I meet seems to be sniffling at the moment so it was inevitable..who's for a raw onion sandwich?! Best cure I know! Goodnight all..do feel free to leave a comment or if if you just want to say hello..I'd love to hear from you. xx

P.S. Granny square update..I've now made 27!! Getting a bit bored to be honest but I'll get enough for my blanket in the end...hopefully! Still have to suss out the best way to join them..have seen various methods online.As usual, too many choices..more faffing to come ;-)


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Wednesday 19th September 2012

I had a lovely day on Saturday..extremely tiring but really enjoyable..at the Creative Stitches & Hobby Craft exhibition show in Manchester. I grew up about two miles from the exhibition centre which was sort of round the back of the Trafford Centre at "Event City" so it was familiar territory and as I approached the area I took a route which took me past my old primary school (Flixton County Juniors), past where I used to go to St.John Ambulance Brigade as a junior first-aider for several years and past Urmston Grammar School where I spent seven formative years..as I drove by I glanced up at my old art room windows..so many memories.
The exhibition was really good.I've been to the same show twice before when it was held at Aintree in Liverpool but I think I preferred the space here although a lot of the same exhibitors were around. There is always a special small exhibition and this time they were showing dresses from masqued balls from popular films..I took photos of course! 

                 Here is the dress worn by Drew Barrymore as "Danielle" in the film Everafter : 


                
                  ..and here's a close-up of the bodice..imagine hand-sewing all those pearls :




      Here's a dress worn by Minnie Driver as "La Carlotta" in Phantom Of The Opera..gorgeous colour :




 I loved this outfit worn by Uma Thurman as "Charlotte" in The Golden Bowl..especially the peacock-feather headdress :


                 ..and here's a close-up of the jewel-encrusted neckline (slightly blurred,sorry!)



            Here's an outfit worn by Catherine Zeta Jones as "Mary McGarvie" in Death Defying Acts :



                 ..and finally, a beautiful dress worn by Sienna Miller as "Francesca" in Casanova :



The dresses were the highlight of the exhibition for me although not as many people were as interested in them as I would have expected...people had shopping on their minds perhaps.
There were so many stalls..no idea how many but over a hundred probably.. selling fabrics, card-making equipment, knitting wools (they had some finest, softest baby alpaca wool!), beads, silver clay, hand-made paper and so on..as well as people demonstrating cookery and crafts in a small lecture theatre area. Oh yes, a knitting workshop too where you could drop in and try knitting or ask for advice.
Here are a few of the stalls, though I didn't dare take many photos in case there were objections.There were lots of fabric stalls,especially selling patchwork materials :



I was longing to plunge my hands into this glitter and just throw it all up in the air and make the air sparkle! I do love glitter so much..



I really wanted that blue bag with the £20 sign on it but as I already have three bags of this type I thought better of it..now I'm regretting it! :



Quite a few card-makers were using brushes like these to get subtle chalky effects on their card backgrounds so I treated myself to a set of three..they are really good to use :



                  This stall was showing ways of incorporating hand-made felt into designs:



                                                               Lace-making:



                                                      Burning chiffon with a heat tool :



                           Gorgeous hand-screen-printed fabrics..really lovely "in the flesh" :



                                  Eccentric paper-maker and some of his hand-made papers :




I walked round and round altogether for about four hours though I did stop for a coffee where the ladies (and we were 99% female!) were "serenaded" by a fab guitar player who ,in my opinion, wasted his wonderful skills on cheesy numbers like "Don't cry for me Argentina", "Fields of Barley", "Wind beneath my wings"..you get the picture (vomtastic stuff sadly) He didn't smile much so I guess he wasn't having the best time..



So, a really good day out for anyone like me who loves all forms of art and craft and lives in rural areas like me and can't often get to good craft shops. I went to my parents' house then for a few hours, then drove back to Wales.. absolutely shattered, especially after getting up at 6a.m., but full of ideas..and quite a bit poorer! 

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to make a Traditional Crochet Granny Square - Ultra Slow Motion

Thursday 13th September 2012

Well, at last I've cracked the "granny square"..it took me a few hours,much unpicking (and a little swearing too I have to admit).I kept ending up with more of a hexagon or even octagon for a while..it was all about finding the right hole to go into next. In fact I unpicked my first square so many times the wool got "tired" and I ended up throwing away the used part BUT I found this Youtube video which helped me a lot so I've posted it below. The woman who posted it must be very altruistic and generous, bless her..she really helped me. At first I made notes but after about three squares I was well away and can now even watch tv at the same time...my daughter watches me with horror and says she could never do it, but of course if I can then anyone can!(It's always good to still be able to impress your kids don't you think?!)


Here's my very first square..


...and now I'm on a roll! I've made 21 squares so far, blue and cream, to match my living room colours. Making enough for a blanket throw for the sofa is the target. The only decision now is whether to join the squares with crochet stitches in navy blue or keep the navy out of it and just stick to the bright blue for this. The squares are looking like this...



On Sunday I bit the bullet and drove our new car for the first time. It's a Ford Fusion, four years old, so it's not brand new but it's the newest car I've ever had and therefore it was a bit nerve-wracking. It was fine of course...and it has a CD player..a step up from having to make do with the cassette player in the old Volvo! So, for the first trip I chose an easy drive to Parc Glynllifon, which is near Caernarfon, to visit some art studios participating in the Helfagelf Open Arts weeks in North Wales.
I haven't been there for years and it was more picturesque than I remembered. Here are some pics from the visit..they have some old restored steam engines and boilers.Some of the work was done by Fred Dibnah.











There was a mixed bag of art there;some paintings, some recycled metal sculpture, some slate work..and a textile artist who inserted wooden forks (like you get from a chip shop) into her textile pieces..unusual to say the least! She was also embroidering fake coffee stains onto a tablecloth which was interesting.I would have liked to stay and chat for longer but my daughter  always gets bored when I get chatting to people.
 I'll be visiting a group of textile artists in Llandudno soon too..I saw some inspiring work there last year so have high hopes for that..embroidery,felting and so on.I intend to chat for ages there and I won't take my daughter to that one!

We didn't stay too long at Glynllifon as, although the cafe looked pretty, the service was poor and we decided that paying almost £4 for a mediocre piece of cake was silly so I made some coffee and walnut cake as soon as we came home..cheaper and much nicer:



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I was annoyed earlier this summer that the leeks I planted last year never fattened up into useable vegetables and instead just went to seed..however, they flowers have turned out to be long-lasting and quite beautiful..much better value than a few leeks which would have got eaten and forgotten about!




This week I received my college certificate in the post..I guess that means no presentation ceremony,phew! I am now qualified to teach essential skills in literacy (what used to be called "basic skills") and as,according to statistics, there is such a problem with literacy with one in four people experiencing problems, it may become a useful certificate to have. In the meantime I'm happy with my art teaching but there may be scope to develop some literacy teaching or a reading club at my workplace.We shall see. Ciao for now :-)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Saturday 1st September 2012

Nant Gwrtheyrn is about 28miles down the coast from where I live.A former quarry village,it has been preserved and renovated as a centre for Welsh language courses and also can be hired as a wedding or conference centre.Today,I went with my daughter and we were merely day visitors, hoping for a pleasant day out on the coast and a change of scene. We were quite stunned by the view overlooking the village..I took this photo just before the road dropped steeply down to nearly sea level..not a drive  to be undertaken lightly!


The old quarrymen's cottages are now used as accommodation and look quite pretty.Here's how they used to look:


                                                      ...and here they are today:




                               Here are views of the cafe (left pic) and the chapel (right)...



                    ..and yes,another cafe with a wonderful view..I do seem to seek them out :





The walk down from the village to the beach is quite steep..perhaps this is why we were the only people on the beach for most of the time.




After the driving and walking I was quite ready for a rest so I sat down for a while watching waves crashing on rocks whilst Phoebe walked along the shore.  
I never tire of watching waves..they are sort of exciting and relaxing at the same time.



Here and there I could still see remnants of another era..I imagine this wheel contraption is something from the old quarry..




                  I love old rusty metal..it has such character..other images I snapped today..



























Autumnal berries already! Back in the car park I saw this wonderful old Morgan..the exhaust sounded terrible but the car was just beautiful..I wanted to stroke it!




                                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The past few days I've tried to get into the garden as much as I can..I'm feeling sad that summer's passing by and realising all the things I haven't got round to doing out there yet again. I am however not embarrassed by my tomato plants! Each day recently I've been able to fetch a bowlful of lovely tomatoes in from the greenhouse..the varieties are Sungold, Santa, Tumbler and Gardener's Delight..and the best and sweetest of these is the orange-coloured Sungold..I like to eat them straight from the vine,still warm, like sweeties.



Despite all the warnings my garden has been full of bees and butterflies..the buddleias and hebes have been alive with them..such a welcome sight..



      I could sit and watch them all day..such delicate pretty creatures.The buddleia scent is subtle and sweet..lovely on a warm day to catch a breath of it as you walk up the garden.




Last image for today..a fleeting pleasure..the only water-lily flower in my pond. Happy weekend everyone..wishing you all a restful and happy Sunday.x