Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tuesday 30th October 2012

Am in a soft purple mood today so here are some lilac and cream images...I managed an hour in the garden today enjoying the last of the summer flowers. This rose is called "True Blue" which isn't quite accurate but still lovely in its own way. It's getting much colder tortoise is almost hibernating (but still sluggishly moving about on sunny days).

I've always wanted to try sounded such a romantic elusive delicacy..well,I spotted it in Tesco,of all places, and HAD to seize the opportunity. I cooked it in water until al dente, added lemon and olive oil... it would have been fab if it hadn't been SO salty!! I expected some saltiness but not this much.My daughters nibbled a bit and couldn't eat any more.Oh well, at least I know now. 

Horror of horrors, the fan on my oven has stopped working (died of over-use I suspect) so I can't make my Christmas cake until it gets sorted. I did however manage to make one seasonal treat.. I donned sunglasses and spent an hour peeling small onions for pickling..the glasses did help a bit but I still ended up with eyes streaming! I only added mustard seeds as I don't like to taint the pure pickliness of the onion flavour. Will I be able to wait for the required pickling time? Doubt it!

Look at these emerald green beauties.My daughter has been messed about at work and ended up doing two consecutive days of twelve hour shifts, all on her feet with no sitting down, so I bought these shoes to cheer her up..we have put them away for Christmas but just going shopping for them was wonderful retail therapy! Not only that but they were reduced twice..down from originally £55 to only £22!! That was the part that made me smile ;-)

I found this Welsh poppy growing bravely in a crack in the concrete driveway..only a matter of time until someone stands on it but it's lovely and cheering while it lasts ... a Twitter friend replied when I posted the photo with a quote from Morrissey .."Amid concrete and clay and general decay,nature will still find a way". Not sure how accurate it is or which song it's from but thanks Jonny for that apt quote!

Maybe my last Gertrude Jekyll rose of this year. Such a perfect colour don't you think? A little bit of blackspot on the leaves but not enough to worry me at the tail end of the season.  Ciao for now. xx

Monday, 22 October 2012

Saturday 20th October 2012

A quick trip to Oriel Ynys Mon in Llangefni this week was a happy side-effect of laptop teething daughter's new laptop started freezing..we suspected due to clashing anti-virus downloads.I say that like I understand these things (ha!) but it's happened EVERY time we've had a new laptop in the family. Luckily we have a wonderful bunch of computer geeks who fix stuff for us at a fraction of the price of the big firms..either £20 or £30 depending on the difficulty of the job. Anyway, as we had to go over to Llangefni for this we thought we'd make the most of being over that way and visit the art gallery.
The passageway in the foyer was displaying some wooden figures suspended about 8 feet off the ground made by the wonderful David Jones who for many years was a senior lecturer at Central St.Martin's in London, amongst other things, and who I've visited several times at his home in Beaumaris. He works in a large shed studio in his garden which is filled with numerous sketchbooks and painted wooden pieces. I particularly love his sketchbooks with pen & ink and watercolour sketches of places he's visited abroad..very fresh and skillfully done. The exhibit below is called "Angels On Washing Lines" and was inspired by looking up at the washing hanging in his grandmother's garden and her telling him about angels up in heaven when he was a child.

These figures are on permanent display at the top of the passageway..not sure who made them but they're quite striking...

There was a really good exhibition of paintings in the main gallery but we weren't allowed to take photos.However, you are allowed to take them in the museum & education room at the back of the building.It's a really good space with lots of historical information and artifacts.There is an area for children too. Here are some early household items found on Anglesey..

                              A kitchen range fired by paraffin oil  c.1930 from Rhosgoch :

                                            This is an early pressure cooker,also c.1930 :

                                     An early washing machine, complete with mangle :

We had a mooch around the gift shop afterwards and yes, I treated myself! Well, it is my birthday next month and I always get told to choose something I want as my husband is hopeless at buying gifts and my mother can't get out shopping (you can see I'm trying to justify it!) Here it is.. a lovely curved and hammered silver bangle to add to the two simple bangles I wear all the time and never take off. Isn't it yummy? .... 

Before we left we had a coffee in the small cafe-restaurant and what should we see? Only Anglesey biscuits!! Okay, this may not be so surprising to you but we had never heard of them before last week's Great British Bake-off programme did a special feature on them. We were a bit sceptical when we saw the programme, never having come across them in over thirty years of living here..but here they were being baked every day for the cafe! They are shortbread biscuits shaped using a scallop shell and are a very old tradition...apparently! 

Yesterday it was the monthly farmers' market at our local secondary friend Pauline (I call her Pauline the Cupcake Queen) has a cake stall there.She also does cakes for events and weddings. Her cakes are delicious and I got coffee and chocolate cupcakes from her. They have all sorts of lovely food at the market...farmhouse cheeses, mushrooms growing on logs, liqueurs, honey products...the usual suspects.

I bought some broad beans, probably the last of the season..I just love knicking the skins and slipping them out of their jackets..time-consuming but a labour of love.. and so delicious cooked, cooled and eaten in salad with a vinagrette dressing. 

Today was the most heavenly sunny day..a real gift. I decided to forego the beach walk I was longing for and cleaned out my rid of my tomato plants and cleaned the algae off the glass panes. I had a surprise when I lifted the cover on my garden table..some rather magnificent toadstools were lurking there!

Driving over Menai Bridge tonight I managed to slow down for long enough to snap the setting sun on the was a bit rushed as I got beeped by the car behind but you can see how lovely the water looked all lit up by the sun.. a lovely end to a gorgeous day...catch you later people. xx

Monday, 15 October 2012

Monday 15th October 2012

As a child castles were only in fairytales but now as an adult I live four miles from Beaumaris castle, nine miles from Caernarfon castle and often drive past Conwy castle.You do tend to take them for granted but they are amazing structures really with so much history and legend connected with them and each one seems much bigger when you go inside. 
It was pouring down on Thursday morning but I was determined not to miss my chance to go to the French market which comes to Caernarfon about twice a year. I parked by the castle..NOT in the car park which charges a huge £4 but on a free slot near the courthouse.
Here's a pic of David Lloyd George in typical prime ministerial stance beside the castle...

 The reason I go to this market is mainly for the wonderful soap stall from Marseilles and it's also fun practising my schoolgirl French. The stall is run by a family firm who make natural soaps with vegetable oils that suit my fussy skin and also smell divine. I'm always spoilt for choice..what would you choose from lavender, rose, geranium, lily of the valley, propolis, honey, green tea, rosemary, lemon, grape, mimosa, jasmine.. I always get the lavender and lily of the valley and this time I'm also trying the honey variety..all smell heavenly.

                                    Brightly-painted shops overlooking the town square..

Down a side street by the council offices there's a sculpture of what looks like two seagulls on top of a huge piece of slate. I also spotted this mermaid on a window grate..


Talking of fairytales reminds me..after all this rain..and on Thursday it rained without stop morning until night.. I found several groups of toadstools in the garden-all looking like something from fairyland..


A couple of weeks ago I was playing about with Friendly Plastic and fashioned a bird (hummingbird?) which my daughter loved so it seemed a shame not to find a use for it..I played around with various mixed fibres (my house is FULL of them!) and put this together.. background is denim from an old pair of jeans..I also distressed some felt, painted some Bondaweb and found a lovely piece of shimmery fabric...beads, various embroidery stitches, sequins..I think it's finished but it's hard to know when to stop!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Monday 8th October 2012

I am feeling a bit wrecked this week..too much going on..taking one daughter to work,the other for job interviews, clothes-shopping for her new job (yes,she got it!) and so on, on top of my usual work as an art teacher, shopping, housework, cooking etc..not much time for my own stuff (for "stuff" read art and gardening). We've all had colds too, which doesn't help. I did however get a sudden urge to just take some "time out" yesterday morning on my way back from taking my daughter to work; the sun was shining and I did something I haven't done for about 20 years..I parked the car and walked over Menai Bridge to stand and stare at the view. The bridge links Anglesey to mainland Wales and is about a mile from where I live. It was opened for general use in 1826 and was built by the wonderful engineer Thomas Telford. He lived from 1757-1834 so really it was an amazing feat of engineering for its time.Imagine what it was like before the used to make their cattle swim across the straits to go to market in Bangor! I imagine many were lost to the difficult currents.  
I think I must cross that bridge a hundred times a month but always whilst driving over in a rush to work or to the shops in Bangor. 

It was so good to just stand still for a while and enjoy the peaceful scene..low tide, still water, the sunlight making everything cheerful.This is the view looking towards Beaumaris in the far distance and with Menai Bridge town on the near left..

I zoomed in on those boats that look like tiny dots in the picture above.I love their reflections on the water.The water isn't always this calm and can be quite treacherous, especially if you don't know where the rocks and whirlpools are.

Then I crossed to the other side of the bridge and snapped the view looking towards the other bigger bridge, Brittania Bridge..a bit uglier (built by Robert Stephenson and opened in 1850) but good because it diverts a lot of the traffic away from our bit of the island and takes the A55 on its way to Holyhead.. 

What else has been happening this week? Oh yes, it was National Poetry Day and as it happens I went with my daughter Sophie to a poetry reading on Monday at the university. It was a poignant day for her as it was the last day she could officially call herself a student as she handed in her M.A. dissertation a few hours earlier.  The poetry night was all about the work of Tony Conran..his translations of ancient Roman and newer Spanish poetry and some of his own stuff.As he's quite old now and confined to a wheelchair his work was read out by a "poetry chorus" of six people who were at times accompanied by a traditional harpist. The room at the university (Powis Hall) is interesting as it has a mural by the artist Ed Povey called The Hall Of Illusion.I went to the "opening" event of the mural when it was completed a few years ago and the artist gave a long talk about it and his life (which it portrays).. not the humblest of people I remember thinking.. I had my 3 children with me at the time and at the end I was in a dilemma..both girls had fallen fast asleep and I couldn't carry them both out to the car. Funny the things you remember!

 I have been to several events here since.The most notable was when the English department held a day of talks and events about five years ago and the star speaker was Phillip Pullman. We all had a free buffet lunch in this hall and whilst I was sitting on the edge of the stage eating with my daughter who should come and plonk down next to me but Phillip Pullman himself!! I nearly choked! This was at the height of his fame for writing the "His Dark Materials" trilogy..I sat there thinking what on earth could I say to such an esteemed writer that he hadn't heard before by his legions of fans and just hit upon the idea of asking him about the film version of his book "The Amber Spyglass" when he was suddenly set upon by a group of old ladies who fawned upon him for the next ten minutes and my chance passed.Oh well. I do remember he had lovely shoes with mismatched laces.Ha. And a lovely linen jacket. Bugger,I wish I'd spoken to him! My kids loved those books (but the film maybe not so much).

Bedtime now I think..I'll leave you with this picture of my local postbox.I love the way it's becoming sucked into the wall and embraced by the ivy.