Friday, 31 December 2010


This clump is under the oak tree, as you might guess from the dead leaves. I have several 'blobs' of hellebore round the garden and all the 'white' ones have come from the same plant.

I couldn't get these to download earlier, don't know why...


Coming back from the compost heap after lunch I had a look to see what was happening to the hellebores. They are just beginning to show their flower buds so in a short while there'll be flowers in the garden!
I can't add more pics to this post so will do those as an afterthought in the next one.

Thursday, 30 December 2010


I've been watching the Bumblebeans Inc. blogsite where the ladies are busy making scatty houses - not sedate houses like mine! I thought I'd give it a try and then leave them in a bunch until (much) later. I'll be interested to see how they put them together in a quilt as they're all shapes and sizes.

The sky on the top right house is part of the skirt length which made my 'yacht' bag (below) and the bottom left is a patch called Humble Homes from a quilt book.

The nice thing is, No House is Wrong!

Sunday, 26 December 2010


I began making this bag several months ago during the summer. A friend gave me a piece of what I think was skirt material with a border print with the pattern gradually changing as the height increases from the hem. It was long enough for me to cut two identical pieces so that I could make a bag to replace one I made a long time ago (but which won't be discarded). I like the colours on this piece.
I handquilted aound the sails and hulls of the yachts and straight stitched the sea level, too. I wanted it to be a bag with a gusset so that was cut from a piece towards the top of the material where the sky design has changed to 'white' with blue speckles. The handles and top binding are cut from slightly lower down where there's more blue in the pattern. I like padded bags - they don't flop like single thickness material does - I've incorporated a little bit of batting into the handles as well this time and hope they'll wear better than the previous bag's did.I chose a lining with a tiny turquoise pattern to complement the outside and now that's finished.
What can I do now???
(The lining material came from the same friend who gave me the yacht material...)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


At last I've finished this quilt and it's 'all right' but can't say I'm that thrilled with it. It's my first attempt at machine quilting and I'm disappointed with how it makes the quilt feel - compared with hand quilting it's flat and quite rigid so perhaps I'll just use that method for smaller pieces.

After I'd bound it I decided to put some quilting in the border but just at the corners extending along both sides for a short distance. I have plastic templates of hearts and stars in different sizes so randomly quilted those in red, blue or white (well, cream) quilting thread. It's a fairly satisfactory result except that I was getting bored with having to do this on my lap so didn't complete the centre border sections.

Another corner with more quilting - I prefer quilting when the work is in a frame, except that even a tiny frame like mine takes up 'so much' room when I include the magnifying light, too.

For the backing I used a duvet cover which I bought on eBay during the summer - it's stars again! For the binding I used a pillowcase with stars, moons and suns on it which came from Gillian, my gardening lady. I thought this backing would be an ideal design to cover up the mess that the machine quilting would turn out to be...well, it's not so-o-o bad but I wouldn't give this quilt away!
Now, why would the camera change the colour from maroon to this rather nice hyacinthy blue?
Well, it did - and it's my new Canon camera, too. I tried all sorts of meanderings on the backing including trying to do flowers. Some things worked and others didn't so I'm not showing those.

Here's another collection of tryouts but these are balls, marbles, loops, call them what you will.
I think I'll stick to hand quilting next time, I like to stab stitch my way through the afternoon listening to a film on TV or the digital book channel, someone to talk to me, as it were. I do like the random coloured quilting thread on the back and the front has pale creams and whites as its quilting thread.
I think the camera will be OK when I get the hang of the things I want to use it for but I DON'T like having the manual on the computer - how can you check something when you're out???
It's a real palaver having to set up the computer! Couldn't get any pics to download from the camera to the computer following the manual's instructions so did - something - which I hope I can remember next time, and it's worked.
If we don't speak for a few more days, Have a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Friday, 17 December 2010


This is the view from my bedroom window, in one direction. The sun is shining on the houses in the background and it was a good contrast with the very dark cloud which was coming my way. Last evening/night there was just a light dusting of dry snow, so what's lying on the garage roof and ground is nothing serious, like icing sugar on a Victoria sponge. It rained at tea time yesterday but my car doors were iced shut this morning with the cold...

Twenty minutes later it was like this and still snowing.

And an hour after that the snow had gone and there's a blue sky, sunshine in the garden... is it any wonder we're always talking about the weather???

On Wednesday 15th December I meant to post that it was the anniversary of Glenn Miller's disappearance after he took off from an airfield in Bedfordshire but never arrived in Paris, where the band was waiting for him. I'd been to the Eye Clinic and had drops put in and couldn't see what I was doing so wasn't able to post that day. There's a very readable book called 'Next to a Letter from Home' by Geoffrey Butcher which is about Major Glenn Miller's Wartime Band. Just looking to see when it was published(1986) and noticed that the author has signed the first page.

(Later - I realised I hadn't put in the date of the disappearance - it was 1944.)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

THATCHING - in December

I was going to shop in Princes Risborough today when I saw this cottage being rethatched. It wasn't nice weather, cold, grey and very damp but I shouted to the young man up on the roof asking whether I could take a photo of him and he agreed. It's a very busy road, the main road from Risboro to High Wycombe, with traffic continual in both directions, so couldn't ask him any questions about how long it's taken to do this much. The blue sheeting is containing loose straw and stopping it falling on to pedestrians below.

Here, he's sweeping the loose cut ends of the straw from the ridge to the bottom of the roof - I wonder if he's an apprentice doing one of the routine jobs? He was the only person about...

These are fresh bundles of straw which you can see on the left hand side of the top photo. I'm saying straw because I can't imagine it being reeds...

The 'eyebrows' at the top of the roof are lengths of uncut straw which, again, you can see in the top photo. The other end of the run of roofline has been trimmed neatly.

He's still sweeping the roof clear of the cut ends of the bundles.

The lorry is full of the old thatch which must have been pulled down earlier today and thrown into the back ready to be taken away. I wish it had been easier to talk to him but there was so much traffic noise. I can't remember the name on the green logo on the door, all I can remember is that it said 'Master Thatcher', or perhaps it was Thatchers?

Sunday, 12 December 2010


No, not me!! I'm not musical (or mathematical either!).

Yesterday was Bucks Family History Society Christmas Meeting for the Central Group. I went expecting a quiz, as there has been other years when I've gone, but there was an entertainment instead.

The group of three handbell ringers from Wallington was called Pizzaz and were a married couple and a young girl who was a friend. During their show we were told about the bells, some of the history of handbell ringing and they answered questions which were put from the audience. Bell ringing is thousands of years old, though not with metal bells which the group brought with them!

The bells which were used today came from the US and there were more than fifty ranged flat on the black material-covered table - all sizes from very small with a high note and large, like a school handbell, with a mellow low note. The ladies wore black gloves( matching their dresses) to avoid smearing the bells and to limit contact with the metal.

This photo shows a fraction of those used as some had already been packed away in their foam lined travelling cases. All in disarray as the audience had replaced theirs standing upright.

The trio played carols, Christmas tunes and classical music as well., sometimes using bells held two in each hand and sometimes just one. Very clever especially as they change bells rapidly in some tunes. It was a case of ring, put down, pick up the next bell and ring, all in time with the others so there was no hanging about. And knowing where to find the next bell! It reminded me of fair isle knitting where you're searching for the next colour - but much, much quicker... Their music was ranged on a series of music stands at the front of their long table.

At the end they donned headgear for 'our' performance where each person was given a sheet of Jingle Bells words with bold lettering stressed for when to ring your particular toned bell - I won't go into that!

Speaking to one of the ladies afterwards she told me that there is an Advanced Recital Exam for players of any instrument and Pizzaz are the first group of handbell ringers to gain this award.

After the performance there were lots of 'munchies' to pile onto a plate plus tea or coffee before we went home.

PS Because I'm a quilter I was interested in the black material covering their table and in a decorative piece hanging down from the front - black with glittery red dots. However, both the black and this piece were polyester so no use at all...material came from a store named Fabricland which I've never heard of so will have to look it up and see where they are.

Monday, 6 December 2010


I phoned Teresa about a photo of Sinter Klaas and here he is, from Google Netherland's images site. This pic comes from De Valkeniers web site.

The 6th December is St. Nicholas' Feast Day but presents are given to the children on the evening of 5th December - the children leave hay, carrots etc for Santa's horse, as we leave a mince pie and a drink for Santa...


I took this photo of the Christmas lights on the bungalow opposite my house without a tripod, just holding my breath! Down the centre the dark bar is part of the window frame so couldn't avoid that. There won't be any Santas on the roof or twinkling words wishing us all a Merry Christmas, only this rather nice display. Normally I'm not enamoured with outside decorations but these are just enough. Perhaps I'll be able to manage a pile of books as a tripod substitute and take a better picture but that doesn't take away the need for a careful pressing of the button...
Today, in Holland, is when St. Nicholas arrives on his white horse with Black Peter, his servant, in attendance. I wonder if my daughter will have any photos of the event to spare...?I'll have to email her and ask.

There's a heavy frost again this morning, though the snow has gone - aaah! shouldn't have said that, it's tempting fate! I noticed these cobwebs on next door's fence looking like delicate crochet
as I got out of the car - I wish the fence was a different colour so they showed up more.

I was in two minds whether to use this next photo or not but - here goes. The other day I saw half a dozen red kites swooping over a garden at the end of the lane, about 600-700 feet away from me. Normally they soar around on the thermals, gradually moving down the countryside. But these birds were actively flying and diving, concentrating on themselves; blackbirds which were also around took no notice. The kites have a 6' wingspan, and are impressive birds, especially on sunny days when you can see the redness in their feathers and the barring on the wings. They were re-introduced round here on to the Getty Estate at Stokenchurch and have successfully bred and moved out and down the valleys. During the summer you can hear them calling, a once heard never forgotten cry.

I've never seen a kite land in a tree, either, let alone five of them. It's a shame my camera is only 3x zoom as I miss lots of bird pics because I can't get close enough. Perhaps I should go back to my SLR with the telephoto lens???

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Remember I wrote to Tesco at the beginning of November about their poor spelling on one of their 'dingly-dangles' hanging above an aisle. I went in yesterday and found they've changed it!

Well, you only have to ask...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010


The first snow this morning at 6.30 with Ashley venturing down the path - but not for long!
I don't mind this amount, which is about 1/2" deep, fine and powdery, it's when it freezes it causes trouble, as you'll know. I've swept a patch for more bird seed as the remains of yesterday's has been covered over.

The carpenter came yesterday to do several jobs, one being to put up a second hand rail so I can haul myself upstairs with alternate hands. I suppose I should varnish it....

He laid a 'patching' floor on top of the shed floor that's going into holes and then made a new sewing table frame for me, very utilitarian but sturdy and what I hope will be the right height to machine on. He's made it with a loose top, which is a wardrobe door panel which I bought at Texas (remember that DIY store?) many years ago.

The framework has been put so that it's 1 1/2" or so away from the wall. I'll be able to drop material or a quilt down the back of the table by shifting the table top. There's plenty of room underneath whereas before, with a pasting table, I had a very heavy set of metal drawers helping to support it in the centre. The only snag is that it's too low to cut on comfortably but I'm learning to use the ironing board!

He also put things up in the roof space for me and got down the Christmas paper/cards/labels which I'll have to use soon, a chore I don't look forward to.

Stop moaning, woman...

Monday, 29 November 2010


Stuart and Helen's dog had to be put down a month or so ago after a large lump was found which was inoperable.

Helen wanted to get another dog quickly but this time not to choose a pedigree dog so they plumped for this one. Her name's Bella, she's now 10 weeks old and is a bitser dog - bitser collie, labrador and springer spaniel. It's the first time she'd been here and was into everything, especially if it smelt of food! The cat's food had to be lifted out of the way while she trotted all round the room, investigating everything. Trying to take photos wasn't easy - so every picture is of her rear end!

At least she didn't leave a puddle anywhere! Ashley decided to go outside for a while and he wasn't bothered by her scent when he came back in again - later.

Perhaps next time I see her - in warmer weather down at the stables - maybe I'll get a shot showing her face!

At last! A sort of full frontal... Take me home, Mum!

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I've just wandered down the garden to see what's happening to the plants as it's been such frosty weather recently. Luckily we haven't yet had snow, touch wood! I know, that's tempting fate. But it's only been a heavy frost. This is the last New Dawn rose bud...

These are London Pride rosettes, evergreens, so the frost won't worry them. They remind me of my childhood when they flourished in our London garden

Even the bird feeders are frosted as I don't get much sun in the garden during the winter. Why are goldfinches such messy eaters? The tray on the left is full of nyger seed. I've thrown out porage oats coated with cooking oil, which the birds are fond of, but rather than robins and finches it's a handful of starlings. Blackbirds like it, too. Commercial bird seed seems wasteful as lots of the seeds get left, unwanted by any bird, even the pigeons and collared doves.

Poor old house leeks but they'll recover for next year. Most of these are next spring's forgetmenots which will be a sea of blue come April. Can't wait!
I've rummaged through the leaves of the clumps of hellebores (the plant on the left by the wire plant support) but so far none are showing signs of flowers. Most of them are the creamy variety and the buds should be coming through 'soon' when I shall have to cut off the leaves to show the flowers. I have some dark purple varieties as well but they're usually later flowering.

While I was outside I could hear some sportmen banging away with their shotguns, which reminded me of something which happened in Stone in April 1897. According to a report in the Bucks Advertiser two boys, aged 14 and 10, and another, were crowstarving with Mr.Woodford's breechloading shotgun in his field. The eldest boy put a marble in each of the five blank cartridges he'd been given and fired three. Having reloaded he left the shotgun propped against a hut. The 10 year old boy accidentally kicked the gun and it went off, hitting the 14 year old, who called out that he was shot. Two men took him home.
Mr. Woodford said he'd warned the boy not to put marbles or anything else in the gun and paid him 5/- per week.
At the Infirmary the house surgeon said the immediate cause of death was 'titanus', by which I imagine he meant tetanus. He produced the marble and said he'd found peritonitis.
The Coroner said it was a pure accident and a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. It was, a rider concluded, injudicious of Mr. Woodford to trust a gun...[to] so young a lad.

It's all so casual...

Little snippets of local history like this give an insight into Times Past.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Gillian came round yesterday, not to garden but to help clear out the cupboard under the stairs. It's long and narrow and I'd never be able to do it on my own. Or, rather, I'd lose interest, having to keep backing out with something before going back again.
So, Gillian to the rescue.

It took a couple of hours and quite a lot of that time was - What's This? I have a Lock and Lock box full of various cables with different 'ends' which have come with some purchase or other and I have no idea what they're supposed to do. There are various bits of ironmongery and plastic, an unwanted extension bar thingy for multiple plugs, an iron flex which is 'too good to throw away', a rechargeable screwdriver with (I think) the correct charger, too. What's that Belkin box for? Is it something to do with the computer dongle???

I'm waiting for my son to come and look through this muddle and tell me what I need to keep, what he will take and what's destined for the wheely bin. I dumped a paper basket full of stuff in there yesterday and Gillian, bless her, took home two carrier bags of things to clutter up her home.

Next week it'll be the shelving up in my workroom - files, felt, wool, local history stuff, a box of card which I can't bear to throw away - can't wait!

Monday, 22 November 2010


No, I don't mean me! I don't like the trailing wires of a normal vacuum cleaner, scared I'll get tangled in them and have a fall, so a few weeks ago I borrowed my son's robot cleaner to see if I liked it. Yes, I did. It's like an obedient servant trundling round your rooms.

His model is several years old now and the new model is much improved. You can see the older one on the left in the photo and the silver and green on the docking station is my Home Help. Not from Social Services, either.

When it has finished cleaning it docks itself onto the home base and recharges; with the new edition it's much easier to clean the filter and although the rubbish bin is relatively small, after the first few times of use it's quite sufficient. For me, it's 'heavy' to take upstairs but it takes all the cottons, snippings and scraps of batting in the workroom, trundles under the bed and out the other side collecting all the cat hair and fluff as it goes. You'd be surprised how much grot it finds in a 'clean' carpet!

Ashley's not scared of it, as he was with the usual cleaner, perhaps because it doesn't thump the floor or has a different 'voice'. If it nudges him he just moves out of the way.

One thing it can't do and that's stairs so they're still in Mucky Mode while the two levels of rooms are fine!

Friday, 19 November 2010


I popped into the library today and was greeted by the staff in rather different clothing!
They're supporting Children in Need with tea, coffee and homemade cakes. There's also a raffle and I was promised (tongue in cheek) by the Viking Queen that one of my tickets would be drawn... Harry Potter and a Medieval Lady were also present.
What a good job that I carry my camera with me these days, just in case I see something of interest!

Monday, 15 November 2010


A while ago I was saying that I couldn't get 'block dates' for cakemaking as supermarkets don't keep them nowadays. Bernard kindly sent a message to say that 'pitted dates' are available in Thame market so last Tuesday I went to the stall, perfectly identified by Bernard, and was able to purchase a packet. The date cake above is the result. There's one snag with this cake - I use an American US silicone 'tin' which means the cake is too long for any of my cake containers - I have to eat a sizeable chunk while it's hot... how sad.
The recipe comes from the WI Book of Cakes and I use it all the time - I'm much better at rubbed-in cakes than the creaming method, so here goes, in case you'd like to have a try-
20 minutes to make, about 55 mins to cook.

(8 oz SR flour
(1 tsp mixed spice, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. Mix these together in the bowl.
4 oz margarine Rub into the flour.
4 oz sugar Stir into mix.
6-8 oz mixed fruit Add to bowl.
(1 egg Whisk the egg in a basin or measuring jug.
(milk Add milk to make 5 fl. oz.
(1 tbsp jam, syrup or marmalade to add to this mix if wanted. Mix well.

Add to mixing bowl, making a soft, dropping consistency.
Put into 6" cake tin or a silicone mould, bake for c. 55 mins at 150C or 300F or Mark 4 for Gas.
Dribble what's left of the egg/milk mix over the cake, shake sugar over it and get a shiny, crunchy top. Definitely a cut and come again sort of cake.

(Why do other people's recipes look so tidily printed and mine's a mess? Narrow column to write in perhaps? Grrr!)

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I wrote a blog last night but it disappeared...Having had a day of little things going awry I decided to leave it until this morning to have another go. Things are still going wrong...Ho hum.

I was looking on different patchworking sites and found a piece about Mug Mats, large enough to take a mug and a couple of biscuits. It was 6" x 10" but mine's larger at 6" x 12" because I've used two squares I made earlier, just like Blue Peter... It was meant to be a practise for machine quilting with the two reels of machine quilting cotton bought to scribble-quilt the Triangles quilt I made for me, so not too much of a problem if it's untidy. (More about that later!)

I thought this scribble looked a little bit like something from the Zodiac...

I like this material as it has gold in it, too.

After I'd taken the photo of the mat I realised that I'd not made a very good job of the bottom edge, so this morning, in the daylight, I unpicked about half of the edge and resewed it so it looks better now. Just being lazy and not taking another photo...

It's still tending to be a Sod's Law day- having done Must Do jobs before I went out I decided just to start the quilting on the quilt, having unblocked the jammed bobbin from last night - after about 3 stitches - and was sailing along, uneven stitches but what the heck, I was machine quilting. It's a bit like learning to hand quilt tidily, which I can do. I must have pulled the material too hard and the needle broke so I went out instead.

Called on a friend to take her some Excel How To sheets and as I left there were masses of starlings in a large tree outside her home, including others in an apple tree making a great noise as they pecked their way through the bonus of apples. I called to her to wait to pick up some windfalls for me but she didn't hear so the starlings left. Damn! There was my blog for today...