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Wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, great-aunt and friend....and fur-kid mum I love Quilting, stitching, photography, cooking, baking, gardening, blogging and making new friends...stop by and say hi!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

A Birthday and missing noses

I haven't really blogged for a while so let me tell you about the week that was and WOW.....I loved this week. First of all Miss M had a birthday. I can't believe my sweet baby girl is 23 years old. Where did all those years go?
Hubby booked a table at one of our favourite restaurants and we had a delicious meal there including dessert.  Very fine dining indeed! For dessert Miss M and I chose the chocolate plate which had a shot glass of Irish Whiskey flavoured Chocolate Mousse, a piece of chocolate ganache and a quenelle of choc orange ice cream.  It is a good job I watch MKR or I would not have been able to describe the dessert so well!
Fortunately, the meals were not overly large as we still had to eat that cake when we got home.

On the quilting front, I got my NewFO for the month finished.  You can read about it in my post tomorrow but here is a sneak peek

 And then I got stuck into a UFO
This Teddy Bear Tea Party has been sitting around for so long that I think it is fair to say it has turned from a WIP into a UFO. For once I was organised enough to have everything for this project together in a basket and so it was just a case of remeasuring how wide my peeper strips and sashing strips were and I could start sewing again.
 I was just starting on the third strip when I remembered why I had put this one away months ago.  A couple of the blocks needed some finishing off.  One was easy to fix and took me just a couple of minutes of prep and a few stitches to add a yellow centre to one of the flowers.
but the other block .......well!.  Initially I realised, when it came time to put the quilt together, that I had sewn the applique wrongly on to the background (to put it plainly, I had sewn it on the landscape instead of the portrait side) so the sides did not match the other blocks.  I decided to carefully cut out the applique and reapply it to a right-way-round background. Even though it adhered really well, I still feel it needs stitches. It is such a tedious job and when I was doing that I realised that I have not added the bear noses either.  The brown is one fabric I am going to have to hunt for because I thought I was finished with it and put it aside......somewhere.
So I got as far as two out of three rows
Apart from sewing, I am back on the weight loss wagon and so I am planning every meal that I make and enjoying the process.  It is so much easier grocery shopping with a list (and even though I know this, I often get lax and wing it) and I love avoiding that "What's for dinner"? headache. 

Tonight we are having  Lamb and Cashew Stirfry for 7 propoints......Mmmmm, Yummy!

And yes, I did have a loss this week. Even though there was a high calorie dessert and birthday cake involved.  Why do you think I bought such a tiny cake?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I Read This..............

I love to read but for the past few years I have just not been able to really sink into a book until this last month.

This book has been on my bookpile for quite some time so I feel really happy to have finished it.
 HEARTSTONE by CJ Samson is set in Tudor England and follows a fictional character, a lawyer, who always finds himself in the midst of danger as he tries to solve mysteries. Although, it is fictional, there are some historical people or facts that get included in the story.  This particular plot was set around the time the French attacked England at Portsmouth around 1544, and as a result, the 'Mary Rose' was sunk in the harbour. 

It just so happened that while I was reading this, Maria from The Last Stage was visiting Portsmouth and she wrote a very interesting post about the current state of the Mary Rose. I will have to add Portsmouth to my Travel Wish List now.

This genre might not be everyones cup of tea but I just can't get enough.  I have since selected another book to read and wonder how long it will take me. Any guesses?

If you look closely at the photo you will see that for now, I need to go and grab my duster!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Easter

We have had such a lovely Easter Sunday here at home.  Red is away at work this week but I arranged with Ted and Miss M to come over for Sunday Lunch. It gave me a chance to decorate just a teensy weensy bit with a centrepiece for the table.
Originally, I had planned BBQ Lamb but then realised I would not have enough for all of us so it had to be steaks. Add baked potatoes and a really fresh salad with all the good stuff like avocado and feta cheese for a really enjoyable lunch.
No dessert but hey it is Easter Sunday and so I broke out a basket of Easter Eggs instead.
Even the doggies got spoilt......here they are waiting for a special treat!
Titbits of leftover STEAK!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Building a House

What did you do this week? I built a house.......no really, I did! I even built it from the roof down. Oh, OK, I will explain myself.

It was a WIP week for me and while I was stitching away on The Avenue for my Edwardian House quilt I suddently got the urge to piece the finished blocks together. The Avenue is one of the border stitcheries and I have finished all the blocks that make up the house itself so I got them all out and began cutting them to size so I could sew them together in rows. For some reason, I started with the attic row which is how I ended up building my house from the roof down!
It didn't take long to measure, cut and sew the different levels together and before too long I had the makings of a house.
With the rows laid out, I started to sew them together.  I thought it best to do it this way to make sure the rows where the same length and the walls lined up with each level.  I wasn't too happy with the attic row but maybe I could fudge it in somehow.
I was really thrilled to get this part together but something just didn't look right. Not sure if you can notice in the above picture.  I made so certain that the walls lined up on each level and suddenly the drainpipe did not look right.  How can that be?  I followed the stitching plan exactly and it didn't look like that on the pattern picture.  I didn't know quite how to fix this problem and it was bothering me.  Need a closer look?
It just so happened that Miss M came over for a visit and, as usual, had a peek at what I had been sewing.  She spotted the dratted drainpipe straight away which bothered me even more . We were chatting about how odd it looked and where I could of possibly gone wrong......and then suddenly I had one of those "Duh" moments.  I had sewn two of the rows together incorrectly and so now I had to demolish part of my house.
 Since I had the demolition tool out, I also took the attic blocks apart and built them back together with a slightly narrower seam......aaaah, thats better. Carefully, I put the house back together and here it is with a border as well.........................so much happier now!
I cannot add anymore until I finish the stitched borders.  I chose not to buy the buttons as part of the BOM and the stitched borders have cornerstones that are just a piece of fabric with a button in the centre. I felt the quilt needed a little more if I was not using the buttons.  FNSI came along and I decided to spend it making my own cornerstones out of two of the fabrics bought for this project.
For the first time EVER, my calculations worked out perfectly and I made up 4 cornerstones that look something like this. With that done, I returned to The Avenue Stitchery and finished it so  it is also ready to add to the quilt.

I am linking up to FNSI over at Sugerlane Quilts

and BOMs Away at What a Hoot Quilts

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Last Day

Are you ready to visit one last place with me?
With one day left until we flew back home, we thought that Hampton Court would be a good place to spend our last day.  Both Miss M and I have visited before, back in 2006, and I couldn't have been happier when she suggested we return.

You can get here, just like King Henry VIII did back in Tudor times, via the River Thames but it is a 3 hour journey so we opted for the train which leaves Waterloo Station and gets in to Hampton Court Station 30 minutes later.  It is just a short walk across the river to Hampton Court

Walking through the main gates towards the ticket office we saw a side gate with this beautiful gold design.  It is not part of the tourist experience but it was just so lovely, I had to have a photo.
Making our way to the courtyard we viewed the map and decided to head for the Tudor Kitchens.  I just love the kitchens.....they fed up to 600 people, twice a day.  Everything is set up as if the inhabitants had just stepped outside for a second.  In the meat kitchen, slabs of meat are being prepared for cooking......not real meat (I think it is wax) but it all looks soooooo real. In the next kitchen, we found a vat of "wax" meat stew and pie cases ready to be filled (Did you know....the pastry was not eaten?).  The picture below is of the Great Kitchen where up to 6 beasts were spit roasted at the same time. You can see the spit levels in the fire place.  At the time there was a huge fire in the hearth so you could feel exactly how it would feel for the person who had to stand there all day turning the spits. Phew! it was hot, even on a cold day in February.
After finishing off this part of the guided tour in the wine cellar we made our way back to the courtyard to start off on our next tour.

The next part of the tour was "Young King Henry VIII's story" which mostly covered his life while married to Catherine of Aragon and his relationship with Thomas Wolsey.  I enjoyed this thoroughly and was intrigued by the graffiti to be found in areas like window sills and fireplaces (where a softer stone is used). The graffiti are from Henry's time and are now historical relics and need protecting by perspex shields. We were told they were carved into the stone while people waited for an audience with the king....or Wolsey.  It was around this time that I realised I did not have much battery in my camera so, just for once, I did not take excessive photo's.

Next we were off to visit the Great Hall.  The walls are covered in the most beautiful enormous tapestries.  It really is the most beautiful chamber.....just look at that ceiling!
From here we made our way through other chambers while listening to stories on the audio guide.  At one point I leaned up against a window to listen to an explanation of a painting in the hallway between the Great Watching Room and the Council Chamber when it struck me that there was a pattern gouged into the window sill.  I wondered who had done this, while tracing the pattern with my finger, and had they done so while they were waiting for an audience with King Henry.  Looking at how deep it had been gouged, they had obviously had to wait quite a while.We will probably never know and for all I know it was a bored school child who did it the week before! The best bit was walking through the Royal Chapel where Henry married Anne Boleyn.  No photography was allowed here but you can link here to see the beautiful ceiling in this chapel.  Also on display was a replica of Henry's crown.

After lunch we decided to skip the Baroque part of the palace and instead head to the formal gardens, known as the Privy Gardens,  but to get there we had to walk through a more informal garden.  Of course the daffodils and crocuses were prolific here as well.
Even at this time of year the Privy Garden is stunning.  Everything is so beautifully manicured. I could walk around all these gardens day in, day out, every day.
Looking back at the main building, it is evident how luxurious it was in it's hey-day by the number of chimneys.  All the visitors chambers had fireplaces and back then it would have cost a kings ransom to have them all lit.

It was a fabulous day out and there is so much to see and do here but the days are still quite short in February so we decided to make our way back to London.

The next day was going to be a long one as we had to pack and head to the airport for a 10pm flight.  A flight that lasts over 20 Hours. We did spend the day in and around London at the Natural History Museum and the V&A before taking the Tube to Heathrow.  Now I am back home and this trip seems such a long time ago already.  I want to thank all the readers who joined me on this journey and left such wonderful comments.  I am glad you enjoyed it all.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew

A couple of years ago I watched a David Attenborough special which was filmed in Kew Gardens and wondered why I had never been there to visit so I popped it on my visit wishlist. The opportunity came while Miss M and I were in London for a few days before heading back home. Getting there is easy peasy....catch a tube on the District line towards Richmond.

It is short walk down a residential street from the station towards the Gardens.  From the minute I got off the train I had that feeling that I wished I lived here.  Gorgeous houses with equally gorgeous gardens and so close to the immense, wonderful gardens of Kew.

There is so much to see here, that is is hard to know where to start but we decided to head to the tropical Palm House first.
Walking into this overlarge greenhouse was like stepping back into Queensland.....muggy, muggy, muggy.  Immediately we had to strip jackets, scarves and push up our sleeves but what a wonderful array of tropical plants....mainly palms.  There was an aquarium in the basement which had tanks of tropical fish, and other creatures, both reef dwellers and mangrove dwellers. A wrought iron spiral staircase took you up to a viewing walk above the plants.

I thought we did really well staying in there for as long as we did.......I was just about ready to strip down to my singlet! How nice it was to step back outside and feel the cold bite into my cheeks again.

We decided to walk towards the treetop walk and even though there was lots that we wouldn't see today because of the time of year, like the rose gardens, the rhodedendrons and the azaleas, there was still plenty of natures beautiful blooms to see along the way.
on the ground
in the trees

The Treetop walk is a 200m long circular walkway, 18m off the ground giving great panoramic views of the park. There were 8 flights of stairs. I counted as I puffed my way up them. It would be lovely in summer when all the trees are lush with leaves but actually I am starting to like these bare trees.
We also got a birdseye view of the Temperate House just below and a view of the Pagoda through the trees.  We didn't get to the Pagoda as it was in the opposite direction of where we were visiting in the park today.  There are 121 hectares of gardens here.  An awful lot to discover in one day.
We decided to stay around the area closest to the Victoria Gate which is where we entered the gardens. The Temperate House was closed for renovations so we could not go in there but we got a surprise very close by near the Greek Garden when we spotted this lovely chap sunning himself.
He was not really interested in showing off those magnificent tail feathers but he did let me get close enough for a lovely head shot.
 We decided to walk towards Kew Palace but got distracted by the lure of orchids on display at the Princess of Wales Conservatory. They were spectacular in all shapes, sizes and colours. One one of the walkways I spotted something unusual.  At first I thought it was fake but it moved and I realised it was a real, live, vibrant green South American iguana living quite happily among these gorgeous blooms and quite undeterred by all the visitors.  We couldn't manage to get a photo of him because of the number of interested people gathered.
Once again, there were aquarium displays of the typical fish and amphibia to be found in areas supporting these kind of plants.  So we saw pirannah, who refused to show us their ferocious pearly whites and even the deadly Poison Dart Frog.  Luckily they were in glass tanks so we were quite safe.

We were feeling rather hungry by now and set off to find the Orangery Restaurant for some lunch. On the way we came across a fairy ring of mushrooms - with a difference.
These mushrooms were giants, most of them taller than we were, and woven out of willow twigs. They were fascinating and we spent a great deal of time here taking photos and wandering amongst them. I just loved the idea for this art installation and what a great spot to install it.
After lunch at the Orangery, we walked towards the Alpine House, which for some reason, was very prominent in my memory from Sir David's programme. It seemed much smaller in real life but I loved seeing the teeny tiny little plants growing here. Those yellow flowers in the middle were incredibly small but oh-so-pretty!
By now we had well and truly walked away from  and forgotten about Kew Palace but we were getting tired and decided to skip that one.  We would  walk through the Woodland Garden instead and make our way back towards Victoria Gate. I was really hoping to see some bluebells. I have a vague memory of picking bluebells in the woods when I was a young child (don't try it these days) and I have always loved them. I didn't see any here today. Just the usual snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils.
I was so glad we came to Kew today.  It was a fabulous day out and we didn't even cover half of what you can see here. I imagine it would be absolutely spectacular in the summer months.  I might not cross it off my wishlist just yet and visit here again if I can manage it in summer.  Imagine the roses!
Oh yes, I dearly would love to live on the street leading up to Victoria Gate, Kew Gardens.  I just have to win the lotto!

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