Sunday, 19 November 2017

A busy week ahead

As you can see, I have indulged in another magazine.  This is my favourite quilting magazine and has some lovely quilts in it.  As I am so busy quilting at the moment, it's good to keep my mojo active over the winter months, when I have a bit more time (once Christmas is behind us).

Above and below: I also indulged in these two quilted bag making books.  I love the little houses on the bag bottom left on the Quilted Bags and Gifts book. 

I was inspired to get the Happy Hexies book after the last quilt show, when I saw some pre-cut "felty" formers for small hexagons, that would keep the sharp edges far better than paper piecing.  I didn't buy any but I may at the next craft fair I go to, if the same stand is there.

I am trying to keep myself cheerful (hence the purchases) as I am not feeling 100% at the moment.  Yesterday was the anniversary of my best friend Tricia's death, so that has made me feel rather low, and I have some health blips too, which I will be glad when they are sorted.  My main asthma inhaler doesn't seem to be agreeing with me but it won't be sorted until I see my Asthma Nurse in December.  I have had to drop the dosage (Dr's advice) and it looks like I will have to have a change of medication.

We have a couple of Fairs lined up for the next two weekends, and next week's is in a very cold unheated venue, so that will have to be endured. I just hope folk SPEND for once.  All the stallholders were complaining last time as despite a large number of people through the doors, very few of them actually spent any money!  We don't do this for fun . . .  We won't be continuing doing this Fair in 2018 as it's just not worth the effort, which is a shame as it is local.

Anyway, I can hear Keith unpacking his new electric chainsaw (his sore arm won't allow him to yank the cord on the petrol one) so will go down and make admiring noises!!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Busy quilt making

Photo above - stormy skies started the week here.  It poured in monsoon-type showers on and off, and I put back my planned walk!!

Whilst confined to barracks, I have spent a couple of days (when I should have been doing housework really!) getting on with the Christmas quiltmaking. The top for Gabby's quilt is now pieced and I am on the borders.  It is good to not be unpicking all the faults I made into it 3 years ago!  It's not perfect but I am not looking too closely at some of the point joints on the Pinwheels!

Below is what will be the outer border.  The inner border is plain white, and I've sewn one side on this morning.  I began on the outer border on Monday afternoon and although the cutting and piecing is a fairly slow process, it's coming together.

Today was my patchwork class, and I finished the red and white cushion (which used the spare pieced top that I then hand-quilted).  It's been years since I last did any hand quilting so I need to get more practice in.  

Below is this afternoon's work (I was surprised I did so well with it).  It is a table topper in a design called "Round the Twist" and came complete with materials (the 5" squares were pre-cut, which speeded things up no end!) and instructions.  However, the instructions were somewhat confusing and I really needed the help of my patchwork teacher as I couldn't make sense of some of them!  No homework on THIS piece as the next stage involves cutting out off centre squares using a template we have transferred onto clear plastic so you can see the alignment of the main guidelines (it just doesn't work properly if you were to use the card it's printed on).  I guess if you are familiar to this design, it all makes sense, but after a night of broken sleep (again) I needed all the guidance I could get!!  I really love the colourway used anyway, and such pretty prints.  It was an indulgence at the time as it wasn't cheap, but no regrets.

Tonight I rustled up some plain mince (Keith) which will do for two meals, and for me I made what was going to be a Chilli, until I found out I had used the last of the Kidney Beans, so they have been added to my shopping list and a tin of Taco Spicy Mixed Beans bunged in instead.  That should be really tasty and filling now the cold wintery nights have arrived.

I will try and remember to put up the recipe for the Venison casserole I made for Keith's birthday celebrations last week.  It is from the stable of Antony Worrall Thompson and very rich.  No photos as we ate half and the other half is in the freezer.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Another wander into the past (plus snow scenes for Yarrow's friend)

This is for Yarrow's Texas friend, who wanted snow scenes!!   It's a story I penned a few years back - comes from winter walks past ruined cottages by the river, and checking who lived there in the census.

The forecast here bodes ill - 3 weeks of bitter weather after Storm Brian arrives on Saturday.  Gardening's out then!!

By the way, the frozen river dates from probably 2010, when it snowed all over Christmas and the central heating boiler broke here.  The AI man reported temperatures of minus 17 in our river valley . . .  I believed him. The river froze almost completely across apart from a little strip down the middle.

She had just set off from the village when the sky began to look ominous. The clouds were darkening to steel grey and although there was still a glimpse of the sun shining through a gap, the landscape had assumed that yellowish hue that it did before a summer storm, with the grass turned a sickly colour. The ivy leaves began to jangle in a rising breeze and the bark of the ash and oak, naked of leaves, turned yellow ochre as the lowering sun aimed one last beam before dipping from sight. She had 4 miles to go: the entire length of the valley. It was already fiercely cold and had been for nigh on a week now. There were hard frosts each morning which never seemed to thaw in the winter shadows of the valley bottom, and water at the shallow rocky margins of the river had turned opaque and milky, areas of intense freezing causing darker rings like frost ripples. Boulders were glazed with ice from river-splash until they each had a solid cap of ice which thickened with each passing day. Cascadings of water droplets formed a frilly edge like a petticoat around each rock. As the cold intensified, the river had been concentrated into one moving central column where the current was the fastest, but in slower parts ice had formed, carried downstream and slowly adding to the frozen border. Hollows scooped by the water from the slate riverbed were filled with the rounded heave of ice boulders, and the Heron stalked the water meadows now in hope of a meal.

As the light faded, she found the whirling of snow confusing her and a number of times found herself stepping into the ditch at the roadside. She stumbled back onto the road, trying to find a reference point in the fading light. Trudging forwards she thought she could hear running water to her left. Whilst she couldn't' see it in the blizzard, she was certain it was the small waterfall which cascaded down through the thick woodland by Ty Coed. She stood a moment, trying to make out the movement of the water through the spiralling cloud of flakes, as big as florins some of them. Taking heart from the fact that it was the waterfall, she knew herself to be half a mile closer to home now. After a little while she thought she saw a light which might come from Pensarn, a small farmstead which hugged the edge of a small copse, but rather than seek shelter she continued towards home, for fear the children would try to cook a meal in her absence and fall into the fire like Betty Evans' little maid had.

For a moment, she could have sworn that she heard the rumble of thunder in the distance, but then scolded herself for such a silly thought. The sudden awful crashing overhead was earsplitting. Ann instinctively dived off the road, landing with a flurry of flannel petticoats in a bank of snow which had already been blow into snake-like contortions by the wind. The thunder growled throatily like a rockfall down a mountainside and close behind it came a flash - indeed, a sheet, of lightning which illuminated the valley before her - each tree encrusted with snow; dark margins of hedgerows sinking into a sea of opacity, a brief glimpse before the magpie elements of night and snowfall closed in around her again. She was terrified. She hated thunderstorms and was still childlike about them, and felt very vulnerable without a roof above her head. She scrabbled in the hedge bottom trying to find sanctuary, some protection. A second clap of thunder and slight delay before the lightning gave her a chance to get her bearings. A hundred yards ahead she saw the darkness of running water, which must be the stream which powered the little farm mill at the ruined holding of Nantgwaun. Beside it would be the trackway which ended at the first of the barns. She clambered to her feet, breath catching in her chest as fear grasped her tightly. She half-ran forwards, twisting her ankles in the cart ruts now hidden by the snow, falling into a half-frozen puddle which soaked her lower skirts, gasping for breath as the cold air assailed her, snowflakes bursting into her face, freezing her cheeks, stinging her hands as she shielded her eyes to search for the trackway. The barn was only a short walk from the lane but it might have been a mile as Ann struggled uphill now, slightly sheltered from the weather by an overgrown hedgerow which bent, untended, across the track. She lurched like a drunk on Fair Day as the uneven path revealed itself as gullies and runnels beneath her feet. She fell again, dragged herself up and pitched forward once more and hitting her head on the frozen earth, lost consciousness briefly.

She opened her eyes and was aware of a damp mildewy smell, as of mouldy hay. Her legs were still wet and chilled by the weather, but above the waist she was out of the wind, which was now soughing and sighing overhead. She stretched out a hand and felt a rough wall. She scrambled into the barn on all fours, settling in a corner out of the draughts, shaking the worst of the snow from her clothing. Here she would bide until the storm had passed. Her head ached. She ventured half-numb fingers to her forehead and found she had cut her head in falling. She watched the snow falling steadily for a while, arms clasped around her knees to try and keep warm, as the thunder began to rumble away into the distance beyond her valley. She became aware of a slow, steady harsh breathing in the barn that was not her own: rather guttural, like an old man with a bad chest. It grew in intensity, the outward breath a slight whistle. The hairs on the nape of her neck stood on end and she sent up a fervent prayer that she had not stumbled upon the old tramp who was sometimes seen in the valley, and who spouted Bible quotes at anyone who would take time to listen to him. Bible Bob they called him, and he certainly knew his Bible. She wondered how he spent his days, especially the short bleak days of winter, with no company beyond the fire spitting and hissing beneath the old black iron kettle. She stood up abruptly: she would rather face him on her feet rather than looking at his boots. As she did so there was a sudden flurry of wings and a white shape swooshed out of the darkness and through the barn door - a Barn Owl. Her breath followed it in a sudden lessening of tension.

Peering out, the flakes seemed smaller and the darkness less intense with the snowlight and she set off towards home again, though her boots soon began to rub her wet feet and her wet skirt and petticoats were very uncomfortable out in the wind again. Finally she passed the steep hill up to Ty Coch and home suddenly seemed much nearer. The stillness was intense. Any beast out in this would be cwtched up in the lee of the hedge, waiting it out. No lights were to be seen in the hillside houses, for no hillside houses could be seen at all. She thought of the Davies family with their two little girls, snug around their fire in their little cottage halfway up the slope and she wished herself home with her own girls. Perhaps Annie-stockings had looked out for them when this weather came in - it was the best she could hope for.

She was deep in thought when she heard her name called and looking up, saw a buttery yellow light swinging towards her through the snow, a light held by a tall figure. It was Will. She had never been so glad to see anyone in her life - even the Devil would have been welcome company on a night like this! His broad shoulders were sheathed in sacking too, and his hat appeared to have only a brim, so covered in snow was it. He clasped her arm, just briefly, enough to tell her he had been worried. "It's getting late," he said perfunctorily, "not a good night to be out." Will's snow-covered shoulders gave no hint of the internal struggle he was fighting as she followed him home through the snow.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Abbey Cwm Hir - Part II

This was the Billiard Room, and also dedicated to Arthurian legend (which apparently connects the valley to King Arthur).  This was Keith's favourite room, needless to say - more manly overall and TWO suits of armour, plus the Arthurian lettering etc.

This stuffed white badger represents a small group of white badgers which live in the valley, and have done since the 1950s.

A painting of the house at harvest time back around the turn of the 19th C.

I don't normally like fake Christmas trees, but this was beautifully dressed.  I think shoes and bags were the theme for this one?

Madame's boudoir, with a collection of wonderful hats, and hat boxes.

I loved this Art Deco scent bottle.  It was HUGE.

That's what you CALL a bed!!

Above and below: views across the valley and the garden.

One of my favourite bits - a collection of amazing doll's houses.   I want one!!  Knowing how much the furniture and bits cost for them though, it will never happen!

Above and below: the kitchens were my favourite rooms of course.

These rooms had been the servants' rooms, up in the attic, and felt very homely.

Above - this room had a lovely happy atmosphere.  I could have moved in here.

Finally, another view of the garden, designed by Himself.  I think he did a good job.

Tomorrow I will probably repeat an old post, with lots of snow scenes, so that my friend Yarrow can send a link to a friend of hers living in Texas who SO misses the snow.  Watch this space.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Abbey Cwm Hir - Part 1

Today we had a day out at The Hall at Abbey Cwm Hir, a superb Victorian Gothic House which takes Christmas VERY seriously.  From the beginning of November until 6th January, the house is done up for Christmas, and every one of the 52 rooms has Christmas decorations and/or trees (I think there are 49 trees in all which are apparently stowed away beneath the huge Billiard Table during the summer months . . .)  We had a guided tour by the owner, and for a few minutes after our arrival, we thought we were going to be the only people there - and then (cue the music of "There's a Coach Comin' in"!!) a coach load of WI members arrived, so we had Company!

This was the Drawing Room, which had rag-rolled walls (it looked like wallpaper), and stunning gilded architrave.  Each room and Christmas tree has a different theme.  The theme in this room (for this year at least, as they change) was music.

As you can see, the room was very tastefully furnished and decorated.  The beautiful mirror behind the tree absolutely MADE the room for us.  I loved the decorated panels on the doors and they also had similar designs painted onto the wooden shutters.  We have wooden shutters in our Dining Room, and so I think I may be doing similar in the dark days of January.

This is the other end of the room.  The painting on the wall is of the house, as it might have been in its history - on this occasion it was the late 1950s and the family were holding a Ball for the young folk of the valley.  The artist is a local man and I think there are ten wonderful paintings which he has done of the house and Abbey in times gone by.  The owner's wife had made ALL the draperies herself.

The "blackamoor" in the window, and a slightly better view of the painted shutters.

Into the hallway, and one of 5 amazing tiled floors.  Sigh . . .

The mirror (another made in Indonesia) was draped with what strands of velvety green "rope".  It was very effective.

Another painting (in two separate halves) of Foxes and Pine Martins from the Valley.

A snow scene recreating the heavy snowfalls of 1895 and showing the Phillips family returning home from church.

This lovely cupboard full of crystal glasses was part of a job lot of furniture, designed by the owners, and made in Indonesia.  Many of these pieces have been dusted with gilding and look beautiful.

The chandelier was also hung with baubles and just look at that ceiling rose . . . .

I just had to take a photo of this display in the fireplace. All bits of fruit and sundries, painted with gold paint.

This was a very glamorous and dramatic room with a wonderful collection of Doulton's Flambe ceramics.  Keith was not impressed - not his style at all!!

They had replaced the original (lost) range in this room.

The centrepiece of the table, with the crackers made by the lady of the house (fabric enhanced with gold papers.   The runner had been made by her too.  The little crochet angels had been made by another lady who works in the house.

I took LOTS of photos, as you may imagine, so the next couple of days will have more posts in this vein.  If you get the chance, DO visit Abbey Cwm Hir (you may need to book though, and you will need to bring slippers or slipper socks as you have to take your shoes off inside the house).  Nearest town is Llandrindod Wells.