Wednesday 31 August 2016

August Achievements

Much of my craft activity during this month has been running repairs and renovations - I am awfully glad I have a sewing machine at Cornerstones! 

Reading clockwise from bottom left corner

  1. polished furniture
  2. new curtains in lounge
  3. patching Bob's jeans
  4. mending Jon's pjs
  5. Rosie's reversible bicycle dress [this was fun to create]
  6. The other side of the dress
  7. Liz's new peg bag [leftover fabric from #1, this pattern]
  8. repairing Jon's shorts 
  9. fixing Steph's top
  10. in the centre - the blanket and quilt for the doll's cot
All but 1&2 were achieved during our fortnight's holiday - some of them were definitely emergency repairs to the family's limited holiday wardrobes. During September, I hope to do more work on the bedding, especially since a dear friend has sent me some beautiful trimmings for the sheets and pillowcase.
I have to report that the doves given out for the Christmas Tree Festival are gradually being returned to me. People are working so hard on these, our tree is going to look wonderful and I am truly grateful to all those who are taking part so enthusiastically.

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Feeling In The Pink

Bank Holiday Monday morning- lovely late breakfast [BLT baguettes, courtesy of Bob] then I did lots of weeding whilst he did some wiring. Happy to report that my Gospel Chandelier is finally up over the dining table - and shining brightly. There was a delay because some how the bits got packed separately when we moved, and the final part has only recently come to light.[sorry, pun unintentional there] An unexpected gift of pink flowers from friends at Church has brightened the room too - and the lilies smell heavenly. Thanks, friends!
The other pink things round here are my nails. For my wedding anniversary, Bob gave me a totally unexpected gift -  a set of Jamberry Nail Wraps. No, I didn't know about these things either, but he said he wanted to give me something which would be fun, and just for me. I am now sporting the most amazing sparkly pink fingernails. Allegedly these should last for a fortnight with care. Here's the before and after.

I applied these [very slowly and carefully] on Saturday evening, and after 2½days of serious cooking, laundry, gardening and preaching they are still looking as new. 

Facebook proved very useful this morning. I posted pictures of one of my garden shrubs to find out what it was. People promptly replied to tell me is is hypericum, or St John's Wort, and those juicy looking berries are definitely not edible [yes it had lovely yellow flowers earlier in the year] and can cause skin irritation. Fortunately I was wearing gardening gloves [to protect my nails, of course] 

Monday 29 August 2016

Reading Room...

...or more accurately, reading "Room"

Liz lent me this in July. I took it on holiday, and brought it back having read just a few ages. Over the weekend I read it through completely on Saturday night/Sunday morning.
It is quite gripping. NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!
The blurb explains that "Jack is 5, he lives in one Room with his Ma. He has a TV, but knows the stuff on screen isn't truly real. Then one day Ma tells him there is a whole other World outside..."
What makes this book so clever is that the story is narrated by Jack, and everything is seen through the eyes and language of a 5 year old. Admittedly an intelligent 5 year old. Some of it is horrific, other parts poignant and moving, and the use of language is wonderful. 
The way that sometimes the language and behaviour of an adult is utterly perplexing to a child is portrayed brilliantly. Some parts reminded me of Scout's reactions and comments in 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. 
It is a reminder to all of us that when we speak to children, we should measure our words carefully. I recall Liz sobbing uncontrollably when she was barely 3, because an old lady looked at baby Steph in the pram and said "She is lovely, I could eat her all up!" and pupils at school genuinely worried by family members saying "If you lose that I will kill you" [and whatever it was, they had lost it and were so anxious at hometime in case death was imminent]
It is also a compelling portrayal of motherly love. Unconditional, enduring, self-sacrificial love. 
I really enjoyed this book and would rate it *****
[There is now a film - I am not sure how well that will work - although I understand Emma Donaghue wrote the screenplay before she wrote the book.]

Sunday 28 August 2016

La Rentrée

The French use “la rentrée" to mean the return to work after the slack period of the summer break. 
This is the last weekend of August, and next week many school terms will start again, we are about to begin our Autumn programme in the life of our Church, people will be preparing to go off to College, start new jobs... fresh beginnings, new adventures ahead
One of the standing stones I saw at Durlston Castle seemed a very apposite question for this time of year. It comes from CAD's poem 'Snow' so really relates to the end of the calendar year and the new beginnings of January, but nonetheless struck a chord with me. 
Every day is a precious gift. 
May I use each one wisely and well.

Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us. 
Let us keep looking to Jesus. 
Our faith comes from Him, and He is the One who makes it perfect

Saturday 27 August 2016

Sunshine In Swanage

Some more pictures of our fabulous day out - most of these taken by Bob on his new camera [thank you darling!] Here's the view crossing on the ferry from Sandbanks

Traditional Punch and Judy show on the beach [probably not very PC - but plenty of sausages to enjoy]
Also on the seafront, fine murals from Purbeck Arts Week, and a lovely floral display
We walked up along the seafront, and had a pasty and then took the long climb up to Durlston Castle

This amazing place was built by George Burt- intended as a hotel for the Victorians - but sadly they found the steep climb a bit much! It is now surrounded by Durlston Country Park, and amenity run by the council. The Castle itself houses a lovely tearoom and gallery and outside is the Great Globe. This weighs 40 tons, and was made in Greenwich [brought here in 15 pieces and reassembled] The Park makes much of the Victorian history, the flora and fauna- and being part of the Jurassic Coast, you will find the occasional model dinosaur lurking in the shrubbery and standing stones labelled with dates in pre-history

Following a break in the cafe [which we needed after climbing up in all that heat] we went back down into Swanage again. Bob took lots of pictures all along the route of plants, and the sea. Look at that amazing blue sky! That's George Burt in the portrait and statue. Fabulous cake [we shared that ginormous slice]

A lovely day, if somewhat hot!! I would definitely recommend Swanage as a good place for a day out, and this BBC site has so much useful information too

Friday 26 August 2016

Getting Stoned In Swanage

We planned a day exploring Swanage.  I found a really good route for a walk on the BBC website here.  I'd always thought of Swanage as just a place with a good beach - but there is so much more to this charming Dorset town. We both took lots of photos. The key people in the story are John Mowlem and his nephew George Burt.
John was skilled in the use of stone as a building material. He recognised the potential of the local Purbeck stone. He improved the way stones could be transported to the Quay and shipped round Britain - and soon Mowlem's company were building houses,  pavements, churches everywhere,  especially in London. Mowlem became very rich.  He ploughed his wealth back into his home town.  It was from here that the Purbeck stone had been mined, and so he wanted to ensure that the local workers enjoyed some of the benefits too.
More than that,  as the ships returned,  having deposited their stones in the capital, they needed ballast for their holds. John shrewdly filled them with scrap stone and ironwork. His nephew George carried on the tradition. He used these bits and pieces in the structures he built in Swanage.
Which is why, when they erected a monument to celebrate King Alfred's victory over the Danes at the Battle of Swanage in 977 Mowlem topped it with three Russian cannonballs which came to London after the Crimean War. We shall overlook the true facts here -  the romantic Victorians rewrote the story, in reality there was no battle - the fleet most likely foundered in one of the violent storms which happen on this stretch of coast. 

Further along is the Wellington Clock Tower.  Originally put up near London Bridge,  the clock didn't work,  and the builders ran out of money, so omitted the statue of the Iron Duke which was meant to go on top. Furthermore, the tower was in the way of the traffic.  So George fetched that back to Dorset too.

When the Mercers' Hall in the City of London was demolished, he salvaged the facade to front Swanage Town Hall in the High Street.  You can see the  emblem of the Mercers over the door - two cherubs offering a  length of cloth to the Virgin Mary. I am not quite sure why they didn't drape the fabric a little more decorously over her bare chest!

Opposite is the Purbeck House Hotel,  decorated with leftover granite chippings from the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.  The hotel grounds and gardens are lovely - Neptune looks down from another rescued London archway,  and walls are decorated with repurposed plaques. 

All over the town you will find mismatched iron bollards from London streets and churchyards.

Burt took over the family firm and carried on his uncle's 'recycling' habits
To this day,  the Mowlem company logo is seen on building sites everywhere throughout the country - but the man is best remembered in his home town.

I'll do a second post with more pictures tomorrow... 

Thursday 25 August 2016

A Man In His Prime

I love numbers  - here's a sum - multiply these four prime numbers
3 x 5 x 17 x 53
that is the number of days I have been married to Bob
this is the man whose smile lights up my days
whose faith, hope and love give me strength
I thank God daily for him
and currently, this is my favourite picture of him!

Happy Anniversary Bob - thank you for 37 fabulous years!

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Hanging Around In The Lounge.

The curtains in our lounge are at least twenty years old [or so the lady who lived there before it became The Manse told me - she bought them!] They've done the job, but they are green and red floral, in a room with blue walls and blue sofas. But it is a huge window, and new curtains would cost a fortune. Here's the old curtains [at the Pancake Party in the spring]
What I really wanted was something in shades of blue and cream/beige.
Just before we went on holiday, I was in the local Pramacare CS. They had a basket of brand new curtains in just the shades I wanted.
They were a couple of inches too short, but had very deep hems.
I bought two pairs [it's a wide window with patio doors in the middle]
I let down the old hems and pressed them, and the curtains are currently hanging up. In a week or two, when they have 'dropped' I shall hem them properly [also seam them in pairs, so I have just two wide curtains]
Oh, it looks so much brighter and fresher! Very pleased - and they only cost me £17.
I was watching stuff on i-player whilst getting the hems and hooks sorted. Particularly 'Fill your home for Free' with Kirstie Allsopp - and now the new series with Gok Wan. 
Some of their makeovers and upcycling projects are good, but others do not appeal to me at all.
But I do approve of the idea of re-using stuff that might otherwise go to landfill.
There was still some of the mixture left in my jamjar, so I had a go at polishing up the Kitchen Chairs.
We don't have room in this kitchen for a table and chairs- so they are scattered round the house in other rooms. These chairs are at least 30 years old, and came from my in-laws home in Kent. Just a few minutes of attention has turned their tired, grubby, dry finish to a glowing honey colour. Do you think I am getting addicted to the smell of boiled linseed oil?

One final unexpected bonus - someone urgently needed a set of long curtains to go at a window in a magnolia lounge. I delivered the old curtains - and came away with a tin of beeswax polish. Stage Two of the chair renovations begins next week!

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Awash With Colour

In the first week of our holiday in Norfolk, Bob cut some sheets of wood to fit the sides of the hexagonal Garden Room, and then painted. It seems that people do not refer to them as Summerhouses any more. Well we certainly use ours all year round, and in the Spring and Autumn, there's sometimes a chilly draught, so we thought windbreaks would be a good idea.
He also put some undercoat on the new garage door. [that's 'new' in the sense that it was a gift from a friend whose was getting a new front door and kindly passed on her old one] 
Then Steph came down for the final weekend, and we all got out our brushes. Bob finished off the door

Then Steph got out her acrylics and began painting a triptych on the Garden Room Panels.

I just painted my nails!

Steph's mural will take a few more visits before it is completed, but I think it is going to look splendid.
She has done most of the work on the first panel, a few details yet to be added. 
The row of beach huts will eventually extend all the way round.
What a talented girl!

Monday 22 August 2016

Keeping On The Rails

We have had lots of fun watching the latest BBC2 series from Ruth,  Alex  and Peter,  entitled Full Steam Ahead
They have been looking at the way the development of the railways changed life in Britain.  It has been a super series - just one programme left on Thursday (but you can always catch up on i-player) Ruth,  who has a somewhat bizarre wardrobe,  remains her enthusiastic self.  The two blokes banter away happily and work hard as ever,  shovelling coal,  sorting mail and learning old crafts.  The  Open University is giving away an informative double-sided map to accompany the show.  Mine arrived last week.  
The thing I am sad about is that the closure of so many of our branch lines in the 60s was such a short-sighted decision.  When we moved to Dereham in 1965, the trains ran regularly to Swaffham,  carrying goods and passengers (and all the Grammar School boys - and the Swaffham girls came to Dereham to the Girls' High) Mr Cocker,  from our church operated the signal box.  I went with Dad to visit him there and he showed me all the levers.  
It has taken all this time for the volunteer enthusiasts to restore the track and rolling stock.  I know there's much fuss at the minute about the inefficiency of passenger trains - but railways are safer than roads and better for the environment.  Dr  Beeching has a lot to answer for.  But many forget that the real culprit was minister of transport,  Ernest Marples,  who went further than Dr B recommended and destroyed track beds as well as closing stations.
Still, we did get a gentle song from Flanders and Swann out of it,  mentioning my beloved Kirby Muxloe! 

UPDATE - Sorry, I forgot to post the link to the OU page where you can order the free map - click here

Sunday 21 August 2016

Rosie's Holiday

We had a lovely evening BBQ in Adrian and Marion's garden. Rosie enjoys playing with the toys on her chair - and looks to see if you have noticed
Liz and I took Rosie for a swim at Dereham Leisure Centre. The Family Changing Cubicles are excellent. I love the safety seat, where Mum can strap the baby in, while she gets herself changed. Rosie wasn't quite sure, I think she was aware of the fact she was halfway up the wall!

I love this teeshirt which reads "Apple of Daddy's eye" That's a bible phrase "Keep me as the apple of your eye" [Psalm 17;8] - meaning "Keep me as someone very precious to you" Some scholars think it can also be translated 'keep me as the little daughter of your eye' - when a child looks into her Dad's eyes, she sees a tiny reflection of herself there.

Rosie is certainly very precious to her Dad and Mum - and to the rest of us. It was a real privilege to be able to spend our holiday time together, watching her growing and responding - and smiling and giggling.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Take Up Your Mat ...

I love the Bible Story, which appears in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke where Jesus heals a paralysed man. The guy was unable to get to Jesus by himself, so his four good friends carried him, then let him down, through the roof of the house right in front of Jesus. And Jesus healed him, and said ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 
Great story - and the guy wouldn't need to lie on his mat begging anymore, but that didn't mean he could leave it cluttering up the houseowner's property! [I do hope the four friends helped repair the roof afterwards] Anyway, enough of Mark Ch 2 [and Lego]
I have a self-healing mat. Yes, I know it sounds a weird thing- but those of you who do quilting and papercrafting and use a rotary cutter will know about these. I have had mine for years. At least 20 [I know this because I had it in London before we moved to Leicester] It is made of some sort of polymer, which is able to 'heal' itself when cut with a scalpel or rotary cutter.
But mine has got hard and dull, and there are lots of cuts in it. I recently came across an article about caring for your mat. Who knew? Nobody told me! I have always kept it flat, but I didn't know it needed a regular soak in the bath as well. There are full instructions here

After so many years of serious neglect, I suspect my mat will never regain its original smoothness - but the baths [I repeated it 3 times over 3 days] have certainly restored the bright green colour, and the surface has lost a lot of the dullness, and feels much better. Preliminary test cuts with a scalpel show it seems to heal properly too. 

One other important tip to pass on - and possibly more useful to you frugalistas out there. Thank you to my daughter Steph for promptly sharing this with me. It's about Nectar Cards
In the past, I have sometimes saved my points for the whole year then cashed them all in at Christmas. I haven't done that since we moved to Dorset - but Steph tells me that now you need to cash in your points within six months of acquiring them. So bear that in mind if you let them build up - you really do not want to lose them!

Friday 19 August 2016

Salad Dressing For The Captain?

I always feel that the best craftspeople are those who are not only passionate  about their craft, but also enthusiastic about passing on their skills, and sharing knowledge with others. At the Sandringham Fair a couple of weeks ago, I met Ann Walker and her husband from Unicorn Studios in Lincoln. They are gifted in all sorts of crafts - he was busy polishing a table, and she had a lace cushion beset with pins and bobbins - plus all sorts of other items on their display.
I asked him about my Captain's Chair - rescued from the skip at a church work day, about 25 years ago, I am very fond of it - but it is very grubby and dull looking. What is the best way of cleaning old wood? I asked. I said I had occasionally polished it, but didn't like using modern silicon sprays, and was concerned to clean off the build up of greasy hand marks on the arms without damaging the piece.
They could not have been more helpful - Mr W showed me the jar of solution he was working with "4 parts boiled linseed oil to 1 of meths" he said "can you remember that?" "Yep, 4;1 just like salad dressing" I replied.
His wife added that a small amount of white spirit can help cut through the grease too. Shake the mix and apply with steel wool, rubbing in circles. "My husband has some in the garage" I said. But it must be the finest gauge - and I was given a small square of the stuff to ensure I didn't use anything too coarse. I pootled off to the wonderful Thorn's in Norwich and bought a roll of 0000 fine gauge [neither B&Q nor Homebase had anything other than coarse] You are advised to wear gloves to protect your hands
It was such fun, mixing chemicals in an old jam jar. It is a bit like making cocktails- there is something wonderful about watching the vibrant purple meths settle on top of the rich amber coloured oil. 

Then when you shake it, it emulsifies and really does look like salad dressing!


And I polished away happily, amazed at the speed with which it made a difference. 
Here you can see where I just worked on the right hand side - the dullness has gone, and the seat is lighter and brighter. Final result...

But I had half a jar of mixture left. So then I set to work on our Beaver&Tapley Units. These are from the 1960s ['mid-century' stuff is very trendy now, I understand] We got them secondhand in 1985, and they have suffered a lot over the years. Odd rings and water stains which I have never been able to shift - and the surfaces were looking really dull.
Look at them now!
Restored to their original gleaming glory! And I am quite high on the smell of meths and linseed, which took me right back to my childhood, watching Dad and Grandad polishing the wooden things they made. 
Thank you Unicorn Studios, for sharing the recipe for your magic potion [now to source some good beeswax polish to maintain the shine]