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Monday, 30 September 2013

Yarndale - a feast for the senses!

Like thousands of other people with more than a passing interest in all things woolly, I headed off to Yarndale this weekend.  I went on Sunday which, it would appear, was the best day to go as by all accounts Saturday was extremely busy.  The family decided that I would probably want to spend longer there than they would and they had other things they needed to do on Sunday, and so it was with a huge grin on my face that I drove through countryside that grew greener and more undulating the closer to Skipton I got.  

So - how to describe this wool festival that was different to any other that I'd been to?  Well, through my senses, I think, which might help to give you an idea of what a lovely occasion it was.

To start then - sight - and what a sight it was, to be greeted by bunting and yarnbombing right outside the Skipton Auction Mart door.

And then, tickets and programme bought, it was into the entrance hall where there was more bunting than you can imagine hanging from the ceiling. Photographs don't really do it justice; it was more colourful than a picture ever is and for me, summed up people's desire to be a part of something special like Yarndale.  Crocheters from all over the world sent in over 6,000 triangles which, when strung together, made 1.25km worth of bunting.  That's an awful lot of bunting!  It also made me realise that trying to spot my triangles in all of that was a bit of a pointless exercise!

Beyond the bunting-bedecked hall were the pens, full of stall holders and their woolly wares - over 150 of them!  I liked the idea that the sheep end-products were displayed in the same place that the sheep themselves are paraded on other days.  As it had been a long drive from Winwick, I'd been sure to arrive early to get a parking space and consequently was one of the first through the doors - it was like being in a huge sweet shop - where to start?  Stall after stall of beautiful hand-dyed yarns, shawls, knitted garments, needles, buttons, anything you could possibly think of, including alpacas!  Such sweet-looking creatures, they were humming in a way that reminded me of my dog in the back of the car when he thinks he's going for a walk.  The alpacas should definitely come under the touch category as their fleece is so soft and squishable!

After a quick look around and a mental note of where I wanted to spend money later, it was time to head off to the workshop I had booked - learning how to dye yarn with Jaki Bogg.  I've wanted to dye my own sock yarn for quite some time but have never been quite brave enough to launch in (not least because I know I'll probably make a huge mess!).  This seemed like the ideal opportunity and after a couple of hours of soaking and dyeing various fibres, I think I'm confident enough to have a go on my own now.  

Here we all are being very creative, with Jaki in the green t-shirt right at the back trying to keep up with us as she microwaved our creations to set the dye! I won't show you my efforts  from the workshop - I'll save it for when I've had a go with some proper yarn so prepare to be dazzled! J

After that, it was time for some lunch and my sense of smell led me over to the smaller of the two cafes where I was tempted by a local pork and apple burger which tasted extremely good, I can tell you!  And on the subject of smell, being so early into the auction mart, I noticed that it smelled of animals which added to the feeling of Yarndale being in exactly the right place.  

I took my lunch to the Knit n Natter lounge and there she was, surrounded by her fabulous crocheted creations - Lucy from Attic24.  She's a lovely lady and a very unassuming celebrity; I think she was quite stunned by the number of people who wanted to come and talk to her as well as the huge crowds that had flocked (J) to Yarndale.  People were queuing up to ask technique questions, tell her how much they enjoyed her blog or just to say hello, and she took the time to speak to all of them.  I think it's quite amazing how someone's words on the internet can reach out to so many people and encourage or inspire them to creativity of their own.

Time for a few purchases: 

Not one but two new Herdy mugs to replace my broken one (they were a baargain, I couldn't resist - plus I've got a spare J), a new tape measure (another Herdy treat), some beautiful damselfly blue yarn from Eden Cottage Yarns and, thanks to Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns pointing me in the right direction, some undyed sock yarn from Yarnundyed and a dye starter kit from Colour Craft to get started on my own dyeing adventures.  Oh, and my Yarndale programme's there too.

I still had some time before I was expected home, so I swapped the sound of the hustle and bustle of the Auction Mart for the outdoor sounds of Yarn Walk down into Skipton ...

passing more bunting ...

flowers ...

ducks a-dabbling ...

to The Studio where Lucy works with her friend Tracy.  I've seen pictures of The Studio on Lucy's blog  but it's funny how you imagine something from photos and it turns out to be different in real life.  Tracy said that many people had told her they expected The Studio to be bigger, but for me the surprise was that it was L-shaped.  Here's Tracy in her corner ...

and this is Lucy's corner.  

I love the Attic24 picture that is featured on her blog - here it is in real life! 

I didn't stay too long - The Studio isn't big enough for all of the people who wanted to come up to be in all at the same time, so I said goodbye and headed back up to the Auction Mart.  It was still busy but I'd seen all I'd wanted to see and it was time to head home.  I took a last look around from an aerial viewpoint - this gives you a little bit of a sense of just how big it all was - and then set off for the motorway and Winwick.

From talking to people on the day, I think Yarndale has been a bigger success than anyone imagined, and the good news is that will probably mean a repeat performance in the future.  I'll be making quite sure I have my ticket.

Friday, 27 September 2013

And cake as well!

Yesterday was Macmillan Coffee Morning day and when I discovered that there was going to be coffee and cake at The Make and Do Studio in Stockton Heath, it seemed like an ideal excuse to go along.

I've been wanting to visit ever since I found the website when I was trawling for information on sewing for beginners (see here), and I'm very glad that I did.  Maeri, who runs the studio from her home in Stockton Heath overlooking the Bridgewater Canal, is just lovely and any worries I might have about walking into the studio and not knowing anyone dissipated immediately.  The group of people already there were a friendly bunch - some were friends of Maeri's, some were tutors and others had been on workshops - so there was no shortage of someone to talk to.  

There were cakes galore, including a lemon and courgette cake which I know that I will be making in the future with our glut of courgettes, and beautiful vintage tea-cups with a matching saucer-plate (saucate? plauser? J) - I'd never seen anything like them before but they're such a good idea!

This is a photo of the china from the studio's Facebook page, and it's hired from Pretty Little Trio vintage china hire which is also based in Stockton Heath.  

The Make and Do Studio offers workshops on lots of different crafts - knitting, sewing, quilting, crocheting, papercraft, felt-making ... the list seems endless! In such a calm environment, you just know that you're going to come away with the skills and the confidence to carry on at home, and as if I'd spoken out loud, Sue who runs the gift wrapping courses announced that she was about to show everyone some quick papercraft tricks to brighten up gifts.  A real ta-dah moment - I'm going to have my daughters whipping up some nifty embellishments for Christmas gifts in no time!

I spent a long time talking to Maeri herself about her workshops, where to source materials, how she got started and just how she ended up in Stockton Heath when she's originally from Vermont in New England - she's very easy to talk to and generous with her time and advice. By the time we had all realised how the time had flown and that other things needed to be done in the day, I left feeling that I had made a friend which, if I had needed any encouragement to go back to the studio in the future, had surely clinched the deal for me.

Monday, 23 September 2013

London to Pompeii and back - in 48 hours!

We've just spent a fantastic weekend in London.  We went specifically to see the Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition at the British Museum which was a treat for finishing my dissertation (have I mentioned my dissertation before?  Once? Twice? Three times maybe? J), and booked ourselves into a hotel for a weekend stay.

The exhibition was excellent, everything that I had hoped it would be.  I was amazed at some of the artefacts that had been brought over from Italy (although it does make you wonder what the people visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum over the summer thought when so much of what they went to see was in London!).  No photography was allowed so I've used images from elsewhere; you can find the sources at the bottom of the pictures.  Some of my favourite relics were on display: 

Photo -
like this poor dog, probably left behind to guard the house when it's owners fled the eruption of Vesuvius.  Part of the problem was that people didn't realise how devasting it was going to be so they expected to return in a few hours.  It's one of the reasons that so many people were still there; some of the most moving items in the exhibition were a wooden cot which was found with its tiny occupant still inside, wrapped up a in a woollen blanket, and plaster casts of a family who were hiding together under some stairs.  As a Mum myself now, it's heart-breaking to think that those parents thought they were doing their best for their families and yet they all perished.

Photo -
One thing that the British Museum did very well was to provide a booklet of things for children to look out for.  I also found some excellent lists on Roman Mystery writer Caroline Lawrence's blog of things for children to look out for, and small daughter loved spotting the various artefacts that she would otherwise have sailed past.  The exhibition closes this weekend (29 September) so if you've not been you've not got long to try to see it, but it's well worth the visit.

Photo -
All too soon, we reached the end of the exhibition and had to make our way out.  I would happily have spent all day in there, but it was time to go and do something else.  We found ourselves gravitating towards the shops at Oxford Street and Carnaby Street so that big daughter could marvel at how much bigger all the same shops were that we have at home.   Naturally, with pocket money burning a hole in her pocket, we had to check out more than one or two of the shops, but it was a fair swap for spending time with me ooh-ing and ahh-ing over ancient artefacts!

We walked for miles!  Small daughter's legs started to hurt on the way home so we jumped into a black cab and hurtled through the streets back to our hotel.  We very rarely use taxis at home so small daughter thought it was quite a treat.  She'd have loved to have gone on one of the big red double decker buses too, but we'll save that for another visit.

My husband had been promising small daughter that he would take her to see Big Ben and let her eat ice cream for breakfast as big daughter had once done many years ago (long story, don't ask!), so on Sunday morning we headed for the tube and Westminster.  We found ourselves caught up in the crowd cheering on the women's Tour of Britain cycle race, which was actually very exciting.  

What I love about this photo is that - you can't see it - but one of the cyclists shouted "Cheese!" as she swept past!  I love that she had the energy to be humorous even after doing goodness knows how many circuits - oh, to be that fit!

So, as promised, we saw Big Ben, which is one of small daughter's favourite buildings.  I don't know why, there's just something about it that she loves.  She said she hadn't realised there was so much gold on it, and I don't think I ever had either.  It's not until you actually stop and look at something that you might see every day on the news or in passing that you really see it.

I had to take this picture of Boudicca's statue, because I definitely think there's a place in the world for feisty women.  What's the saying -"Well behaved women rarely make history?" Just recently, I saw a picture with another saying: "It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not", and I couldn't agree more.

We took small daughter to see No 10 Downing Street.  Whatever your political views about the government, it's still somewhere to see as the seat of the country's power.  I told the girls the story of how I went to London for the first time at the age of about six and actually had my photograph taken on the front step of No 10 next to a policeman, because you could do that then.  To be honest, I wasn't sure about standing next to the policeman so my Mum had to be on the photo too so that she could hold my hand, but it just shows you how the times have changed.  The policemen in front of the railings on Sunday were being friendly and helpful enough to the group of school children who were filling out quiz papers, but there were still large railings and policemen with guns which nobody ever questions these days.  It's a bit sad, really.

Then, finally, it was a dash back to collect our bags and get onto the train home.  Everything about our weekend was just perfect which was wonderful as every other trip to London has seemed to involve an argument somewhere along the line.

I'm still happy to be home, though.  The thing that I noticed about London is how busy and noisy it is, all the time.  I'm sure there are some places where you can shut out the background traffic and listen to the birds, but it made me very glad to get back to my little corner of the countryside.  We'll definitely be going back - small daughter has already made a list of the places that we've missed, starting with Pudding Lane because she was learning about the Great Fire of London.  We're very lucky, aren't we, that we can show our children these places of history in our country, and luckier still that places like the British Museum exist so that we can look at other countries' history too.

Friday, 13 September 2013

So that's it, then ...

Three years of study, nine months of research and writing, 85 pages and 16,952 words.  My Master's degree dissertation is finished and it's ready to be delivered to the Open University's Regional Office on Monday.  

I'm mightily relieved, especially after the mini-meltdown that was the last two days whilst I was tweaking and printing out, but at the same time I'm a bit sad. I'm a huge fan of the Open University.  I did my first degree with the OU so naturally it was first choice when I wanted to do a Masters.  It's a brilliant institution for people who need to fit studying in around real life, and now it's all over bar the shouting.  The work I've been doing has been part of who I am for a long time now and it's going to be strange to have this particular baby leave the nest.  But now I'm free to do whatever I like with my time instead of scouring the internet for academic articles, requesting obscure papers from the library's Local Studies Collection or sneezing over relics in the archives.  And that's a good thing, right?  

I'll be able to get to grips with the garden which has been doing it's own thing for far too long.  I'll be able to sort out the piles of stuff in the attic which have been gathering cobwebs for years.  I'll be able to catch up on all the knitting, crocheting and sewing projects that I've started (or wanted to start) but haven't had the time.  I won't miss the studying at all.  Well, not much, anyway.  

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Summer of learning

Well, that's it.  Both my daughters are back at school now and the summer is almost over. The air has got that autumny smell about it, and I've noticed when I've been out with the dog that the leaves are looking just a little less green.

It's been a good summer for us.  Aside from a lovely holiday in Cyprus (I won't bore you with the photos but may not be able to resist sneaking one or two in!), the girls and I have been busy either learning new skills or brushing up on old ones.  Here's what we've learnt over the summer:

Summer of sewing - big daughter LOVES clothes.  She's got a fantastic sense of style and what suits her and looks good in most things, even hats.  I'm both envious because I don't have that same style and very proud because it's something about her that's just her own. (It also comes in very useful if I'm going somewhere out of the ordinary because I have my own style guru to advise on my wardrobe!)  Unfortunately, big daughter's pocket money budget doesn't stretch to buying as many clothes as she'd like (think teenagers and revolving wardrobes and you'll know exactly what I mean!) so we dusted off the sewing machine and set to work.  It's been a long time since I've done any dressmaking, but inspired by Little Blue Mouse and Bunny Mummy who introduced me to Coletterie and Tilly and the Buttons, it's felt like the right time to give it another go.  Big daughter decided she'd like a couple of skirts, so we downloaded a pattern from here and our dressmaking adventure began!

Big daughter took to it like a duck to water.  She zoomed with the sewing machine, wielded the iron with aplomb and this is the result:

She's very pleased with it, and rightly so!  Then, fired up by our success, we set about making a maxi skirt without a pattern!  Remember that we are, in effect, total beginners, so we had a few nerve-wracking moments when we set about the material with the scissors, but here's skirt number two:

Then, not to be left out in the New Clothes Spree, I made myself a Sorbetto top of which I'm inordinately proud (even though I think I might have made it too big).  For a first go in *mumbles* years, it's not bad at all, even if I say so myself.

Summer of embroidery - small daughter didn't want to be left out so she found a sewing kit that she'd been given for her birthday and much to my delight, stuck at it until she'd finished this lovely heart.  She was very pleased with it.  It's her first sewing project and I'm hoping it won't be her last.  I'm never without something to do when I'm sitting down in the evening, usually knitting or crocheting, and I like using my relaxing time to create something lovely; I'm hoping that as she gets older she'll be just the same.

Summer of studying - my Open University dissertation is almost done, thank goodness!  I worked my socks off to get it ready to send to my tutor for proofing just as the girls finished school for the summer so I've had a good break and now I'm ready to do the final amendments before my deadline date in September. 

It came as something of a surprise to me to find that my dissertation has been an archaeology-based one.  That sounds a bit odd, but as I'm doing a Classical Studies degree, I expected to be looking at old texts and pictures as I have been doing in my degree work so far.  When I came to choose the subject for my dissertation, it just happened that the texts I needed to look at were excavation reports and the pictures were of pottery and other finds, so I've had to learn an awful lot about archaeology in a very short space of time!  What I have found, though, is that it's fascinating.  It's not Time Team or Indiana Jones, but it's a window into other lives and I love that.  So of course, on holiday in Cyprus, I wasn't going to miss out on the archaeological ruins on our doorstep.  Luckily for me, my family are happy to wander around ancient sites with me as long as it's not too hot, we don't take too long and there's the promise of a swim or food at the end of it! 

I love the way that many archaeological sites abroad look as if the people who lived there have only just left.  Some might say that they're not being protected enough, but you can see at the top of the picture that a shelter has been built to preserve a hypocaust system for heating the baths, and other parts have been renovated, such as the door frame on the left, so that you can see what it would have been like, so it's not as if they've just been left to the mercy of the elements.  This is at the Sanctuary of Apollo at Kourion.

Summer of sunshine - just a few photos from our holidays - I couldn't resist!

I love this one - the translation is very literal and you know that really it means that dogs can't swim on this beach, but it made me laugh to think of the locals making the water foamy with dog shampoo as they lined up to pamper their pooches!

We were lucky enough to meet up with some friends who come from Cyprus and they took us to the turtle beach where the nests are.  You're allowed to go on the beach in the day time as long as you avoid the nests - the beach was littered with these cages and signs - but not at night when adult turtles may be around.  There was a tank with some baby turtles to see which will be released later this month; both loggerhead and green turtles come to this beach and both types were swimming in the tank, although you probably can't tell which is which from this photo!

Finally, we were staying very close to Aphrodite's Rock, where it's said that the goddess was born and walked from the sea.  We'd driven past it many times but I wanted to get a closer look.  Aphrodite's Rock is the big rock on the right, but I liked the one on the left two, and some of the other rock formations in the sea close by reminded my of dragons or sea monsters ... it really is a magical place and it's easy to let your imagination run wild on a island full of Greek myths.  People come here to bathe, believing that the magic of the goddess is still in the water.  I don't know if it's true or not, but I wasn't going to leave without at least getting my feet wet ...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Monthly musing - September 2013 - Peas and Queues

Good manners have always been very important to me.  If I’m ever asked to complete one of those Sunday magazine supplement questionnaires, the “trait you most deplore in others” will be bad manners.  From another driver failing to acknowledge that I’ve let them into or out of the traffic to a simple please or thank you for anything at all, manners are one of those things that cost nothing but are priceless.

“Don’t forget your manners because my Mum’s a please and thank you kind of Mum,” big daughter has been overheard to say – even to new high school friends.  I don’t think the reminder makes it an unpleasant experience to visit our house, and big daughter never seems to be short of a friend to come over for dinner.

Small daughter has reached the age where she usually remembers without prompting and will happily use her “big voice” if we’re ordering from a menu or buying something in a shop.  It’s amazing what an effect it had on people, especially when she was very small, and she usually got a compliment about her lovely manners which pleased her no end.

My favourite bad manners experience (if you can have such a thing) was related to me by my husband.  He was in a coffee shop queue when the person in front said at their turn to order, “Can I get a skinny decaf latte with a blueberry muffin?”
            “No, you can’t,” said the barista, “but I can get it for you if you say please.”

If I’d been there, I’d probably have cheered.  I was brought up to say “Please may I have” and my daughters have been too.  “Can I get” is something that has come to us from American sit-coms and a phrase which seems to me to imply a lack of respect for the person behind the counter.

Still, you won’t be surprised, especially as a parent, to know that manners are a work in progress.  On holiday last year, we were sitting in a restaurant waiting for our meal to be served.  I’d been watching the moon rise in the sky and illuminating the inky sea, thinking about our day and how proud I was of my girls and their lovely manners, when small daughter wrapped her legs around her neck and exclaimed, “Look how bendy I am!”  Oh well.  
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