Monday, 26 September 2016

Charlotte's Birthday Party




Well, I had another cultural experience last weekend. Bill's granddaughter, Charlotte, turned 4 this month and we went over to Manchester to attend her party. We were lucky that the party had been planned for the middle of the month, as we were in Germany on her birthday.

It sounds like the whole month has been pretty special the birthday girl. On the actual day she got to choose the restaurant for their evening meal. Turns out that was a pub at the bottom of their street that serves food. They went camping a couple of weekends (though that may not have been about her birthday). Her mother started making fancy foods out of this book. The first effort was a red-headed mermaid, but I witnessed the creation of this masterpiece. 

Bread and chicken slices cut into a circle, the 4 is cucumber peel, the candles are carrot sticks and flame-shaped bits of cheese slices, all surrounded with half-grapes. 






I think it's all a bit mental, but Helen seems to enjoy doing it. 

The party was held at the Atherton Cricket Club for the event, the same place we went after Charlotte's christening a few years ago.



Helen made (regular) sandwiches and, after removing the crusts, cut them into rectangles and triangles. She then put together a prototype for the plates and had Martin take a photo with his phone, so he could put together the other 10 or 11 plates at the party. 



He did this while I put table cloths on the tables, secured with Blu-tack (something like chewing gum used to stick things on surfaces without damaging paint, only not as sticky and therefore useful; I'm not a fan of the stuff, but it is widely used over here). Helen issued orders about table arrangements and reminded Charlotte to greet her guests. 




Most were brought by mothers but there were actually a few dads in attendance; I don't remember dads at the parties I attended as a child, do you? When the plates were assembled Martin and I covered them with cling-film (what I used to call Saran wrap). 



A stack of Disney DVDs played as background music. I was quite nostalgic about those from Mary Poppins and Snow White. It's impressive how many dads know all the moves to the song Let It Go.



A mini-bouncy castle was set up, an automatic bubble blowing machine was put to work outside and a dozen or so blown-up balloons were scattered around the place. 



A face-painting lady set up her kit in one corner. 






As the guests arrived they just naturally kicked off their shoes and jumped in the bouncy castle, under Bill's watchful eye. Or they grabbed a balloon and batted it about the room. Or they ran in groups around the cricket ground, or gathered around the bubble machine to try to catch or pop bubbles. Bread sticks were available for snacks. The kids absolutely inhaled them.

Chicken sandwiches, sausages, cheese, cucumber & carrots; how healthy can you get?


One by one they were invited to go have their faces painted and soon they were all decked out, not just in party clothes, but with various emblems or masks ranging from a cupcake to a butterfly to a tiger face and all sorts of fairy-like designs as well. I've never seen 4-year-old's sit so still.

My little pony?


After they ran around for about an hour, they were invited in for lunch and the plates were presented along with Disney napkins and orange or red coloured drinks, whatever is the British version of Kool-Aid. 



Then plates of chocolate and icing covered biscuits (that I still call cookies). 






And then an amazing multi-layered cake, also made by a pro.




After cake came a couple of games, led by Helen (who is, after all a professional herself, being a primary school teacher and a Brownie leader). One was 'Pass the Parcel'. This involves a present wrapped in multiple layers. Helen alternated between gift wrap and newspaper. 




The parcel was passed around the children sitting in a circle to accompanying music. When the music stopped the child holding the parcel unwrapped a layer. Then it continued on its journey around the circle until the music stopped and the next layer was removed. I gather from conversations since that some small sweet would be found between layers so that each child got a little something until the main prize was opened by the final winner (a box full of colouring tools, I think it was). Also that there should be as many layers as there were children so that each child got something (because the music was carefully timed). I'm not sure if that's what happened, but it all seemed to go brilliantly anyhow. I didn't realize that there were multiple layers and Bill remarked that he'd forgotten I was 'foreign' else I would know this. Or is it about my age instead of citizenship?

If there was anything that marred the perfection of this party it was dog poo. I saw at least 3-4 moms headed for the loo with a wrinkled nose and a shoe in hand. I still love dogs, but I'm not sure I like dog owners much these days.



The next game was described as a 'dance contest' but it was actually more about being still: when the music stopped everyone had to 'freeze'. Anyone who moved was kicked out of the game (and joyfully ran out doors to run around some more). 




We  left about then since we had a long drive ahead. Fortunately Charlotte had already been kicked out and we could say good bye to the birthday girl.

I'm not good with kids, having been an only child and, for over a decade, an only grandchild and never having any children of my own. I can just about interact with Charlotte if I'm patient - or probably it's really if she's patient. Anyhow, I was thinking that a room full of 4-year-old children was probably my definition of hell; instead it turned out to be quite fun to watch.

And several G&T's helped a bit...

Monday, 19 September 2016

100 Hats

Our knitting group is loosely affiliated with Age UK, a charity for older persons. We used to meet twice a month at the Age UK centre in Whitley Bay, but then it shut down. So now we meet in the Comrades Club, a pub run by a group to do with veteran soldiers. Interestingly, I just learned that it opened in 1920, to help survivors of WWI.

Following the carnage of World War 1 many of the survivors of that conflict hoped to preserve the unique spirit of friendship forged during the years of privation and danger. In themonths that followed the Armistice, Comrades Clubs began to be established throughout the Nation by British Servicemen.  
Here on North Tyneside the Whitley Bay and Monkseaton Comrades of the Great War Club was formed and its doors were first opened in 1920 when the first members entered what was a converted private dwelling house at 14 The Links, Whitley Bay on the seafront.

But like many community groups, they sometimes struggle financially and so welcome other groups to use their facilities and pay some rent. 



We meet in the 'snug' at the back. A snug is usually a smaller seating area and perhaps a separate bar. They were often designated for the use of women, back in the day when women weren't allowed in the men's area, even with their husbands. Amazing what used to go on in ordinary society. Anyhow, the staff are lovely and helpful and we've landed on our feet thanks to Meriel, the lady who runs our group.




We still knit these little hats for Age UK. A company that makes fruit smoothie drinks called Innocence Smoothies has a thing (I'm not sure if it's advertising or fund-raising; I'll let you decide) where one month of the year in Sainsbury's (a national supermarket chain) all their bottles have little hats on them. Each year our group is contacted to let us know our 'quota', that is how many little hats the company will pay us to knit. 




For each hat we give them they give something like 25p to Age UK. It works out to a ridiculous hourly 'wage' but that matters nought as we enjoy keeping our hands busy and I particularly love using up tiny bits of yarn. There is probably a mental diagnosis for my obsession with small bits of textiles and yarn, but never mind.



I set myself the goal of knitting 100 hats, a good, finite number. It helps a lot to know when I can stop! Otherwise it could go on forever, so 100 it was. We always meet our quota (something like 2500 this year) with several hundred left over, so I'm happy with only making a small contribution to the effort. 




Only I miscounted. I thought I had 100, but then when I put them into rows and columns to photograph there were only 99. So I sat down and knitted another. 

And the pink one makes 100!



And you know what happened.

The lost hat, now 101


I found that 100th hat hiding in another bag...so I had 101 hats. I also made extra pom poms as many of the little old ladies in the group aren't fond of making them (and many don't like the sewing up process either; neither do I but I crochet them together which makes it a bit easier). I sat down and made 100 pom poms while we were on holiday as well. I'm pretty good at pom poms these days, if I do say so myself.

And then you know what happened? When we got home and sat down in front of the telly after dinner to catch up on various history programmes, I found 8 more hats sitting on the bookcase next to my chair...so I'll be turning in 109 hats.



I'm not even going to count those pom poms again.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Grandma's Birthday

In The Netherlands now, on our was back to the ferry at Amsterdam that takes us about 10  minutes from our front door. Am so ready to be home!  Today is Grandma B's birthday. She was born in 1890. Funny how quickly you can get back to the Victorian age!

Grandma, like Grandpa, was of German descent. I grew up thinking I was, too, but then a few years ago I discovered my Dad had been adopted, though they never told him. My DNA test has since informed me that my Dad was half Norwegian, which has been fun. My Dad wasn't put into the orphanage untilhe was 11 months old, so I'm thinking there is a story there about his birth family.

However, whatever I find out about my dad's original family, my Grandparents will alwasys be my Grandparents. I couldn't possibly have had better.

So I wanted to remember Grandma on her birthday. (She has more posts under her listing in the index on the right!)


Monday, 12 September 2016

Rita's Birthday

Still in Germany just now, but today is my Aunt Rita's birthday. With such  limited internet - this is my first session in over a week - I've caught up on magazine reading, list making and scribbling down ideas. I almost feel as though the creative blood is trying to flow back into a deadened limb, having bee cut off by Ancestry addiction!

So it has been good having this break from the screen.

Hard to believe Rita's been gone 9 years already. She would have been 72 today. I know she'd tell me that though family is important, so is sewing! So I'm determined to get back to it more regularly...and I'll be thinking of Rita when I do!

She doesn't have her own listing in the index, but her other posts can be found under Remembering or Mom's family.



Saturday, 10 September 2016

Grandpa's Birthday

I'm in Germany just now, with limited internet and - even worse - only my tablet to peck on. In spite of this, I've been thinking about Grandpa, who was of German ancestry, and wanted to remember his special day. He has been gone 40+ years, but he is far from forgotten.

You can read more about him by clicking on Grandpa B in the index on the right.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Two Things I Made

I've been meaning to write about our trip to the South of England back in June. Instead I've been hating myself for the massive number of photos I took and despising Microsoft 10 for making me click three times to rotate my photos to an upright position. Does anyone know how to rotate them counter-clock-wise?

Anyhow, I finally finished some big needlework projects. One that I made for the knitting group is this blanket from Cute and Easy Crochet. It's the first project in the book which says it is beginner level. I wouldn't say it was hard but I would be very careful what yarn I used if I ever did this again.





Because you have to tie off six ends for each square you want to make sure your yarn stays tied! I spent quite a bit of time fixing squares that came apart because I used slippery scraps or something. I got to the part of making the rows and putting them together when even more squares came apart, so I had to undo a lot of work. I completely remade quite a few and spent hours pulling longer ends through endless times to make sure it never got a chance to slip back through the knot. What a nightmare.




Still, it was something I could do in front of the telly and it did turn out quite pretty. I tested all the squares pretty vigorously before handing it over. I just hope it stays put together for whatever child ends up with it. [I made half the recommended number of squares and ended up with a child-sized throw.]






The other project was not one I could do in front of the telly. This took me about the same six months that the blanket did, only with Tunisian crochet I have to watch what I'm doing with the hook and thread. I'm sure there are some mistakes in this, but on the whole I like the heavy texture and the colours. I made it to go with the big couch but Bill has no use for a cushion. It seems that guys are allergic to them or something, have you noticed? So I use it for my back on my love seat and it's very comfortable.



In addition to the stripes being made with scraps of grey, blue, green and pink yarn, I made the inner cushion from an old bed pillow. The cheap ones go all trapezoidal when laundered so I dry them and then tear them apart. I just layer the pieces in the size rectangle I want and stitch them together with giant stitches. Occasionally I wrap the whole thing in left over pieces of wadding that people give me. I know some folks practically smirk when they hand me what they regard as trash, but I couldn't care less. Making 'something from nothing' gives me great pleasure.




Anyhow, I used part of the old pillow casing to make a new cover for my filler and then used regular crochet stitches to close the Tunisian crochet rectangle around it. I made it a long rectangle so that when folded in half it would be a 17" square pillow.

I'm very happy with the outcome but if I did it again I wouldn't worry about getting the outside around the inner cushion so much. Even though it was a tight fit, I think the corners would be less 'droopy-earred' if it was an even tighter fit. I'm advised that making the inner cushion a couple inches bigger than the cover makes the best fit, so I'll try to remember this if I ever work up the enthusiasm for another six-month project.




So, back to rotating digital photos...

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Sarah's Wedding

Weddings. So many people just love them. Can't say I'm one. They remind me of my many regrets.  I am utterly content with Bill in our everyday life, but that is in spite of being married, not due to it.  



However  I might feel about the subject, of course we attended Sarah's wedding back in June in Eyemouth, Scotland.














We  were due to drive up on Friday, the day they announced the results of the Brexit vote. The outcome was so astounding that we found it difficult to get on with real life



Even the bride posted on Facebook she was having trouble concentrating on packing. 


Eyemouth village green / cemetery; the stones have been moved to line the walls.













I managed to take all my wedding outfit and everything else I needed except for a change of clothes for a four-day weekend away. So Jane, my sister-in-law, and I found a charity shop and I bought a couple of tops to tide me over.


Never did discover what was this grand place..


Gunsgreen House, Honeymoon tower to right.



The wedding was held at a Georgian manor house, Gunsgreen House, also called the House of Secrets, owing to the fact that a previous owner was a smuggler. 




Everyone was fascinated with all the hidey-holes, but having visited a host of National Trust properties of late I wasn't as inclined to explore. 


One of those glasses is Jane's, held while she took the photo, honest!

The weather cooperated beautifully, clearing to a lovely day. The ceremony was hilarious, both bride and groom very nervous. When the usual the question was put to the pair, Sarah answered "We do" and everyone roared. I thought, 'She's answering for him already!' but later on we learned that it was supposed to have been a joint response, Gareth just forgot.



Helen read a story about dinosaurs which at first struck me as quite odd and more appropriate for a bedtime story, but then I've often observed that this family is slightly obsessed with the trappings of childhood. It seems to be a very British thing and in any case the dinosaur story turned out to be apt. Everyone laughed again when the couple exited to a pop song about dinosaurs. Sarah's attention to every detail was obvious.



Gareth was born in Edinburgh and so can claim Scottishness, though his parents are from Wales and Manchester. 




It seemed appropriate for Gareth to wear a kilt, but Bill never considered it for a moment any more than I would wear an Indian headdress because of being born in Oklahoma. 




On the other hand a number of the guests did choose kilts and interestingly one who seemed most suited to his outfit was Gareth's brother-in-law, a Frenchman. Figure that one out. 



Bill had written his speech as father of the bride and we had shopped for his outfit. Sarah had cruelly told him he could wear 'anything' and she's just lucky he didn't walk her down the aisle in a clown suit, that was such a red rag. 



I nixed any number of items that smacked to me of Italian pimp and we managed to get him kitted in something we could both live with. He bought a beautiful jacket and trousers and a black velvet bow tie. Bow ties do suit him well. 


Everyone cleaned up so well. I loved Simone's green dress with red apples on it!


The jacket was a plush grey and black paisley velvet which looked almost sober from a distance. The lining was a flamboyant floral silk which pleased him no end. 


Bill clearly enjoyed doing the father-of-the-bride thing. He didn't get to walk Helen down the aisle, but at least he got to do a speech. I'd forgotten about that.


I'm afraid I would have put him in the plainest black suit, but since his opportunities for wearing such a thing are limited to funerals it seemed a shame for him not to have some fun. 



The speech - the only one on the day - went really well. I don't think he said anything nice about Sarah - apparently that's appropriate - and he, rightly, gave all the credit for raising her to his ex-wife, Kathleen, for which she got a round of applause. He welcomed Gareth to the family, calling him a 'proper gentleman', which Gareth's dad liked, not like the 'itinerant busker' or the 'snake oil salesman' she'd brought home in the past; it took me a minute to realize he was referring to actual old boyfriends. 



I wore the same dress I wore for our wedding and for Charlotte's christening. The cost per wear is still ridiculous and I didn't see the point in buying another dress I wouldn't wear very often. I'm very boring, I know. 


Me and my favourite sister-in-law.

We stayed at a B&B about half a mile from the wedding venue. It was an odd place above a fish and chip shop. The entrance was through the back past the garbage and the mobile chip van and though the decor was lovely, it didn't quite remove that taint. We did have a lovely view of the sea, however and it was pretty much all there was available where we could stay next to Bill's sister and brother in law from Sydney. 



Gareth's parents took a house to share with extended members of that family. The bride and groom, and their siblings and families stayed at Gunsgreen House, though I gather the honeymoon suite was actually in a tower near by. Then they were off to their honeymoon, first a few days in Venice and then to Rovinj, Croatia. 


Uncle Chris. I can't say I'm very impressed with Bill's camera.


Sadly, the whole Brexit thing had me so rattled I not only forgot to take clothes, I left my camera in the B&B. Bill had his, but not being familiar with it, I didn't take very many photos. I have a few from Jane. There is one other I'd love to have, one of my happy memories of the day. Chris took a picture of Jane and me standing either side of Bill, holding his jacket open to show the glorious lining!



I remember escaping the party for a bit, sitting in a corner of one of the sitting rooms of the big house. The lady photographer came in to rearrange her film and such. We had a chat about the fact that my parents had been professional photographers and about the trend for taking photos during the ceremony, as happened on this occasion. 


Why you need a professional on the day. This is my photo; see the professional outcome below..

We laughed about my mom rolling in her grave. Another one of those old fashioned rules from my youth. Still, I do wonder as a bride, do you look at the minister or do you smile for the camera? In any case, this photographer clearly knew her stuff, as evidenced by her stunningly beautiful work.



I meanly teased them about this photo, that they had now officially ridden off into the sunset and lived happily ever after...I know, I'm awful.


I was pleased that Brexit didn't seem to take over the wedding as I thought it might. It never came up at our table over a delicious meal (including cranachan). However, I'm told it was heatedly discussed at another table where the younger members expressed astonishment that anyone could be so stupid as to vote to leave the EU. Unfortunately, Bill's ex-brother-in-law and his girlfriend were seated at that table and it turned out they had voted Exit, which probably explains why they didn't look like they were having a very good time.






After the meal was a disco and there was another photo opportunity out back in the form of a taxi and a set of costume hats and other accessories. The object was for guests to pile into the back of the taxi and pull silly faces for the camera. It was very popular with the guests, but I explained to Helen that I simply do not possess that kind of silliness. No amount of gin and tonic would tempt me.

So the day finally passed and I got to go to bed. Sarah kindly gave us one of the flower arrangements from the tables which they brought around the next day when taking their leave. I know fine well I took half a dozen photos of that amazing floral arrangement, but I have looked everywhere and cannot find them. I nurtured the leftovers as long as I could, perhaps too long.


The leftovers


I have read several times about people planting long stemmed roses and growing rose bushes with the aid of a potato for nutrients. I gave this a go with the roses in her arrangement, but have only ended up with a crop of potatoes...



I did however find a good use for the large vase.



Beach findings..shells and sea glass.




I may not be a big fan of weddings, but I certainly wish all the best for Sarah and Gareth.