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.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Mom's Birthday

As I've mentioned, I've been immersed in family history and it does funny things to my head. On one hand I feel very fortunate to have made it to the ripe age of 60; then again I'm thinking we should plan our funerals!

One gets a strange view of people's lives from the skeleton created by records. Some folks marry and stick; other have scrappy lives passed from household to household as children. Some have long obituaries full of prestige, others seemingly evaporate into thin air.

Today is Mom's birthday. I woke up yesterday thinking about what a person would derive from her records:

  • 1918: born in Lehigh, Coal County, Oklahoma. The doctor who completed her birth certificate was pretty much illiterate. Who spells 'Abigail' as Abbiegail? No wonder she denied having a middle name all her life.
  • 1920: I've never found her in the 1920 census. She said she lived in a tent until she was 5 years old, since her father was a road contractor. Perhaps the census never found them.
  • 1930: She and her brother live with their maternal grandmother, in West Monroe, Louisiana. Grandmother says she's 'widowed' but this isn't true, they've just parted company'. I've never found my Mom's parents in the 1930 census either. Guess they were still out on the road...
  • 1933: She lives in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's in the Latin club at Byrd High School.
  • 1935: Graduated high school.
  • 1937: Mom's married to her first husband, Bill Linxwiler. He's a clerk at Magnolia Packaging Co in Shreveport.
  • 1938: Still married, but now he is a salesman.
  • 1939: Mom has her maiden name again, she lives with her brother and her mother. Grandmother has a beauty shop in Shreveport and Mom is listed as the manager. I think grandmother and my grandfather are now divorced.
  • 1940: Mom and grandmother live in Miami, FL. Grandmother is married to her second husband and I'm guessing he was stationed at a Navy base near there. Mom is working as a cashier in a beauty shop, but it doesn't say grandmother is running a beauty shop, so it might be someone else's.
  • 1942: Mom lives with her mother and step-father in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
  • 1944: Mom and Daddy marry in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. She lives in Muskogee and works at a photography lab, processing negatives into printed photos. He is sent to Italy a week after they marry. The marriage license says she lived in New Orleans, and I'm guessing Grandmother still lived there.
  • 1947: She and Daddy have gone to live in Madison, WI, near his parents.
  • 1951: They move to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to be near Grandmother. It's cold up north! They have a little house built in a new housing estate called The Village.
  • 1956: I come along.
  • She lives in the same house until her death in 1990.
Mom seems to have done all her travel in the early decades of her live and then been stationary for the remainder. I lived every minute of my life in OKC for decades and have hardly stopped travelling in the latter half of my life.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Red Stuff from the Grossers

No, I didn't do any writing Wednesday. I thought about what I could write, but I didn't put fingertips to keyboard, at least not on Blogger.

I was up to my elbows in red stuff, specifically strawberries and tomatoes. Bill and I went up to our favourite green grocers in Seaton Delaval and they had boxes on sale, so I took all the strawberries (16 punnets - which as far as I can tell is just the name they call a plastic or lightweight container). I weighed them when we got home and they were each just over 500 grams, so we basically paid less than 50 pence a pound for some wonderful strawberries. Often when buying on sale like this, you get a lot of rotten fruit. Going through all the punnets, I found maybe 4-5 grey, fuzzy ones and about a dozen pale pink, flavourless ones. The rest were gorgeous. We kept out two punnets for cereal and snacking; the rest got cleaned and put in the freezer. Considering jam or vodka...hmmm.

The other red stuff was a load of tomatoes. I bought 3 boxes at £1.99 each. After culling, blanching and bagging I had 15.5 kg. Those are also in the freezer, barring a large box for salads, most likely for spaghetti sauce, but I'll need to collect a few more things before I have a go at that again. I can't figure out what was wrong with these foods that they didn't sell for full price.  I think we need to go on Wednesdays more often.

I have been slaving away at my family history, trying to bring all my family lines down to present to see if Ancestry will complete any more DNA circles for me. If you're not into this sort of thing I'm probably speaking a different language. Suffice it to say we both find it fascinating. As I'm working down a family line collecting births, marriages, death records, census and military records, I'm 'reading' a story about this person's life. Obituaries are lovely stories, too. All the drama you could want can be found in your own family history, particularly if you look widely. I'm trying to use all the 'hints' Ancestry has given me (down to 69 pages from 151) and so I jump from family to family, staying long enough to verify the information and promising myself I will return to this very interesting story.

I was thinking it reminded me of the book I'm presently reading, called London: a Novel, by Edward Rutherfurd. He covers quite a long period, roughly from the ice age to about WWII. I'm just about in the middle of the 1300 pages and I'm in the 1300's, medieval London. His characters die off with each chapter as he moves forward in time, but they are replaced by people with the same name or with physical characteristics (white shock of hair, long nose, etc) that let us know they are descended from the earlier people. This is much like James Michener used to write, only I couldn't put down Michener's books and this one is a bit harder work. Better than the plot or the characters is the history.

One bit of history that grabbed me: the setting is a grocery business, in which our character has taken an apprenticeship.

"It was only recently that the ancient Company of Pepperers, who dealt in spices, had merged with a group of general wholesalers, who, since they sold in gross quantities, were known as the "grossers". The new Grocers Guild was large and powerful. They and the Fishmongers vied with the Wool and Cloth Guilds for the city's greatest offices."

These days it sounds a bit mad to think of a Fishmongers Guild, but in medieval England merchant guilds controlled town governments. A guild is simply an association of artisans or merchants who controlled the practice of their craft in their town. I will leave you to read about guilds, and today's livery companies, which I've mentioned on a couple of occasions. The phrase "Worshipful Company of Girdlers" - or of just about anything - makes me smile.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Art, Religion, Food - Part II

This continues the story of a day I spent with Vivien in Newcastle.

Leaving the Discovery Museum, I wanted to check out the businesses occupying the arches of the main railway bridge. I'd read about them and was curious about what was there. I think Vivien thought I was nuts, but it seems to be all the rage, having your small business in an arch.

Following our noses after that took us to Newcastle Castle, actually just the castle keep remains. Funny I didn't think to take photos of it...I can tell I've lived here over 20 years now. Right behind the castle is Milburn House, where Vivien and I once worked.

Milburn House was once a shipping office in the early 1900s. There are still doors that open into black, cavernous safes and sea waves decorate the tiles which cover the walls. The floors are given letters rather than numbers, apparently like ships' deck were identified back then. There were also several wings on each floor. We had plenty of visitors get lost, it being in the maze of streets in the city centre, followed by the confusion of the ground floor being A and the top floor E and then needing to know whether to go N or S...

It's an amazing building in a great location (if you don't mind walking up and down the hill that is Dean Street), but being a listed building limited how offices could be arranged and I found it a very inconvenient. I spent a lot of time with my laptop in the Lit Phil Library to have enough quiet to work, since I shared my office with two other people.I probably have some photos of Milburn House somewhere, but it's easier just to show you these.

Right behind Milburn House, is the Cathedral of St. Nicholas (come to think of it, virtually everything in the city centre is practically on top of each other). I remember it was my habit to work into the evening but one night a week I would be driven from my office by the incessant bell ringing at St. Nicks. Just as well, I gave them far too much of my life as it was.

Vivien was surprised to find we could just walk into the cathedral and look around. We timed it badly or we could have had a cup of tea in the cafe, so we'll have to return another day. I've put some photos here, but again there are much better elsewhere. Vivien mentioned that St. Nick's is why Newcastle is a city. I can't explain it fully but I have known for some time that being granted status as a 'city' here in Britain is tied to the notion of having a 'cathedral'. It has to do with church and state still being joined. You can read more about it here.

I've spent any number of lunch hours at St. Nick's but I'd not realized until now how incredibly old it is. Originally built as a parish church in 1091, it burned in 1216. The present building was completed in 1350. John Knox was minister there for a few years in the mid 1500's. The spire is beautiful at any time, but seeing it lit up at night always grabs my heart. 

By now I had my heart set on another cup of coffee before we parted and we fell into this interesting looking place where I thoroughly enjoyed the decor. I think we split something sweet between us and Vivien took something home to Steve, as she often does. 

I was hoping Patisserie Valerie's website had some better photos, but instead I found videos of lovely cakes being made. I'm afraid the thought of all that sugar makes my tummy ache, but I know some folks who would enjoy watching!

The title of these two posts is even more fatuous than I'd originally realized. Applying Oscar Wilde's definition of art, fashion probably doesn't qualify as clothing is useful. Neither Vivien nor I are religious, we just appreciated the architecture. And I definitely don't qualify cake as food!

But we had a great day out all the same. We always do.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Art, Religion, Food - Part I

My brain is slowly being assimilated by Ancestry and Gedmatch. Eventually I will no longer remember how to blog, how to sew, how to talk to living people. I am writing this as a last gasp of self-direction, telling myself it is Wednesday and therefore a writing day. Then again, can you call it writing if the starting point is to look at your photos? Perhaps I should call it journaling instead.

Vivien and I got together on one of our increasingly rare days out and the planned activity was to visit a fashion exhibit of Northumbria University students on display at the Discovery Museum. 

It wasn't a large exhibit but we examined every item (most of them black), chatting and (me) snapping as we circled the room.

There were old clothes, new clothes, old items, a slide show, some photos and sketches and a bit of text:

"Re-Fashion showcases sixty exquisite objects from the museum collection made between 1701 and 1916.  These objects have been selected as a starting point to explore the idea of real and imagined histories inspiring future garment design. Fashion Students and Lecturers from Northumbria University School of Design have researched the collection to develop the final garment designs which will be exhibited in May."

I'm fairly fascinated by the idea of re-fashioning clothes. Who doesn't have a bunch of old clothes they hang onto because of the lush colour, the superior fabric, the potential usefulness, never quite realized; blame it on (formerly) blogging, (currently) family history addiction. Well, OK, maybe it's just me.  

I've no idea what design students go through. So much of the verbiage that accompanies art is meaningless, at least to me, nearly imprisoned in my left-brain. Mind I can twaddle on myself just fine. This post started out as "Day Out in Newcastle", then became "Fashion, Cathedral, Patisserie" and  I even considered "Seeking Sustenance". What grandiose gabble I can produce.

Oh, while I'm thinking of it, I recently read Gods and Kings, by Dana Thomas, and I highly recommend it. The book is pretty much a biography of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano and it is fascinating. I also think it might put anyone off being a really successful fashion designer...

I gather that academia requires documenting certain steps in the creative process, like developing mood boards or sketching ideas or draping fabric, researching background something or other. I can sometimes see the point but most of the time I think I would lose the will to create. But no matter, I'm not going back to school. 

There were indeed some exquisite objects on display, particularly the Victorian and Edwardian age dresses, suits and shoes. 

Of course one doesn't normally see a lot of old every-day clothes worn by ordinary people. Those will have been worn out and used up and probably made into rags. The clothes in museums tend to be ball gowns or special dresses saved in someone's closet for decades. 

After scouring the exhibit we did the same with the shop. I love museum shops. I don't buy much but I do sometimes take photos of the books in case I want to look for them elsewhere. I can often just list them on my Amazon wishlist and be satisfied by the Look Inside! feature. 

The best things in this shop were the silly children's toys and I'll likely return nearer to Christmas. Bill and his adult children are highly entertained by such things. 

We had a bite of lunch at the cafe and with no particular plan that I recall we happened to drop into St. Nicholas' Cathedral. But that is another blog post.