Saturday, 12 August 2017

Amsterdam

Hello, everyone. A few weeks ago, R and I celebrated an anniversary. Not a special one by any means, so it was rather a surprise when R (famous for his emergency 'I've forgotten it again!' supermarket bouquets) came up trumps with a 4 day trip to Amsterdam. It was enough to make me wonder what he'd been up to! He managed to time it for when E was home which, whilst making me feel more than a little guilty as we set off, did make it easier as far as looking after the chickens and Hamish was concerned. 
Unbeknown to him, the end of July and the beginning of August happened to be Pride week in Amsterdam and they went for it in a big way. Busy though it was, it was vibrant and lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed the bit of the parade (is it a parade when it's on water?) that we managed to catch a glimpse of through the crowds. 


If you asked for my memories of Amsterdam, they would include: bicycles; tulips; the smell of cannabis; trams; wonderful architecture; bicycles; Van Gogh; cheese; pancakes; Anne Frank; bicycles; canals; Heineken; Rembrandt; yarn and, oh, did I mention the bicycles?! Everyone it seemed travelled by bike, which is good in theory but in practice it did make it a little fraught for pedestrians. They seemed to come at you from all directions and, when crossing a road, I must have looked as if I was watching a very rapid tennis match with my head turning from left to right at great speed. No-one wore a cycle helmet and how there weren't more accidents I'll never know. More power to them though; I just wish that there were more cycle lanes in the UK.

Anyway, here are just a few of the many photos of our trip:
Being veggie, I do love a nice bit of cheese!
One of the many canals (spot the bikes!):
'Stephen and Penelope' - a fantastic yarn shop where I may have bought a few mementos!
Gorgeous lampposts:
The Rijksmuseum:
Unusual forms of transport where you can drink while you pedal!
My favourite artist:
The Houseboat Museum. There are many houseboats on the canals and, apparently, it used to be a cheap way to live in the city. Then, the officials decided that there were enough houseboats and stopped issuing permits. Consequently, they now cost as much as a flat.

Different types of cannabis:

Our hotel - The Art'otel:
Begijnhof - an enclosed former convent with beautiful gardens:
I developed quite a taste for this!
Rembrandt:
His house:

A demonstration of paint making:

Waterlooplein Flea Market:
After walking many miles on our first day, we treated our feet to a tram pass!
Tulip bulbs at the Bloemenmarkt:
A tour of the waterways with the Blue Boat Company:
A traditional cheese and apple pancake:


When I found out that we were going to Amsterdam, the first thing I thought of was Anne Frank's house. Having read her diary many years ago I was very keen to visit; unfortunately, tickets sell out really quickly. So much so, that I would probably recommend booking your tickets for this before your flight! It is possible to queue after 3:30 but the queues are enormous. Luckily, our hotel receptionist mentioned that they tend to release a few tickets every morning and we were fortunate enough to buy a couple online. Our visit was both fascinating and heartbreaking and I walked through the building watery eyed. What finished me off completely were the marks on the wall where Anne's mother had marked her girls' heights. Anne grew 13cms whilst in hiding.

So, would I recommend Amsterdam as a holiday destination? Absolutely! I feel that our 4 days were plenty, allowing us ample time to see what we wanted. It is very popular, however, so book your tickets well in advance and take your walking boots/comfortable shoes. Oh, and remember to watch out for those bicycles!

Toodle pip for now. x

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Paddington, Pomfest, and Paint

Hello, my Lovelies! It's been a few weeks since my last post, so I thought I'd take a quick half hour and clear out my camera. 
A couple of weeks ago, I jumped on the train to London to visit Pomfest, a yarn festival celebrating 5 years of the delicious, yarny magazine 'Pom Pom Quarterly'. My train arrived in Paddington Station and, at R's recommendation, I went along to platform 1 to pay homage to author Michael Bond who passed away recently. Now, Mr. Bond, author of the well known Paddington books, was actually born in our little market town. Not that you'd know it from the lack of fuss made about him. You'd think they could stretch to a plaque in the library or something, but no. So it was rather lovely to see the bronze statue of Paddington on platform 1, suitably adorned with thank you notes, flowers, jars of marmalade etc. It brought a lump to the eye to read the cards and I, and another lady there, heaved a sentimental sigh and gave Paddington's nose a rub for luck. We weren't the first - if you look carefully at the photo, you'll see that his nose is shiny from such attentions!
Pomfest took a bit of finding. The nearest tube was Tower Hill and, with my usual lack of direction, I initially turned right instead of left which caused me much confusion. When I eventually realised my mistake, a closed road confused me further. The walk was nice though, taking me by The Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

I eventually found the venue and was rather surprised to see an enormous queue outside. Wondering that there were so many yarn enthusiasts, I joined the end and waited patiently. Half an hour later, the queue started to move and we shuffled slowly forwards. My first clue that something was amiss was when we filed straight past the opening to the venue and headed across the road. My second was when I glanced down at my neighbour's ticket and realised that it looked nothing like mine. It turned out that I was queueing for a concert! In my defence, they could well have been yarny types: there was some very nice summer knitwear; it was an easy mistake to make! Once I'd excused myself and returned to the correct entrance, there was no queue at all and I was able to walk straight in.
It turned out to be a lovely event. There were talks, a market place and a cafe and seating area for when you were overcome by the yarn fumes and needed refreshment.


Surprisingly for me, I was organized for once and actually went with a couple of projects in mind. I bought some yarn from the lovely Amy of the Stranded Dyeworks podcast. It's her 'Shiner' colourway and I want to make the Soiree Sweater by Emily Foden.
 
I also bought some yarn with the Campside Shawl in mind:
Usually when I have a trip to London, I meet up with R when he finishes work and we go out for dinner. That particular day, he happened to be working from home and so I was able to make an early return. It actually made a nice change from rushing to catch the last train.

A while back I bought a small sewing table from a local car boot sale. It belonged to somebody's grandmother and they didn't have a use for it, so, for the princely sum of £2, it was mine. I actually bought it to try out painting furniture. We have a lot of wooden furniture in our house and I've been itching to try my hand with a bit of Annie Sloan for a while now. The trouble is, I'm constantly vetoed by the rest of the family who like a nice bit of wood. They could hardly complain though if I tried it out on my cheap, water-stained table. So, on my recent visit to Oxford, I popped into the Annie Sloan shop in Cowley and bought 2 tester pots of chalk paint: duck egg blue and old white. I also bought a small brush and a pot of clear wax.
Here's the before shot:
.......  a few merry hours with a paintbrush, a soft cloth, and Classic FM to keep me company and Ta-Dah!
What do you think? I'm rather pleased with it. The whole process was brilliant fun. There is no prep required, just 2 coats of paint (it dries really quickly), then a quick wax, a moderate sanding to acquire a slightly distressed look and a bit more wax. I was worried how distressed R was going to be when he came home and discovered that I'd covered some lovely oak with chalk paint, but he didn't even notice - or if he did, he declined to comment! I'm now eyeing an old mirror with intent!

One final happy this week. This one doesn't begin with a 'P', unless I call it a Particularly Nice Day! I had a quick trip to Bristol to fetch E home and we had a lovely lunch out at Soukitchen, then a walk up Cabot Tower.
Our delicious drinks: Cranberry and orange blossom and Elderflower and rose.
Courgette fritters:
A mezze platter:
Garlic flat bread:
The tower from a distance:
A friendly squirrel:
.... and the view from the top:
I think I've mentioned before that heights aren't my thing, so I was rather relieved to get down again! I feel it's important to do these things - 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and all that. R thinks I'm a big wimp but I think I'm actually very brave!

Anyway, that's all for this week.
Toodle pip for now. x

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Basket Weaving and Kayaking

Good morning all! I hope you've been enjoying the sunny weather that we've been having in the UK this week - it's been just perfect for Wimbledon fans like myself, although the garden is desperate for a bit of rain. I keep tapping the barometer hopefully and occasionally it does swing temptingly towards change but, apart from one day of light drizzle, there isn't the longed for downpour.
I admit that I have spent most afternoons this week glued to the sofa cheering on Konta and Murray, but there have been a couple of outings at the weekends that I'd like to get down here to remember:

The first was a basket weaving workshop at our local nature reserve. I have made a couple of woven baskets in the past - my initial wonky one sits in the hall, full of winter gloves and my log basket (a bit of a personal triumph!) is in constant use in the colder weather. I do love making baskets but I find that they are a bit tough on the hands. I remember after a weekend spent making the log basket, I was barely able to write out a birthday card to my friend! Anyway, this was a one day workshop to make a small round basket and here are my photos of the day:
The view of the lake from the studio:
 Different colours of willow:

 I'd like to say that these were all my own work, but they were made by the tutor! She had a photo album of her pieces, which included a dog basket commissioned as a wedding present for Will and Kate.
Here is the base of my small basket - I tried to do a striped effect with the different willows:
 
....... and here it is at home:
I really enjoyed the workshop - lunch was included which was yummy and I met some really lovely people. I would love to do some more (once my hands have recovered!) but, unfortunately, this particular tutor is moving to Devon.

At Easter, L and J had come to visit and we called in at the sports shop Decathlon near Oxford while dropping them back at their flat. We went to buy a few bits and pieces for our sailing holiday but, whilst we were there, L and J impulse bought a 3 person kayak! Their current flat is beautifully situated on the banks of the Isis (the bit of the Thames that runs through Oxford). They keep the kayak inflated in their garage and when they feel like a paddle, they can just walk it to the nearest jetty. Keen to try it, R and I went to Oxford last Saturday. I had a wee go at paddling, but have to confess that L and R did most of it while I sat admiring the scenery and taking the odd photo. In my defense, there were only 2 paddles!


 The cows in Christchurch meadow: 




 Wildflowers on the bank:
 The back of the Botanical Gardens:
 Magdalen Bridge:

 L's legs, showing how snug it was: 
It was a beautiful few hours, some bits were busy with people punting, but the parts where we had it to ourselves were lovely. My favourite bit was floating gently in the sunshine and listening to the church bells peel out a celebration of a wedding. You do get absolutely soaked though, so we collected J and then had to change before going for a well earned pub lunch.

Other recent happies include:
A trip to Bristol to help E move out of her Hall. She and 3 friends are renting a sweet, little house together next year and R and I helped to move their stuff across. It was a little sad as their Hall was fantastic but their new place is down a quiet crescent, close to the uni, shops, cafes etc. I think they will love it.
A squirrel in the Hall car park with a bread roll raided from the bins!
 
The Old Quad:

One of the ducks has started bringing her duckling to the back door to be fed. L has named him (her?) Timothy:

Wimbledon watching and sock knitting:
The finished socks - just a plain vanilla sock in 'Peppermint Swirl':
Well, that's all for this week. I'm just off to clean the bathroom and move a bit of dust around, then I've got a date with a sofa and Johanna Konta's semi-final this afternoon!

Toodle Pip for now. x