Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Been and gone

Well that was March - it has taken us from winter into spring and back into winter again. My calendar is full. Sometimes I write up several days at a time and add embellishments as I go along. 
It has been a full month, not least that I celebrated my sixtieth birthday. What a super family and friends I have - old and new and I thank you all for your kind wishes and gifts.  
This week I'm feeling a bit bleaugh - not very creative or productive, although I have been playing with my new sewing machine getting to know its assets and my limitations. I think my body knows the Easter holidays are coming up - for thirty-plus years of teaching, like many of my colleagues, I inevitably got a cold for the holidays and for some reason by immune system hasn't realised I've RETIRED!

I have prepared my April page. I have gone for a fresh spring look, hopefully it will be spring again before long. I still enjoy filling these in - it is always a good opportunity for a bit of a doodle.
You may notice a bit of stitching - can't think why that is!

Saturday, 27 March 2010


When I saw the Cheshire cat I had to  have one.

When I saw her decorated letter, I had to do one...

and now I have ordered the book she recommended.

The 'K' was for a friend's 40th, I am sure you can work out his passions. The playing cards, book and bridge score card were from a dolls house set. I made the cribbage board and whittled the wicket from kebab sticks. The ball was from a Christmas cracker miniature set of skittles, painted. (Now I know why these things have been in a drawer for years)  As the K is soft I was able to make a dent in it to stick the ball on firmly. I cut out the CD's from some sticky back plastic with a circular punch, and the images were all printed from Google finds. I must say it went down a treat. Thanks for the inspiration Lesley.

And Lesley, remember imitation is the highest form of flattery.
(I have got a mind of my own - honest)

Thursday, 25 March 2010

I count my blessings

I consider myself very lucky. My new sewing machine arrived today - and yes I had to go out and give my talk! I'll begin at the beginning.
Mr T, love him, said he would buy me a new sewing machine for my birthday, and after humming and hawing over which model he said I was to go for it, so I did and ordered a wonderful new Brother machine from my local shop last Thursday. Mr Theobald from the oldest shop  in Luton said it should be in on Monday, it could even be in the next day. I was like a kid a Christmas, waiting for the phone to ring - only it didn't. Late Tuesday I was beginning to feel a bit sulky - childish I know, but I had dusted, vacuumed, laundered and ironed so I would have a clear day or two to play, but at this rate everything would need doing again (I know, it was only two days).  A phone call to Mr Theobald reassured me that is was on its way - having to order by computer had caused the delay, and he had arranged it to be delivered straight to my house on Thursday. 

Now Thursday - that is the day I am giving my talk, so I wake early with a few butterflies, and lay listening to the Today programme dozing - when .... silence ... no electricity. I get up and check the fuse box - no problem there, so batteries in the radio and I find out from the local radio station that half of Luton has been effected by a power cut. NO ELECTRICITY!  I am giving a talk with a PowerPoint presentation AND I am getting my new sewing machine - I need power. No tea and toast for breakfast so what, tuna sandwiches for lunch, fine - all this going through my head in the first five minutes of no power. Of course, by 8.30 all was restored, I though, needed a calming bath and a bacon sandwich to before I felt restored. The rest of the morning I thought I'd start my April page for my journal to give me something to do. Then I checked and double checked my notes for my talk at 2pm. At 1.30 I was nearly ready to go, dusting of my old laptop bag and making Mr T promise he wouldn't go out in case there was a delivery - I was sure it wasn't going to come - and then there it was - a large lorry with a cheery driver with a box under his arm! How could that be my new machine, but it was - it is about half the weight of my old one. But I had to leave it unopened in the hall and dash off for my talk.

My talk - thank you for all your good wishes - went fine. The projector 'talked' to my laptop and I had time to settle myself in before I began. I had 50 slides and up to an hour and a half to fill. The first half went very quickly and I rather raced through, but after a cup of tea and a hot cross bun and lots of encouragement I relaxed and slowed down a bit. My subject was a local beauty spot which is familiar to most of my audience, but I hope I was able to give them a different viewpoint and a bit of new information.
So it was home to my new toy.
My picture is of a piece I have been working on with painted on dye and hand stitching. It was waiting for some machine embroidery.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Some more photographs

I am hoping to get a new sewing machine very soon, so I may not have much to blog whilst I get to know it, but in the meantime here are some more of my photographs. These have been cropped and tweaked - but only in Windows photo gallery, they make me realise how much I love my Nikon 80D SLR. I hope you like them too.
Overnight rain, morning sun

Spring russets

A welcome visitor - Seven spot Ladybird
(there were lots about)


collecting nectar is just  too much...

zzzz zzzz zzzz

(You can click on the photos for a real close-up)
I am giving my talk on  Sharpenhoe Clappers Thursday - it is all prepared. I feel a bit nervous as talking to adults is very different than teaching children. I'll let you know how I get on,  wish me luck.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Welcome Spring

It was such a gorgeous warm morning I had to get my camera out and Marvin shared the warm sunshine with me.
Alert to all possibilities


'Arty' shot

A beautiful bumble bee

Musical accompaniment

'Turn up the volume please'

A Comma feeding on the winter heather

...and just too much for some.

We hope you have been able to enjoy some spring too.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Now let me tell you story...

This little tale has a sad beginning, but a funny ending. It started about four years ago when my much missed, late neighbour Doreen was in hospital. Their burglar alarm went off one spring evening and went on and on. Michael was visiting her in hospital but luckily another neighbour had a key and turned off the alarm. Very sadly Doreen did not come home again and poor Michael was devastated and his own health started to deteriorate so we did not like to tell him that his alarm was still periodically bleeping.  Over the winter Michael was diagnosed with inoperable cancer and in the spring his sister came to stay to look after him. It was about this time that the alarm started bleeping again and Mick's sister complained that the noise was keeping her awake.  That summer when I stood in the garden on a mild evening the noise definitely seemed to be coming from their house, but also from our pond - was the noise bouncing off the water surface?  If I walked down the garden I could hear another alarm bleeping from the houses backing on to us? What was going on? I know my native fauna, and nothing I could think off made this noise, and it sounded electronic.
Very sadly, early that autumn Michael too passed away, (Mick and Doreen would have loved this tale)  and the house put on the market. When I spotted the estate agent I asked him to make sure the alarm was turned off, and he assured me it was, but the noise still carried on. In fact if we sat in our living room with the back door open we could hear the noise above the TV and at night it drove our over-night guests potty bleeping loudly. Every evening I would stand in the garden and try to locate the source of the sound - it was getting worse, but with the winter evenings and the doors and windows closed, we forgot about it. A new young family bought the house next door and decorated it over the winter, moving in in the spring - and guess what - the bleeping started again.  We asked them if they could hear it and they agreed, and put a ladder up to check the alarm - BUT they said the noise was definitely not coming from there. By now it was even louder and there were more and more bleeps. I rang up the council, and they said I would have to arrange for their Noise Nuisance team to come out, but they only worked at certain times. Meanwhile I thought I would recruit some more neighbours who found the noise annoying. When I spoke to Michelle who lives 'at the bottom of our garden' she was unperturbed. "Oh she said, I just thought it was frogs. It reminds me when I was on holiday in Africa".  Well,  I said none of our native frogs and toads make a noise like that, and rather poo-pooed the idea. But coincidently we had rather a lot of large tadpoles in our pond - in fact they had been there all winter and the previous summer we hadn't spotted any spawn and wondered how we could have missed it. I had also found a baby toad under a flower pot, much to my delight, so I began to be a little suspicious.

Isn't the internet a wonderful tool? It did not take long once I was onto the right track to find out the truth. It was not an out-break of security devices in the neighbourhood, but we have been colonized by Mid-wife Toads. So apologies and explanations to the neighbours  I had been pestering and disbelieving. The toads (which are actually a type of frog)  had been brought to north Bedfordshire about 100 years ago and have gradually been making their way south. They are smaller than our native toad and have a vertical eye slit. The males bleep to attract females.
This little gathering was by my back door which was why the noise was so loud in the house. We are not the only ones who have been fooled by their noise, as well as all our visitors being convinced it was an electronic noise,  I found several similar account on the internet. 
When the female lays her eggs, the male wraps them round his legs and looks after them until they are ready to hatch when he hops into the nearest pond where they swim free.

Mr & Mrs and the little ones

A chat to a friend who lives about half a mile away revealed that they too had been hearing bleeping noises too and thought someone nearby must have a cat scarer. However their son was convinced that aliens had landed in their garden,  and he wasn't wrong was he?
I have counted up 20 toads in one evening and the noise is quite horrendous, but there seems to be no solution short of getting rid of the pond and hoping they die out, but they seem to be all round our 'block' now.
And why am I telling you this tale now - guess what I heard last night?

More info here if you're interested.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Busy, busy, busy

I am having another very busy week which started with a visit to Hobbycraft on Sunday. I know some people tried to warn me, but I spent my gift vouchers several times over. I bought quite a lot of embroidery thread and a nice set of alphabet rubber stamps and some storage boxes, but resisted the call of the PAPER. This may be because I had already had a big paper fix when the round-the-world Collage Box arrived. This has been organised by 'Lawendular' of Woven Letters. A box of paper snippets has been sent across Europe and is on the way to the USA from me in the UK and then on to the Antipodes. The idea is that when you get the box you take out 12 snippets that take your fancy and add 12 of your own. I was surprised to receive a lovely lavender wand and a birthday note too - the sender must have looked at my calendar page, how thoughtful people are! The Royal Mail must also be thanked as the top line of my address was missing, but the post-code and my surname got it to me.

Here is the box and the pieces I swapped.
I tried to pick some pieces that I thought signified their country of origin or had been created by one of the participants, as well as a few that I just liked. So there is a page in German and one in Polish (I think) and some music for a French song.

I added what I thought were English bits or paper I have decorated, so this includes a page from an Enid Blyton book, a concert ticket, a reproduction of a old postage stamp and a couple of print-outs of photographs I took at Luton Hoo - and a print of the original Luton Hoo house.  The idea is to make a collage which includes all of your chosen pieces, but that will have to wait until I can give it my full concentration.
Meanwhile my spare time is being taken up in preparing for a presentation I promised to give to my U3A Natural History group. Before Christmas the organisers were a bit desperate for speakers and as I had a lot of photographs of Sharpenhoe Clappers which I had taken as part of my photography course I thought I could turn it into a talk. I have had three months to get the Powerpoint presentation organised, and I am nearly there, but there is nothing like a deadline (it is next week) to get the adrenaline going. So far I have 40 slides, but as the meeting last a couple of hours - with a tea break - I hope I can keep going for an hour. I am now filled with self-doubt, but Janet who organises the group, is very supportive and says they are very grateful for a contribution. For those of you who don't know the U3A - the University of the Third Age is a world wide organisation for older people, no longer in full time employment to share learning experiences. Locally there are groups covering almost every subject you could think of and if you wished you could go to a meeting every day. The idea is, that as a member you pass on some of your own knowledge as well as learn something new. I am one of the young ones, and the Luton branch is large and very active. 
So until I get my presentation finished and complete a couple of birthday gifts my artwork and blog is taking second place.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Hello there

I hope this will be the last of my birthday for a while. Eight of us went out for a fabulous meal at the Jitlada Thai restaurant which never fails to deliver. So here I am with my very dear friends.
That is me with Elaine my dear friend of 35+ years we worked out, and Trish who also features in my New Year line-up.

This is Sally, my artist friend who is a constant inspiration and support in my artistic attempts.

Time for the  main course.
This is Tod - my husband on the left with Sally's husband Iain.

and John and Dave, who were at college with Tod - 
It was through Dave and Elaine that I met Tod so I have known them longer than him!

So the final course - that is a carved melon in the centre there.
So thank you to all my family and friends for a wonderful week.
Normal services will be resumed shortly.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Well, well, well

Today is my birthday, I won't beat about the bush, I am sixty, and now officially an Old Age Pensioner. I am lucky to have been born before April 1st 1950, which means I am amongst the last group of women to collect her OAP at 60. It is a strange feeling, and although I wanted it to pass without too much fuss, it seems as if  a busy week has been arranged. Amongst the cards and gifts I received this morning was a big parcel from my sister. I had lots of crafty bits, buttons, felt, a 1950 news paper, and this...

Oh, I thought another art journal, great my old one is nearly full - but when I opened it up...

(Yes that is vintage embroidered card in the front - I had another as a card)
I will share with you a few of the pages of this amazing book my sister has put together.

First there were the two branches of my family tree, which she has researched extensively, here's one...
...that is my mum on her grandmother's lap, then my early years...

"Who is that gorgeous baby?"

1950's holidays

That's the 60's and 70's

and friends have added their 'bits'
I was moved to tears by the amount of work Janet has put into this, completely choked - and Mr T has played his part too. There have been a few sneaky phone calls going on.

I've been taken out to lunch by Mr T and on returning found a bottle of wine and a card by the front door from a friend and a lovely vase of flowers has just been delivered from my family.
I consider myself very lucky and although I wanted to pass the day quietly, how lovely it is to be thought of by so many. We are eating out with friends at the weekend, and we have two visits to our favourite venue, The Stables in Wavendon this week. Last night we saw the legendary guitarist Peter Green (of Fleetwood Mac fame) and Friends who delivered a blinding set of blues rock which set the heart dancing and tomorrow we see Eliza Carthy an English fiddle playing folk singer of the electric kind, who we saw last year and enjoyed.   So there may not be a lot of art going on on this blog for a few days!!!
I also want to remember my Mum, who we lost in November 2006 who I miss sharing this day with. And my sisiter's husband Martin who died on this day in 1997, who we can now sadly smile about and congratulate him on his bad timing!

Sunday, 7 March 2010


The evidence was spread over the grass - black feathers, lots of them. The Sparrow Hawk had struck. Cats don't leave this kind of evidence. At least this blackbird lost its life to feed a hungry bird rather than a fat cat. I  thought he deserved a small memorial. There are a pair of blackbirds that feed close to the house where I have my feeding station. Both of them have one white feather on their back so are easily identified, I was sad to think that this was one of this pair who have been around all winter, but I saw them both this morning, not that it makes any difference to this blackbird's mate. A sad little note I know.  More cheerful next time!
Just to cheer you up here is Kate Bush singing with a blackbird from her 2005 album Aerial. I played this track to my class one year to demonstrate bird song and they loved it - I love the whole album. Very uplifting.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Flowers wot I made

This is what I have been spending my evenings doing this week. Seem to have been busy every day. Now I want to get messy - perhaps tomorrow I can get out the paint and glue.

Needle felt flower pins 
 I have been trying to make a variety of shapes and colours, embellished with a bit of embroidery and beads. This is not the best of photographs, but I really cannot be bothered to set up a photo shoot today. Do you think they work?
I have also been working on my doodle stitching

I have been helped by the arrival of my 1p book from Amazon. Even with the P&P it was still a bargain.

I have managed to do a little bit of tidying in the garden as well, but as I have a very dodgy back I have to take it very slowly, and 20 minutes is probably enough for the first few sessions. Hope you are having a great weekend.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Spring is on it's way

What a beautiful morning - it was warm enough to be outside without a coat - as long as I stood in the sun. The birds were shouting and the air was zinging. I planted new crocuses last year and now they are coming out - and I have found a few snowdrops - in bud. I took this photograph of my established crocuses last year on February 27th. I remember I lay down on the grass on an empty compost bag to take it. I would not have wanted to do that today. The soil is water-logged and was still frozen at 11.00 am on the shady side of the garden. I really wanted to do a little weeding, but it was just too wet. If this dry weather keeps up, then maybe at the weekend I can have a go at the dandelions. I took the second photograph on the same day last year, but the purple crocuses were only just showing their colour today, but it will only take a bit of sunshine to bring them on. Oh and I saw what I think was a honey bee in the yellow crocuses, has to be the first of the year, of what ever kind - it is usually the bumble bees I see early. I will have to get my chart if I am going to start logging them. Hope you are enjoying some sun too, Jill.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Hello March, bye Feb...

A great start to the month. it is a lovely sunny morning. I'm off to the hairdressers for a long 'do' this morning, and then I have a vey busy week coming up, so I may not manage a post, but I will have time to visit and comment I hope. Lots of people have been posting their calendars on the flickr site it is great to see so many taking part.
My pages have a stitching theme and Jane (Marigold Jam), you may recognise that lovely silk swatch you sent me. I have scanned it for this.  Cannot bear to cut it up! Must go now, have a good week, Jill.
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