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May 2012
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July 2012

a ring

Ring
Last night I did something new and completely self-indulgent and it was good. I took my first jewellery making class, the real kind, with a blow torch and everything. When the day came around I had a dozen reasons why I shouldn’t go but instead I plucked up the courage to take myself away and try something new with people I'd never met. I don't know why it took courage, but it did. 

If the term quirky could apply to an experience, then that would be the term I'd use for this class. We sat around the kitchen table in an ancient manor house just down the road. An Aga kept us warm while the rain bucketed down, dogs were running around under our feet and children wandered in and out in wellies and pyjamas.

I met new friends, learned a bit of chemistry (a very little bit, so little I’ve now already forgotten it), got to fire up and use a blow torch and shaped and soldered my very first ring. It’s copper because that’s what learners practice with but by some miracle the random piece of metal the instructor gave me to practice with turned into a ring that actually fit me. I know it’s not aesthetically beautiful (though not too bad against my favourite turquoise) but it's special to me. It’s a successful first attempt at a new skill and a reminder that two hours to myself a week is a very good thing.

It even fits
The after effects of those two hours lasted all through today as well. I had an extra hop in my step during my extremely wet walk with an extremely wet dog and my spirits soared, lifting me from the low place I've been dwelling of late. Next week we learn metal cutting – more fun tools to try out.

On the subject of blow torches, my friend Tracy recently finished off her series of 'Already Read' newspaper art pieces using a blow torch and they're amazing. I think you'll recognize the faces, even if you don't live in the UK; how on earth did she manage the detail?! Scroll down her gallery and look at her incredible work, who'd have thought newspaper could become so beautiful.

Photo fix

And call me stupid (go ahead, I won't hear you anyway) but I only just figured out how to control the high contrast on my iPhone images. Just tap the screen where I want to focus and it adjusts the images colour and exposure, not just the sharpness. The top image was my "aha!" moment. Wow, that was easy. I hope to go back to real cameras soon, but mostly my phone is the choice for ease of use these days, and right now easy is good. 

Happy Summer Solstice and remember, it's Peace Day today.

Jx

 


new friends, more cakes

Mama and babe

New friends down the road live in Gracie's idea of heaven. For several years she has begged to have a small farm that is home to a long list of animals. There have even been prolonged tantrums over not having her own farm. I'm sure one day she will make it happen.

Chick friend

What a fantastic visit we had. There are many newborns on this little farm at the moment. Lots of chicks, lambs, a one day old alpaca, brand new kittens and puppies on the way. There were also pigs and bunnies and rare breed sheep. 

Oinkers

We picked up the most beautiful fleece for felting when we first met, I'll have to get more soon. The fleece from the rare breed sheep and alpacas is so lovely it makes me want to spin. But do I need to learn a new craft, one that requires a large wheel – I'm thinking no (at least not right now;)

New babe

The little guy above on the left was born on Tuesday; he's called Diamond because he was a Jubilee baby. I love the colour and beautiful eyes of mama on his right there.

Snowy alpacas

The last of the parties was Thursday and we made some extra yummy cakes from our favourite Little Red Barn Baking Book.* These Velvet Butter Cupcakes weren't the quickest to whip up but well worth the effort. The head chef only let me help decorate two. She had so much fun with these – worth every last E number in those squeezy icing tubes.

Cake maker

The little sugar decorations I picked up at Waitrose, couldn't resist the tiny London buses.

Cakes

Our half-term break is nearly over, back to school Monday but we look forward to a visit from a dear friend tomorrow. 

Enjoy your weekend, and if you see Mister Sun, please send him back our way :)

Jx

* The Little Red Barn Baking Book (I've mentioned before) is getting hard to find but well worth the effort of searching for it. We love every recipe in it. The author, Adriana Rabinovich has now become an expert in gluten-free cooking after her daughter, Ruth was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease in 2004. I have no doubt that her gluten-free recipes will be brilliant too. Her's is one of the only books I don't mess around with, every recipe is spot on.


hello already

5 wolf in bed

Back already. Two days in a row even. I forgot to say thank you to Kathreen, the ultra clever and kind creator of Whip Up for having me back there as todays guest blogger.

This wolf is an old favourite and has rekindled the urge to make more little creatures. I love the magic that comes with making a face and seeing a creation come to life, even before it's stuffed. Something about the eyes staring back at me willing me on. 

Did you catch the Jubilee concert last night? We did, now that we have a TV :) It looked like such fun to be packed into the mall partying with 69,999 other people. Loved the graphics against the palace and those fireworks, jaw-dropping!

Also I wanted to say a GIGANTIC congratulations to my niece and nephew who both graduated from high school this weekend and are off to uni this autumn. We miss you Lauren and Matty!

Jx

PS, I think wolf here has appeared more than once already here, he really needs to retire.


celebrations

Queenie
Local art 

Thanks Queenie for the day off, and all the parties and meals and drinks drunk in your honour. Villages all bedecked, villagers laughing and sharing and coming together – all for you and the 60 years you've called the palace home. 

Though I definitely can't call myself a Royalist it's fun seeing the nation taking pride in tradition and celebrating it. So I too hoisted up the bunting, iced union jack cakes with the kids and partied. Though I still stand by my response when little T asked me at about age 6 "What makes the queen so special mummy?" my reply being "Nothing sweetheart, she's just the same as you and me."  But I've never been one to pass up a good party. 

I'm sorry to have not caught any of the celebrations on camera but the week isn't over yet. Tomorrow is another holiday and we'll take part in the village walk and lunch. The children are off school all week for half-term so we get to enjoy the continuous celebrations together between visits from old friends.

These are a few images from around home. 

Celebrations
Villages decked out

More celebrations
Down the road

Along the road
Neighbours

Floral tributes
Jubilee flowers everywhere

Horsie's celebrating
Even the horses got the bunting out

Joining in
Hoisted the bunting at our house too

Royal pooch
Too embarassed to look at the camera

Pippi's crown is courtesy of Gracie – this dog puts up with so much. 

We missed the parade of boats down the Thames and the other celebrations on TV because we didn't have one. The children reminded me that the Olympics are about to start and as we weren't lucky enough to get any tickets to the events in the ticket lottery when they went on sale we'd need a TV to watch them, so today we got one. It's now been over four months without one and if it weren't for the Olympics I don't think we'd ever have missed having one. If I've been missing any great new shows let me know.

The village we live in happens to have a music club that apparently is famous in the Southwest. T and I went to their live music night on Friday – we had such a great time and he was dying to run home, grab his guitar and get up on stage. We thought it might be a fairly lo-key affair with lots of amateurs but we were wrong, there were great musicians like this guy and the audience was full of serious music enthusiasts. Tris was was offered a slot to play at the next event in July, I can't wait to see him up there taking part.

Have a great week and if you're in the UK, enjoy the celebrations!

Jx