still here

Banksy
Banksy was here (Bristol Museum)

For those of you who have emailed concern about where I've been, no worries, I'm still here. I've needed to take on regular work and therefore am left with even less time for the little things I love to squeeze in here and there like making and blogging. In addition to a part-time job more workshop teaching has been coming my way and the organising of those takes time. But workshops are so fun to do, I love meeting fellow makers.

Locals
Some of the locals (Bristol Museum)

Though life is decidedly hectic, we're doing well around here. As always, I find myself trying to give my kids as much time as possible. With every new year I'm acutely aware that they won't be with me forever and they'll fly the coop before I know it. (And I'm very aware that I say that a lot.) Like my niece Claire, who recently graduated from Uni (early) and is already employed (but not close to home). Congratulations Claire! We love you sweet girl.

Bristol cathedral
Bristol Cathedral

The Christmas holidays came and went in a flash. We visited my sister and family in Texas, unfortunately we were ill for most of it but it was still nice to be with everyone (though I'm not sure they felt the same as we left them our coughs ;) I already miss them so much.

Kite
Early Flight, Bristol Museum

When we returned I took the kids to Bristol for the day before they went back to school. We felt like we needed a quick adventure. It's such a fun university town with plenty of history and culture and right around the corner from us. We look forward to many more visits. Bristol has plenty of what T and G love best, good food, great music shops and museums. You can probably guess which child likes which attraction most.

Severne
The River Avon, Bristol

I'm still very much in the discovery stage of learning about all the South West has to offer and so far, I really truly love it.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings you much joy.

Happy weekend,

Jx


Some autumn notes and a message to Typepad

Pinata time
Piñata in the making

I apologise to Instagram users, these images are repeated there.

We enlisted helpers for Gracie's birthday piñata this year. It made fast work of the job. We won't tell the helpers that the piñata balloon lost air overnight and became the shape of a giant raisin, it might "deflate" their enthusiasm to help next time. Problem averted, new piñata in the making and we'll try and salvage the first one to use on another day. 

I forgot to tell G the secret of keeping a punching balloon inflated for papier mache. I must make a list of our tips and tricks for piñata making and smashing. As this is the 24th birthday piñata we've made we've come up with quite a list of tips for successful birthday piñata. They were included in an article a few years back, I'll have to dig it out and share it here.

Millennium theatre
Wales Millennium Theatre, Cardiff

We had such a brilliant time at the Green Day stage show in Cardiff at the Wales Millennium Centre. We were really lucky to get the tickets, and what an amazing venue. The building, designed by architect Percy Thomas, is beautiful. Not just it's famous facade, but all the way around it and from every angle it's stunning. The use of materials and form and function are all outstanding. The theatre itself was also fantastic, great acoustics and there's not a bad seat in the house for viewing. The show itself also lived up to all the great reviews and awards it's received, we loved it.

Apples shaken
Apples shaken

The big apple orchard that's part of one of my walks is full of apples for cider making. Cider is a big local speciality. In the UK cider is alcoholic, not apple juice. The method for harvesting the cider apples is to shake the trees and scoop the apples up with a big vaccuum type machine attached to a tractor.

 

Cider time
Loaded up for cider making

I wish I actually liked cider, local ales are my pub beverage of choice. But the smell of the apples at harvest is amazing.

Honkers
Geese on the move

The geese are on the move and I might be on the move again too. Not moving house (thank goodness!) but moving from Typepad to Wordpress or other blogging platform. For me Typepad was by far the best solution for blogging without having to code when I first started blogging. Back then I felt Typepad blogs stood out from the crowd for their design differences and the platforms stability, but I don't feel Typepad has kept up with trends and the needs of it's users. 

In order to make simple changes to my blog (for instance taking extra pixels or padding out from around photos) Typepad wants a person to upgrade to a more expensive monthly package. This means to make a simple aesthetic change and improvements I have to up my monthly outgoings. It may be just a few pounds to them, but to me on a monthly basis it's significant in the financial grand scheme of things. Pay extra pounds to remove a few pixels, grrrrrrr. 

Typepad keep up. The internet is information and image focused, especially blogs. We want to be able to display our images to their full potential and not have to use CSS to do so. Even if we want to take the time to use CSS we don't want to have to pay for it, not when there are free blogging platforms that are offering just as much as Typepad if not more for the image and design enthusiast. I used to be able to adjust things in html easily in Typepad, but their model has changed over time and now we must pay more to make minor changes.

Typepad, if you want to continue with this business model then it's time to add more design flexibility for all your users, especially your dedicated, long-time users. Offering me 10% off doesn't cut it. At the very least, design new themes that are dedicated to creative image use and add attractive widgets that are keeping up with your competition or I see doom in your future Typepad. Come on, you started so strong; put some dosh back into development directed to us time-short, design-centric users. I want to be loyal to you Typepad because you've served me well, but you must keep a sharper eye on your user's needs. It's very simple, if you want to charge premiums you must offer more value than the free systems and right now you don't.

I chose to pay for your service over Blogger and Wordpress when I started for three reasons. Superior layouts, site stability and customer service. Even Blogger has caught up on the first two points and the third is less of an issue now with users in forums being as savvy as they now are. 

If I can find an easy and inexpensive way to make the switch I will. I want to keep this online diary going but I don't want to be held to ransom by a service that may keep adding expenses at will. If anyone knows of a way, let me know. I'm still researching it but at the moment I'm leaning towards moving to Wordpress.org because I'm now visually attracted to Wordpress.org sites in the way I used to be attracted to Typepad sites. I think the whole process will take a lot of time, and time I am very short on so I might be stuck here for a long while.

If you use Typepad have you experienced these frustrations? Have you simply upgraded or found another solution? Please tell.

Jx

More honkers
See you in the spring geese


traffic jams and visiting

Misty-morning
misty morning

When we leave our village there are small hills and valleys to cross to get to most places, this is some of what we see. Little stone bridges, hay piled high...

Big-loads
flying hay

and west country traffic jams. Traffic-jam
traffic jam

And last week we visited old friends who moved to the west country before us, only about an hour away in Devon. We had such a lovely time catching up and being together, I almost secretly scratched my name on the guest room door to claim it as my own.

J-&-J's
I can see your house from here

That's where we stayed, right in the middle of this photo. It's a beautiful place for walking.

Devon-walk
our hosts

Devonshire-creamery
friendly neighbours

Mossy-roots
mossy roots & carved mushroom

I could have stayed a very long time. Kitty probably was very glad to see the back of us though because that meant she didn't have to hide from Pippi anymore.

Cat

Phew, the coast is clear. Thanks J & J, for having us.

Tomorrow we're off to a local village fair. It's supposed to be a great one – lots of music, local ales and local crafts on show. 

Enjoy your Sunday.

Jx

PS, Next week an old fashioned post themed giveaway. It's been a long, long time since my last one :)


A quick peek at a very fine day

Help-from-an-uncle
Getting ready

I'm out and about, backwards and forwards and not in computer mode right now, but I want to share a few images from my parents big day before their next anniversary roles along. The images were not taken by me, they're a mix of photos taken by family, including: Peter, Tom, Mark and my cousin Joe's talented daughter Brinkley, an artist in the making.

Mom-and-dad-again
Renewing vows

It was a beautiful celebration where mom and dad renewed their vows in front of a lot of family and some close friends. I know my siblings share that it felt such a privilege to be able to witness our parents celebrate their 50th year together.

Mom-and-dadNot too solemn for laughs  

The ceremony was performed by a very fun family friend. Afterwards we celebrated at their home with great food, catching up with family and friends we don't get to see often enough (including three new babies), and lots of cuddles and laughs.

Kim,-mack,-Jake
New baby jake held by his auntie and big cousin

Paella
A little paella ;)

Chasing
Running with cousins

Teenage-cousins
Some teenage cousins

Megan's-straws
Cool drinks

Becky-and-Me
Friends since we were four and five

Tractor-drivers
Climbing on Uncle Hank's tractors

Ruby-&-G-grass-1
Partying until we dropped

Gracie and I were so happy to be able to share this special day. The rest of our stay included more family fun with a pool party, baseball game and day in the City as well as lots of swimming and diving lessons with Uncle Pete. What great, summertime fun we had.

More images from our trip to come, but here's one last photo, it's of my parents leaving their reception after the first time they said their vows.

Mom-and-dad-rice-throw

Jx

UPDATE:

Forgot to say that Gracie and Tristan wanted to share that they've posted about a recent special day out and if you get a chance they'd be happy if you'd stop by and check them out here and here.

Also, Tristan is a guest DJ on EKR, a rock radio station you can get online tonight between 7 and 8pm, get it on this stream here. Thank you to the Leutner family for giving him a such a fantastic few days with you!


Visiting the past and appreciating the present

5-Linen-sleeve
Linen sleeve

This past Saturday Gracie and I took a last minute trip to London. I'd been wanting to visit the Threads of Feeling Exhibit at the Foundling Museum and realized it was ending on Sunday. The exhibit was showing tokens mothers left with their babies when they took them to the Foundling Hospital, Britain's first home for abandoned children. The hospital was opened in 1741 by, Thomas Coram with the help of famous friends like Hogarth and Handel. A short article about the compassionate Coram, and the significance of his undertaking during this time in Britain's social history is here.

2-Dot-&-flower
Printed fabric and a mother's letter

The mothers left the tokens, mainly textiles, so they could identify their children if and when they went back to claim them. Hardly any mothers were ever able to return for their babies; of the thousands left there, less than 200 mothers were ever able to return for them. There were beautiful small fabric remnants and ribbons from bonnets and a lot of embroidery too. The images here are some of the items we saw; I scanned them from a set of postcards I bought, there's no named photographer to credit.

6-RibbonsRibbon from a bonnet

I found the whole experience really moving and I'm so glad we made it there before it closed. Gracie enjoys history as much as I do and has almost daily been saying she wants a time machine to go back and visit the past, especially ancient Egypt, a current topic for her in school. We discussed that while the past is fascinating, we're really lucky as women to live in the 21st century. Today as women we have choices - we can vote, have careers, choose who we'd like to marry or choose to not marry at all, we can even decide for ourselves the right time to start a family. We appreciated the craftsmanship in the textiles but also the significance and sadness in the lack of choice they represented. We're so fortunate.

1Wool-heart
Wool heart and blue ribbon

Another surprise treat for the day was meeting Jill. I can't tell you how fun it was to meet; she is so sweet and lovely and joined us for the exhibit.

4-Floral-print
Floral printed fabric

3-Red-sprig
Pretty red sprig on linen and red wool

After the Foundling Museum Gracie and I went to get her an Egyptian fix at the British Museum. Gracie couldn't get enough; she was especially taken with "Ginger" the mummy with red hair. Ginger was well preserved in hot, dry sand for thousands of years. Poor guy had no idea he'd end up enclosed in glass for much of eternity with thousands of people staring at him everyday. Gracie observed, "I love looking at everything so much, but doesn't it feel like we're kind of grave robbers too." Hmmm. 

Blue-shabtis
Blue-glazed shabtis

The mummies are interesting but I was drawn to the small objects, like these pretty blue shabtis

Picture heavy I know, but one more image from a current project just finished. I've been kept very busy this week with all sorts of arachnids and insects, here are a few of them now.

Spider-House-web

Wednesday is currently my favourite day. Happy Wednesday to you!

Jx


Relax & recharge

Running-the-breakwater
Running the breakwater

Cornwall was smashing! We had amazing weather (mostly), visited inspiring places and spent a wonderful time with friends. 
 

Ominous-skies
Viewing the ruins of Tintagel  

Tintagel, legendary birth place of King Arthur, is set on a stunning strip of coast.

 

Descending-cliffs
Descending cliffs to Merlin's caves 

A very steep hill down to the caves, not the best route, but we went anyway. 


Eden-Project
Visiting Eden

The Eden Project, a must when visiting Cornwall. A dream realized by its founder, Tim Smit, Eden is a huge eco project built in the pit of an old china clay quarry, a once barren landscape.

I forgot to photograph one of my favourite exhibits, "The Seed" by artist, Peter Randall-Page, but his website has it and the story behind his process.


Velcro-H&T
Time out
 
An exhibit about seed dispersal involved donning velcro suits. I'd like one of these at home, if my children drive me mad I could stick them to the wall (then they'd also become art.)


Stone-skipping
Stone skippers

This tiny cove hosted four young stone skippers who perfected their skill and two bigger skippers who battled it out for the most skips. Not only did we find perfect skipping stones here but also more than a few pieces of pretty sea glass.


Mevagissey
Megavissey Harbour

One of many pretty Cornish fishing villages. We sat at the harbour with the sun on our faces and ate fish & chips, nothing could be nicer - except a pint of Betty Stogs to wash it down.

Castle-of-sand
Castles of sand  


Okay enough of other people's holiday photos, yawn, yawn, snooze, snooze. But I've enjoyed revisiting our wonderful week away.

The children will remember:

perfect skipping stones, cliff top walks, sea caves, blowing perfect bubbles, real waves, amazing geology, brilliant chips, cornish ice cream and very good times with very good friends

Their parent's will remember the same and Betty Stogs too of course :)

Be back soon with a new tutorial that's a real hoooooooot, and a look at a stitched up mushroom village.

PS - Forgot to mention that this little old blog has been nominated for a Dorset Cereals blog award. I'm not very good at spreading news about these things, but if you're in the clicking mood, click the button up there on the right and vote Nini. It's only for the month and as April is nearly over and I've only just been nominated I don't see that big juicy cereal prize package coming this way. But it really is sincerely fun to have been nominated :)

    


But he's only ten...

Alright, almost eleven, but still our little boy. 

What do you do when it's his first school trip? 

You help him pack his bag and you check the list to make sure everything is in there. And then you check the list again and maybe just one more time.

Luggage-Tag

Then you make a last minute luggage tag because all the cases have mum and dad's name on them, not his own. He's never needed his own because we've always been there.

T-with-case

And you make sure his iPod is charged because music always makes him happy.

In-the-coach

Then you watch him get in the coach and see that he is braver than you are because he's calm and content. And you make sure they've driven down the road before he sees the tears in your eyes.

Then you wonder how to get through the week missing this piece of you.

Postcard-to-Holland

And you do the thing that makes you calm and content too: sit and sew, enjoying the sunlight flooding the room when the forecast called for showers.

I hope your room is sunny too :)

Holiday snaps and a winnner

 Pink-tulips

We had a wonderful time. Here are just a few of the highlights.

Tulips from the Bloemenmarkt in Amsterdam.

Gracie-on-canal

Many canals.

Glass-sculpture-1

Splashy glass sculptures by Giampaolo Amoruso.

Nemo

Nemo science museum.

Button-shop

Knopenwinkel button shop a highlight for mummy. I bought a handful of special carved, wooden  buttons. Sadly my photos from inside the shop didn't work but the outside is special too.

Cycling-from-beach

Cycling everywhere we went.

More photos on Flickr if if you like.

And now for the blog birthday contest winner.
Thank you to everyone for entering, I really enjoyed reading your thoughtful comments and hearing how you all get your best ideas. It seems most of us are inspired when our brains are focused on the mundane or at rest.

As today is a busy back to school day for me I used the Random.org to choose a winner. The lucky number was 46 which makes Elissa from Birch Swinging the winner. Elissa, email me your postal address and I'll ship off all of your prizes.

These were the items I picked up in Holland to add to the prize package. A bracelet from Knopenwinkel, the button shop, toadstool trim from a pretty outdoor market in a seaside town and a notebook from a museum shop in Amsterdam.

Dutch-treats

I hope you all had a great week too!


Land of wonders

Arch

What a week we had.

Newneighbours_3

And now home. We've returned to lots of new little neighbours.

Snowyday

And snow... for crying out loud - IT'S APRIL!!!

Snowballs

And yet more snow.

Snowball

Watch out!

Gracepool

A bit of a shock after this.

Italy was magic, just being away was magic. Not even a 24 hr tummy bug dampened our spirits. We did the things that every average Joe Traveller does in Tuscany. Climbed the Leaning Tower, visited David and ate way too much gelato.

Though I've been before, it was way better this time. This time I could listen to the very audible "ooohs and aaahs" of our children seeing these things for the first time, and what's even better - they appreciated every drop of unadulterated beauty that surrounded them. Well, OK not every drop, Renaissance paintings in their hundreds were a bit too much ("... yea mum, it's another angel - and I really don't care who painted it") but the sculpture, architecture and atmosphere were happily absorbed, especially if there was climbing involved.

Dscn0302_3Sorry for the tourist holiday snaps - this one I had to remember. Don't actually remember taking it because my eyes were closed, hence the angle.

We were at the top of the Leaning Tower, most people don't go up the last top bit - unless they have an eight year old, who is really only six but six year olds aren't aloud to go up the tower, so that day she was eight. My legs turned to jelly, but not hers.

David_3

Been wondering how the childrens' sketch books will be received during show-and-tell, anatomically correct drawings of David included.

Also wondering, does anyone dedicate years to the creation of just one piece of art any more? The David took Michelangelo three years to complete. Seen by millions, it's over 500 years old and still standing, and still very, very beautiful.

Must get back to mountains of laundry or we'll all be sporting birthday suits round here - and it won't be as pretty, trust me ;)