What I did on my holidays … or what I did in 2015

Hello everyone, inspired by lots of other people doing review of activities posts I thought that I would take a look back at what I managed in 2015.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, (except for the perennial one of doing less housework and more fun things), but do like thinking about what the year might bring.

I did set myself a number of goals for that year, 12 quilt blocks with our Block of the Month organised by Helen from knitting group, 26 books to be read and 17 sewing projects from the Sewing Bucket List.

I didn’t get any of them completed fully but on the positive side this means I still have things to work on for this year ūüôā

I finished 5 of the quilt blocks and have another one cut out but have been having a few issues with my new machine ūüė¶ so need to spend some time sorting that out before any serious quilt making happens.

I have enjoyed the challenge and it has made me a lot more accurate and confident about piecing and if I hadn’t been doing so much other sewing would have managed all of these.

I have read lots and lots of books this year but got diverted from the list so ended up only completing 11 out of the 26.

My current favourite diversion is my discovery of Debbie Macomber, I really enjoyed watching the adaptation of her Cedar Cove series on Netflix in the summer and as usual picked up a couple of her Blossom Street series in a charity shop in Spain recently and am now hooked! Appropriate for a series that starts with the story of a yarn shop.

Blossom street novel

Have ordered four more of these to take to Spain for my next holiday, yes Alison what happened to not buying any more books until all the ones you had were read?

As for the sewing list 7 out of 17 and again lots of other diversions off to stitch Jenny’s beautiful designs and to make lots of medieval kit and a couple of extra things for the sewing room.

Other things I accomplished not on the list, lots and lots of hexagon piecing, my favourites being the pincushions and needlecases with Liberty fabric.

And learning to knit in the round, the wristwarmers and the little knitted pincushions were my first success with this.

The discovery of Jenny’s embroidery which gave me lots of beautiful things to stitch, my favourite so far are her birds, this one is now in my craft room.

So challenges for 2016 then. Well to finish all these lists, to improve my skills at making quilt blocks.

I still have lots of lovely things I want to make for the craft room and think that single blocks to use as mini quilts is probably a better option than trying to make anything bigger.

2016 will definitely be a year of more embroidery and challenging myself to use different stitches.

As for knitting goals definitely lots more of Julie’s little animals, the mouse is coming along very well and love the speed at which I can complete them.

What about you, any challenges that you want to tackle in 2016?

Have a lovely week ahead and thanks for visiting.

Book challenge – numbers 13 and 18 – I have been buying books again!!

I keep telling myself not to buy any more fiction books at the moment as I have such a large pile to read and a great local library.

However I keep seeing great new titles which fit with this challenge and WH Smith has this habit of doing a buy one get one half price offer. And they look so pretty on the shelves, all that literary loveliness just waiting for me to take home.

So I failed to resist temptation on a recent trip out for a placement visit when I popped into WH Smith for a packet of mints and came out with two titles Рone has not been read yet but is also for the challenge.

This is book 13, a book with a female heroine and is Miss Carter’s War by Sheila Hancock. I know of Sheila as an actress and think that this is her first fiction book.

Miss Carter's War

I really enjoyed it but it was very different to what I was expecting. The ‘blurb’ gives the impression that it is about the heroine’s experiences just after the Second World War but it covers a much longer time frame with lots of references to the social history that I grew up with.

I also¬†found it very interesting as a story about a teaching career as a lot of the things the heroine experienced were things that I have been through in my now 28 years of¬†teaching. Can’t believe I have been doing it for so long – and still love it!

While waiting for our recent flight to Copenhagen, (which was delayed by 3 hours) , Mum and I just went for a browse again in WH Smith and despite me asking her to restrain me the same thing happened again. Slightly less guilt this time as we went halves on the books we bought.

This was one of our purchases which I have just finished, ¬†book 18¬†which is¬†a book with a blue cover, Mrs Hemingway by Naomi Wood. It is the story of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives and their relationships with each other as well as with him.

Mrs Hemingway

I have not ever read any Hemingway though know of his interest in the Spanish Civil War so have always meant to read him and will add him to my list now as I was very interested in the descriptions of his writing in the book.

The early parts of the book also have Scott Fitzgerald in as they socialised together and The Great Gatsby is also on my list to read and to see the latest film adaptation.

It took a while to get into the book as I was not very sympathetic to the characters at first but by halfway through I was hooked, partly due to the descriptions of their lifestyles from the 1920s to the 1940s where most of the book is set.

Again I think I liked it because it is another side to a story you know, of how the war affected people, in this case Ernest and his third wife who worked as war reporters.

So far I have read 8 out of the 26 books in the last four months, (as well as quite a few other non-challenge books), and have been enjoying the slightly different focus. I hope that you have found the reviews interesting as well and it has inspired you to read different things.

A couple of weeks ago at knitting my friend Emily gave out copies of two books that she had been sent for World Book Night, the idea of this is to distribute copies of the books you are sent to people who then pass it on to others, something Mum, Ellie and I do all of the time.

There were a couple of people said they didn’t really read and I thought that was so sad. I couldn’t imagine a life without books, or blogs which I consider just as wonderful as reading fiction. They did take books and hopefully will get hooked which is what the campaign is all about.

Hope that you have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend if you are in the UK , we are off to Ashby de la Zouche Castle for an event.

I am very pleased to say that I have this afternoon finished the surcoat I have been making for Jamie. Much more time needed than I had first allocated partly due to needing to sew the lining in 3 times ! Will be back next week with pictures of it in action, (I do hope it fits!)

Take care and thanks for visiting.

Book challenge – number 22 – how the West was really won

Book challenge number 22 is a book with pictures. As well as making things I love to read about the history of craft and none more so than the history behind quilts.

I have a growing collection of books on quilt history, both in the UK and US, and this is my latest acquisition which I have absolutely loved reading.

Wisconsin Quilts – History in the Stitches by Ellen Kort is a brilliant book as not only are the quilts wonderful but this was part of a special project to document quilts so they were brought by the current owners, often the descendants of the original makers.

This means that there are the stories and sometimes the pictures of the women who made them which is amazing as so often that information is lost.

Wisconsin Quilts

As expected many are stories of hardship, of women leaving families as new brides and moving west, to Wisconsin and then sometimes further west to Wyoming and Oregon as well in search of a better life. The quilts are beautiful and so detailed in their execution, all hand pieced and hand quilted.

These are three of my favourites, a Star of¬†Bethlehem¬†from 1856, a Rose Wreath from 1865 and a Grandmother’s Flower Garden Path from 1932 during the Depression.

Wisconsin quilt book

Wisconsin quilt book 3

Wisconsin quilt book 4

There are lots of deaths of children from disease and of husbands from accidents, injuries and later the Civil and First World Wars.

The quilts that they made so different from the ones we make today, from whatever they could find in the way of fabric, saving and reusing every scrap where we have the luxury of yards of new fabric to choose from.

This quilt was made from advertising flannels given away with tobacco products in the 1920s.

Wisconsin quilt book 2

One of the quilts was made in England from scraps of velvet¬†fabric saved by one of the needlewomen who made Queen Victoria’s bonnets.

Unfortunately too dark for me to photograph properly it travelled to the USA with its maker Kitty Weekes in the late 1840s when she went to join her brother Thomas and his friend George in Wisconsin. She helped clear land and build a house and married George in 1855 at the age of 44.

There are however so many similarities between us and those women, quilts made for celebration such as births and weddings, quilts made with friends for company, quilting being a little bit of ‘me time’ at the end of a hard day, though my hardest days at work cannot compare to being a pioneer farmer’s wife in the 1800s.

There are also quilts made to raise funds for war efforts, both the Civil war and the First World War like this one – an autograph quilt to raise money for the Red Cross.

Wisconsin quilt book 5

I have been watching the Poldark series on BBC TV and many of the Cornish miners emigrated to Wisconsin when the mines began to decline and worked in lead mines there.

This is how the West was truly won, the hard work of all those men and women who set out alone and worked through cold winters and lonely times.

The book is a brilliant portrayal of the social history of a new state covering the late 1700s to 1943 and a really interesting read.

I have recently finished another book about emigration which has a personal connection so will post about that another time.

Thanks very much for visiting.

Book challenge – number 21

The focus of this challenge was a book with a great first line and I kept thinking of one of my all time favourites, Pride and Prejudice, “‚ÄúIt is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.‚ÄĚ

Not knowing how I was going to beat that I pondered for a while then came across this in our  staff room book exchange.

Me and Mr Darcy¬†looked like it might fit the bill and I loved the opening line, “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl in possession of her right mind must be in want of a decent man, there’s just one problem….”

Me and Mr Darcy

I have read Alexandra Potter’s books before and enjoyed them and after the last two wanted something a bit lighter to read. I have loved all the other ‘based on Pride and Prejudice’ adaptations such as Bridget Jones (not read the zombies one though, don’t like zombies!).

One of my favourite movies is the Bollywood version РBride and Prejudice with the beautiful Aishwarya Rai which has some brilliant scenes with excellent dance music. Here is a link to one of my favourite dance scenes on You Tube.

Aishwarya-Rai

It was a great read and a realistic romantic novel if that makes sense, I liked the heroine and thought that the rest of the characters were well written, the way the Darcy and Elizabeth storyline was adapted was very clever as well. All in all an enjoyable read.

Am spending the rest of this weekend doing alterations on one of Ellie’s medieval dresses and finishing off more hexagon gifts (and expecting my lovely son home this afternoon!)

It is sunny Spring day, still chilly out but the crocuses and daffodils are in bloom here so it is very pretty. Borrowing Ted the dog to take for a little walk later as well.

Happy life! Hope you are all having a good time and thanks for visiting.

Book challenge – numbers 10 and 20 and the joys of charity shops

I am very much enjoying this challenge as it is making me get around to reading those things that I have always meant to read plus so many unexpected others.

I am doing it out of numerical order but have created a little list of books that I am intending to read and am highlighting them as I go – I do love a bit of organisation!

Number 10 on the challenge is ‘A book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit’ and this book fulfils that category and also another personal target of finishing a book you have been lent. I love how talking about books to people brings up such unexpected joys and this one was prompted by my finding of another book by this author in a charity shop this summer.

You may remember I went to Bridgnorth on the steam train with my friends in August and we had a wander round and went into a couple of charity shops, my favourite sort of shopping ever!

I am not keen on shopping generally, I like shopping for food, especially now there is just me to buy for and I have lots of time (shopping for food with small children is not so much fun!) However I cannot bear to waste time in malls or clothes shops, most of them seem overpriced and full of ugly clothes.

But show me a row of charity shops and my little heart leaps! There could be all sorts of joy just in one shop – a new top (39 floaty tops is not too much is it?), new books¬†(to add to the 23 already waiting to be read) , vintage embroidery to add to the stash (well it won’t go off will it?)

And there is always the chance of a completely unexpected find, last year I got these beauties from one of the shops in the village at an amazing £25 for the pair.

candlesticks

They are my pride and joy in the living room candle collection (I have to keep a close eye on them as various friends really like them as well!)

Plus the pleasure of knowing that you are donating money to a very good cause rather than just some company’s profit, you are saving things from landfill, giving people’s hard work in stitching a new lease of life and a hundred other reasons why charity shopping is so much better than normal shopping.

Not to mention saving money Рwhy pay £40 for one top when you could have 10  (that does explain the 39 in my wardrobe!)

I digress – on the trip to Bridgnorth I picked up ‘The Forty Rules of Love’ ¬†by Turkish author Elif¬†Shafak, intrigued by the write up on the back and started reading it on the train home.

The Forty Rules of Love

It was one of those ‘can’t put down’ books that really makes you feel you have found something amazing and I had it my pile to pass on to my Mum as it is full of the most beautiful sayings based on the work of a Sufi mystic and poet Rumi.

I mentioned this book to one of my trainees this year and offered to lend it to him as he is interested in Rumi’s writings and then another trainee who is Turkish offered to lend me one of the author’s books, ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’.

The Bastard of Istanbul

I would love to visit Instanbul one day and so this book came to be included in my list. It is a very interesting read as it deal with the lives of a Turkish family in Instanbul and an Armenian family in the US so lots of insight into an area of history I know very little of.

It did not have much about Istanbul in it but was a very engaging story and I would like to read more by this author, her Amazon page is here if you are interested.

It was similar in some respects to book number 20 ‘A book everyone but you has read’, this one is , ‘A Thousand Splendid Sons’ by Khaled Hosseini, mentioned to me by lots of people and an international best seller.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Both books deal with the lives of women (and both are women who were born illegitimate) and this one was very, very thought provoking deal with some very harsh realities of life for the women of Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The sort of book that everyone should read because it gives another perspective to the all the things we see on the news and in dramas. Not an enjoyable read in many ways but a powerful story.

It also links into another of my life goals which is to visit every country that ends in ‘stan’. Stan means country or land ¬†and there are currently seven, ¬†Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Khazakstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, previously many of these were part of the Soviet Union.

These may not be on everyone’s holiday wish list as they are countries that are more often in the news for negative reasons but they hold such beauty and history and hopefully I will be able to start on this list soon. This is one of the reasons why, just look at the majesty of these mosque buildings in Registan which was the ancient city of Samarkand.

Uzbeiksitan

I am just finishing off the editing on the last of the goldwork pictures then will post those, meanwhile there is serious work to be done so had better get to that rather than dreaming of travels!

Take care and thanks for visiting.

Book challenge – Number 3

I have just got back from a great week in Spain and have so many fab pictures of embroidery to sort out for you. I have of course been doing lots of reading and have completed Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel , the first one of my challenge. That was the book by an author I hadn’t read.

Wolf Hall pic

I enjoyed it but would probably have benefitted from not reading it late at night after work, even though I knew the storyline I still got confused at times as I was often too tired.

I enjoyed the alternative perspective to a story I know well and the sense from the book that he (Thomas Cromwell) as with all the other characters didn’t know how significant their actions and their period in history would be. I am looking forward to watching the TV series now and drooling over all the Tudor costume.

Book number 3 is one that I chose for its cover , this was One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner which was one of my charity shop purchases while in Spain.

I loved the photo on the front and while it does not really illustrate what the book is about is a lovely image and does reflect some of the content.

One moment One morning

It was one of those ‘moment in time’ books that fascinate me, the idea that a single thing can happen which changes lots of other things and it was a really thought-provoking story. I read it in a day it was that good and luckily I had a day to read – I love being on holiday ūüôā

Have also read another from the list and have started a 4th one, will post about those later along with all that wonderful embroidery!

Take care and thanks for visiting.

New Challenge – 26 books in 2015

I love reading, it might even be more of a favourite thing to do than play with fabric and thread ūüôā Books are my constant companions and always have been, my childhood memories of the Saturday morning visits to the library every week and the joy that I found getting lost in the world of books have turned into an adult passion for reading.

It is the most wonderful thing to do and I am very bad at not resisting the temptation to buy them all the time, from Amazon, from charity shops, there is always room in this house for another book!

I came across this challenge while doing some blog catching up today – the original post is at this blog but I think I will join in and update my progress here and on the challenge Facebook page.

Here is the list of books.

26 Books

I think 26 in a year will be reasonable to do (given that on my holidays to Spain I can do 5 in a week!)

My first book will be one that I have just started – was thinking that this could have been number 2, ‘a book made into a movie’, but strictly speaking it is a TV series’, so this book will fulfil number 6, ‘ a book by an author you have not read before’.

Last year while on our National Trust holiday Kerry and I wanted to visit Montacute House but it was closed for the filming of a Hilary Mantel book , ‘Wolf Hall’, a novel about Thomas Cromwell. I love the Tudor period (would re-enact it if I had the time to make the costumes) so we promised ourselves we would look out for the TV series which started last week.

By coincidence there is a new charity book stall in my bus station – I was going to resist the temptation as I have so many books to read but didn’t and found a brand new copy of the book there. I decided to record the series and read the book first.

Number 1 on the challenge, ‘ a book you own but have never read’, will not be hard – I think I have 24 in my book stash at the moment!

Hope you might be inspired to join in, thanks for visiting.