Friday, 31 July 2015

Catching Up ...

Yesterday and today have been the days for catching up with ...
  • the garden, where there's not much happening in terms of colour.  The buddleia is the only big plant flowering and there are still plenty of sweet peas and fuchsias, but apart from that it's lacking interest.  So I'm asking for ideas from all you gardeners, please - I'd like some bigger 'daisy' type plants and also a white or red climbing rose, so any suggestions for varieties that will be flowering now and which are also fairly long lasting will be very much appreciated.  I've tidied round out there and it's all looking up together for the time being. The strawberries and raspberries are finished for this year but the tomato plants are producing their fruit (thank you, Joy). 
  • the decluttering, which I hope is now nearing an end. I think I've reached the end of what can just be thrown away, although as time goes on I find I'm prepared to just get rid of more things, so that statement may change!  I'm about half way through sorting the books (to donate) and videos/DVDs (hopefully to sell) and will get the sorting finished next week when I have a couple of 'at home' days planned.  I have another boot load to take to the skip when I can summon up the energy.
  • the organising, mostly to do with budgets and finances.  I've set up a couple of saving accounts, one for holidays and trips, and one for the courses I'd like to do. I've also done a bit of planning for next terms lessons and also for the theory sessions at the band, mostly listing ideas of how to keep it interesting for the children who are finding the theory difficult.
  • the housework; downstairs is looking clean and tidy again (except for the pile of stuff in the corner of the living room which is waiting to go to the skip!).  I've been better about keeping it tidy and have been clearing up as I go along, and now that I have proper places for everything, it doesn't take long to dust and run the hoover round.
  • the home improvements.  I've asked for a few quotes for decorating, redoing the kitchen (which I don't think I'll be able to afford but you never know!), removing the decking and building a stone patio, and installing some storage in the downstairs cloakroom.  I've also sourced the bookcase I need for the music room and am now looking for a cupboard that is big enough to hold the larger instruments. 
I'm off to London tomorrow, another coach trip as it works out cheaper than the train.  I'm hoping to get some more photos for the scavenger hunt - there must be three flags on a flagpole somewhere in London! I hope to have time to wander around Hyde Park and I'll finish the day on one of the Big Red Bus tours as it's a great way of seeing the sights once my feet start to ache; if I time it right, the bus will stop very close to where the coach is picking us up. I'll be leaving early and won't be home till late so there may not be a post tomorrow, but I'll catch up on Sunday.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt | At Least Two People Wearing the Same Uniforms

Just a quick post tonight as it's late and I'm ready for my bed. 
I've just got back from Lacock where I've spent the evening with friends, following the Bathampton Morris Men around as they performed their dances outside three of the pubs in the village.  It's been a good evening, which also gave me the opportunity for another photo for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt.  Here's a photo of the Morris Men for No 17 | at least two people wearing matching outfits or uniforms.
Click these links to see my other photos for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt:
The First Photos | ornate door knocker, a person walking a dog, a TV satellite dish, a public restroom, bathroom or toilet, and a natural body of water.
The TARDIS Toilet and Other Photos | a public restroom, bathroom or toilet, a turtle, and someone holding an umbrella
Six More Found | a college or university, a tent, a ticket booth, architectural columns, a metal bridge, and a panoramic view
Been Hunting | a carousel or merry-go-round, a ticket booth, architectural columns, a traffic signal, a person walking a dog, a cellular tower, a natural body of water, and a panoramic view.
This Week | a person walking a dog
Scavenger Hunting in Exmouth | a ticket booth, a tent, a flagpole with at least three flags on it, and a metal bridge
Many thanks to Rinda for organising the hunt again this year.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Photo Pairs

As my mind is completely full of Indian cookery and spices, but mostly because I'd completely forgotten all about my pairs photos for this week so am having a last minute panic, I give you coriander seeds ...


Linking with Helena and sending thanks for organising this.

Indian Street Food Cookery Course

Today I ticked another one off my 101 in 1001 days list. I've always wanted to do an Indian cookery course and today I completed the Indian Street Food course run by Bini Ludlow.
I've tried lots of time to cook an authentic Indian curry but have never been completely successful in getting the full depth of flavour and it's always been a bit of a hit and miss affair in the kitchen.  I've cobbled together the odd one or two curries which I liked but the truth is, I've never really understood what each spice adds to the overall flavour and am stuck if it needs tweaking.
Luckily, today's course addressed that very problem.  The course started with an introduction to the spices we'd be using in the recipes we were going to cook, getting to recognise their appearance, taste each one and learn how best to use it. Bini also gave us a reference chart to take home, detailing lots of the other spices and their uses.  This part of the course alone justified the expense for me, and I've arrived home feeling much more confident about spices in general.
Everything today was cooked from scratch.  We made spicy chicken wings accompanied by a yoghurt and mint raitu; I like spicy wings but have never tasted anything as good as the ones we made today - I'll be cooking my own from now on.  Next up was spicy potato balls with a  tamarind chutney.  This was a first for me as I've never knowingly tasted tamarind before - I love it, preferred it to the raitu, and the spicy potato balls will be appearing on my menu in the near future; they were very moreish, and a fantastic way of spicing up mashed potato.  Finally, we made spiced mince lamb and tomato meatballs, which were simply heavenly.
I've put one of the chicken wings and a couple of the lamb meatballs in the freezer to see if they freeze well, and also some of the tamarind chutney (which is more like a dipping sauce).  Bini said that the potato balls and the yoghurt raitu won't freeze well but will keep in the fridge for three or four days, although I don't think they will last that long!
She does lots of other courses so I'm sure I'll be going back for more.  It's been a great day.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

All About ... the Art Course Day 8

Acrylics again this week and the target of producing a picture of the white horse at Cherhill.  You may notice the obvious omission in my picture!  My attempt at the horse didn't go well ... it was not in any way recognisable as an animal, let alone a horse, so it's been painted over and I'll try again next week.
As for the rest of it ... I'm really happy with my results.  The hills are painted using the dry brushing technique we tried last week and I did much better this time.  I'm pleased with the effect of the sky and clouds, and also the fields of yellow (although Google has changed the colour and what appears to be blue amongst the yellow is really a dark green). 
I'm still sticking with watercolour as my favourite but acrylics definitely earned some Brownie points today.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Me on Monday | Scavenger Hunting in Exmouth

It's been a bit of a dismal day with the weather, but despite that I've had a lovely day in Exmouth.  It chose to go on a coach trip so that I didn't have to worry about the driving, and had just over five hours to see the town once we got there.
I was hoping to take some photos of the estuary but it was all too grey and the tide was out. 
So I started walking down towards the marina and was delighted to get some more photos for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt.  My walk took me past where the circus was setting up and I captured their ticket booth for No 19 | a ticket booth ...
and a photo of their Big Top for No 9 | a tent.

I was hoping that somewhere in the marina I'd find a boat flying three flag from its mast head but this was the best I could find ... a boat flying three pennants from a lanyard, for No 15 | a flag pole with at least three flags on it 

and the final one for the hunt today is of the Exmouth Marina Bridge, for No 6 | a metal bridge.
Apart from these two photos of gulls, I abandoned my plans for a day of photography and headed into town.

I had a long lunch break in a very friendly little café where the food was cheap, but excellent, and the service was the best I've had for a long time. I had a chicken curry and then treated myself to a cream tea.  I'm not supposed to have the cream as dairy is off the menu but it doesn't hurt to be naughty sometimes, does it? I put the jam first and the cream on top, but never remember if that is the Cornish or Devon way.
I spent an hour or so wandering around the town and through Manor Gardens (very pretty) and then decided on a seat on the land train for a trip around the town, mainly because my feet were aching by this time and I wanted to sit down!
It was only £3 for an hour long trip, during which I saw a lot more of the area and also heard some of its history.  I was expecting to hear all about the smugglers but didn't know, for example, that Lord Byron's wife live in Exmouth at one time and also that Lord Nelson's estranged wife made her home in the town and is buried in Littleham Churchyard.  There was a delightful little girl in the same carriage as me, who was singing her own version of 'the wheels on the bus'; she was about 2 years old and insisted on every one joining in.  Luckily, her version was easy peasy and just involved singing 'round and round' ... over and over and over and over ... you get the idea.  I think it made her day when everyone joined in!
I didn't finish the tour because I opted to get out just before the end when it stopped near the bus station, to save me a long walk back to catch the coach! 
All in all, a good day out.

Linking with Sian at From High in the Sky.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Cherished Blogfest | The Little Paperweight

It doesn't look like much does it?  It's tiny, just under 4 cms in diameter, and it's the smallest and cheapest of all my paperweights.  Before I tell you why it is so special, I need to explain the background to my collection of glass paperweights. 
Glass paperweights had always fascinated me so they were added to a list of suggestions for gifts (because I was always the difficult one to buy presents for) and within a few years I had quite a few.  From being a suggestion on a list it had changed to be known that I collected paperweights!  I'm not complaining.  I think they are beautiful and I get a lot of enjoyment from the ever growing display, now grown to over 200 paperweights. 
Back in the early 1980s when I received this little paperweight, my sister had three children,  then aged about 7, 6 and 2.  As is the case with young children they liked to be shown my treasures, which included the paperweight collection.  They weren't allowed to touch them (glass + young child = recipe for disaster!), but sometimes I'd let them choose and allow them to hold their favourite one.  They'd point at each one and I'd have to tell them who gave it to me; the collection was made up of gifts from every family member ... except for one from the three children, a fact that bothered them more than any of us realised.
These small paperweights were on sale in the market for 50p each. They're not good quality and I can remember shopping with my mum and saying I hope I'm not given one of those as they're cheap and nasty.  Mum just laughed and we carried on past the stall and neither of us thought any more about it.  A few weeks later, the three children presented me with a gift; it wasn't my birthday or anything but their mum said they'd wanted to buy me something and they'd saved up their pocket money to get it (at that time they only got 10p each every week). So they helped me open the present and there it was ... the cheap and nasty paperweight I'd seen when I was out shopping with mum.
Of course, all the paperweights had to be rearranged so that this one could have pride of place at the front.  Then we had to go through the list of who gave each one to me, finishing with the one from them. I could feel the excitement building as we got to towards the stage where I said their names ... they were so proud, and as for those grins ... well, you can imagine!
So, my little paperweight was given to me with more love than any other gift I've ever received from anyone. When I look at it I can still recapture their excitement on that day and I wouldn't part with it for the world.

Thanks to the hosts of the Cherished Blogfest.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

This Week

I've felt a bit low today, partly it's the anti-climax following an event that I'd been looking forward to for a long time and also that, sadly, that event wasn't quite as good as I was expecting it to be. 
As I mentioned yesterday, we had tickets to see Alan Carr who was appearing in Bristol.  I went with Julie, we stopped for a lovely meal and a good natter on the way, arrived with time to spare, easily found a parking space, discovered we had a much better view from our seats than we though we would, but then ... the show was a little disappointing.  We both felt the same about it.  There were plenty of laughs but it was all a bit reserved and we'd both been expecting him to be much more outrageous in his live show ... and he wasn't.  It wasn't awful by any means, just that we were both expecting it to be a lot more boisterous than it was.
I carried on with the decluttering this morning.  I'm still trying to move all the videos to one place - a task which would have been a lot easier before I moved everything to make space for Julie's things; I knew where everything was at one time, but now it's all piled into one room and I'm having to hunt for things, so it's taking longer than it should. 
I've also started a pile of books to take to the Friends of the Royal United Hospital for their fund-raising campaign.
This afternoon I met up with fellow photography enthusiasts for a photo walk around Devizes.  There were nine of us but in the end we didn't manage much of a walk, only getting to a hat shop (!), and into a nearby churchyard.  Then after 90 minutes or so we wandered back to Café Nero for a coffee and muffin, and to show each other our photos.
I'm not too impressed with any of the photos I took myself but I was pleased to get this one for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt - no. 3 | a person walking a dog.
It was a thoroughly pleasant afternoon and it was good to meet some new people who have been caught by the photography bug.  I'm looking forward to the next one.
I have a busy week ahead of me.  Tomorrow the band plays at the Civic Service in town, on Monday I have a day trip to Exmouth, on Tuesday it's the art course and a book group meeting, on Wednesday I have a place on a Indian Street Food cookery course and on Thursday, it's Little Miss H's 4th birthday and in the evening I'm meeting up with friends to follow the Bathampton Morris Men as they perform their dances outside all of the pubs in Lacock.  There's nothing planned for Friday but on Saturday I have a day trip to London and on Sunday I'm meeting up with Sandie for breakfast.
Somewhere in amongst all this I need to find time to take another car load to the skip, and also fit in a visit to the Garden Centre to buy some more pots and a few plants.  My hanging baskets were looking so good but have gone over really quickly so I want to pick up some more plants and redo them for some interest and colour for the rest of the summer.
I've decided that one thing that is lacking in my home is the complete absence of any house plants.  I've been having a think about what I'd like and have sort of decided on orchids, but before I commit to buying any .... does anyone know if they're difficult to look after? 
I feel I'd do well with a plant that thrives on neglect but I don't know if that applies to orchids.  If they are too needy, I may have to rethink!
I've been offered the chance to return to Anglesey for another photography course, this time sharing with another person. I turned it down, partly because I have such a lot on, but also that it is too far to go for a short half day course.  However, I've had second thoughts about it and will contact C to see if it's possible to add this proposed course onto another two day one, and maybe try to fit it in during the first half term break.
I'm getting on well with my new camera and by October should be in a position to start experimenting with multiple exposures, so another course at that stage will be more useful for me.  Failing that, it'll have to wait till next year and then I'll probably opt for a one week course, shared with about five others.
I've run out of things to say - do I hear you breathe a sigh of relief?  Hope you are all enjoying your weekend and I'll be back tomorrow with a post for the Cherished Blogfest.

Friday, 24 July 2015

A Trip to Bristol

I'm fitting this post in while I wait for Julie to phone to say that she's finished work.  We're off to Bristol to see the comedian, Alan Carr: this was Julie's choice in our ongoing campaign to get-on-and-do-the-things-we've-always-wanted-to-do!  We don't have the best seats as it was nearly sold out by the time we booked, but we decided to go ahead anyway, adopting the it's-better-than-not-going-at-all approach!
It's absolutely chucking it down out there, so our afternoon plans will have to change - this is definitely not the right weather for Shaun the Sheep hunting. I don't really want to go clothes shopping as I never enjoy that on a rainy day so will suggest either a trip to Ikea so that I can see and order my bookcases, or that we go for a leisurely meal and simply chat.  It'll be an ideal opportunity to catch up on each other's news and also discuss things we wouldn't normally talk about when her daughters are around.
Whatever we decide on, it's going to be a good day.
On the decluttering front, I've started by collecting all the videos in one place.  I've been told that one of the stalls in the town market buys old videos so will be taking them in to see if the stall holder is interested in buying. If he does it will make a nice sized hole in the pile of stuff to be sold, so fingers crossed for a favourable outcome. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'm Busy Doing Nothing!

Well, despite my good intentions any sort of a routine has gone out of the window and I've crossed very little off my to-do list. By very little, I mean absolutely nothing!
I should have been getting things listed for sale online and taking a couple of car loads to the skip for disposal. What I've actually been doing is playing with my new camera, meeting up with friends I haven't seen for a while and chatting on the phone with the ones who live too far away.
I'm trying not to feel guilty as it's a self-imposed to-do list, but the reality is that all the things on the list need to be done and no one is going to do it for me.  I also know that once this stage of decluttering/sorting/organising is over and done with, I will have all the time in the world to do exactly as I please and will be able to indulge myself without the guilt trip.
So, I need to get myself back on track. I said I was going to blog about it as that kept me motivated before, so that's what I plan to do; every day, except for the days when I have day trips booked, I'll be writing about what I've achieved on the decluttering/sorting/organising front. 
There!  I've said it.  Now I just have to get on and do it!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Photo Pairs

I saw this pair when I was out for a walk along the canal towpath on a rainy day.  This week my Photo Pairs are ...

Sending thanks to Helena for organising this.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

All About ... the Art Course Day 7

Today was all about acrylics. The session started with looking at samples of the various techniques, although this time we didn't try any of them out ourselves, and then it was straight on to today's painting ... a cliff top scene.

I'm reasonably pleased with my finished painting but I feel I messed up when adding the thrift (pink/white sponged shapes) as I don't think they look very natural at all.
At the end of the first acrylics session I'm sitting on the fence; I know a lot of you have said that this is your preferred medium but I've yet to be convinced.  I prefer the translucency of watercolour paints and this seem almost heavy in comparison, but maybe that is down to lack of proficiency with the paints.  I'll see how I get on in the final three weeks of the course. 

Monday, 20 July 2015

Me on Monday

taken on Saturday in the Chinese Gardens
Me on Monday ... happy with my lot and pottering about at home, catching up with some odds and ends of unfinished work around the house and in the garden.
I had a fun weekend which started with the final band practice of this academic year on Saturday morning. I'd organised a games morning/party to say thank you to the children for their hard work this year.  D and L, my two teenage helpers, took charge of the games and kept the children involved and to be honest, I had very little to do.  They had chocolate, ice lollies and cookies, and by the end of the morning they were all hyper ... as we sent them off with their parents!  It was a great end to our season and it was especially rewarding to see how the friendships have developed over the past year.
In the afternoon I went, with friends, to look around the Chinese Garden at Westbury which I wrote about here, and then spent a cosy evening at home watching the final Harry Potter film on the TV.
Yesterday morning I played around with my new camera and watched a couple of YouTube videos to help ease the brain ache I was experiencing trying to work out how to use it! At the moment it seems a lot more complicated than my Nikon, but I'm sure a lot of that is lack of familiarity with a Canon camera and I know I'll get there in the end ... I hope!
Yesterday afternoon I went to Bath to take some more photos for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt which I wrote about here. I'd only intended to go to the fair but in the end I wandered around the city for about four hours, so I definitely completed my exercise quota yesterday. It was a hot, sunny day and probably not the best conditions to do that much walking but I really enjoyed myself just wandering without any real purpose, going wherever I fancied and not worrying about the time.  I watched part of a game of boules in Queen's Square and listened to a brass band playing in Parade Gardens for a while. After wandering around the city centre I ended up in the cool of the Abbey for a bit of a rest and to enjoy the peace of the building, and then treated myself to an ice cream for the long walk back to the car. By the time I got home I was shattered ... I slept well last night for the first time in ages!
Linking with Sian at From High in the Sky, and with Karen at Pumpkin Sunrise.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Been Hunting!

Carter's Steam Fair was in Bath this weekend so it was an ideal opportunity to get some more photos for the Summertime Photography Scavenger Hunt.
First up, the ones from the fair - No 13 | a merry-go-round or carousel 

I'm not sure if these next ones really count for No 19 | a ticket booth.  The first two were taken at the fair; you have to buy tokens to use the rides and the first picture is where you can buy the tokens and the second one is the booth at the entrance to a ride, where you hand over your tokens in payment. The third photo is of the Bath Rugby ticket office on Pulteney Bridge.

The next two photos are for No 5 | architectural columns. Before you ask ... I have no idea what the wicker art installation around the columns on the front of the Holburne Museum is supposed to be!

The next two are for No 14 | a traffic signal; the first one was taken from inside my car while I was waiting (for ages!) for the lights to change.

I thought I was going to see lots of photo opportunities for No 3 | a person walking a dog  but this was the only one today.

On the way home I managed to find three more for No 11 | a cellular tower or television satellite dish. The first one was taken in Bathford and the other two were taken on the industrial estate in Trowbridge.
The final one from today's haul is of the River Avon, photographed at Bradford-on-Avon, for No 20 | a natural body of water

And to finish, one from yesterday when I visited the Chinese Garden in Westbury.  This one was taken from the viewpoint high up on the hillside showing the view looking south west, and is for No 16| a panoramic view while standing someplace high in the air.
That leaves me with seven more to find. I have ideas for most of them and am hoping I manage to find the three flags on one flagpole when I go to London.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Beggars Knoll Chinese Garden

Today the Beggars Knoll Chinese Garden in Westbury was open to the public in support of the NGS gardens open for charity. I had no idea it existed, let alone the fact that there was a one acre Chinese style garden in Westbury, so when some friends organised an afternoon trip to look around I tagged along.
It was brilliant! Unfortunately, there were too many other visitors to take clear views of the gardens but here are some photos of the details I enjoyed. I hope you like them too.