Thursday, April 28, 2011

A visit from my parents!

Two weeks ago, my parents hopped across the pond (as they say) to visit Todd and I in our new country. We started out in London where we rented a perfect little apartment in the city near the Tower of London and saw all the sights.

We toured Westminster Abbey (where the Royal Wedding will be tomorrow), featuring the tombs of many past kings, nobility, poets, and scientists. We also saw the Tower of London (along with the carvings of some of those imprisoned there).

This particular picture shows a carving of the name “Jane” for “Jane Grey”. It was most likely carved by a supporter of hers imprisoned at the Tower during the reign of Bloody Mary.

We rode across town on the upper level (in the front seats) of a double-decker bus,

took a boat tour on the Thames,

and at the Imperial War Museum we saw all the actual planes, tanks, and rockets used in combat.

The gardens at Buckingham palace were in full bloom and people were getting the sight prepared for the Royal Wedding!

Of course, we saw Parliament (with Big Ben) and Downing Street. We ate 99 Flakes (ice cream) and I even got my Dad to try a noodle bar called Wagamama’s where he ate his entire dish WITH CHOPSTICKS (a first)!

We covered a lot of London ground in 3 days!

We next ventured to the Lake District where we saw sheep, sheep everywhere! There are many lambs right now so it was a fun time to see the beautiful landscapes including baby sheep!

We rented a boat on Lake Windermere and motored around the lake for four hours.

We saw mountains, castles and beautiful mansions on the lake. While on the boat we were visited a few times by some low flying British war planes. It was a leisurely way to view the lake and they even let me drive the boat for a bit!

Next we took a day trip up the east coast starting with Alnwick Castle where the 12th Duke of Northumberland and his family still live and much of the history of the castle has been preserved. We toured the family’s home and learned what the daily life of the Duke and Duchess entails. Parts of the first few Harry Potter films were recorded outside this beautiful castle, so it makes it a big tourist attraction.

Further up the east coast, we crossed a causeway that disappears with high tide and reappears with low tide. It is essential to check the tides tables when heading to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) or you could be stuck there!

But what a gorgeous place to be stuck!

Lindisfarne is a cute little town with a few pubs and small shops. It has a castle and the ruins of an old priory and is, at least for a few hours a day, in the North Sea.

We were told it was a good place for bird watching, but it was cold when we were there and all we saw (with binoculars) was a layer of seals lying on the beach of the next island over. Maybe next time we’ll do some hiking and bird watching.

We packed so much into the two week visit that it flew by. And even though Dad was sick through most of it and Mom got sick near the end, I think we all had a pretty good time and saw some incredible things!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What do I do with my time?

I haven't posted for a while will now make up the time with a lengthy post.

A few weeks ago my computer decided to die while I was writing a blog entry explaining what I do with my time every day. After a wiped hard drive and the help of a little superglue, my computer is sadly not charging my battery, but everything else seems to be running fine. Fortunately, our awesome friends, the McFarlands, have loaned me their old ‘same model’ Dell (with it’s own issues) and I am currently using it to charge my computer battery. Thus, I’m back onto my previous theme….What do I do with my time?

Lately, I’ve been feeling well-rested to the point of boredom and will be starting to volunteer/work soon…more on that to come in a future post. But for the past six months, I have been spending my time walking with Maggie and Belle in the fields behind our house, working out, eating right and various projects that I make for myself. I’ve created a lot of things in the last six months and I thought I’d post some pictures of all that I have been working on.

I am continually crocheting dish scrubbies made out of tule. I originally got this idea from an old friend of the Brewer family, Bev Dodge, a lovely woman who used to make them for me, but has since passed away.

Since I have an aversion to using sponges in the sink (bacteria) and dish cloths just don’t do the job, these little scrubbies are just the trick. But since I’ve made like 20 of these, they don’t seem that exciting to me anymore, they are just something to do with my hands while I’m watching TV.

In January, I decided to take an old idea from a magazine I once saw to add some life to a boring corner of a room by adding my painted accent to it.

The red and beige walls were there before, but I found the extra red and beige paint under our staircase. Since we rent our house, I didn’t want to ruin the walls by painting on them, so I decided to paint long strips of masking tape the red and beige colors and then cut the stencil design I wanted out of the tape and affix it to the wall. The great part about this was that if I didn’t like how something looked I could just peel it off of the wall, rather than having to paint over it. The final result turned out really well and adds a bit of life to the corner of our room.

Most of my projects have been sewing projects. I’ve always enjoyed the little bit of sewing knowledge I have and appreciate that my mom taught me early how to thread the machine and sew a straight line. A few years ago, a woman in our church in Philadelphia, Pam Hicks, gave me a great sewing machine that she had as an extra at her house and since then I’ve enjoyed using it to create special home accents.

My first sewing projects here were dog beds I made for our pups. Since most dog beds are about £20, I decided to buy some cheap cotton duvets at PoundStrecher (Dollar Store) and the £1 fleece blankets from IKEA and make my own beds. The pups love them and they covers are easily removable and washable!

When we arrived in Durham, I was given some pillows that were sort of tired looking and re-sewed them inside out to make them look current. Here's the before and after pictures.

We were also given a sofa that had been passed around to many people here and was in need of a little cover to make it look and feel a bit brighter. Here are the bare sofa (minus pillows) and sofa with the cover I made.It took the greater part of a week to do, but I really liked how to turned out.

The duvet cover we bought at IKEA our first week here was one of my favorite purchases we made. Todd willingly allowed me to buy this black and white print that came with four pillow shams, yes, FOUR! Since I saw no need of having four pillows on top of the two we use when sleeping, I took the beautiful fabric and fashioned myself a waist apron.

Then I got a little apron crazy and made another one for a friend. This is my friend Sarah modeling it. Sarah came over a few times to work on an apron of her own and learn a little bit about sewing on a machine. We found a picture we liked online and tried to replicate that apron. She did an awesome job and was a real trooper with my “trial and error” construction and sewing techniques!

Here’s the final product:

So these are the projects I've been working on in the past six months.

Currently, I have two sewing projects. My first project is to fashion a hanging sewing kit that will hold all of my “bits and bobs” (as they say here) since all of my spools, buttons, needles, etc are currently in ziplock bags. Sarah, kindly, allowed me to keep the rest of the fabric we used for her apron (a large duvet cover) and I will use this to make my kit and hope to create a sewing machine cover in the same fabric. I’m still in the sketching part of this one (which I find just as fun as actually sewing), so here’s the early sketches.

My second project is from a pattern. I’ve never used a pattern before and have had an aversion to them since I don’t like the idea of buying something I think I can figure out structurally on my own. I’ve always considered patterns to take the fun out of sewing, but since I’ve never used one I can’t really say that. I’ve also never made a garment from scratch. I’ve always taken existing clothes and changed them to make them my own. I think I will learn a lot by using a pattern and making something from scratch that needs to fit! Here is the pattern I bought and hope to have an eggplant colored shirt in the end.

If you have used patterns before and have any tips, I’d be happy to hear them!