Thursday, January 23, 2014

Birthday Trip

When the Man of the Place turned forty, we had a party.  When his fiftieth birthday rolled around, our son George and I surprised him with a trip to Paris. As we are still together, healthy and employed for his sixtieth I thought another birthday trip was in order.  This trip to celebrate the beginning of another decade saw us taking the train to Bruges in Belgium.

Neither The Man of the Place or I have ever been to Belgium other than to change flights at the airport.

I think the main industries are tourism, chocolate production and beer. It is a stunningly beautiful place.  We struggled to find a bad view within the walls of the old city.

Because it is geared for tourists, the centre of the place is expensive.  Even a beer is expensive.  Now I don't mind that the beer is expensive as Belgians are brilliant at making beer.  Most of those beers are quite a bit stronger than the beer we have become accustomed to, so you don't have to buy nearly as much.
One place boasted that they served 400 varieties of beer.  Can you imagine what the beer cellar looks like in that place?  From the few bars we went into, it seems that every beer made in Belgium has its very own glass.  Part of a new bartender's learning curve must be to know which glass goes with with which beer.

We stayed in a very elegant hotel.  I didn't know how lovely the hotel would be until we showed up.  Hotel Navarra was delightful and I cannot fault the hotel in any way.  

Here is a view of the place where we had lunch on the second day.  The white building over looking the peaceful canal.  Very good food but the service was slightly inattentive.  I felt as if we were a bit more elegant ourselves, we would have been treated with more deference.  Ah, never mind.  I wasn't there to have my ego stroked, we were there for lunch.  Beautiful food, good location and high price.  Birthday treats only for that place.

We walked a great deal.  One of the places that I definitely wanted to see was the beguinage.  On  the way to the medieval beguinage, we walked through this garden.

Walked past this lock . . .

and past this house next to the canal.

The beguinage was a peaceful oasis. . .

No loud voices. . .don't walk on the grass.

If you wish to take photos for a commercial reason, you must have permission from Mother Superior.

I wasn't worried about that so much.  I don't sell my photographs or use them to promote anything.

The daffodil shoots are beginning to pop through, telling us that winter, though miserable, will not last forever.

There is always a shop, even in the most peaceful and religious places.  Another little museum.  It was Sunday, therefore it was closed.

The main gait.  I am certain that it used to be more of a barrier, to protect those inside.

These ducks were just to the right of the gate.  "We've got wings.  We can get in anytime we want."

The bridge was beautiful as well.  Okay, there wasn't an ugly part of the entire walk.

The hard part was selecting which beautiful views to share.  I also didn't want to walk around the entire weekend, looking at Bruges through a camera lens.    Though it seems like I took loads of photos, the camera stayed in my pocket most of the time.

We stayed in the old part of the city, very close to Markt.  We found the city to be very easy to walk around.  Be careful if you are prone to tripping, as the streets are all cobbled.  It is a bit expensive but if you are sensible and have a budget, you'll be fine.   I would love to visit Bruges again.  If we do we would always go in the winter, I am told that in the summer, the crowds can be heavy. Big crowds are a drag.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I Sewed a Jacket

At the beginning of the autumn school term, I enrolled in an adult education class;  Advanced Tailoring and Dressmaking.   With the arrival of my two beautiful grandsons, I had started sewing again.  I made a quilt each for the new babies and then I ran up a nightgown for myself.

About the same time the BBC ran a series called The Great British Sewing Bee where sewers from around the UK competed to be labelled the best amateur sewer in the UK.  Some of the stuff they made was easy, but some projects were tough!  Though I have been sewing for years, I couldn't attempt some of the garments that they were making but I thought I might  as well try.  I was inspired to look into improving my sewing skills.

Looking up local sewing classes, it turned out that Carlisle College runs adult education classes and include sewing classes.  These classes ran from absolute beginners to my class, the advanced sewers.  I wanted to learn to alter a pattern to make a garment ME shaped.  I also wanted to learn some couture sewing techniques, the nice finishing touches that take a garment from homemade to custom tailored.  I go on Thursday nights and it turns out that the night class is a mixed class.  There are some beginner sewers and then there are a few at the intermediate level.

I picked out a pattern for a jacket and got some beautiful tweed. I am very lucky as the most beautiful woolen fabrics are produced right in this part of the UK.  One of my sons and his family live in Peebles on the banks of the river Tweed! Carlisle itself is home to Linton Tweeds, the factory that produces the woolen boucle' for Chanel.  I can go to the factory shop and buy end of run and flawed cloth for my own projects.

The pattern used for my first project was McCalls M6172 choosing to make view B

It was fun to make and I learned a whole bunch while doing it.  I took photos during the process.

Laying out the pattern pieces to cut the cloth.
Ensuring that the pattern was Peggy shaped meant that I had to make it a little wider in some areas.

The lining is a lovely green. I almost went for a bright fuchsia, but chickened out.  The wool tweed was very expensive and I'll save creative colour choices for another project.
That particular piece of lining is the back center piece.  It has a large pleat down the centre.  To keep that in place, I basted it in place, only taking the basting stitches out once the garment was completed.

After cutting the cloth came the time consuming task of marking in all the tailor's tacks, little marks on the pattern that help the sewer to match the pieces properly when constructing the garment.  I didn't want to skip a single step of the construction.
You can see some of the tailor's tacks in the above photo.  I used red or orange thread so that I wouldn't miss them when it came time to remove the threads. Each of the pattern pieces was used four times so I had to be gentle with the little tissue pieces.  Initially I made up a toile or cotton mock up to check the fit, then cut the fabric, interfacing and lining .

The construction was fun.  I loved figuring out the challenges and plowing ahead. I sought advice when it came time to make the collar and add the lining.  It seemed that there as a specific order in which to do things and the pattern directions were unclear.  My lovely sewing instructor stepped in at that point and gave guidance.  She even invited me to her home one afternoon over Christmas so that she could go over how to proceed.

The pockets on the garment were double welt pockets with a pocket flap.  I did a practise one on a scrap of wool cloth and it came out very well.  Then I had to do two MATCHING ones on the jacket. In the end the pockets turned out beautifully. They matched, were on the right spot on the jacket and layed flat.  I wanted to put more pockets on!
Place to keep candy!

After putting on the buttons and making the button holes and stitching the last lining hem, I was able to wear the jacket with pride yesterday.  It was so great!
I resisted stopping strangers to have them admire my work, but I kinda wanted to.  "I made this jacket!"

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Okay then . . .2014, here we go!

In the beginning of 2013 I started a log of the birds that visit our bird feeders.  I had been given some new bird feeders for Christmas last year and I had a spare 2013 diary lying around.  So, fill the feeders and sit back to watch through the window.

It was really fun to document what visited our garden.  There were seasonal visitors and surprise guests.  When writing in the daily log, I would highlight anything out of the ordinary in yellow highlighter.  For example if a new species (to me or the garden) showed up for the first time, that entry was made yellow.  When the red squirrels showed up, I highlighted those entries in pink.

The most common bird visitors to the place were Chaffinches and Coal tits.  They showed up every day and in good numbers.

Here is the bird list for the year.

Blue tit
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Coal tit
Great tit
Buzzard - in the tree across the road
Barn owl
Tawny owl
Long tailed tit
Assorted gulls (not close enough for identification)
Collared dove
Wood pigeon
Stock dove
Tree creeper
Green finch
Barnacle geese (in the field - I could see them from my window so I counted them!)
Red poll
Black cap
Great heron
Cuckoo - call only
Lapwing (in the field)
Oyster catcher (in the field)
Curlew (in the field)
Song thrush
Sparrow (first at the house in over 17 years)
Pied wagtail
Animals in the garden include

Polly - our dog
RED SQUIRRELS - up to four at once
field voles
least weasel
water shew
common shrew
pygmy shew
common newt
four or five species of bat - at least one is a pipistrelle

Forty species of bird has been seen from the back room window.  I am certain that if I spent more time watching.  If I could have identified the different species of gull in the field and the list would have been longer. There are also Fieldfair and Redstarts in the field but they fly way too fast for identification. If I can't be absolutely certain, it wasn't listed. It was fun watching the winter visitors to the feeders (bramblings) and note when the swallows return, breed and take off again.

The highlights for me this year was seeing the families of birds.  We had visiting male and female Great Spotted woodpeckers.  I saw them mating in one of the trees.  Weeks later the woodpeckers brought their offspring  to the peanut feeders.  It was delightful to see the adults feeding their babies.

A new bird made it onto my life list this year, the redpoll. That was a treat!  

One day a female pheasant showed up with over 14 baby pheasants following her.  Baby robins, blue tits, woodpeckers, blackbirds and chaffinches all did that nestling behaviour at the feeders of flapping their wings with mouth wide open.

Now it is winter again, a new year has started and a new diary has begun.  I wasn't going to do another log . . . but I found that writing down what is seen at the feeder has become a habit.  The first day of the New Year and I didn't have anywhere to write down what I was seeing!  I had to get a new pocket diary in the supermarket on the next trip into town.