Friday, 31 July 2009

Family fun day in Lyme Park

Today we had a family fun day in Lyme Park. We'd been there before, about two years ago after girl monkey had gone there on a school trip. She had not forgotten about our walk in the "jungle" and it was first on her list of summer activities for this year. As it was a beautiful day today (hooray!) we packed a picnic and off we went.

We found a perfect spot for our picnic near the lake on a fallen tree over which we draped our picnic rug. Although it looked lovely the reason was that girl monkey was wearing a very short summer dress and I didn't want her to scrape her lovely little legs.

After a walk through the park and a visit to the deer the monkeys were very keen to visit the gardens but also the house. Girl monkey still remembered several rooms from her trip and told me all about them. Reason enough for me to become a member of the National Trust. For years I resisted, thinking it sounded like a good idea but we wouldn't actually use our membership but now that the monkeys are starting to show interest in history I feel we might get our money's worth.

The house itself is beautiful and all the guides very helpful and very informed (and very Cheshire!). The monkeys got a little guide to search things in various rooms and there were many little red bags lying around the rooms for them to explore. Some had jigsaws, others items of clothing to try on and some binoculars which I thought were brilliant. They were from the ELC for those who'd like to try them out, I think I might get them as a birthday present.

The Victorian gardens are equally stunning but the best bit for the little ones had to be the "jungle".

I do not know how to describe this exactly but it is the area south of the lake, rather 'overgrown'. Upon entering this area the monkeys spontaneously started singing "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my".

This plant surely has the biggest leaves I have ever seen. If anyone could tell me the name I would be most grateful.

Now that we have got our National Trust membership I think we will go back soon again. There are some great activities over the next few weeks and months and it is certainly worth a trip for the whole family, young and old.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Visit to my old home patch

What happened to my frequent blogs? Not entirely sure. I do know that my brain has been doing overtime and that I have not been able to focus but I'll keep all that to myself.
Just watched "The Reader" and as I am so emotionally drained after that I have no energy to think so here we go...

The monkeys and I went on a little trip to London in the last few days and we had an absolutely fabulous time. Whenever I go back I just find my whole time in the capital sheer luxury. The weather for starters is always better than it is up North and is also nice to be "home" and seeing some old friends. The monkeys had a ball in the playgrounds; there was the massive sand pit in Holland Park, the fabulous pirate ship in Kensington Gardens and the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain which they left, completely soaking wet from top to toe.
They couldn't stop going into the Whole Foods Market and walking up and down the High Street and I of course went back to my old favourites Ranoush Juice (my friends!) and the Exeter Street Bakery where they sell sweet pizza : raisins and lots of sugar on a pizza base basically but oh so yummy.

On Sunday we went on a river cruise to Greenwich. We had a fabulous guide who was not only very funny but also very knowledgeable. I should have asked his name because he is worth mentioning. I learnt a lot more from him than in the ten years I lived in London.

The banks of the Thames are absolutely fascinating. The juxtaposition of buildings old and new is at times awe inspiring at others plain ridiculous. It is amazing to think that 10 or 15 years ago a lot of the land was barren. Currently there is still a lot of building work going on.

The guide pointed out all the buildings old and some new....

Then there were the Dutch ( They are everywhere. Always.

I loved the red and white polkadot wrapped trees on the South Bank by Yayoi Kusama. For some reason this little group reminded me of the Supremes, must have been the big hair do's (don't ask, the mind has funny ways!).

.... and the yellow stair case of the Hayward Gallery.

More wrapping around the Tower Bridge.....

(detail of Tower Bridge)

One sight that sadly is not wrapped anymore is the Albert Memorial. When I first moved to London it was covered for restoration and I was always very keen to find out what it looked like (had not discovered Google at that point, if that existed anyway). When they finally took the "Christo" off it I was so totally and utterly disappointed that I wished the restoration had lasted a few decades longer. Undoubtedly there are quite a few eyesores in the capital but for me it has to be the Albert Memorial.

Now we are safely back in Manchester, chasing dreams or perhaps I should have said ghosts, as that feels slightly more appropriate.
The first two weeks of the holidays have passed so quickly and yep let me mention it again : before we know it is Christmas time again....

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

JS Bach/Zaha Hadid Architects @ MI09

I seem to be spending quite some time in Manchester City Centre and the Northern Quarter in particular these days. Today I went to a lunchtime violin concert by Michael Gurevich at the Manchester Art Gallery in the Zaha Hadid installation. Gurevich performed Sonata No 3 in C major. It was very, very impressive. The room was just stunning and the music, well I have no words. What a wonderful performance. The space is truly unique and I would urge everyone who hasn't been to try and get a ticket for these last few days (it finishes Sunday!).

I am quoting the brochure as I cannot top this description: "A ribbon careens high above the performer, cascades to the ground and wraps around the audience. The original, box-like room is sculpted into new, fluid spaces that swell, merge and slip through one another, creating an environment that's perfectly tailored to its purpose."

These aren't the best images but give some idea of the fluid lines of the installation.

My creations are not on my list or priorities at the moment, although I can hardly think of anything else, so I tried to make something today. Whilst tidying up I found a collection of my grandmother's doilies that I am trying to incorporate into cushions. And here is a start :

Monday, 6 July 2009

Mini Masters explore Nikki de St Phalle

What happened to the heat wave? Just got used to this lovely sunshine and now I feel like putting the heating on. Also what happened to the academic year? It has flown by. One more session and it will be the last of the first year of Mini Masters. I haven't been a good blogger recently so I failed to write about the sketchbook session but here are some images of the Nikki de St Phalle workshop. I absolutely love her work, just looking at her works really cheers me up and her sculptures and mosaics are very appealing to children. Most of her well known works are very colourful, bold and shimmery. 

As a starting point for our session we took one of her Nana sculptures and traced around it to form a template for our clay work. We used air drying clay which has a lovely texture and is easy to mould for little fingers.  With the clay we filled the template, building up the 3D figure. 

With a tooth pick we then added texture and/or decorations. 

Finally we painted the sculptures and most of the Mini Masters mixed some glitter into the paint. We used ordinary ready mix paint on the still wet clay. I find that air drying clay can be painted really well when still wet as you do not get any cracks. 

I've got some ideas for the last session but won't spill the beans as I know some mums might be reading this post!

Finally just wanted to mention that my items are now being stocked at Chelsea Flowers in Wilmslow. I am very excited, dropped off brooches, necklaces, bracelets, postcards and a cushion this morning. Do go and have a look if you live nearby. Look forward to some feedback!

Friday, 3 July 2009

Easy Peasy Skirt

A couple of weeks ago I visited a fabulous yarn shop called Button & Skein (which sadly has since closed down) where I purchased a kit to make a skirt for girl monkey. I'd like to think of myself as an experienced seamstress but I couldn't resist buying this kit. I love turquoise, it had a fabulous design on it and the whole thing was kept together by a lovely pink polkadot ribbon. Now who could have resisted that? Besides it is quite nice sometimes to make something without having to think.  

If you've never made anything before then I can certainly suggest a Clothkit kit. All cutting and sewing lines are printed on the fabric and the instructions are easy to follow. However I did find their waistband instructions a little elaborate and would have suggested something far easier for the inexperienced sewer.

The skirt was made in no time and is just lovely. 

The proof of the pudding was in girl monkey's smile when she noticed it in her room. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Glorious British Summer

Oh the glorious days of summer.... I had to get started very early this morning in order to achieve something today. My sewing machine is gathering dust but on the plus side I do manage to finish my books and pile of press cuttings in this beautiful sunny weather. Enjoy it while it lasts, we never know here. 

I have been spending too much time thinking these last few months and almost felt that I couldn't think no more but found myself contemplating a move to Notting Hill this morning as the local yobs have yet again targeted my car. I never had any love for hoodies but would like to punch down a few here and there.....

I made some random things today. I mended some items of clothing, made some brooches for sale and then made some bunting for girl monkey's cupcake party and for the school's summer fair this Sunday. My friend Liz and I will be manning the cake stall. She'd bring some doilies she said so I thought some colourful circus bunting would be appropriate for this festive event. 

I also made some kneeling cushions for the garden. I've seen them over the years in various fancy shops with hefty price tags and clearly never felt the need to buy these. Some weeks ago though after a lot of potting and planting I realised they could be quite useful. Luckily I had an old worn out pillow and an old oilcloth lying around which I cut up and made myself some practical gardening cushions in suitable print. 

Currently considering Take Three. Just heard that tickets for Wembley this coming weekend have been released at heavily reduced price. Apparently they need more people on the side of the stage for filming purposes. There is restricted view of the main stage but in full view of the B stage...... Now there's a thought......