Sunday, 30 August 2009

"Oh sweet butterfly, just fly away from me"

We're having a quiet bank holiday weekend, partly due to family members who can't plan in advance, partly due to the fact that Betsy herself needs a bit of a break. However we did spend a lovely day with friends in Chester Zoo. It wasn't our first visit but many areas had changed since we were here 4 years ago. This time round we did see all the attractions, most animals are just amazing and stunning but we were particular delighted with the new butterfly journey. Such wonderful colours and patterns on their wings.

I can't remember the name of these with the transparent wings but in flight they were even more stunning.

I tried to capture a number of quite big purple ones chasing each other but they were not in the mood to sit still. Their colour seemed almost unnatural, but was just so beautiful, I'd just go back to the zoo to see them. I will now chase my monkeys here at home and hope for a quiet night.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

The future is orange (3)

Orange seems to have been a dominating colour in my life recently (as has purple!). I suppose radical changes in life bring about radical changes in many areas and I suppose Orange is there to brighten up my life... Anyway that was not what this blog was going to be about. I really wanted to pay attention to "smart consumption" or "intelligent shopping".

Last night I stumbled upon an interesting article in a fashion magazine about the new way of acquiring fashion. Today's fashion lovers seem to be more eco friendly, concerned with the welfare of staff in factories and are moving towards greener shopping. Garments of higher quality that last longer seem to be in favour of the £2 jumpers from the high street stores it was believed. I am not entirely sure this is the case, the cheap stores in town are like a souk at the quietest of times. However I do believe there has been a change in how wardrobes are being put together. Charity shops seem to be full of fashionistas of all ages and swap parties are becoming very popular. Sewing classes and books teaching us how to embellish clothing are advertised everywhere and for those who know me or follow my blog I absolutely love this!

I come from a family of hand-me-downers. And I don't just mean from brother to sister etc. I mean grandma's, aunts, nieces, cousins, mothers, daughters, everyone is at it and has been for the past 60 years or so. I do not know how this started. Economic crisis may have had a hand in this every now and then but most of all my family does not seem to like waste. Why throw out something good if someone else can still use it? I am a true "Make do and Mend" girl and although the mend doesn't apply to all the women in my family they certainly know how to find me with great quality items. I have some lovely (proper) vintage tops from my grandmother that go back about 50 or 60 years (via my youngest aunt, a real fashion doll) and have worn many items that have come from any of my relatives over the years. One of my cousins used to buy the most over-the-top dresses in her younger years and I have made some great skirts out of these. If you do not have this culture in your family head down to your nearest charity shop. It is often hit and miss but there are some great items and fabrics around. These places have become so popular, helped by the likes of Kate Moss e.a. who pick up the most gorgeous items.

Back to the orange : when I went to see one of my aunties in Holland recently she had nicely put together a bag with fabulous tops for me, some my size, some quite oversized but still looking fabulous with my skinny jeans. I know that I will dye some tops, refurbish some others and this orange one that was rather dull (but lovely and soft), I brightened up today with a lovely "God save the Queen" iron-on transfer (these can be found aplenty on Ebay).

After I finished the t-shirt I went for a quick hunt around my local Oxfam where I bought a brand new version of My Life in Orange by Tim Guest. It is a biography about growing up in a Bhagwan commune. I remember the Bhagwan followers walking around Amsterdam in their orange, pink, purple and red-ish clothes and they used to scare me so much. My mother who is scared of just about everything (I should write a book about her!) had put the fright into me at some point by saying that they would try to kidnap people so that they would get more followers in the commune and as a young teenager this had some kind of effect on me. In fact about 20 years later I still jumped into shops if I heard or saw any Hara Krishna's in Covent Garden! Anyway I had read an interview with Tim Guest when the book came out and it was on my list to read so here was another lucky orange find.

God save the Queen, Orange save my day!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Stepping up a gear

Sadly the summer holidays are already coming to an end. Six weeks gone in no time! That means that Craft Cafe is only a month away.... meaning I need to produce a bit more to fill the stall. I am slowly stepping up a gear and have been making some lovely dollies and cushions. A little snapshot of what my work table looked like earlier.

I have also been baking a bit. It is girl monkey's birthday tomorrow and she had a little tea party for some friends earlier today. Next week will be THE cupcake party (lots of baking then!). I'm praying for some nice weather tomorrow as she'd love to go to a maize maze.

I better get on with hanging up the decorations whilst enjoying V Festival on the telly. Wish I'd been there....

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Back home from home

The monkeys and I are back after a week of fun, sunshine and blissful lounging in the Netherlands. The trip seemed a little hectic with a day in London before and after the journey and all the driving to Dover and from Calais to the Netherlands but it was all worth it.

In the Netherlands we stayed in a teeny weeny village called Driewegen. Although my parents lived a seven minute drive away I had only been there once for a flower arranging course with my sister. In fact the house we were staying in was that very same place I had been to and what a delight to come back. The owners of the house have gone on a very impressive pilgrimage to Rome and hope to get there after three months walking! Hats off to them!

We were very lucky that they needed guests to look after the chickens and the cats and I thought it would be a great way of familiarising my monkeys with pets and country life. Boy monkey usually walks on the other side of the road when he sees a cat you see.

Upon arrival (through the back garden and door, the usual thing to do back home) we were welcomed by a lovely vase of flowers outside and some pears from the garden on one of the numerous tables outdoors.

Indoors we were greeted by the cats and to my surprise boy monkey kind of fell in love with one of the three, a tabby cat called Guus. Upstairs was a lovely welcome note on the door and inside it read :

(Good night for whoever sleeps here). Girl monkey really liked this pink room and wanted to make it her own but at nighttime she decided she'd rather share a bed with her little brother in the new and dark environment. Boy it did get dark there at night!

We were so lucky with the weather, if we weren't at the seaside making sandcastles we were exploring the expansive garden with it's many lovely seating areas, fruit trees and chickens (we didn't find any eggs even though we tried).

I came across many beautiful plants that I had never seen before and tried Japanese wineberries in our trifle. The plums weren't all that ripe but we picked a few and it was just lovely to eat something grown in your own garden (well theirs...). If I had someone to help me I would love to have an allotment. Maybe I should put an ad in the papers... could do with someone around the house and garden.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Mini Masters Yves Klein session

I cannot believe that we had the last session of the first year of "Mini Masters". Most of the little ones will go of to school now but luckily a couple will be coming back in September. We had a lot of fun, explored many artists and movements and on top of that enjoyed a piece of cake at the same time.

Our last session was based on the work by Yves Klein. We talked about the Monochromes, International Klein Blue (the colour of paint especially made for the artist), the furniture and the reliefs in the pictures. The "Mini Masters" then chose their favourite colour and started to build up a relief. One way of replicating the reliefs in Yves Klein's work is to use little cotton wool balls. I never knew they painted so well and created such a beautiful surface. I should have thought beyond clouds, snowmen and Father Christmas before.

Needless to say we had a number of purple and pink pictures but there were also some yellow and blue.

I had a lot of fun talking about art with the little ones. I hope "Mini Masters" helped them to develop a love for art and creating art themselves.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Wizards, Goblins and Knights in shining armour

With my new National Trust membership card and handbook in hand we went to find a nice place to walk today. There are quite a few places to choose from within 30 minutes drive and we decided to go to Hare Hill near Alderley Edge. This was described as a "tranquil woodland garden, especially spectacular in early summer" with a walled area. It isn't exactly early summer but I decided to take the chance. As I am a NT newbie I clearly did not read the information properly so when we finally got to Hare Hill after several detours we found the gates closed.
Luckily we were close to another lovely place :The Edge.

We had taken a little picnic and true to the North West, as soon as we sat down to enjoy our meal we felt a few drops of rain. Luckily this only lasted a few minutes and we had a beautiful afternoon. We particularly enjoyed our picnic, Mr Betsy had come over from London and brought us some delicious Poilane bread and I had made a simple chicken salad from some left over roast chicken, mayonaise and chives from the garden.

As we were enjoying the view above and fantasising about the cave we got chatting to a couple of lovely local ladies who told us all about the goblin in the cave, the legend of the farmer and his white mare, the knights in shining armour and the local mining history. I wasn't aware of the long history of mining in this area but I had heard about the Wizard and the teenage Halloween parties on the Edge and there is of course a tea room called The Wizard next to the entrance of the park. And funnily enough boy monkey had made up a story earlier on about a knight in shining armour and some animals. The area clearly tickles the fantasy!
The ladies also told us about the books by Alan Garner, a local fantasy writer whose books are better than the Harry Potter stories in their opinion. I am intrigued and will browse through the library on my next visit. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath, his first two books, are drawn from local legends and locations and I have been told suitable for children.

A little further on we sat down to eat a snack next to the Armada Beacon Monument and there we bumped into a nice Dutch couple (they really are everywhere aren't they?). They told us all about the Armada fire warning system. Beacons were lit up and down the country as warning signs for the invading Spanish Armada. Absolutely fascinating. I am a great believer in talking to people. Not only because I feel it is important to show interest and compassion but you'll always learn something interesting whether it be about life, love or history as we found out today. We had a thoroughly lovely afternoon. Girl monkey was still talking about all the things she saw there two years ago (the monument, certain paths, the gnome tree) and I hope that in two years time she will still remember today.