Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A super seasonal box of goodies

It's that time of year when the postman leaves notes through the letterbox to pick up a parcel at the local sorting office. With waiting times of up to two hours this is never fun. I knew I hadn't ordered anything from Amazon or Ebay or any other website so it had to be a present. 

The timing of said box could not have been better. We are currently a family of three sniffing and coughing people and a box of lovely scented Olbas tissues, Olbas bubble bath to relax & open the airways and a selection of cough mints and soothers arrived just at the right time. 

In all fairness we were asked to test these goodies but the timing was perfect. Although I usually choose products quite carefully when it comes to tissues we tend to go for a nice looking box or failing that whichever box or packet of 12 is at the front of the shelf. Having tried Olbas tissues I will be looking out for these. They come with a handy instruction that tells you to crush the tissue to release the vapour but I don't think there is any need. My whole box had been crushed by the postie anyway so the whole bathroom just smells gorgeous. 

If these products had arrived at another time my experience may have been slightly different but I have to say I am presently raving about the bath bubbles. I thought this product was ever so relaxing and really helped unblocking noses. 

Between my little girl monkey and me, we've managed to finish all the Jakemans' soothing menthol sweets in no time. My little one loved the honey and lemon and I really liked the Throat and Chest variety. I love liquorice (it's those Dutch roots!) and find that I couldn't really find aniseed or liquorice cough sweets. Well I know what to choose now. 

The Olbas lozenges have nearly all finished as well. Perhaps not as soothing I felt as the Jakemans' I liked the honey and lemon ones but have to say I am not a fan of blackcurrant unless they are fresh so that flavour is a bit wasted on me but that is not a reflection on the product. 

I shall now pop out the last lozenge and enjoy this whilst curling up on the sofa under one of my quilts. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

UK's weird and wonderful customs in photos

United Kingdom by James O. Jenkins is a brilliant collection of portraits of people (and effigies in some cases) taking part in traditional customs. 
Photographed against a white backdrop James Jenkins said: “Each one of my subjects was deliberately photographed outside their natural environment. I wanted to take them away from the ceremony they were performing in, to shoot the portrait on the spot, and equipped with a ring flash, a portable white canvas background or a colorama gaffer-taped to an available wall.”
Having researched the book over two years, James shows just a fraction of the traditional customs that take place up and down the country every year. He said: "I’ve included the ones that I found to be most visually attractive to me as a photographer. My aim has been to capture the culture of annual UK traditions by portraying the main individuals involved.”
These age old customs still bind communities and it is amazing to read about those that have been going for centuries and ones that take place on a daily basis such as the Ripon Horn-Blower in North Yorkshire. I loved reading about this diversity of customs, many I had never heard of. The amount of organisation that must go into some of them is astonishing and I cannot help but wonder what goes on behind the personas in the portraits, how much time do those taking part spend on their act? Is this the highlight of their year?

This book is not just a visual feast but also a great read for anyone interested in local history and social anthropology. 

The book is available here

Monday, 3 September 2012

Meet the Crafter

On Saturday I attended a BBC Learning pilot event at the Whitworth Art Gallery. Not sure what to expect at Meet the Crafter I tried to get into the buzz beforehand by taking up Eno Eruotor’s (BBC North West Tonight) ‘How to Customise Challenge'. After watching her video and getting inspired, crafters were invited to post their creations on Twitter #meetthecrafter. The invitation came with a handy 'How to' on Twitter for those who hadn't used this platform before and judging from the hash tag search not many had. The day started well with lots of sunshine and a group of very excited crafters. There were mostly women so it was nice to see the odd man amongst the groups. As it happens there was the lovely James Boardwell from Folksy. I felt a little bad mentioning that I had not been impressed a few years ago and then signed up to Etsy but he soon convinced me that Folksy had had a complete overhaul. I am sure that with Pinterest this will become my new favourite website to look for all things beautiful, lovely and inspiring. Their flyer is stunning. 

The morning session involved a kind of 'speed dating' for crafters. Every seven minutes we had to move to another table to hear from various crafters. Unfortunately the time went very quickly and not all speakers had business cards (remember those?) so I am unable to recall them all but I was most pleased to finally meet Andrea Lord of &made. Her studio is in the Manchester Craft and Design Centre, well worth a visit. 

The afternoon session was the hands-on part of the day. There were four workshops to choose from: Visual Art (no idea what to expect there), upcycling, upholstery and vintage fashion. Being a seasoned upcycler and upholsterer I choose vintage fashion. Unfortunately due to 'infestations' in vintage clothing our workshop leader was not allowed to bring these items into the museum so it became a re-fashioning and upcycling workshop instead. Our leader, Geraldine from Made at Green View was lovely and showed us some nice tricks with men's shirts (see below).

Geraldine had brought some fabrics and old and unused items of clothing for us to play with. I wasn't quite sure about the brief, whether it was for ourselves, for someone else, whether to finish in the afternoon or later at home and then felt a bit distracted as there was one participant who tried a little too much to make herself known. There's always one, isn't there... Anyway I grabbed the first two textiles that were in front of me. One was a lemon coloured, rather dull Gap t-shirt and the other a colourful silk scarf. 

I got to work in my usual style (of handling that is, not colour and materials), ripping some fabrics apart. I cut some seams off to make it less dull, covered a few buttons and made a bow with some of the shredded strips of scarf.

Having been told it was just to dress of the mannequin, this is what I did and then had a look around what the others were up too. I think if I'd known a bit more about the workshops in advance I would definitely have chosen the soft furnishing one as the fabrics were lovely and I could have done with another cushion on the sofa. I got to take the shirt home in the end, and it is certainly wearable but not my colours and style, I am sure I can please someone with it though. But moaning aside there were some lovely people in my group, especially Mami, who took the pictures of us in action and really nice BBC volunteers who all seemed a little overwhelmed by the action I think.

The day finished with a short show and tell (see the action below) and who knows as a result of our enthusiasm this type of event might be rolled out across the country and across other areas of activities. I don't think I learnt a new craft or got new ideas but I got to meet lots of really nice new people and caught up with those that I hadn't seen for a while. Thank you BBC, hope all goes well with putting the footage together. looking forward to seeing some of it.

For more pictures from other participants please see the links on Twitter: #meetthecrafter.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Jubilee Madness

I have officially gone Jubilee Mad. I am not a royalist, I am not even British. But I love all things red, white and blue and am a fan of a good party. 

There will be a Busy Betsy Open Night coming up soon but in the meantime I have been making quite a few pieces of jewellery in the colour scheme as well as brooches and head gear. 

I think, well I know in fact, that one of the reasons for being so excited about this whole jubilee thing is that I love the colour scheme. Inspired by the Dutch flag (again not a Dutch royalist either!), I have often used these colours as a starting point for many textile pieces. On top of that every year on 30 April, Queens Day is celebrated in Holland and the whole country goes mad for all things red, white, blue and orange. Hence I am so excited about the limited edition M&M's, balloons and streamers at all the supermarkets and pound shops. I have been stocking up for years to come. 

And then I have a soft spot for the Union Jack, have had for years so when I saw this doormat I could not resist. Next on my list is a stamp rug although I fear that will be out of my budget for some time to come unless one of the major supermarkets start stocking them. 

As I mentioned earlier I am not even British although trying very hard. The wonderful Mr G is a great teacher and a provider of the best pork scratchings and pork pies. I suppose that's why girl monkey persuaded me to get this cookery book so that I can practice a bit harder and cook all those wonderful pies and stews. 

For the past two weeks the Busy Betsy household has been getting in the mood for the big day on Monday. Both monkeys had dressing up days at school and homework that consisted of making a jubilee lunchbox, design a jubilee sandwich, make a jubilee cake, etc. And excitement is building up for the garden party at our lovely friends. There will be bunting and cupcakes galore, red white and blue dresses no doubt and I've gone mad and bought this pair of sunglasses. As the weather forecast is rain I am not sure if I'll be needing them, but wearing them I will!

It's a good thing perhaps that this madness only happens once in a while and not every year however all the packaging in the shops does cheer me up. Never have I been so keen to walk around the supermarket and look at what's on the shelves. I seriously hope that no marketing team is reading this, otherwise I'll be broke if the jubilant jubilee packaging continues. 

For now I hope you all have a lovely jubilee weekend and long live the Queen! 

Tatton Park Biennial

Saturday, 21 April 2012

My week with Herman

Followers of the Busy Betsy Facebook page may have seen this picture last week. 

I got a number of emails and texts after this as I had mentioned I was looking after Herman and friends were curious to find out who or what it was. I had not heard of this 'Herman' before I received a bowl and a piece of paper describing what it was. Anyway in the bowl was a bit of sourdough: 

Between the monkeys and myself we looked after Herman for 10 days with the following instructions : 

German Friendship Cake (Herman)

Hi my name is Herman. I'm a sourdough cake. I'm supposed to be on the worktop for 10 days without the lid on. You can't put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling I am dead!

Day 1 : You get Herman and take the lid off, put me in a large mixing bowl and cover loosely with a tea towel
Day 2: Stir well
Day 3: Same as yesterday
Day 4: Herman is hungry! Add 1 cup each of plain flour, sugar and milk and stir well
Day 5 - 8: Stir well
Day 9: Hungry again! Add the same as day 4. Then divide into 4 equal portions and give 3 away to friends with a copy of these instructions. Herman stays with you for day 10 when he is very hungry indeed. 

(I thought I had something unusual when I went to give these three away to friends. However it seemed that I was the only person in the road that didn't know about 'Herman'!)

Day 10: Stir well and add the following:
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of plain flour
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence (I didn't have this)
2 heaped tsp cinnamon
2 heaped tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup cooking oil (I used sunflower oil)
2 apples peeled and cut into pieces

Optional: 1/2 cup walnuts or almonds, 
Optional: 1 cup raisins, chocolate, pineapple or cherries
(I didn't add the optional ingredients)

Mix everything together and put in a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Bake for 45 mins at 180C (check after 35 mins).

After 45 mins I took out the most delicious cake I've had in a long well. We ate a couple of pieces still warm and it had a beautiful most taste. I would love to get a Herman back and make this again. I might try some of the optional ingredients but probably wouldn't put the sugar on the top as it was sweet enough by itself. Even two days old today I polished off the last yummy piece. 

If anyone knows how to start the Herman I would love to hear that as I might not get one back for a while and really like to make this again. 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Global Art Project for Peace 2

This week I received the long awaited letter from Global Art Project for Peace with the details of my exchange partner. This is the third time I am taking part in this biannual exercise of sending thousands of messages of peace in the shape of a work of art around the world 'simultaneously'.
My partner this year is again in the USA. The idea is to try and partner up as many participants with one from another country so the chances are small to get a partner from outside the USA I suppose because it is an American organisation. Not that that matters at all, I am excited! I'd been thinking about what I should make this year. The first year I made a quilt, the second year a Suffolk puff pillow and it wasn't until I found my mum's old weaving loom from the seventies under my bed this afternoon that I knew what I wanted to make. Having blown the dust of I managed to thread it correctly.

I won't reveal what it is, just in case my exchange partner checks the blog but here is a sneak peak of the start. All I will say is that it has been inspired by Delft Blue and Dutch history (now there's something new!)

For those of you following Busy Betsy on Facebook: Herman was hungry today and has been fed. More will be revealed next week!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

This Easter holiday has been a completely different one from last year's for various reasons, one of them being the weather. Today was meant be a nice day so I decided to take the monkeys to Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YPS). After a good start of the day with a lovely cappuccino in the presence of the wonderful Mr G. we set off in the sunshine, with coats and one umbrella, just in case (my Rob Ryan one to keep in style with YPS!). Not long after we passed Stockport it started pouring down and it didn't stop until lo and behold, 4 minutes away from YSP when blue sky and sunshine appeared magically.

Monkeys pleased and very excited when we got there. Although they had been looking forward to seeing the sculptures, still impressed from a visit to Chatsworth House some time ago they were slightly embarrassed by the 'rude' sculptures along the road to the car park. They are at an age (nearly 8 & 10) where, what they call 'the rude bits' should not be on display for the eldest and produces a wave of giggles for the youngest.

Anyway as soon as we got out of the car they were delighted to see 'Big Bertie' or The Horse is a Noble Animal as it is titled, commissioned by Marcia Farquhar and carved by Anthony Dew, a Master Rocking Horse maker near York. Originally made for a show in Tatton Park it now lives at YPS.

Regular readers of my musings will know that I like to take the monkeys out of town during the holidays and take them to places where they don't get to go on a weekly (or even monthly) basis, what with girl monkey's acting, singing and dancing there is not much time left at times apart from pretending to be a taxi driver.
We had a glorious day today and marveled at all the sculptures and trees. The monkeys had both taken drawing materials and sat down at various times to draw the Henry Moore works and write about what they saw. They were most impressed by Anthony Caro and Eduardo Paolozzi, remarking that at school they really only learn about Picasso.

We visited a couple of the galleries, in particular the Underground Gallery was fabulous as this is where the current Joan Miro exhibition is installed. The monkeys LOVED it. We stayed for quite some time, watching footage of the master at work, dissecting the work, examining the use of colour and how to apply it with your fingers. They were both greatly inspired and will go back to school next week with essays and sketches.

Walking around the lake we got to the sign of David Nash' Seventy One Steps and what better way to check how many there are than to walk. They both shouted there weren't 71 but either 46 or 48. Needless to say I had to see this for myself, sure enough there were 71 (what else?!?), counting skills were left in Manchester today!

At the end of our visit I was really pleased to see this work, which is part of The Bee Library by Alec Finlay. This project was launched to coincide with World Book Day 2012 and comprises 24 books about bees and bee keeping and once the artist has read a book it will be transformed into a bee nest. These works will be installed around the YSP from May I believe. We'll have to go back in the Summer to try and find them all. I had heard a bit about the artist from my lovely colleague so was excited to see the work 'in the flesh'.

Alec Finlay - The Bee Library

And just when we felt it was time to go home, heavens opened! Looking forward to a next visit. This is such a wonderful place to go and only 1 hour drive from Manchester. Anyone with kids will be able to keep them entertained here for a whole day, there is a parking charge of £5 and donations at your own discretion. Well worth a visit!

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Night Sky - Book Club recommendation!

I owe this review to Maria Sutton, the wonderful lady who wrote The Night Sky. A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back. One Woman's Story of Quiet Courage and Love: a memoir.

I received the book at the end of last year and started reading the first few gripping pages just before Christmas. However due to circumstances I was unable to continue and focus on this so had to put it aside until last week. I cannot remember the last time I read a book so quickly. For me this book was a real page turner. A journey of one woman to find her father, uncle and other relatives and puzzle together the life of her mother who lived through the war and eventually reached the USA.

The book is well written, clearly with love and never dull. I could not wait to get on the bus to work and back or to curl up under my duvet to see where this journey was taking me.
Of late we have been reading a number of war stories in our household. A subject that I would normally like to put aside. Rightly or wrongly I quite like my little monkeys to remain in their happy little reading world as they see and hear too much drama in the newspaper and on the news channels. However due to the recent tears of Kate Middleton at the premiere of War Horse, this is now a must read at school and girl monkey is also reading Anne Frank's Diary. A book close to my heart. I read the book at age 10 and in Holland, every year on the 4th May there used to be a film, play or documentary about her life on the television to remember those lives affected by WWII. Girl monkey is moved by what she reads and surprised at the same time: "Did they not have solar power at that time?" and questioning why anyone would have a transistor radio or the fairly grown up language used at times.

My parents lived through WWII and I have heard many stories from them, always moving and I can never forget any of them, even though by comparison it wasn't all that bad for them really.

It is amazing how driven the author of The Night Sky is in her pursuit of her family. It must be so hard not knowing who your father is. Recently one of my friends found her father after nearly 42 years, she never knew who he was and she is lucky enough to find him healthy and well and they are able to build a bond between them.

I would really like to thank Maria Sutton for writing this book. I cannot recommend it enough and hope that many of you will be able to get your hands on this (it is available from Amazon). I have included the synopsis (copied from the book as no one could have written that better) below.


This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer’s astonishing victories can be heard.

As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother’s love – and of tragedy, disillusionment and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Granny's Little Helper

In a usual start of the year attempt to get my craft room tidy, I have been going through a big box of bags of bits and bobs. On this journey I have found many small bits of fabric that will need to be turned into brooches and hair clips and I have found a large amount of colourful dk yarn. As it is the end of winter (well feels more like the start) I didn't feel like knitting some girlie scarves but fancied a bit of crochet.

Now I can make all sorts but crochet has never been my forte. Crochet in my crafts is a bit like risotto used to be in my cooking, a bit stiff and not very successful. Fortunately I have found the perfect risotto recipe so I master that one now and was quite keen to get another skill mastered in 2012. Off I went to the library as the web wasn't much help. Lots of people trying to sell their patterns but no-one explaining how to make a granny square. That was the one I wanted to learn, I could do basic but that's a bit dull. Lucky for me I found the oracle on my local library shelf.

I tried a couple and settled on the one that I felt would work best for a throw on the sofa (or girl monkey's bed as she confiscates anything I make).

I was quite chuffed that after a few nights of working on these I had a basket full of colourful grannies set in white and started to sew a few together.

Boy monkey was equally chuffed with the squares and played with them to make lovely patterns. He's seen me doing knitting, sewing, embroidery and now doing something with one hook so he was most intrigued. And bless him as I went to get myself a well deserved cup of coffee he'd laid them all out, made a nice pattern and ..... cut off the little threads as neatly as he could.

Imagine the look of horror on my face. And then on both monkey's faces. They'd realised quickly that something had been done that shouldn't have been. I clearly didn't master the "Oh aren't you a good boy helping mummy" but instead went into a panic checking if any of them had become undone, as I hadn't finished them properly. Ungratefully I then gave away those that could not be salvaged. Don't think I've encouraged the little man to take up this craft. Think I will have to make it up with a lovely knitted scarf.....

Knit Wit

I've got a snood in the making for a little superstar in the making. And one day I will get through this endless supply of pink & red.

Girl monkey herself has also taken up knitting. She'd tried before but patience does not run in our family. She's very proud of her achievement and joined the school knitting club. I think the knowledge that actors knit on set whilst waiting helped the cause. I am very proud though. Next project is a scarf for dad, bless.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A cheerful New Year

Happy New Year to all my lovely readers. I hope this year will be a healthy, peaceful, loving and successful one for you all. Personally I am also wishing for inspiration, time for crafts, reading and seeing a fair share of new art and contemporary craft. To start the new year I have brought back a cheerful notebook from Holland to brighten up an otherwise corporate black desk. Thanks for following me and hope that in 2012 my life is back in full swing and I will be able to update you all far and away about my musings.

Love, peace, crafts & happiness. X

Souvenir from Zeeland

I know that I am not alone in buying souvenirs from places I love and visit. However I have never been one to buy the typical souvenirs, the ones that my children love, emblazoned with "I love Wales" or "I was in EuroDisney". I'd rather buy a subtle reminder of where I was and one of the things I brought back from a visit to Holland was this lovely stone pear. I noticed it immediately as I walked into this beautiful antique shop in Veere, located in a former church. Apparently the lady who made them had done two but the shop assistant at De Pagter informed me that one customer had, rather disappointedly, bought a single one, breaking up the pair. Much to my delight I must say. I love the grey concrete colour and the rusty stem. It reminded me of the canal house I lived in a long time ago that had bare walls, concrete floors and wooden and steel beams showing everywhere. The pear also reminded me of the Dutch still life genre, whether it is the sincerity of the 17th Century Masters or the almost spooky Realism of the Twentieth Century artists.

I also nearly bought some prayer chairs but they were child size and I wondered how long we might be able to use them; the monkeys are growing fast and although I love the design I realised it was better holding off until I found some adult size ones. Instead I picked up this shoe mold. I have always loved them but never acquired one. Not sure if this is going to be the first of many but at this point that is totally irrelevant. This one will always be a reminder of a lovely visit to Veere.