Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
It must be Christmas, our respective households have built Bethlehem in a day (in Sonata's case, she built two - the one on the top and bottom left hand side!):
And this year 'Chez Smitonius', we opted for a black plastic tree, having had one organic tree - full of bugs - one year, and one live one - planted in the garden to never thrive again! Used and re-used, this one might be more eco than most...
We both hope you all have a very merry Xmas, wherever in the world you are!
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Friday, 18 December 2009
Stalls full of stars
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
If anyone had told me that I would positively enjoy Christmas fairs on my birthday when I was younger, I would have looked horrified.... I used to refuse to do anything seasonal until the 14th of December. I appear to have mellowed, as Bremen is my fourth or fifth continental fair visited.
The destination was chosen because it meant that Smitonius and Sonata could meet up for a week-end (in person rather than virtually, for a change!), but we were all pleasently surprised by Bremen's Christmas fair. There are a few lovely quarters to visit, as well as two quite distinct fairs. One of them is a Medieval or folk inspired one, which is lit by flame light at night (admitedly, it is atmospheric but a lot easier to navigate through it by day).
The main square was full of seasonal goodies:
and lights and crowds drinking mulled wine and eating sausages (well, the most popular food item seemed to be Schweinebraten actually, cooked over logs).
Although Father Christmas and the entire cast and crew of the nativity are very evident, the real stars of the city in any season are the Bremen musicians: in ceramic, fluffy toys, t-shirts, postcards, and sculpted.
But the best souvenir of all had to be these huge loaves handmade in the Medieval market section (Sonata modelling her loaf straight from the oven):
Fortunately, we had had the foresight to pay for a bag to be checked in - that loaf alone would have tipped the scales!
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Sunday, 6 December 2009
And then it seems great fun to photograph odd pages and make a collage of them .
Which would explain why , on my own this evening , I'm now scuttling about and planning a bacon butty* and rocket salad for supper .
* a butty is a sandwich , not the delicate kind without crusts and cut in triangles .
Friday, 4 December 2009
I participated in this year's Christmas ornament exchange:
And, whilst I am hoping that Kirstin has received my package by now, I have just received hers. She is one half of Signs and Salvage which create funky wooden signs with salvaged wood, and look at what I received - thank you!:
Hopefully Santa will think I have been nice this year....
Monday, 30 November 2009
Well, we got tagged by Penny (thanks!), and the fun bit about this award is having to reveal 7 things about ourselves our blog readers don't know (Smitonius: my first thought was... well, there must be things that my mother does not know about her daughter, and viceversa!). Firstly, here are the rules:
1. Copy and paste the pretty picture which you see above onto your own blog. [TICK]
2. Thank the person who gave you the award and post a link to their blog. [TICK]
3. Write 7 things about yourself we do not know. [See below]
4. Choose 7 other bloggers to award. [Again, see below but do not feel obliged bloggers!]
5. Link to those 7 other bloggers. [Will do]
6. Notify your 7 bloggers. [again, will do]
So, revelations (imagine if you will a slow but increasing drum roll) and bear in mind that we have had a wandering life - having lived in Britain, Spain and the Netherlands:
1) Sonata: When I was ten, our dance class danced around the May Pole outside the Community Centre and I went the wrong way, tangling all the ribbons hopelessly. I was then positively encouraged to give up dancing and only took to the floor again when the twist became popular.
2) Smitonius: As a child, I did not entirely share my mother's sense of humour, and, in addition, was totally star struck: I longed for the black and white Hollywood glamour of the 1940s and 50s, perhaps I was rebelling against the orange floral bell bottomed trousers I had to wear. So, it seemed entirely appropriate to name one of our cat's litter, a patchy tortoiseshell, Lana (after, Lana Turner of course). My mother laughed, and noted that Lana is the Spanish word for wool, and renamed her Woolie. Now, I have to laugh, but then I didn't!
3) Sonata: Husband and I got married in Gibraltar, in the same room as John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Not at the same time, of course, and with considerably less media frenzy. But we were given the Honeymoon Suite at the hotel. It had burnt orange walls and a leaking roof, I remember.
4) Smitonius: The closest I have ever come to fame was emerging from a cake aged 18 and dressed up as a 'French' maid (it involved a black mini-skirt and a red beret, I seem to recall) for magazine editor Tina Brown's father's birthday party celebrated on the Costa del Sol. He was George Hambley Brown... and had I been able to google him then, I would have been quite struck by the fact that he had once directed Vivien Leigh!
5) Sonata: When Smitonius was researching something or other, I started picking up holy cards for her as they are so much easier to find in Holland than in England. Typically, I didn't stop there and now have loads of them. I love the lovely artwork, especially the Art Deco ones, and cannot resist any by the Belgian religious house and publisher Abbaye de Maredret. CLICK on picture below to see these ones close up:
6) Smitonius: In addition to the above Holy card craze, I have suffered other momentary crazes that result in a collection or a stash (you see, hoarding is genetic): some are self-evident, like knitting (this is hardly a revelation) but one craze was pretty peculiar. For although I was in my early 30s, I stared a Pokemon card collection - why? I have no idea how I became Pokemon Crazed, and it did break one day (rather like a fever), but my nephew will be grateful when he is older and I hand him over my collection (and, as it happens, I could combine my love of yarn with my enduring affection for Pikachu by making this hat - but maybe not!).
We pass on the award to the following bloggers - but do not feel obliged... though thinking about what to reveal is actually quite fun!
Molly Bawn Chronicles: her fairy name is Columbine Rainbowfilter!
Duyvken: such crafting loveliness!
Myrtle and Eunice: always craft-busy... her new tea towels are fab.
Slow lane life: she says 4 cats are enough... do we believe her?
Unleash the inner FWOG: another collaborative blog - the more the merrier!
Gugaw: a fellow Londoner who likes Spanish hot chocolate... and visits interesting places.
Thursday, 26 November 2009
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Visited two Scandinavian Xmas fairs yesterday in south London: the elegant Norwegian fair held at St Olav's, where many women in traditional costume can be spotted. This church was built for Norwegian seamen in 1927, and has a lovely wood panel interior, which was crammed full of seasonal 'Nisse' ornaments: a type of gnome. When I was a teenager, there was a book by Wil Huygen and illustrated by Poortvliet that I loved... does anyone remember that one?
I resisted walking out with armfuls of the little creatures, though did find some presents (shhhh) and treated myself to salty licorice (not for everyone, but I do like it!).
Then I popped down the road to the Finnish fair held on the same day at the Finnish Church (if you are in London, it is on next week also!). This one is not as pretty but it is worth going to for the food alone: a nice bottle of Lapin Kulta beer with home smoked hot salmon, mash and sour cream for lunch followed by more retail. Stocked up on Moomin parafernalia, Finnish yarn, and treats (like Raspberry and Blueberry Jaffa cakes!). In fact, there was a fine young Fin doing a barrow boy impersonation and selling 1 kilo of frozen blueberries for £1. Guess what I spent this morning doing?
Blueberry jam (a 'Summer' variety following this recipe by Purplegirl plus a 'Christmas' version sort of inspired by the vague instruction in this recipe: Hendrick's cocktail) AND Blueberry vodka... not inky blue, but a velvety red I would say!
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
You find yourself doing the oddest things sometimes . Kneeling on a concrete floor , pumping up and down on some limbless plastic doll's chest while singing "Staying Alive ", for instance . Mind you , I sincerely hope that , if I do ever have to reanimate someone , no one tries to help by counting along ....in Dutch . The seemingly backwards counting after 20 ( Eenentwintig , tweeentwintig , drieentwintig ....) kept on making me lose the thread . Never mind trying to ignore someone on the other side counting in Arabic .
No one had better look peaky round me for a while . Thanks to our employer's desire for no one to drop dead prematurely on our premises , I have every eventuality covered now from the Heimlich manoeuvre to making a sling . My pre-war Newnes Household Encyclopaedia , on the other hand , went straight from Fire-Kindlers to Fish . First Aid didn't seem to exist in the 1920s.
Nor , I suspect , did the supper kindly provided afterwards . 3 Bean Stew with Chili Peppers and Pineapple . It was probably chosen because it couldn't offend anyone , be they Muslim , Hindi or vegetarian . It made me long for toast and Marmite ....so , after I'd pedalled home through the rain , that's just what I ate .
But that damn song just goes on and on .....
Friday, 13 November 2009
If you go on into the (internet) woods today, you may find out your fairy name... Fairy Name Generator
Apparently, I am:
Tangle is the operative word in relation to my appearance today! I most certainly do not look like the following damsel:
Now I am trying to experiment with creating some embroidery PDFs for the etsy shop, and who better to offer a free download to than the occasional blog reader in the hope for feedback! I have several copies of an early twentieth century embroidery magazine called 'El Consultor de los Bordados' published in Barcelona which is now out of copyright. I have scanned them and cleaned up the images to create a series of themed editions based on such things as fairy tales or geishas and so on. This free download is titled 'yesterdays children'.
Embroidery Free Edition Smitonius
I hope you like it!
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Perhaps this will be too somber a post.... but I thought I would share a sad little family history story on this day of remembrance.
On both of my parent's sides there have been soldiers who found themselves caught up in WWI and, also, WWII. Some women also played their part in WWII, as one of my grandmother's was in the WAAF and the other volunteered in a military hospital whilst an army wife in Rawalpindi (now Pakistan).
My mother's grandfather survived WWI to have to go and do it all again in WWII (and he survived that too!), but some men on my father's side did not come back from France. I already knew about Major William Ernest Watson DSO (6th Dragoon Guards) who went missing in action in November 1914. His family, in hope, put a notice in The Times in February 1915 requesting information, but it was eventually concluded that he died in the Battle of Messines on 31 October 1914. William left a wife and two girls. His name is engraved on the Menin Gate. This is his portrait:
But yesterday I was reconstructing another family branch, the Beckett family (Hindon, Wiltshire), and I kept coming up against a brick wall for a Philip Arthur Beckett (born 1892). Most of the rest of the family emigrated to America in 1910, but Philip did not go with them. I checked through various photocopies that my father had sent me, and then saw a note that said a certain Arthur had been shot by a sniper as soon as he reached France.
So I checked various websites, and then all the pieces began to fit together. Philip Arthur had stayed behind because he had managed to get a place at Clare College, Cambridge. He completed his education, but in November of 1915 arrived in France with the Royal West Kent Regiment. He rose in rank from private to 2/Lieutenant and was attached to the 7th batallion by the start of 1917. I then found that C T Atkinson's history of the regiment was available online, and it states what happened on the 14th of February 1917. The batallion had had two months of respite after hard fighting in Ancre, and they then returned to the front line. Trenches, I found out, had names then: they had control of 'Desire' Trench but where trying to recapture 'Grandcourt' trench. 2/Lieutenant Beckett and another one called Dix commanded the lead platoons. Unfortunately, it all appears to have gone horribly wrong in the dark, and the casualties were 'deplorably heavy'. Although he was never found, Philip Arthur's name appears on the Thiepval memorial.
Sad, and such a waste.
Thursday, 5 November 2009
I suspect I'm still five years old at heart. One of the local supermarket chains has a promotion ....for every 15 Euros you spend you get a little shiny bag , containing one of the characters from Snow White ....only 2"high ( or smaller , obviously , for Dopey etc. ) .
Now , I'm not five and I know that tiny bits of plastic are a Bad Thing environmentally and I promise not to accept anymore . But .... I had to look just once .... and I got Snow White !!
And now she's supervising my latest quilt for Hitty . And for anyone who was thinking , "I wouldn't have put those colours together ", before this is finished I'll have sewn around 400 of these together . It all works out in the end , you'll see .
But if I'm on this sort of lucky streak , perhaps I should have listened to the overexcited chap who's just called from "Zurich ....Switzerland ", to tell me that I'm in the final draw for a Major Prize . I might have won , who knows ? But , since I'm not five years old , I put the phone down on whats'isname from "Zurich .... Switzerland " , while wondering why he had a local accent .
Tuesday, 3 November 2009
Friday, 30 October 2009
In Bamburgh (northumberland), the church is the resting place for Grace Darling, a local heroine. But what really caught my eye was a stained glass window which illustrates a virtuous woman. Now I know my price is not far above the proverbial rubies, but, for crafty reasons, I rather liked this particular stained glass window panel:
It was far too rainy to take decent photos of Northumbrian castles, and we took refuge in a pub for a gastro lunch. There was a van parked outside with the following ghostly transfers on the doors.... erm, now we know already which of the two ghosts I might be! But I rather like the moto: 'reality is an illusion created by a lack of alcohol'.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Felled by a headache at work yesterday , I came home early and spent the rest of the afternoon under a blanket on the sofa , like a moulting owl .
I never get headaches .....not as a matter of principle , I'm just lucky and don't . If I get anything , it's a sore throat ( no smirking from those who know how much I talk ) . So I had to consult my handy Enquire Within for remedies .
I see that one " should lie down in a darkened room with a cold bandage round the head . A few drops of ether may be used on a rag and added . Cover all with oiled silk to prevent evaporation " .
Unable to face climbing back on my bike to seek either oiled silk or ether , let alone do anything so noisy as rip an old sheet into bandages , I looked again . Luckily I then read that some cases are benefited by taking a strong cup of tea or coffee .
And it works .
Friday, 23 October 2009
On academic sabbatical this year, and one of the perks is not being tied to the schedule of meetings and classes, which means that I can accompany my partner to Northumberland for a week. Both of us are working during the day, one sorting out someone elses archives, and another catching up on reading (my challenge this week: to read a novel relevant to my research which is in Catalan, a Romance language I am not familiar with but can, with the aid of a dictionary, interpret adequately... have completed 200 pages out of 399!).
The evenings, though, are our own, and last night we dashed with a friend down to the beach at Beadnell. It was a rare evening without rain, though the sea was rough:
We toasted the three brave Guillemots that bobbed unperturbed on the crashing waves with a glass of bubbly wine.
Hope to snap a shot of a castle or two tomorrow on our return home!