Sunday, 6 April 2014

Erm, what happened to March?

Dear Blogger, it's been one month and one day since my last post. Work has been all consuming recently and so March managed to slip by without me really noticing. Even on the first sunny day of the year I was at my desk, trying to tick off tasks on my to-do list faster than I was adding them.

It would be nice to have a few days that are entirely my own sometime soon. A few weekends ago I ran my first clothes swap of the year. It was great fun but it's a lot of work and my house is still peppered with bags of clothes waiting to be sorted for the next one in June. Other than that I've been working the weekends, with the exception of last weekend when my hand was too sore to do anything.

I was attacked by a cat. Not one of mine, but a large black tom that has been hanging around and fighting with Socks and Tink. Friday night they'd both been chased in through the cat flap. The tom doesn't come in, or even try to, but he sits outside growling and it really upsets my cats (and me) so, without thinking, I stuck my hand out of the cat flap to shoo him away. Only he didn't go anywhere, he grabbed onto my hand, digging in with claws and teeth, and sat perfectly still, growling, leaving me with my hand stuck out the cat flap with a cat attached to the end of it. It makes me chuckle to think of it now, what a ridiculous position to put yourself in, but at the time it was a bit of a shock.

Tink, who had been sitting in the kitchen doorway came running over, fur puffed up, growling and yowling and making all sorts of noises that I had no idea she was capable of making and at a volume I found rather shocking. With this, the tom let go and as soon as he did, Tink stopped. How's that for a cat bodyguard? Yup, Tink's got my back.

After A&E on a Friday night and not getting home until 4:30am, Saturday was a write off and Sunday my hand was still too sore and swollen to hold my mouse, so work was out of the question. It was very frustrating not being able to work when I had so much to do, so I busied myself with some left handed housework, with varying degrees of success. The upside was that Andy took to cooking for most of last week. My hand is on the mend, I still can't grip very well but it is getting better.

I've been finding a little time here and there to add to my new obsession, my patchwork quilt. Although this past week I haven't found the time to pick it up once. Today I wanted to quilt and do very little else, but my hand isn't quite up to sewing just yet. I've managed one full hexagon flower and that's it. I'm doing a Sunday patchwork quilt update on Instagram, so you can follow my progress, y'know, if you like... The cats seem to love it, every time I lay it flat one, or both of them stretch out on it.

Isn't the year flying by? February went by in a flash too. I didn't really notice that my Frugal February 'essential spending only' rule had actually begun before it was all over. It went pretty well, my meal planning helped to cut down my grocery bills and I stayed away from town (charity shops) and ignored my desire to go internet shopping (eBay). The awful weather helped too by making me want to stay tucked up at home. Nothing says 'stay at home' like the driving rain!

My Wearing It All Again wardrobe challenge sort of, well, stopped. I have to admit on my busiest days I didn't even get dressed. But, I've been slowly sorting out loads of things for a blog sale (when I get the time to photograph it all), and have promised myself that I will wear my favourite outfits more often... And to get dressed everyday, it's so easy not to when you have nowhere you need to be.

At the beginning of March I visited a local wedding venue, Easton Grange - not that I'm getting married - I was asked along to go along to an open day and to write a post. Which I will do soon, it was a gorgeous place! Andy went pale when I showed him the brochure and he received more than a few not-so-subtle hints about getting hitched, and more specifically, getting hitched there. It was really, really beautiful. And thanks to Sophie for putting them in touch with me x

So, that was March. April is shaping up to be a good one, how's yours going?

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

A quick lesson in patchwork quilting

I spent a couple of hours at the weekend sitting in a lovely shop in Ipswich, drinking tea and learning the basics of how to sew a patchwork quilt. I'd spotted a poster in the window of Peggy's Place a few weeks earlier and without even stopping and think I wandered in to sign up.

My teacher was Diana, a very lovely and patient lady who, in a matter of only a few hours, cast a spell on me that I don't think is going to wear off any time soon! I'm hooked, utterly, completely and thoroughly hooked. I've been sewing at every available opportunity since and I've started to wonder if she put something into the delicious coffee and walnut cakes she made for us...

Everything we needed was supplied and for the small sum of £18.00 we were taught how to makes these cute little hexagons. The idea was to make them into a pin cushion but I'm going to save mine and make a quilt. Yep, talk about running before you can walk, I've gone straight for a big project!

Diana told me that it took her 5 months of obsessive sewing to make a king size quilt, so far I have 8 hexagons and I dread to think how many I'll need, but I'm not going to plan it I'm just going to keep sewing and watch it grow into a quilt...

I laughed when Diana told me that she watches TV 'through her ears' as she sews but it wasn't long before I knew exactly what she was talking about. I've been watching Dexter on Love Film Instants on my Mac and I've often looked up to see a blank screen with the sound still playing and I hadn't even noticed.

The shop where the lesson was held, Peggy's Place, opened in July 2013 and is filled with handmade items made by local people. The shop is full of lovely things to tempt and delight! Diana has a shelf there and sells some lovely covered lampshades and patchwork items.

Lamp and cushions by Random Patchwork & Crafts

  Fun and Funky Furnishings by Paul Richards

I couldn't resist buying a maple wood teething ring (which I'm told has antibacterial properties) for my friend's baby boy. It was the teeny tiny spider material that sealed the deal - so cute!

 Teething ring by Ickle Fingers


Monday, 3 March 2014

The Harry Potter Studios

Sometime before Christmas Jenny asked the twittersphere if anyone wanted to go to The Harry Potter Studios with her. Within minutes she'd received a number of replies that cemented her as the official organiser of a bloggers trip to Hogwarts. And jolly excited we all were too!

Jenny did an amazing job of getting us all organised and before I could blink the day had arrived and we were packed into Jenny's car heading south to Leavesden. We met the rest of the gang at the studios and the queuing began. We didn't have to wait long and after a quick introduction from Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, not in person sadly, but exactly where we're used to seeing them - on the big screen - the screen went up to reveal the doors to the Great Hall and our tour began.

The only piece of advice I will give you here is to take your time and look up and down and all around. I'm sure I missed so much as I meandered around aimlessly oohing and ahhing and saying 'oh look at that'. I loved the way that the mannequins were positioned in the same stance the actors used in the films. There was plenty of room for everyone to move around although there was always a queue for the green screen.

We went along during the Animal Actors event and got to meet some of the animal breeds that appeared in the films. A lot of the animals used during filming where rescues and in most cases there was more than one for each character.

Half way through you come to a courtyard, where you're pretty much obligated to try a Butterbeer  (no hardship as I rather liked it) but as a group we were somewhat divided. It's here that you see Harry's house on Privet Drive, Hagrid's motorbike and the night bus among other things, and this is where Hedwig made his appearance, although sadly I missed him. He will be returning in April for the Feathers and Flight feature and I am seriously tempted to book my ticket!

Once back in the warm John Cleese peers down at you from a shelf in the Creature Effects area, but he wasn't looking very well, bless him. I loved this part, it's utterly fascinating.

I asked my boyfriend if he wanted me to bring him anything  back, to which he replied 'Hagrid'. Not the answer I was expecting and this picture of his model head was the best I could do. It sat on the shoulders of the 6ft 10" rugby player who helped bring the enormous character to life on screen.

Turning the next corner we found ourselves in a very familiar place - Diagon Alley. Seeing Crookshanks here was a real treat for me - Diagon Alley was a part I'd been particularly looking forward too, and then they added a cat - I was basically in heaven. Being a typical feline, this chap spent most of the time turned away from the crowd having a wash, only occasionally turning around long enough to allow us to take a blurred photo or two. I was smitten never-the-less.

I really wanted to go inside all of the shops (spoken like a true shop-a-holic) especially Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and Ollivanders but we had to make do with peering in through the windows. It's typical of me to want to go into areas that are off limits when there is so much other stuff to see!

Moving forward we wandered through the Art Department and the Model Room, it was here that we saw the  Hogwarts model. It's amazing! The lights going up and down really added to the experience by allowing you to see Hogwarts 'at night'. It's the sort of thing that you can just look at for ages, the detail of it is simply stunning.

The tour ends in the gift shop and once you're there, you can't go back. I wish I'd known this as I would definitely have gone back to see Daigon Alley again and have a last poke around the Creature Effects and gaze at Hogwarts for a while longer. You're encouraged to take things at your own pace and after leaving the Great Hall it's a self guided tour so you're left to your own devices. My advice would be to take your time and enjoy it, drink it all in.

The gift shop was standard stuff. I think that it would have been so nice to theme it and make it look like sections of the film set, I would have been far more likely to buy some of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans if I felt that Fred and George would pop up at any minute.

Truth be told, I didn't feel the need to buy anything as Warner Bros had kindly organised some generous goodie bags for us all. Crookshanks, Scabbers and Hermione's wand were among my treats, along with a chocolate frog and some peppermint toads. It's nice to have something to remember my day by, but most of all I'll take away the feeling of magic and wonder that I felt walking around and seeing behind the scenes of the films. I'll be watching them all again now with a whole new reason to enjoy them.

Huge thanks to Jenny for organising out trip and thanks to Warner Brother Studios for our complimentary visit and our generous goody bags. The Harry Potter Studio really did live up to and exceed my expectations and I can't wait to return again soon...

Some other posts of the day - JennyCharlotte, Sara, Emma, and Sophie. Also, have a little watch of Jenny's video of our day.


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