Monday, July 30, 2012

The Beach, the Train, and the Castle

We did go down to the beach on Wednesday. Fortunately there were folding chairs and a beach umbrella at the house so we trekked down the hill to the less populated end of the beach.

The day was hot and sunny and the water was bottle green, clearer than I've ever seen it and cold!

It was also incredibly flat - there was no chop and hardly any swell (and I think most of that was caused by the motor boats whizzing back and forth just outside the swimming area). I could just float on my back and bob gently, looking up at the amazingly blue sky. All in all a lovely afternoon.

That night Evie came down on the train after work and we picked her up at Wareham station.

Thursday was the day we had all been looking forward to. Every time we go to Swanage we take the steam train to Corfe Castle.

Corfe is a bit like a fairytale village - old stone houses, charming little train station, and atmospheric ruins. It's one of my favourite places in Britain.

There were several exhibitors at the castle. The large rectangle on the left had a gentleman in Victorian dress talking about travel in the 19th century, a table with children making mosaics and a woman showing spectators how to spin and weave. At the small yellow tent on the left a man was making knives, spoons and jewelry on a tiny bronze age forge, while on the right a woman sold jewelry inspired by bronze age archaeological finds and a man sold handmade pottery. I bought a bronze necklace and a pottery mug.

We have been at the castle when it's foggy, raining and windy enough to blow us off the top, but this was perfect.

We had another cream tea while we were in Corfe

which was only slightly marred by the presence of fruit scones rather than plain.

I even managed to get David and Evie to be silly for me (Evie getting into the spirit of it and David very reluctantly).

We were very sad to pack up and leave on Friday. We had the best week there ever.

We did stop at Worth Matravers for one more cream tea before we left Dorset though.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside

We are halfway through the first week of our 3-week holiday in England and after all the dire predictions, and the news that it had been the wettest summer on record, we've had four of the most beautiful days I can remember in England, let alone at the seaside. For the first week we are staying at Swanage in Dorset, our traditional summer holiday spot. We first came the summer of 1991 when Evie was a baby and visited almost every year until 2003, although we almost always came in the autumn or spring when it's much cheaper.

Originally we were going to be sharing a house with David's brother Geoffrey and his family but they had to cancel their trip so we're rattling round in a rather bigger place than we are used to. It's up on the cliff overlooking the sea in one direction (there was a boat race on Saturday),

with a view to the beach and town in another.

Swanage has a very nice beach, with lovely sand (especially by British standards) but as you can see, it's very crowded this time of year, particularly down at the town end. The house we are renting is near the end of the line of houses up on the hill leading toward Ballard Down.

A Punch and Judy show is a must at the seaside in Britain.

As are bathing huts. One of these years we'll have to rent one of these while we are here.

Our first night we had fish & chips down by the water in town.

And the next day our first cream tea of the summer. For those unfortunate enough to have never had a cream tea, this involves a pot of tea (or coffee), scones, jam and clotted cream. As cream teas go this one was adequate. For a really excellent cream tea you need generous helpings of jam (usually strawberry) and cream and fresh, fluffy but solid scones. The serving of cream was generous, the jam less so, and the scones a little too crumbly and not as fresh as they could have been. Nevertheless as it was the first we've had in some time we enjoyed it very much.

Today we took a boat around Ballard Down to see the Pinnacle and Old Harry's rocks. Although we've been coming here for years for some reason we'd never done the boat rides. It was really interesting to see the bay from the water, and then to see the cliffs from the bottom. The down is chalk and originally (thousands/millions of years ago) connected with the Isle of Wight which, on a very clear day, you can see from here.

The rock on the far right is Old Harry, apparently named after a local pirate.

When we were finished we were feeling the need for another cream tea so we took advice, drove inland to Worth Matravers, and found this--
where we had this...
Out here...
looking at this...

Nice, huh?

Tomorrow we will probably brave the sea down at this end of the beach, where it's not so crowded. Although the weather's gorgeous and around 25C (77F) the water's not going to be warm. But it would be a little ridiculous to come to the seaside and not take at least a little dip, and I have a new bathing costume!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Am I Blue?

Or am I grey? (a before & after during post)

We have friends coming to visit this summer so I decided it was high time to get the guest room sorted out (I can't tell you how exciting it is to finally have a guest room).  Evie has visited a couple of times since we moved and at Christmas she practiced her hooping indoors - leading to walls that looked like this.

The result of a large black-and-white striped hoop being whirled around a fairly small space.

I'm thinking of decorating the room in black and white (oddly enough) but I didn't want to paint the walls plain white, and I thought a pale, silvery grey would go nicely. So I started looking at paint swatches, and paint company websites, and places like Pinterest - and I found it's really difficult to find a grey that's not too dark, or too blue or (shudder) "greige". Eventually I brought a bunch of swatches home from Home Depot, taped them up in the room and then started pulling off the ones I didn't like. I narrowed it down to two paints from Behr - Sterling and Burnished Metal - and after buying sample pots last Friday I painted large patches on the wall to compare:

After I'd done it I realised this wasn't the best wall to use because the light coming in from that side window was distorting the colour a bit (which is why I have a second patch of the BM on the left, closer to the light.

All through Friday and Saturday I kept popping back into the room to see the colours at different times of the day, and in artificial light, and I decided the Burnished Metal was just a little too dark. My only concern was whether the Sterling was going to turn out to be tinged with blue after all.

Sunday morning I made myself a large cup of coffee, put on Terry Pratchett's "Making Money", unscrewed the switch/plug plates, taped the room and started painting. I love painting - it's so zen. Especially with an audio book going. Terry Pratchett and Agatha Christie are my authors of choice for painting.

The Behr is pretty stinky in the can but the smell disappears as the paint dries and by the end I could hardly smell anything. After I'd done the cutting in I was getting very nervous about the colour, but I persevered.

I got all the way around the room but didn't have enough paint left to do the inside of the closet so I've had to leave it for now. I was still seeing pale blue, until I ripped down the masking tape - apparently it was casting enough of a shadow/reflection to tip the colour over. Once it was gone the paint was exactly what I'd wanted - a pale, pearly grey (I went for a satin finish for that little extra gleam).

I tipped the headboard sideways and leaned it against the wall so I could see the effect of the grey, black and white together and I think I'm going to be really happy with it.

Now I just have to decide whether to just get an extra quart to finish the inside of the closet or buy another gallon and do another coat all over. I could probably get away with one coat because it covers really well, but there are a few spots where I didn't have quite enough paint on the roller, and a few others where I had too much and there are some drips.  I won't have time to do anything with it until Friday at the earliest so I have a few days to look at it again and decide whether to be a perfectionist or whether OK is good enough.

Update: I've decided to be a perfectionist and I've bought a second can. Hopefully I can get on the second coat/paint the closet this weekend.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Where Did the Last Eight Months Go? And Other Pressing Questions

OK, slightly embarrassed about the gap since my last post. I'll blame it on busyness, some major knitting fails, and generally lack of gumption on my part.

So, not much knitting done since November last year. I did manage to get all my Christmas knitting done in time to hand it all out at Thanksgiving when I was in California.

The fuzzy neck-warmers for the girls were a big hit - as belts (they were very stretchy). I love the way kids repurpose things. I didn't mind, as long as they enjoyed them. The one with the pink button was Madie's and the orange was for Ally. Cedric (blue) and Lauren (grey) tried on their mustachioed neck-warmers and were adorable, although sadly I forgot to get pictures of any of them. I need to start wearing my camera around my neck so I don't forget it's there.  Anyway, everyone seemed to like their gifts.

Since then, I got all the pieces of Evie's coat knitted in January but when I came to sew it up none of them seemed to match each other. I'm afraid I stuffed the whole thing into a bag and then into the closet until I can steel myself to rip out the sleeves and reknit them.

But that's not the worst. I had a Citron shawl, in the lovely pink/white/green Zauberball wool I bought with my birthday money last year, about 3/4 done, and I left it on a train in Egypt. I wonder what whoever found it made of it - probably shrugged and threw it out the window. Tragedy!  At the Cairo airport on the way home I started a pair of soft red socks for David, to help console me for my loss - by the time I had turned the heel I realized I wasn't going to have enough of the first ball to finish the foot - so it has been languishing until I have the nerve to rip it out and start again.

In the meantime, since the weather has improved, I've started doing some things around the house. Firstly I've been getting things organized. When we moved we dumped all the boxes into the basement and slowly unpacked and put things away. However, we still have about 30 boxes full of mostly books and magazines to put away, and not enough bookcases to put them into. Over the past few months, every time we've needed a book that hadn't been unpacked yet we'd have to rummage through the boxes in the basement to try and find it so after a while we had books stacked (and sometimes not stacked) all over the floor and every flat surface. A couple of weeks ago I took a Sunday afternoon and tried to restore some order down there.  I've also been organizing my workroom - I love that we have a house big enough for each of us to have a home office/workroom, as well as a spare bedroom. If you come to visit us there will be no more sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor.

One of the benefits of clearing up the basement was finding things like framed pictures which had been packed with the books. I've finally managed to get some of them up on the walls and it makes things feel much more homey.  I decided I wanted to have all my St George's (I collect pictures of St George, weird I know) in the same color frames - previously they were in whatever frames I had to hand or could buy cheaply, so I have spraypainted most of them glossy black so they have a more unified look. I just have to decide where to put them now.

The ones on the right are postcards I've picked up here and there, the one on the left is a poster (about 18x24) I got at the Vatican Museum in Rome. I'm particularly fond of that one. I still have four or five postcards to get framed and once they are all up I'll get a picture of them together.

I've been doing a lot of shopping at the local thrift stores. I love them, although I do miss the atmosphere of the charity shops in England, with their little old lady volunteers, and the eclectic mix of shiny new stuff in the window graduating to the really weird old stuff at the very back.  I have bought several lamps for very good prices, since very few rooms in our new house have overhead lighting - it seems to be the trend in decorating at the moment. One lamp only needed a new shade, a couple of them needed some cosmetic work.  This one was an ugly mottled grey pewterish color, so I gave it a coat of Rustoleum's Heirloom White (the darling of DIYers on the web) and then, inspired by a lamp I saw on someone's blog (sorry I can't remember which one) I cut strips of a cheesecloth like fabric I had in my stash and laid them over the shade, tying it all together with a long strip. I like the way it's turned out (very shabby-chic) and have it on my nightstand now.

I got this little footstool at one of the thrift stores to use in the kitchen. It should be against the law for anyone over 6 feet tall to design kitchens meant for people 5'5" tall. I was going to paint it but after I'd sanded it I really liked the way it looked so I've just set it in the kitchen as it is. I'll probably paint it eventually but at the moment I'll give it a coat of something, polyurethane or finishing wax just to protect it and enjoy its rustic charm.

I've got all sorts of plans for decorating and refinishing furniture over the next few months so I'll try and keep the blog updated with my progress.  I've been stalking craft/decor/thrifting blogs over the last couple of months and they are incredibly inspirational.


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