Saturday, 31 October 2009

Bits & Pieces.....

One photo that I forgot to upload yesterday - looks a bit dull doesn't it? My partner was snapping away at just about everything while on holiday and took this picture of a plane landing at Logan airport. It wasn't until it was downloaded on the computer and viewed on the big screen that we realised just what the large plane on the landing strip in the foreground was.....Airforce One! We'd missed the Obama motorcade - we were in the aquarium and didn't know the president was in town anyway, so it was quite exciting for us to find out we'd at least seen his plane.

Here are the pieces of fabric and bead edgings I bought at a discount fabric shop. If I'd known this lot would only total $9, I would have grabbed more......don't ask me what I am going to do with the John Deere tractor fabric, I just knew I had to have it!

Faced with the vast selection of cookie cutters, I had to be sensible and only buy ones that I knew I'd use. So we will be having lobster cookies, Golden Retriever cookies, and will never be short of Halloween shapes...unfortunately I just haven't got round to making any Halloween cookies yet, too busy!

Who could resist this gorgeous cuddly octopus? I just had to have him!

Finally, I haven't just been sleeping or washing vast piles of dirty clothes since coming back from holiday - I did finish this pretty scarf. It's knitted in purple Sublime mohair with a soft fluffy eyelash yarn edging with a touch of silver tinsel. The scarf is in simple stocking stitch with a flared edge either side, and then gathered gently down then centre to create the ruffles. This will be for sale on Etsy shortly.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Whistlestop Tour of Boston...

We discovered today that between us we have over 600 photos from our trip to Boston - that's going to take some sorting out when it comes to printing them! Other people's holiday snaps can be a terrible bore, so I have tried to reduce mine to a few choice ones that sum up our break.

We went to the New England Aquarium and saw penguins being hand-fed their breakfast....

...each one got their own portion of fish which was duly noted on a chart - to make sure no-one got left out.

We saw Myrtle the Turtle (not my choice of name!) being fed sprouts and broccoli.......

...this was to keep her from taking chunks out of the divers who were feeding the other fish in this enormous cylindrical tank which dominates the centre of the building.

My daughter's favourites were the seals, particularly the small one which reminded her of our dog for some reason.

This tank of jellyfish was incredible - I really want to turn our shots of these into a painting.

The Freedom Trail was a long hard slog in the rain - I am sure it was longer than two and a half miles! This is Paul Revere's house.

This fascinating graveyard had stones dating back to the 1600's, including Paul Revere's.

We were lucky to get on the final whale-watching trip of the year - our first attempt was cancelled due to rough seas. This wasn't a smooth trip by any standards but didn't merit the amount of throwing up going on around us by sea-wimps! This is Boston's skyline as seen from the boat.

We saw about 12 different humpback whales, including this mother and calf.

This has been a long-time ambition of mine, and I couldn't really believe I was actually on a boat seeing whales with my own eyes - it all felt very surreal.

The freezing cold wind felt real enough though! That amorphous lump swaddled in my arms is my daughter sheltering from the cold.......

...she emerged when we reached the shelter of the shoreline - Hello Eskimo Nell!

Here she is warming up eating 'Chowdah!' in Quincy Market.

The next day was a complete turnabout and was warm and sunny when we took the boat to Salem.

It being the week before Halloween, some people had gone all out with their decorations - how cool is this back yard!

This made me laugh..a lot! I now have this bumper sticker on my car - if you saw where I live and some of our neighbours, you'd appreciate this even more!

Hope this wasn't too dull! I have had a complete break from painting and crafting, but will get back into the swing of things in a few days after all vestiges of jet-lag have gone away.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Did You Miss Me At All?

I've been away for a few days - did you notice? We have just had the most amazing five day break in Boston - we have never been to the USA before and had plenty of preconceptions founded on tv programmes and films, but were blown away by the kind and polite people of Boston, the beautiful countryside, the incredible food (and how much of it!), the sights we saw and the ever-changing weather. In the space of five days we have been hot, freezing cold, wet, windblown and sunburnt!

We've only been back a few hours and are suffering from severe lack of sleep after flying over night, but here are just a few photos. It's nearly Halloween, and boy did we know it! Above are some pumpkins for sale - puts the handful of sad specimens in Sainsbury's today to shame!

We took a boat trip to Salem - stunning scenery on the way with the autumnal colours and the beautiful houses among the trees. We coveted each and every one of them!

The House of the Seven Gables, Salem - very creepy in the fading light as the sun went down.

I love my dogs, but think I would be hard pressed to buy them their own icecream! Spoiled pooches get to finish off my ice-lollies as it is....

I have so many more pictures to sort out - we went on a daytrip out to sea and saw humpback whales; we tramped through the rain following the Freedom Trail, we spent a day wondering at the sea-creatures in the New England Aquarium, and we explored Salem and learnt about the witch trials. The cases were jammed with plunder from the local shops - pumpkin pie, Koolaid, Kandy Korns, t-shirts, sweat-shirts, cookie cutters, touristy souveniers, even some pieces of fabric. Who knew our hotel would be opposite a huge discount fabric store......

To be continued.....

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Not Going to Happen.....

I'm nothing if not determined, but the time has come to admit defeat. I so wanted to have this jumper finished before I go on holiday so I could wear it while away, but with one and a half sleeves still to do, it's time to put it aside and concentrate on more important packing! I'd have managed it too if it weren't for the yarn being held up during the postal strikes last week.

I've had these little shell paintings in mind for weeks now, but have had to focus on the potatoes instead. However, as soon as the last potato in the current batch was done, I grabbed the opportunity to start this little piece. I found it strangely difficult and have come to the conclusion that after all these weeks of working at high speed and only painting tubers, my brain is completely fried. So I have put down my pencils and brushes for now, and whilst I am taking a basic painting kit of sketchbook, pencil, brushpen & travelling water-colour box when I go, I am determined to only use them if I feel the urge - time to relax and re-charge the creative batteries I think.

Friday, 16 October 2009

If It's October, It Must be Time to Make Christmas Cake!

Every year I try manfully to get the Christmas cake made as early as possible. Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don't. It makes a big difference to the quality of the cake however, as if the cake is made in October, that gives me over two months in which to water it well with copious jollops of brandy once a week! Last year the cake was sheer perfection as it had been steeping in alcohol for nigh on three months...this year I have once again made it nice and early.

I have used a recipe from a Stork Margarine cook book given to me by my mother when I left home at the age of it's a very old cook book. It has stood me in good stead over the years, with plenty of simple, tasty traditional dishes and the Christmas cake recipe hasn't let me down yet.

So tonight when the dinner has been cooked, into the oven it will go to bake slowly for three hours in its newspaper overcoat to prevent the sides and bottom from burning - a little trick learnt from my mother. The house will be warm and aromatic with the scent of mixed spice, nutmeg, brandy and cake......mmmmmm.....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Plenty More Fish in the Sea....Number Two!

Seeing as the original 'Plenty More Fish in the Sea' scarflette was snapped up in under 12 hours of being on Etsy, I thought it might be a good idea to make another one, just in case anyone out there was cursing being too slow on the uptake! This one is knitted in a varigated pure wool yarn in shades of blue with a touch of purple. It is slightly larger than the previous scarflette, mainly because I had more of this yarn! It is trimmed with the small brown wooden fish, but this time also has tiny blue wooden disc beads in between the fish and large turquoise fish at the corners.

It has the same extra lengths of crocheted curly-wurly ends , this time making it long enough to be tied around your waist...even round my waist! A very versatile little number, and would look great with anything denim.

Just received a large parcel of deep blue alpaca yarn that I ordered to make a very intricate chunky lace jumper for myself. The challenge is, can I finish it in time to take on holiday with this space!

Todays potato is No.88, leaving 10 more to do. If I had the technical ability, I'd have a little 'countdown' counter.......
Someone at work asked me what I am painting the potatoes in....acrylics I replied.
She pondered for a while, then asked 'why acrylics? Do they preserve the potato or something?'
Rather than smack my head against a brick wall several times in disbelief, I pointed out that I'm illustrating a book - and quickly walked away...

Monday, 12 October 2009


We are already almost half way through October, and yet in the garden can still be seen....

...some bright nasturtiums......

.....a banana plant flourishing and still putting out leaves....

....a giant hibiscus putting out its first and only bud for the year - will it make it to open before the frosts come?

More in keeping with the time of year, our grape vine has gone mad this year and spread over the pergola at last and produced a few small bunches of plump grapes. Those leaves are so very beautiful!

There is another fish-themed triangular scarf on it's way - a few finishing touches to be made and then it is done.

I have a mere 12 more potatoes to be painted......there will be a large bottle of champagne chilling in my fridge when the last one is in progress...

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Plenty More Fish in the Sea.....

I seem to have been making an awful lot of knitted lace lately, which although I enjoy doing it, makes for a bit of a boring wait inbetween blog posts! However, I took a short break from the complicated knitting this week and whizzed up a little triangular scarflette...ok, the edging is in actual fact a basic lace pattern, but I've got to have something to keep me interested!

It's knitted in Noro Cash Island, a wool & cashmere mix, with loads of little wooden fish hanging from the picot edge. I have crocheted extra length to each end of the scarf, using a curly-wurly effect and a few more fish.

This is a really cute little scarf and can be worn either as above or with the tie at the front. It will be on Etsy later on in the day. SOLD already! If you fancy something similar (and I'd really like to make more of these) just get in touch, it can be arranged!

Number 84...need I say more? I am so desperate not to paint potatoes that yesterday while teaching a class of six year olds how to use watercolours, one of them had to take the brush out of my hand so he could actually have a go, because I was getting a bit carried away with the joy of painting some sky, some grass, a tree........oh well, not long now!!

Monday, 5 October 2009

Retrospective Too......

I finally got the nod this week that the number of potatoes left to paint is in the teens - oh how my heart sang! I have never painted over 80 of anything, let alone tubers, and I have to say enough is enough! I physically long to paint something else, to use a different palette of colours, a different medium. Imagine if you were an opera singer made to sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star over and over for a year or a chef confined to making Shepherd's pie every day for a year and you might get an inkling of how I feel!

In the meantime, here are a couple of older paintings from a few years back. This is a Cornish tin mine in a place called Porth Towan if I remember correctly. I loved the height of it's tower and it's brooding atmosphere. This is painted in acrylics (look, colour!)'s available for sale if anyone is interested, just e-mail me.

This is Porth Towan Beach, also in Cornwall and in acrylics and I really enjoyed painting the reflective water left on the sand as the tide went out. This is also available for sale and is framed in a home-made driftwood frame, complete with sand and the odd shell.

I'm also currently knitting a strawberry pink lacy shawl which will be very pretty when finished...if I can only stop making silly errors and having to unravel inches of it every now and again. I'm tired...........