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Friday, 31 October 2014

The Haunted Garden


I am feeling so brave.  My trusty ten year old Ghost Buster is feeling very brave too.  This in an advertising poster for an 'event' that we went to last night.  It was called 'The Haunting' and it took part in the gardens of Ragley Hall.


Do you remember the Ghost Train or the Haunted House, like that but outside, in the real dark!  In a setting that quite possibly has real ghosts of its own.  On the long, dark drive through the estate to get the house, my ten year old Ghost Buster no longer wanted to ghost bust at all.  He wanted to go home.  It felt like a real life Scooby Doo adventure.  I told him we should face our fears and we could always escape if we needed to.
    At the start of our adventure a leaf blew across the path, just a leaf, I thought it was a rat and it made me jump.  There were about twenty people in our group.  You had to be 10yrs or over.  We walked down a dark path where we were greeted in an alarming fashion by 'Edward The Gardener'.  When one member of our group screamed or shouted, we all screamed and shouted!  It was absolutely hilarious but nerve wracking.  I think Edward The Gardener is very lucky nobody struck him.  
  We stumbled around the garden in the dark not knowing what to expect.  I did not want to be at the back of the group and I certainly did not want to be at the front, I was not even happy at the sides.  I knew there would be goofs jumping out!  There were shrieks, growls, screams, cries for help and laughter resonating in the darkness and a bit of storytelling.  There were statues than ran after you and a horrible little ghoul girl with a loud scream.  The whole time we were trying to avoid Mildred, a murderous witch.  At one point a member of our party wandered off, we all tried to warn him and we shouted 'Hey you, come back' but he went and got murdered noisily behind a large yew tree.  Nobody lingered to check upon his welfare.  I think we all assumed it was a pretty thorough job and he was a lost cause.  I am not sure if they do that every show?  They must get through a fair number of employees.  I am not sure how they would get around the 'Health and Safety in the Workplace' regulations either.  
  • Job duty description  - Go behind the large Yew tree and get garrotted.  

   You will understand the lack of my own photographs, no one in their right mind would hang about to take photographs.  The gardens looked really other worldly with the lighting on the trees and plants, the shadows and the silhouettes mixed with the topiary really over fired your imagination.  There were people running about in the shrubs in the dark, I think maybe some characters had more than one role and had to dart about.
   Edward the gardener offered us his last torch and left us to find our own way out.  I did not trust his gesture and thought the torch would be a signal for a baddy to get you!  I kind of wish I took the torch now.  I decided the best way out was to jog.  I could have sprinted at that point if I had to.  It was uphill and I was shattered when we got back to the car.  It really was ridiculously funny once you got safely locked into your car and it was over. 
   Whoever had this idea is a genius.  It was a great setting for such an adventure.  Halloween is one of those things that you either do or don't celebrate for whatever reasons.  I love this time of year.  I do not like all the over dyed food and Haribo.  Those are the true horrors of Halloween.  I do like a nice baked potato and pumpkin soup though.  I hope you are spending Halloween doing what makes you happy.
xx

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Local Produce


Once a fortnight we have a vegetable box delivery from a local farm.  All of the produce is locally grown and seasonal.  It has never made sense to me to be buying food out of season that has been flown sometimes thousands of miles, to hit our tables with its inferior quality.  High cost to our pocket and high cost to the environment.  I am not preaching.  We all do what we can.  There is a fair amount of 'junk' consumed in this house but we try to balance it out to make sure we eat a wide variety of natural foods.  I also think it is important to support smaller local businesses that are being pushed out and stifled by the 'Global Giants'.

Win win, we get great food and 'vegetable box delivery day' causes much excitement.  To get children excited about growing and eating vegetables is quite an achievement.  The youngest has loved the 'Rainbow Chard', I am not sure if the bright colour is the attraction.  It steams super quick, is lovely and tender and a vitamin powerhouse.

This weeks box contained:

Leeks
Potatoes
Mushrooms
An enormous cauliflower
An enormous Savoy cabbage
Very muddy carrots
Very muddy parsnips
Swiss Chard
Two very cute Butternut Squash
Onions
Cavolo Nero
Broccoli

I made a quick soup with the Butternut Squash and some carrots so it was ready for an after school snack.  The whole pot of soup was gone within half an hour.  The weather has turned, it has been a bit of a shock it has been cold, wet and windy, perfect soup weather.


Butternut and Carrot Soup
Some Butternut (I used two little cute ones, I would have happily used a big one)
Some Muddy Carrots (I used two, washed and peeled)
some onion (I used one small one)
A stick of celery (I used it because I had it)
One vegetable stock cube
salt/pepper
herbs if you fancy
Some water ( I think the amount of water depends on what you fancy)

I might fry all of the vegetables slowly first, or I might just chuck it all in the slow pot, when it is cooked I whizz it with the hand blender.

This is an interesting Blog Post here; 5 Reasons I choose to spend more on my groceries.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Part 2: Art Gallery Ramblings

This piece was created and completed in a day by the talented Birmingham artist 'Sweaty Eskimo'.  It celebrates the cities culture and heritage.

Maybe I should explain the title of my last blog post?  'La de dah... I'm a lady'.  Sitting in the Edwardian Tea Rooms at The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, gave me delusions of grandeur and instantly made me think of this character, Emily Howard.
I am actually not so much a fan of these shows or the sketches but the the characters are very well known here.  She frequently reminds everyone 'I'm a lady'.  I really need to do some research because I know the Birmingham Guild of Knitters and Crocheters used to meet once a month in the Tea Rooms for their 'Knitter Knatter'.  Crochet and delusions of grandeur is my kind of day.
   I am really pleased reading comments under my last post that I am tempting some of you to possibly visit Birmingham.  You could read my Blog Posts with a Brummie accent and you would get some idea of how I sound.  I do not have a strong Brummie accent, but if I stray from the Midlands people ask if I am a Brummie.  There are regional accents and dialects within the Midlands, in the Midlands I would not be classed as having a Brummie accent.  We all speak English, but you have trouble understanding some of the regional twangs.  From town to town the accent and dialects differ.  
There are some great videos on Youtube with examples of 'Black Country' dialect and accent.  I don't want to bore you, if you are interested you can find them for yourself.  The above video is a little old, the city is in the middle of some pretty big changes/improvements to the infrastructure.  The main streets and squares in Birmingham I think are very clean for a big city.  Obviously all major cities across the globe have social problems.  Birmingham is beautifully multi-cultural.  Last year I went to the city unknowingly on the day of a large, contentious demonstration by the British National Party.  (I don't want to get political but personally I think the least said about them the better).  I was in awe of how the Police managed the demonstration, the whole city seemed to be covered and it went off fairly peacefully.  I am sure Birmingham is a safe as anywhere else.  It is a very cultural place, great theatres, music halls, music heritage, bars and restaurants.  
   I wanted to share and ask you about some of the 'art' that I saw.  I did ask which bits I could photograph, I don't like getting told off especially in public places!
Photographing paintings in a hurry is a bit rubbish, but you get the idea.  This is my favourite painting ever.  'The Blind Girl' by John Everett Millais (1856).  I think everything about this painting is beautiful.  (Sorry the photograph does not do the painting justice at all). 
Looking at paintings by Lowry, remind me of this song released in 1977 in his memory.  The song got to number 1, in the UK and I remember singing along to it as a child.  (A small child, I would hasten to add)!
I like paintings that tell stories.  I can cope with some 'Modern Art'.  I like photography, patterns, colour, texture and geometric art.  I just don't understand this:
or this;
or this one.
I do not know the name of the artists for these pieces and I am worried I could cause offence with my ignorance, but come on now?  What makes these masterpieces?  Then you question the very basics, what is art?  I think it would be quite funny to have a little hidden camera behind these pieces to capture people's puzzled expressions and to hear their opinions.  I know my face must be a picture when I am standing in front of these trying to work them out.  On the optimistic side, I am pretty sure I could churn out 'art' like this myself!  Just a few splodges and squiggles... Bob's your uncle.  The first time I took my youngest son to the gallery he stood in front of these and loudly exclaimed 'These are rubbish'! The makings of an art critic.  The stupid thing is...since Saturday, I have been thinking about and pondering about these pieces and I think in spite of myself they may be growing on me.  I am glad I photographed these to look at in the comfort of my own home.
    Two of the temporary exhibitions you could not photograph.  'True to Life?'  New Photography from the Middle East, was fascinating and very moving, the portrayal of modern Middle Eastern women particularly struck a chord with me.
Hassan Hajjjaj, Saida in Green 2000
"The joyful. fashion conscious Moroccan woman in this image strikes a pose like models in magazines such as Elle or Vogue.  Hajjaj presents her wearing traditional dress but in versions that are emblazoned with symbols of western culture.
More broadly his images in their sculptural frames are a fusion of Arabic and Western worlds that challenge our perceptions of Morocco and the women who live there."

  Then the exhibition 'Symmetry in Sculpture' by Zarah Hussain is amazing. 
Search on Google images for 'Zarah Hussain' and you will get a kaleidoscopic feast for the eyes.  I would really like to play with yarn and crochet to explore Zarah Hussain's work.  I am adding 'Geometric Crochet' to my list of things to do.  A Zarah Hussain inspired Bedspread or wall hanging would be awesome.  I maybe 112 years old,  before I completed it though.
Thank you as always for reading.  Well done if you made it to the end of the post.  Life resumes as normal again round these parts for a while. The delusions of grandeur bubble has burst, it was a lovely bit of escapism though.  I will be back to writing about 'normal' stuff like 'crochet fungi' soon.  xxx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

La de dah...I'm a Lady...

The city of Birmingham has to be one of my favourite places.  Somebody has to love it.  This is Chamberlain Square.  The Building to the left is the Birmingham Museum and Gallery.  That is where we headed yesterday bright and early.  The museum received a multi million pound National Lottery grant to finance a new permanent gallery to house The Staffordshire Hoard.  The Staffordshire Hoard is the largest hoard of Anglo Saxon Treasure ever to be found.  It was practically stumbled upon by an amateur with a metal detector in a farmers field.  Lucky find.  It really is a story worth googling and googling it can do it more justice than I can.  You are not allowed to photograph some of the exhibits or exhibitions in the gallery, so I have no pictures of the hoard.  Awesome does not really come close to describing it.  I have seen the hoard several times and I hope to see it many more times.
The Edwardian Tea Rooms have recently had a revamp within the museum.  I think you would be hard pushed to find a more beautiful setting for a cuppa.  It would be easy for 'one' to slip into the persona of an Edwardian Lady and get lost in delusions of grandeur. 
We chose this comfortable little corner.  I do not like anywhere if it is busy.  We planned our journey to skip breakfast at home, catch the train and walk to the museum in time for opening.  We were very ready for breakfast when we arrived and the tearoom was almost empty!  I love it when something goes to plan.
The whole place is just eye candy.  Can you see the beautiful floor?
I had to photograph the floor by my seat and I am glad I got the chair fabric in the shot too.  The furniture is all mismatched and 'odd' but it works together beautifully, whoever designed the revamp is a real genius.  If you are a coulour, pattern and texture fan you just can't stop looking everywhere.
I love the concept of framing part of the picture.  The tea rooms started to fill up and I feel a bit silly going around with my camera but every wall has something different to look at.  
Not only can you get tea, you can get all kinds of tea.  
And coffee, I needed coffee.
Small things please small minds and all that but that dinky milk bottle makes me smile.  It is very nostalgic of the free school milk that we all used to receive daily.  We would race our friends to drink our milk through little straws before we could go out to play.  If you did not like milk, tough luck, you had to drink it anyway unless your parents sent a letter to explain you had allergies.  Milk in the Winter was lovely and icy cold but in the Summer I used to hate my milk, it was warm and nasty.  You had to hold your nose and drink it down quickly.  I am sure many people have mixed memories about free school milk.
How posh was my breakfast?  It was so tasty and cooked beautifully.  I am sure being hungry made it even nicer.  The ten year old went for a Full English Breakfast, it is a regular feature of our weekends, we often cook a Full English Breakfast.  Then you really don't need to eat again for quite some time.  In fact it would be quite easy to consume double the recommended calorie intake just by breakfast alone.  
I think this is a civilised Full English (sorry not for veggies).  Do you get Black Pudding in other parts of the world?  Black pudding is made by congealing pigs blood and mixing it with Oats Barley and seasoning.  You buy it in rings or large sausage shapes.  It is tasty if you don't think about what it actually is.  I had a work colleague once who was brought up on a farm and his job as a child, after the pig had been slaughtered, was to keep stirring the bucket of blood so it congealed evenly.  I could easily skip black pudding if I had to do that!
   Because the museum are celebrating the opening of the new Staffordshire Hoard Gallery, they had some 'Anglo Saxon' specials on the board.  I thought this was a nice idea especially for children.  Food is a great way to secure some knowledge.  
They did add an Anglo Saxon veggie option of Barley and Vegetable Broth.  
     Last week the Museum had another celebration.  It was to commemorate 150yrs since the Sultanganj Buddha statue arrived in Birmingham.  It is the largest complete metal sculpture to come out of India and it was made and then buried for 700 yrs.  It is a beautiful piece that is on display.  If you click the link you can read a bit more.
 It is a work of art that you feel you haven't just looked at, he emits love and peace.  The local Buddhist Community held blessings at the statue last week.  I am so glad this piece found its way to Birmingham and it had quite an adventure getting here all those years ago.
People left origami lotus flowers at his feet.  It is nice to know he is a much loved statue.  He is in a little Buddha Gallery that is really worth a peek.
    This is a very photo heavy post.  I think I should save the rest and get busy on another blog post.  I would like to share some 'Modern Art' that I photographed because I just don't get it and you maybe able to enlighten me!  Maybe modern art is like olives?  You don't like it at first but you have to get accustomed to it. 
   If you made it to the end of this post, well done you.  I should include a little download for a certificate of achievement.  Thanks for reading.  It is nice to share happy days.  :) xxx 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Fungus Among Us


I am having a bit too much fun crocheting fungus.  This week is the turn of Phallus Indusiatus or The Bamboo Mushroom which is much easier to say.  If you have a mind to you can search Bamboo Mushroom on google images and you can see the variety of shapes and colours that they appear in. Or click this link and I have searched it for you ;)  They are edible.  I can't say I fancy them.  I have never seen anything quite like it.  I know when I have picked wild field mushrooms they have never made it to my plate as wild mushrooms seem full of grubs.  I think the little skirt on a Bamboo Mushroom must offer it some protection from flying critters that would lay their eggs in the fungi, a bit like a built in mosquito net.



I decided straight away that Ruffle Yarn would be effective as the skirt.  I had no ruffle yarn and I had never worked with it.  I would be interested to know if you have worked with it how you got on.  How did you find it to work with and what did you make?  For freeform crochet effects ruffle yarn has great potential.  It is pesky to work with though.  I have seen Ruffle Yarn Scarf kits sold as suitable for beginners, I must be a bit challenged!  I found it very frustrating to work with and control.  I love my finished fungus though.  I am keeping them in a shoe box.  I am waiting for the weather to be nicer than it is today (it is nasty, windy and wet today) then I can take my fungi outside to photograph, (as you do).  
I used photographs and keep them in front of me while I crochet and I try and copy what I see.  It is a bit like drawing or painting but with yarn and hooks.  The caps of the mushrooms are crocheted using scrap singles of handspun yarn.  I love being able to put the waste bits left on a bobbin to use.  The stalks and skirts are commercial yarn.  If you have never crocheted yourself some fungus, I really can't recommend it enough!

Thank you for reading and thank you very much for leaving your lovely comments.  xx

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Talking Turkey



I did not know crocheting fungi could be so much fun.  It does sound like a strange past time.  I found it a little too absorbing and I am very proud of my 100% handspun fungal creation.  It is for a Fall/Autumn challenge at the International Freeform Forum on Ravelry. Each week there is a different weird and wonderful shroom to recreate in knit or crochet.


I did the best I could with what I had.  I had a rummage in my stash.  The orange and green yarn was a gift from someone, it is handspun but I don't know what it is.   I am guessing it is hand dyed too, I really like the subtle colours.  The dark brown yarn is 100% alpaca.  The colour is lovely. The bright green is some beaded Corriedale (I remember that name as it is a cross between Coronation Street and Emmerdale, two popular  TV soaps in the UK).  The yarn was plied with cotton thread with tiny, clear seed  beads.  The white is 100% silk. I have been working on more Turkey tails in lilacs, silver and purples to go with my other freeform  crochet scrumbles.  If it would stop being so cold and wet and stormy I would like to take my creation to photograph outdoors where it can pretend to be real.  I would also like to walk in the woods to see if I can find any more fun guys  fungi!  xx