Little Trip to the Lakes

It’s the Easter Holidays at last.  Which still means something despite not being a teacher or having children.  Especially given I’ve not taken any time off since Christmas!  To me it means being able to be away from work for just over a week for the price of just four days of leave, which is pretty lovely.  Planning a big trip next year means we couldn’t really afford to go away anywhere during our week off, despite really needing the break from this city that oppresses us, so we had originally decided to have a nice creative week at home instead – Flâneur would paint and draw and I would sew.  Well, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.  Not least because I decided that Flâneur really needed a break after a very hectic university term – and by that I meant a break from Manchester altogether.  I jiggled some things around financially, did lots of internet research and in the end booked us two nights in the above country B&B in the Lake District.  Just far enough and pretty enough to be different, but not so far that I’d be driving for hours to get there.  We have many lovely parts of the country on our doorstep so I figured it was about time we explored some of them!

Going only on internet reviews and their fresh modern website (really other people – why would you have a rubbish fusty website?  It immediately puts me off…) I booked us into the Westmorland room, a twin made up as a King, which had a lovely window seat with a view to a holiday cottage next door and then out across the fields to the local church.  It was a fresh, modern room, which looks like it was recently redecorated.  When we spoke to Sam and Tiree later (who run the place) it turned out that they’d taken over running the place from Sam’s parents the year before, so that would probably explain it!  Also after a short – ‘you look very familiar, did you go to St Andrews?’ we also realised that Tiree and I were at university together, in the same year.  And while we weren’t in the same hall of residence nor had we done the same subject, being the small tiny university that St Andrews is, yes, we did know at least one person in common and that’s how come we recognised each other!!  The little coincidences that go into making this world…

Anyway, this isn’t really supposed to be a review of the B&B, but it was lovely, the breakfast was yummy (excellent bacon), the service was great and I would definitely go back.  So if you’ve stumbled on here looking for a recommendation, I would definitely recommend it.  Not least for the Damson Gin they put out in the lounge in the evening – sweet and a perfect post dinner drink, like a sweet dessert wine.  Yum.

Despite the recent unseasonably warm weather that Britain was basking it, typically April got back to form and the weather was pretty rubbish while we were away.  At least on the Tuesday.  We went up to Ambleside and Grasmere and while the sky was dramatic, the rain and wind we could have done without.

This picture isn’t actually Black and White – that’s just the light!!  We didn’t do much walking while there as the weather wasn’t really with us, but we did have a good wander round the top of Lake Windermere at Ambleside (above) and then around the Lake at Grasmere (I really should know which one that is…), during the latter of which we got very cold while the rain stated to turn to snow!

It was at the point it started snowing that we decided our best course of action would be to head to a pub and warm ourselves up by an open fire.  There were a number that were recommended by Sam and Tiree on a map they left on the hall table of the B&B so we headed to the Mason Arms, a ten minute drive from the house, which was exactly what the doctor ordered – a cute little country pub with an open fire and good pub grub.  We spent over three hours there in the end, playing cribbage, enjoying the warmth and enjoying hearty pub food, escaping before it became too overrun by families.

The next day, our last in the Lakes, we decided to head up to Keswick to see some of the more dramatic scenery of the North Lakes.  Despite the flutterings of snow, there wasn’t any evidence on the roads or near the B&B the next day so we thought it couldn’t have lasted long or been that heavy in the end.  Until we went back through Ambleside that is, where the hills that had been clear the day before now looked like they were coming out of the depths of winter:


Wednesday (same hills, different angle)

It was brilliant!  I love a bit of snow – it brings out my inner child – and it really made the hills and surrounding area look quite spectacular!  It helped that the light was better on Wednesday too as the sky was clearer.

When we got to Keswick, we spent a bit more time having a good wander round the town, looking in the shop the Pencil Museum (which was a bit overrun with Easter Holidays families to go in), and have a walk down to Derwent Water where we spent yet more time taking photos – so much so that we had to rush back to the car before we ran out of time on the car park ticket!  All this is good practice for me with my camera mind you…

The light was wonderful and the scenery very spectacular so I like to think the nature did help me out a bit.  It was a good relaxing couple of days and I’m glad we went, rather than staying at home.  Yes, I probably would have got lots of things done that I’m always wishing I had the time to do, but sometimes you just need to get away, even if that’s not very far.  I think it might have done Flâneur a bit of good too – he was certainly looking more relaxed by the end of the trip…



Some Little Things…

I’ve been quiet on the blog of late.  I started a new job and it’s been a bit mad – late night working, learning new things.  It makes for a tired me and a bit less free time than I would like!  But I’m sure it will settle down soon…  I have made a few little things lately though that I want to share.

I recently got the urge to make a zippy pouch.  I’m not sure why.  I must have seen one online that I really liked the look of.  Not really knowing where to start I scouted about online and on flickr and eventually bought the Hoop Travel Bag pattern from the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery, which a lot of people seemed to rate.

I adapted it a little bit for the above pouch, as I wanted to make something squatter for carrying camera battery chargers when I go away, but the pattern was invaluable for learning how to stitch the zip to the lining and outer fabric.  I don’t think I could have figured it out without it!  The fabric I bought from the Eternal Maker stand at the Festival of Quilts last year.  I wish I could remember what it was called or who it was by…  I think I need to get better at keeping a note of that.  The pattern is a map of Paris though, which seemed appropriate to me for a travel bag.

This is actually the second zipped bag I’ve made using the instructions on the pattern.  The photo is a little bit dark, but the blue one at the back is the first one I made a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve used that one for carrying current hand-sewing project around.  It’s big enough for my easy peasy purse to fit into (which I stuff full of thread and pins and things).  I think it’s an 10 or 11 inch zip (rather than the 12 inch of the pattern, I just adjusted all the other measurements accordingly).

I have loved making these.  I bought a ton more zips last weekend and fully intend to make a bunch more.  With wadding between the layers they’ll be great for transporting things around, especially when we go away in the summer.

Another little project I finished recently was a gift for my three lovely colleagues from my old job.  We were a small team of four and they were brilliant to work with (I miss them quite a bit in my new job, if only you could take people with you when you move…).  So I wanted to make them a small gift each for when I left.  Something they could have to remember me by!  So I put some of my new piecing skills to use and made them each a mug rug:

J is a Coventry City fan, so she got the sky blue star.  T cycles so got the dark blue bikes (I love that fabric, it’s a Liberty special edition).  And C loves all things purple, so she got the slightly psychedelic one on the end.  They were all machine pieced, but hand quilted with Pearle Cotton thread.  You can see my slightly dodgy hand stitching from this picture of the back:

I really loved making them, so I hope they all like using them!

So that’s been me lately.  No less exhausted, but at least I’ve been busy for it!

Photo Project, London

I know I said that my next post would be about sewing, but I’ve not quite finished my projects yet to show them, so that will have to wait. Instead I’m going to show off some photos I took on a recent trip to London for Flâneur’s birthday that I’m quite pleased with. I’m trying to practice more with my camera before our big trip back to Seoul this summer. I gave myself a ‘project’ to focus myself with – otherwise I sometimes flounder a bit knowing what I should be taking pictures of. On this occasion I decided to go for signs. Especially as there are some great street names in London – along with other signs out and about. It was great fun and really helped to focus me (as I had hoped).  So this post is very image heavy, but I hope you like some of them…

Pub sign near the Bank of England

Off Cornhill, near Bank

Near Bank (love that there is a street named this!)

A sign at the Occupy London Camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral.  Love it.

Totally love that Knightrider Court is off Sermon Lane (near St Paul’s) – no Kit anywhere to be seen though…

I saw this addition to a no-entry sign near Covent Garden and it still makes me giggle.  Love whoever did this!

Good old London.  Man in Moon Passage is off Regent Street.  Of course it is.

And because I wasn’t just taking pictures of signs here are two non signage pictures I took that I’m quite pleased with.  We stayed in the Hyatt Andaz Liverpool Street and got upgraded to a lovely big room at the top of the hotel which had very cool porthole windows.  It was lovely with the light coming through the slightly open slats in the morning:

Porthole window, Andaz Liverpool Street.

And the final one: my dear Flâneur, on a park bench in Grosvenor Square.  My poor husband is often the subject of my practicing techniques with my camera, but this one came out really well and is frankly just a lovely picture of him:


What you don’t see is the ones I took where his expression was more: are you still taking photos of me?  Or ‘blooming heck, it’s cold’…  ;o)

So those are some of my recent pics.  Do you like them?  I’m open to all constructive criticism!

Please do not steal these images (as flattering as that would be).  They are 100% my copyright.  One day I’ll work out how to watermark them, but in the meantime – play nice.

A post about exercising…

I think I need new trainers…

When I started this blog it was supposed to keep me updated with the exercise I was doing in order to find that elusive smaller dress size (which does continue to elude me, I must admit).  So in the spirit of my pioneering younger self (ha!), here is a post about exercise, not fabric or sewing or anything else.  Sorry.

Whenever I post about exercise a number of common themes seem to come out: I seem to forever be declaring a ‘new regime’ or to have found ‘something that works’, something that ‘stops me being too bored at the gym’.  Yeah, well, turns out that that’s not true.  To be brutally honest I just don’t like going to the gym.  Truthfully, the whole idea of exercising makes me want to curl up into a little ball and cry.  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel great afterwards, I really do, but that feeling always seems to disappear between sessions and I’m back to really not wanting to go…

To be fair, sometimes I do get the urge to go to the gym.  But those occasions are so rare that they are a bit more like funny turns.  ;o)

The last few weeks I have been able to work from home some days and I always find it easier to motivate myself to go to the gym during the day than after getting up at 6:15, spending an hour on a train, 8 hours at work and then an hour on the train again.  Funny, I’m not sure why that should be…  So this week I have been seriously challenging the desire to go home and curl up on the sofa with a G&T after work rather than going to the gym first. 

My biggest motivating factor is my husband.  Dear lovely Flâneur has been going to the gym loads and doesn’t seem to hate it as much as me (he may disagree) and seems to find it easier to motivate himself to go (again he may disagree).  And in doing so, he motivates me.  I think it’s a cross between feeling totally lazy if I didn’t go with him, and knowing that he’s there to keep me going.  He’s not a total fitness nut and he doesn’t stand there MOTIVATING me like some god awful personal trainer, but by his quiet persistence at doing what he’s doing (usually running 5K in under 29 mins), and saying ‘at least you came’ or ‘that’s better than you thought’, he quietly motivates me to keep on at it.  And anyway, going with someone else who can share your triumphs and tell you it’s not so bad on the bad days is always good!

So, my latest regime!  For, yes, I do have one.  And this one seems to be working.  Really.  (Haven’t we heard that before?) 

Having discovered that I do really hate the treadmill and the prospect of spending at least half an hour on it (not really news that), I have developed my own little ‘circuit’ regime in the gym where I do not spend any more than 15 mins on any one piece of equipment.  15 mins seems about my boredom threshold. 

I now start with 15 mins on the treadmill, either walking, or jogging and walking.  I see this as my ‘warm up’.  Generally I then want to cry and go home, but I don’t.  I move on.  And believe me, most days this takes a great deal of effort.  But I make it by reminding myself that the next thing isn’t so bad and it burns LOADS of calories. 

Yes, next it’s 10 mins on the Step Machine (Level 4 at present).  Which makes me sweat sweat sweat and burns tons of calories, but isn’t as soul destroying as the treadmill.  I think it’s the tunes I listen to while rhythmically stepping on it that help.  I have a fabulous playlist of super upbeat tunes* that makes it so much easier some how.  Just step in time with the beat of the song and the time (and calories) soon fly by.  And I’m talking about 200 cals for 10 mins work here people.  It’s that good! 

Just as I think my legs will curse me forever, I then go over to the reclining bike (Flâneur once described it as like a pedalo), where I subject myself to 15 mins at Level 7.  Level 7 is new in the last week or so, up from Level 5, but it burns more calories so it’s staying for now. 

It’s fair to say that when I get off the bike the tops of my legs (and my arse) are pretty sore, but they soon loosen off…  And it’s all worth it as that little regime: (a) stops me getting too bored of any one machine; and (more importantly) (b) burns around 500-600 calories a go.  Which is far better than the 300 odd I was getting by just doing the treadmill.  Small steps, but I have seen a modest weight loss and definite toning in the four-five weeks I have been doing this, so I must be doing something right.  At last!

Well, until I get bored of this of course and find something else that will ‘definitely work’… 

I’ll be back to blogging about sewing next time – I’ve a few things I’m finishing off that I want to share…


*my stepper playlist: Pencil Full of Lead, Paulo Nutini; Spider Man Theme, Michael Buble; Candyman, Chritina Aguilera; Creeping up the Backstairs, the Fratellis; Goody Two Shoes, Adam and the Ants; Guitar Man, Elvis; It’s Raining Men, Geri Halliwell (!); and then just because it’s funny because I’m working on my butt muscles: Baby Got Back, Sir MixAlot.

Easy Peasy Purse

My swoon block is now sewn together, however, I’m not going to blog about it again until I’ve done the quilting on it.  If you want to see the block, you can find it on flickr.  I am totally in love with it, I must say.

Something else I am a little bit pleased about is the purse I made today (having a real sewing streak right now).  The above purse (more pictures below) was made from a kit from u-handbag that I have wanted to try for some time.  The fact that it came with some Aneela Hoey Little Apples fabric for the outside and lining meant I couldn’t resist it any longer.  I love Aneela Hoey’s fabrics, they’re so cute!  It’s the Easy Peasy Purse kit, and I must say it really did live up to its name.

I’m pretty sure it took me longer than the hour suggested, but that’s just because I’m a bit slow at the sewing and cutting sometimes and with reading and re-reading the instructions!  It all came together very easily and quickly when I got going though.  I had tried the baguette clutch that they do before, but for some reason just did not get on with it (no matter what I did I could not get it to fit into the purse frame, I think I sewed it all wrong).  But I’ve wanted to make purses for a while so I’m glad I gave this one a go, despite my previous experience!*

If you’ve ever wanted to make a purse but haven’t been sure where to start I can heartily recommend this kit.  And I well believe that I will be making more of these (now I have the pattern) – be warned friends and family, one of these may come your way, come your next birthday… ;o)


*I’m pretty sure it was me doing something wrong and not a problem with the pattern.  One day I will work out my mistake and slap my forehead and say ‘of course!’

Swoon-Along Progress

My fabric cut for my Swoon Block (Saffron Craig 'Bird Tree' and Kona 'Snow')

Today I had a random day off that I hadn’t been expecting.  Well, I had been expecting not to be at my current job, having taken a day of leave, but I had expected to be in Liverpool learning about my new job instead.  For very tedious reasons this was cancelled yesterday afternoon, so I found myself with an unexpected day to myself.  While disappointed I wasn’t getting to see my new job in action I was secretly excited about all the things I could do today that were just for me – things I always wish I was doing when I’m actually at work.  Like having a lie in (though not too long as there were things to be done!), going to the gym not totally knackered (ie before lunch), baking bread (hmm… fresh bread), and of course, sewing!  Having finished Flâneur’s bag I’ve been excited to get started on making my Swoon block and today gave me the perfect opportunity to get started.

Half Square Triangles waiting to be pressed

It took me a while to iron and cut the fabric (always the most tedious bit in my book), and at one point I was starting to regret having a directional pattern on one of my fabrics…  It meant I had to cut it slightly differently to the suggestion on the pattern, as I needed to have four of my 6.5 x 3.5 rectangles in the green fabric with the flowers going in one direction and the other four in the other direction (if that makes sense!), so that it wouldn’t look weird in the final block…

Pressed Half Square Triangles

The best thing about making this block is that it is forcing me to try new techniques (for me!) and new patterns.  I have only ever sewn squares or rectangles together to make a quilt before (heck, I’ve only made 2 big and one mini quilt so far in my quilting life), so trying out half square triangles and flying geese is very exciting for me.  I know, sad, eh?!  I must say, from what I have done so far, I am LOVING it!

My first ever (successful) Flying Geese block!

I must admit that I mucked up my first Flying Geese block.  Having sewn the first square on, I managed to press it before cutting, and thus cut the whole of the corner triangle off, other than the 1/4 inch seam allowance.  No photo of that I’m afraid, but big oops!  Thankfully I had a big enough piece of the purple birds left to cut another 3.5 square and tonnes of the Snow to cut another rectangle…  Dum di dum…  Everyone has done that at some point, right?!  But I got there in the end…  And, taking advice from discussions on the flickr support group, I created new Half Square Triangles out of the left overs from the Flying Geese, by sewing half an inch from the sewn seam before cutting the edge off.  I think I’m going to turn the left overs into pinwheels, so I have another new block type under my belt from this project!

Finished section

Because of all the other things I was doing today (and because I’m quite slow at sewing) I didn’t manage to get too much completed today, but I did finish my first section for the block.  It’s not the best photo because the light was bad by that point, but I am very excited with how this is looking so far.  I’m back at work tomorrow, unfortunately as I just want to keep going, but hopefully I’ll be able to get some more done tomorrow evening and make some progress towards the finished block.  I think this is something I am really going to LOVE.  I am so happy with my fabric choice, and that I decided to give this challenge a go.



Next Project: Swoon-along!

Having completed my bag for Flâneur I now have time to do a little project for me.  Having resolved to do some quilt sewing that is more adventuous with the shapes I use this year, I have decided to join Katy of Monkey Do blog fame (and about 750 other people – wow!) in her swoon-along.  Because I am a big fat chicken I am only going to do one block to begin with to see how I get on, but I reckon I might get the bug and just have to make more…  That seems to be how it’s going over in the flickr group anyway!  And I must say, even if you don’t sew – go and take a look at the work of the group – there is some seriously fabulous stuff there!

So, a little late to the party, I have chosen my fabric from my stash and I have bought the pattern.  All I need now is to iron the fabric, cut it all out and get going!