Saturday, 26 January 2008

Sunshine on my shoulders.........

........makes me happy!! (apologies to all John Denver fans out there!). The last 2 days have been glorious, blue skies and sunshine all the way !! Mark you, this has only happened after a chilly start each morning of -5 degrees, but the finer weather is so very welcome after all the wet, grey days we had during the end of December and into January.

Just a short post today to update you on the dreaded bug ! Yet another Dr's appointment , and he has now decided that I have acute bronchitis bordering on asthma ( HA!!) I am back on the cough syrup but have managed to loose the antibiotics after a protest - I just couldn't see how another course was going to help after taking them for 17 days!!! In the end we agreed but part of the deal is that I now have to use an asthmatic 'puffer' twice a day, and , joking aside, my chest is starting to feel less tight and I am not so breatheless since starting to use it.Watch this space !!!!

One other thing to share - a small miracle happened in my kitchen this lunchtime, a portion of one wall suddenly glowed in rainbow colours ! Just before becoming ill I had re-arranged some pieces of furniture (as we women do!) and a free standing unit got place in line with a window. I had glass vase of flowers on the unit and for just a few minutes the angle of the sun on the glass & water was just right for prisms to appear ! It didn't last long unfortunately, just time enough to grab a couple of pics!!

On the left the prism has hit on a black upright beam and looks almost metallic . The right one is a cupboard door and you can so clearly see the wood grain .They also appeared on the cooker and other boring items, but I didn't think you'd want to see those!!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Decision Time !

Bugs 1 - Modern Medicine 0

So after 15 days of antibiotics and all other treatments my surgery has been cancelled!Given the suspense of the last few days I don't know if I am sorry not to be going (!) or relieved ! I will have to go before too long , but as I feel my general health has suffered over the last weeks, and infection aside, perhaps surgery wouldn't have been a good idea at this time! We are very fortunate to have excellent Health Care here in France, possibly the best in Europe , no such things as waiting lists would you believe, so having to cancel at the last minute didn't seem to bother the hospital staff at all - the attitude was 'don't worry, just let us know when you would like to reschedule'!! Today I am off for chest & sinus X-Rays, so we'll see where I go from there, I just wish I could stop coughing and maybe get my voice back to normal 'cos at the moment I sound like a very bad impersonation of Dastardly !!!!
Enough complaining !! Yesterday also brought a treat - I was allowed out of the house for half an hour to go see Megan, the first time in ages!! As it didn't actually rain all day , DH ( Chief Stable Lad promoted to Head Groom )granted me visiting rights for a few minutes BUT only if I agreed not to play in the mud with her !! It really was great to get out of the house, as other than doctors' appointments , I have been confined to barracks for the last 2 weeks, mainly because of the foul weather and also staying in a constant temperature seems to lessen the coughing !

I did manage a sneak around

the garden at the same time

and found more evidence of


These were another little surprise, a small gift from a friend to cheer me up - aren't they lovely?
Hopefully, by tomorrow life will settle down into a more normal routine and I will get over feeling sorry for myself and do something constructive for a change !! Might even force myself to the nearest fabric shop for a pick- me-up !!!

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Marking Time

I am due to go into hospital on Wednesday next to have some minor surgery on a nasty varicose vein in my right thigh that I 've been having a lot of trouble with. As this is the second time I've had this problem, I 've been told the procedure is a little more complicated than before & I've not really been at easy with having it done, but common sense has kicked 'cos who wants DVT! Now, would you believe, I have developed a chest infection !! For the last 10 days I have been swallowing antibiotics until I feel I am going to rattle, dosing up on the most disgusting cough syrup you can ever imagine and now - to cap it all- I have to use a nebuliser 3 times a day !! The tablets and cough syrup I have been coping with, but the nebuliser I do not like!! After 10 minutes treatment it I feel as though I have been hit by a 10 ton truck,fuzzy headed and so tired I can't describe. I know it is for my own benefit and I really do not want to postpone this surgery at such a late date, so I only hope that it does the trick - the trouble is that by the time I recover from one treatment it is time for the next !! Tuesday morning I have to see my Doctor for him to have a 'listen' and then depending on what tune I am playing (!), we will decide if I am fit for surgery or not about going to the wire!!!!

Because of all this uncertainty, I can't seem to settle to anything, so I have been trying to keep occupied with small sewing projects. I've made up the Origami Bag kit that was amongst my Christmas presents ,which was nice & easy , but I think I will be loosing the ribbon and replacing it with cord !!
Something else I have been wanting to try is the Mongolian Knot block pattern, a present from a friend lucky enough to get to the International Quilt Festival in Birmingham last August, where she found it. I had planned to go over for the show, but, as it does, life got in the way and I didn't make it ! This is the block I made yesterday afternoon.

As a matter of interest, this is an explanation of the Mongolian Knot :

The ölzii, or never-ending knot, is a traditional Mongolian motif symbolizing the dynamic expanse of the universe and the endless cycles of life and death. It brings long life and prosperity, and drives away wild beasts and evil spirits. This symbol is used widely in Mongolia as decorative art

For anyone who wants a quick quilt, this block is 18 1/2" finished size and it really was not as complicated as I first thought. !!!

I've added Mont St Michel to my 'Images of Brittany' photos and although there is some debate as to whether the monument is in Brittany or Normandy, the black & white flag on the left is certainly the official Breton flag, so I think I am safe with this one !!!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

More Thread Play

Back last September a new e-zine came along, , and for some reason I decided that I would treat myself to a subscription - don't ask me why as we all know I am still struggling along a bit!! Part of the deal with the sub is that you get automatic membership of a very lively Yahoo Group. Now, there are some really talented gals running the zine ( not to mention some of the Groupies !!) and whilst most of the content is way over my head, there have been one or two articles that that made me think - Hmm - I could try that !

One article in particular that took my fancy was 'The Magic of Transfer Paints' by Margaret Roberts. So.....having aquired a starter kit of transfer dyes, I have been having a play !! I really had no idea of what was going to happen when I started slapping paint all over bits of computer printing paper, but - WOW!! What wonderful results !

Now the proud owner of my first 'home dyed' fabric (not counting the play I have had with rust dying and shaving cream, but we have all done that haven't we ?) I didn't quite know what to do with it. I was going to try the Flexi Bag pattern on the freebies site of F&S (go have a look !), but hadn't made a big enough 'nice' piece of fabric, so I decided to practise some FME on it instead.

I am very pleased with the way the colours came out in real life, they are a bit dark in the pic, and the instructions on how to print the daisies by using 'masking' shapes were so easy to follow, but so effective too !! My dragonfly is my first try at using water soluble stabiliser and again I am reasonably pleased with the end result, still room to improve I know, but....!! The little unfinished piece is 6 x 6 (honestly it is square !!) and I am certain I will be trying both these techniques out again before too long and I am determined to have a go at that Flexi Bag, but before then I will have to get some additional dye colours . In the meantime back to the rotary cutter, as I have decided on a new quilt and I need 640 rectagles 2" x 3 1/2" !!!!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Pigging Out !

The weather here in Brittany hasn't changed at all over the last week, except to get possibly worse with the arrival of high winds, so today's few hours of sunshine were a rare treat, and not to waste this bonus, we decided to go visit a small farm we'd heard about where they raise free range pigs !!! Now I know there are many pig lovers out there, but I bet even those of you who wrinkle their noses at the thought wouldn't be able to resist these 9 days old cuties !

Mother wasn't too far away keeping a watch on their antics

and these are the other kids in the neighbourhood!!

Come on in - the mud is fine !!!

These pigs are traditional Old English breds , Red Tamworths and Gloucester Old Spots , they are the pride and joy of Lynn & Martyn, a very special couple who have relocated to France to follow their dream ! It was just so lovely to see them running free and having a great time in all the mud ! A strange choice for an afternoon out perhaps, but very enjoyable , and I now know a lot more about pigs !!

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

........More Rain !

Life, so the saying goes, begins at 40 , and for me 40 was certainly the start of a wonderful experience that changed my life - I fell in love with horses and learned to ride, perhaps not a big deal in itself, but for me with not only a fear of heights, but also frightened of horses, perhaps a tad ambitious !! Now, don't let anyone tell you that it is only teenage girls that become 'horse mad' as I can assure you that these animals can steal your heart at any time of life!! For me the magic started when I saw a solitary horse and rider cantering along the surf line of a beach early in the morning , and that was the beginning of my passion for horses!! It took me 2 years of strained nerves and countless lessons, not to mention a couple of falls, before I got to 'ride the surf' , but the journey was worth it!! After a few of years riding hired horses, we took the plunge and became the owners of Knaresborough Nutmeg, or Megan as she is known, a beautiful bay mare, 3/4 Thoroughbred x Cleveland Bay.

Now Meg and I have had lots of adventures over the years. We have hacked out at every opportunity ...

.......we've competed at Dressage

......and even won a few place Ribbons !

Before our move to France, we've ridden mile upon mile all over South Wales and the West Country,opening & closing countless gates (not that easy when you are sitting over 5 foot up in the air !!) through rivers and forests,up hills and down valleys, jumping off banks and over fallen trees ,getting lost in the mist and coming in very cold & tired ,and very often wet, after a 25 mile ride , all being part of the 'fun' competing in Endurance Riding events.

Throughout these escapades, and not counting the Head Groom & extra stable hand DH, Megs has been my only companion & my best friend, and one that has taken very good care of me in all sorts of situations, and although I love her dearly, in weather like this

I sometimes can't help but wish that she was the size of a rabbit and we could both stay in the dry and out of the mud!!!

Megs, like me, has now reached that 'mature' time of life and is enjoying her retirement at a grand age of 26 .Our riding days are unfortunately over ,mainly due to our stiff & achey joints (!!) but...I still get to enjoy her company every day. Our 15 years together have been very special and I am privileged to own such a strong but gentle & kind creature - or is it that she owns me, who knows !!!

Spring , in spite of all the rain, must be around the corner as I found this peeping out in a sheltered spot of the garden ! Proof indeed !!

Monday, 7 January 2008


I think it has only stopped raining for one day since 23rd December ! After our cake eating , we felt in need of some exercise and decided to try and get a walk in around the lake ( Lac au Duc) at Ploermel, which is our nearest town some 20 kms away. Ploermel's claim to fame is that it was once home to the Dukes of Brittany back in the 16th century and indeed still boasts one of the residences dating back to 1586 !(More about this later !!) As you can see from the colours in the photo, it was still raining, lightly to start with and then after a few hundred yards it absolutely poured down!!

The only ones that didn't seem to mind the weather were the large numbers of ducks skimming about the place !

You can see from the trees at the edge of the lake how much the level of water has risen from all this rain

One other thing we have a lot of in Brittany besides water (!!) is mistletoe . DH has been convinced for a long time that I am part Druid, hailing as I do from Snowdonia, so it is no surprise to him that I feel at home amongst the stone circles and megaliths of Brittany , rushing around taking pictures of mistletoe !!!!! It is quite normal to see

trees draped with bunches of mistletoe like this and not just apple trees, in fact Silver Birch seems to be a very accommodating host!!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Twelfth Night

As well as being Twelfth Night, today is Epiphany , also known as The Adoration of the Magi .

In Brittany, as throughout France (and I am sure other parts of the globe) the day is celebrated by yet another special meal. It is a day for the gathering of families, friends & neighbours and the tradition of eating the Galette ( or Gateau ) des Rois ! Below is a brief description of the event from the Oxford Dictionary, but I can assure you that it is a lot more fun than this..............Me, I'm off to join in with my Breton neighbours to see if I can be Queen for at least one day !!!!!

La Galette des Rois
A celebration of Christ being visited by the Magi, the epiphany was set to January the 6th by Pope Julius II. Also known as le jour des Rois, this is the day when the three kings are traditionally added next to the crib. Over the years, this religious festival overlapped with pagan traditions that went back to the Roman Saturnalia.
From the Middle Ages, the epiphany has been celebrated with a special Twelfth Night cake: la galette des rois, literally the King's cake. The galette differed according to the regions: for example it was made of puff pastry in Paris, but made of brioche and shaped as a crown in Provence. Under Louis XIV, the Church considered this festival as a pagan celebration and as an excuse for indulgence, and it was subsequently banned. To get around this ban, it became la fête du bon voisinage (literally, 'neighbourly relations day'). This culinary tradition even survived the French Revolution when it became the ‘Gâteau de l’Êgalité (the equality cake), as Kings were not very popular in those years!
The cake contains a lucky charm (une fève) which originally was a bean, a symbol of fertility. Whoever found the charm in their slice of cake, became King or Queen and had to buy a round of drinks for all their companions. This sometimes resulted in stingy behaviour and to avoid buying a round of drinks, the potential King or Queen very often swallowed the bean! This is why towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the lucky charm started being made of china. The charm can take any shape or form and can either be very plain or more sophisticated (glazed or handpainted). It sometimes represents a religious figure such as the baby Jesus, but it can be virtually anything. Little horseshoe shapes are popular as they are thought to bring luck. Although nowadays very often made of plastic, old-fashioned china charms are still used and they have become a collectable item.
The modern Galette des Rois is made of puff pastry and can be plain or filled with frangipane, an almond-flavoured paste. It is sold in all French bakeries and eating the galetteat the beginning of January is still a very popular tradition and an opportunity for families and friends to gather around the table. The youngest person in the room (usually a child) hides under the table and shouts out which guest each slice of cake should be given to. The person who finds the fève in their slice of galette becomes the King or Queen and is given a golden paper crown. The King or Queen then has to choose his Queen or her King, by dropping the lucky charm in their glass.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Two New Feet

NO! Not what you think - I have not found a body parts shop (I wish!!) just spending money again on two extra presser feet for the Bernina !

Amongst all the various techniques that I REALLY want to learn (one of the drawbacks of being a late starter, you want to do everything NOW!!!), I am fast becoming hooked on Thread Painting after finding it some months ago on

Santa very kindly brought me some TP/ Free Motion Machine Embroidery books and I was surprised to read how much more texture can be achieved by using presser feet not intended for this purposes so - Voila!... Two new feet !!

I do find TP/FME very relaxing and am amazed at what effects can be achieved by just whizzing the needle over a piece of fabric. I've had a couple of attempts over the weeks in between FPCs, Journal Pages and quilts, but this is my most ambitious piece so far !

Still a lot of room for improvement, and I am sure it would look better with the correct weight threads - something I am working on, trying to find an online supplier of assorted threads, as I have failed locally. Perhaps quilting the background would also improve the look of it ?

Think the photo is a little large (!) but this is my first attempt at adding images to the blog and this has taken ages so I am not going back to start - perhaps I should stick to sewing!!!

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

First Post

Well, here I am, doing something that I really didn't intend to do, but the more time I spend digging about on line the more it seems to be the 'in' thing to have a blog, and why should I be different (!!) though I really can't imagine why anyone would be interested in my quite average life, but then again perhaps the bits about France will tempt visitors along now and then - here's hoping!! So ... I decided that there was no better time to start a new venture than the start of a New Year ! Can you believe that it is 2008 ??