Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, And Water Underfoot

The downside of having the house you own being 200 miles from the one where you live is that almost every holiday involves a certain amount of restoration and repair work. This summer, we had two major items on the list – firstly, dealing with the fact that the garage floods whenever it rains, and there is a lot of water on the floor. Secondly, there was the matter of the smoker

smoker2014 collageThe garage issue involved cutting concrete slabs, digging out earth, relocating the water butt, repointing bricks, and some goop called ‘tanking slurry’. Discovering missing mortar between bricks. Spiders and dead slugs were also involved. Not much fun, but a necessary task.

The smoker was a different matter. We had a lot of fun with it last summer – Bob and Jon produced some excellent smoked meats. But I loathe its appearance – standing there in the corner [sometimes shrouded under a builders bag]the converted filing cabinet it makes our back garden look like a salvage yard! I wanted a cute beach hut type feature – not 1950’s office!


beach hut green

Bob has been incredibly busy [with occasional help from me]


A lot of garage stuff was relocated to the lawn, to enable the ‘tanking’ process – and the cabinet, tools and timber were moved out onto the concrete slabs. We brought most of the wood with us.

It was scrap from the church building work, which Steve kindly said Bob could take from the skip – driving up to Norfolk in the wind and the rain, with large sheets of ply tied to the car roof was not fun!


The work has been proceeding apace.

I will post more pictures as the project progresses- although I am not sure it will be 100% completed by the time we have to leave.

Thank you Bob for drilling, sawing, painting and generally making this place so special!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Say It With Flowers

st marys churchOver the weekend we visited the Fete and Flower Festival at Old Hunstanton. St Mary’s Church is situated opposite the old duck pond, and the fete is held in adjoining grounds.

summer fete

We arrived around 9.45am and the car park was half full and the marquees were already heaving with people in search of bargains. We enjoyed tea and scones then went to the church.

The theme was ‘Great Films’ – and thirty cinema classics had been selected for floral interpretation. The church was even more crowded than the fete, and we shuffled round slowly. I did not take photos of them all. Some were better than others – not because the arrangements were more accomplished – but rather because quite a few were simply some props around a vase of flowers- and without the props, you would have no idea what film it was! The Yellow Brick Road was quite evident as we entered and saw Dorothy’s Red Shoes, this was clearly The Wizard of Oz

flower festival old hunst'ton 31 071

flower festival old hunst'ton 31 072Disney’s Snow White [and the Wicked Stepmother] were clearly shop mannequins, but sadly SWs complexion was peeling badly! The WS was clearly the fairer of the two.

The Ten Commandments was in three parts – the Burning Bush, crossing the Red Sea , and the Pillar of Fire. The knitted Israelite figures looked strangely familiar, then I heard the lady explaining she had re-used the ones from her Nativity Set!

flower festival old hunst'ton 31 073

P1010965We liked Singing In The Rain which had the flowers arranged in wellies and an umbrella. Similarly Top Hat used the headgear [film trivia – in the song, Fred Astaire lists every item of clothing he puts on for his night out – except his trousers!] We thought Gone With the Wind was colourful – but without the poster, I am not sure you would have guessed what the film was.P1010956


My Fair Lady had a good representation of Beaton’s monochrome Ascot scene, and Treasure Island had some exotic flowers, plus a treasure chest spilling out with flowers and gold coins.



flower festival old hunst'ton 31 074

Brief Encounter was in two parts – the table in the railway tea room, and the train itself.

But we both thought the best was The Dambusters – this display was all flowers – the RAF rondel, the bouncing bombs and the explosion. Really effective!



Walking back to the car park, I had to stop and photograph the road sign.

Only in Norfolk!!

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Dragons Are Here!

john lewis dragon

In April, I blogged about the dragon parade coming to Norwich this summer. Visiting John Lewis Haberdashery, I saw their exhibit in the process of being created.

Now the dragons have arrived. Details here and here. On Thursday, in the pouring rain, we saw lots of them as we splashed our way round the city centre. There are 84 full sized ones, and lots of baby ones [these have been decorated by local primary schools] Most of the babies are inside shops, and it was harder to photograph them. Here are the ones we saw

30 07 15 norwich dragons-00130 07 15 norwich dragons1-00130 07 15 norwich dragons2

I am not sure which was my favourite – I did like the one in Jarrolds Book Department covered with words – and I am sorry I did not get to see the John Lewis ones again this week.


We saw lots of families diligently following their Dragon Trail Maps and working out the coded message [the prize is a pair of tickets to fly from Norwich airport to anywhere in the KLM network – that must be worth quite a lot of money!] I think it is all great fun, and in a good cause [the Break Children’s Charity]. I wonder what creatures will be trailing round Norwich next year?

Friday, 31 July 2015

Predictable Picnics?


The sun was shining, so I quickly packed a picnic and we went off to Hunstanton. Here is Bob, sitting on the grass after lunch, enjoying the sunshine. It was fantastic – now we are back and I am about to prepare a meal as Adrian and Marion are coming for the evening.

Thanks for all the comments on the last post – especially ElizabethD’s brilliant suggestion about a few elastic straps in the lid for napkins and tablecloth. I shall add them soon. But I have a confession –despite my Glyndebourne-worthy hamper, my picnics are often rather predictable.

picnic1I have grand ideas about fancy sandwiches wrapped in paper and tied neatly, interesting desserts in screwtop jars, fresh cherries served over ice , and in my wildest dreams, those lunches all packed inside the loaf picnic2of bread.

In reality, the sun is suddenly shining, so I sling a few items into the bag [or hamper]and we hit the road as fast as we can.

The Very Uninspiring Almond Family Picnic is almost always as follows, for each person there will be

  1. A round of sandwiches [ham or cheese, and a bit of salad]
  2. Bag of crisps
  3. A Yogurt
  4. A piece of fruit
  5. A Tunnocks, Breakaway or Penguin bar [or Lidl equivalent]
  6. A can or carton of drink

Just occasionally, if there is some in the tin, there will be a piece of cake. And if it is very cold, there will be a flask of coffee.

Please reassure me that others of you serve up my sort of picnic – and that the Jamie-Oliver-Feast is for those high days and holidays when you have had ages to plan and prepare!

Bag Lady becomes Basket Case


The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, and leaned back blissfully into the soft cushions. 'What a day I'm having!' he said. 'Let us start at once!'

'Hold hard a minute, then!' said the Rat, staggering under a fat, wicker luncheon-basket. 'Shove that under your feet,' he observed to the Mole. 'What's inside it?' asked the Mole, wriggling with curiosity. 'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly;coldtongue coldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscress sandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstasies: 'This is too much!' 'Do you really think so?' enquired the Rat seriously. 'It's only what I always take on these little excursions!'

My picnics have usually been transported in a dull red coolbag [freebie from Sainsburys, years ago] but I have always hankered after a proper wicker luncheon basket like Ratty’s.

P1010903 Then Steph said that the woodland themed wedding would entail some wicker hampers, and I saw one going very cheaply in a CS in Wimborne [it has now closed, sadly] so I purchased it. It had the fittings inside the lid – but no crockery or cutlery.

P1010901-001I already had some  cutlery, and a set of plastic picnic ware, but it didn’t quite fit the existing straps. I spent £2.50 on 2 foil lined lunch-bags and a pack of 3 icepacks.

P1010902I also bought a metre of spotty plasticised fabric in The Range.

I measured up and sewed a liner for the inside, and then I covered a piece of card for the lidP1010905.

As you see, I simply sewed up the corners, then I tucked them inside. I stitched the fabric in place [the holes in the basket work make that quite easy.

P1010904I made a little spotty bag to hold the cutlery, having realised, quite serendipitously, that the plastic bag from the ice packs was exactly the right size.

Here’s the finished basket, loaded and ready to go [well, not really, I padded out the bags with paper for the purposes of the photograph!] You can just see the spotty cutlery bag tucked in between the plates and lunchbags.


Just a few comments…

  • Sometimes we are just 2, sometimes more – I didn’t want to put in lots of straps for cutlery I wouldn’t need, so I just put the cutlery in the bag, and tucked plates and beakers around the lunch bags. Fewer fittings give more choice for contents.
  • With a smaller picnic, I can fit my blanket in the basket.
  • I lined the lid, even though it has no fittings, so that it would be easier to wipe clean. Food trapped in wicker is a pain
  • My large plates fit neatly under the 2 lunch bags.
  • My sewing machine didn’t like sewing the plasticised fabric – and it was quite thin, so if I sewed just one layer, it tore. I should have purchased thicker stuff I think!

F&M hamperThe basket, plus fittings has cost me around £12. It measures 40 x 60 x 20cm. That makes it the same size as the Fortnum and Mason “St James Hamper” I have realised that I have yet to put a tablecloth and napkins in mine and I have plastic, not porcelain crockery.

F&M hamper lidI have a thermos flask that will fit, if we want to take hot drinks. I have spent £538 less than I would have paid at F&M so I am very happy! [should I stencil A & B on the lid of ours, do you think?] Now all we need is some sunshine!

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Time To Relax!

kids club team

Here’s the brilliant Kids Club Team. Miriam, our gifted Youth Worker, who planned it all, is front row, left. Lindsey in the spotty hat has been second-in-command. The guy in the rainbow shirt is Steve – who has been masterminding the building project. The other two characters in hats you will recognise as the newcomers to UCF.

P1010898But now we are holed up at Cornerstones. Our journey here in the wind and rain [with sheets of plywood tied firmly to the roof] was long and tiring. We got here at 1.30am Monday morning. Most of that day we were too tired to think straight. Christine popped round for a cuppa, and the Sainsbury's guy delivered the groceries. Tuesday morning Bob prepared breakfast in the Summerhouse.

It was fun to sit outside and enjoy coffee and croissants – then the sky got even greyer and the rain started again! A quick trip into Dereham for library books, and a CS meander – we found this bargain


At £2.50 for the pair, I was really pleased. I made a couple of individual lasagnes for our meal [Bob’s with cheese on top, mine without] These Hornsea bowls are around £5 for one on eBay right now.

Lots of ‘house’ jobs to do this fortnight – sort out the damp in the garage, fix the dishwasher, do the garden, get the PC working properly. Blogposts may be a bit less regular – and I don’t think I shall be dealing with emails at all. But we are planning some trips out, and lots of reading [and I shall be crafting] I went up into the loft yesterday [first time since we moved house] and found a few things I’d put there at Christmas and forgotten about. And a small plastic bag containing £2.45 in small change. Well that’s the new china paid for!

The weather is very hit and miss – wet and windy, then warm and sunny - but we don’t care at all. We are just thrilled to be here and able to wind down completely. We feel so blessed.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Stitching For Victory

stitching for victory
Sue, over at Frugal In Suffolk, mentioned this as being one of her recent library books, and it looked interested so I ordered it from our library. I did wonder if it would be a cut-and-paste lightweight affair, with a picture of Mrs Sew-and-Sew and reproductions of all the ‘make do and mend’ leaflets. But I was delighted to find it was not that at all!
This excellent book by Suzanne Griffith is proper history, interesting facts, well presented, beautifully illustrated, and cleverly and thoughtfully set out. Well worth the read – even if you are not a stitcher yourself. Ms Griffiths treats the word ‘stitch’ as an abstract noun, as a virtue like courage, fortitude, faith, or thrift. She argues that ‘stitch’ was an essential part of the ammunition which helped Britain win WW2.
Woman's friend No.997 Friday, June 15,1945 (1)
Yes, the cheery Mrs S&S does appear, along with diagrams showing how to turn hubby’s suit into  outfits for the children – but the book has so much more than that. The book begins with  the Kindertransport- German Jewish children brought to the UK and safety between 1938 and 1940– and how their mothers sewed precious small things for them to carry. Toys, scarves etc…or they gave them mementoes- granny’s sampler, a monogrammed hankie…and afterwards, these children said that all that remained of their family heritage was that tiny piece of stitching – because everything else had been burnt at Auschwitz or Belsen. I have to admit that this first chapter was so moving, I had to stop and recover before I could read any more!
WAAFs_and_Balloons_10But the book says so much about the power of stitch in wartime. The women who sewed the ‘Blimps’ and the parachutes, the men in POW camps secretly stitching clothes for their escape attempts, the wedding dresses made from bed sheets, and the curtains from flour sacks, the thriftiness, and other clever recycling of one fabric item into another. Clemmie Churchill adopting a ‘turban headscarf’ as her signature style, in recognition of the girls working in the factories. The sheer determination of the British people not to let wartime restrictions remove the joy from life – finding bits of ric-rac trim, and skeins of embroidery thread in order to add brightness to plain, dull dresses, or make hand-me-downs that little bit more special for the recipient.
I have genuinely loved reading this book – and learned so much from it. I am thrilled that so many younger women in their 20s and 30s are currently taking up knitting, crochet and needlework – and hope this trend continues. ‘Stitch’ can bring so much pleasure, both in the creation, and in wearing the end result. Developing craft skills, sharing them, using them to redeem rags and remnants – all this is good. This book reminds us of an important time in our history, and the fact that many of the men, women and children in WW2 really were Stitching For Victory. Definitely I would rate this *****
[thanks Sue, for your original blogpost!]