Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Teresa Wentzler-embroidery artist

Definitely my very favourite embroidery artist.

She's not a secret to anybody who likes embroidery or cross stitch but for those with an aversion to needles or who are not in the know...

Teresa specialises in cross stitch and designs the most beautiful and ornate patterns. They are often fantasy-inspired and feature dragons, unicorns, fairies and such. Her designs are considered to be amongst the most challenging to stitch-I've heard stories of the larger, detailed works featuring fractional stiich and blended threads taking years and years to complete. A labour of love if there ever was.

A lovely pattern to celebrate autumn

Probably my favourite of her designs

I also love this one

I can't even imagine calculating how many hours of work went into this

A selection of her popular Celtic bookmarks

Her blog is here

Her patterns can be purchased at Patternsonline here

I am still working on my first own (significantly less impressive) cross stitch (actually I have about 3 on the go!) but here is a sneak preview of a couple of them in their ebryonic stage:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fusion Knots

If you love Celtic art or knots then take a look at this wonderful website:

J.D Lenzen, the blog owner, is a knot expert and has a wonderful Youtube channel here called 'Tying it All Together"-in case you would like to try your hand at a few knots. Some of the knots are actually surprisngly simple but still look very effective. Others are fairly complex but I think could be mastered with a little practice and dexterity. An honoury member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers (yes, such a thing exists) he also has a book called Decorative Fusion Knots.

I think the knots are incredibly beautiful and could be utilised in many things-jewellery, furnishings, clothes and so on. I'll certainly be investing in some nice cord to try out a few of the Celtic knots.

Celtic Tree of Life Knot

Bumble Bee Knot

Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Found Love-Channel 4 on Demand

I've never been much of a television watcher-namely because 99.9% of the programmes aired are unquestionably terrible and because...well to be honest I think television is a bit of a waste of time. You can sit there watching television for three hours and gain nothing from it. I know there are good things on television, that I miss by not having a connected aerial...but most worthwhile things are available on DVD and every Chistmas, a boxset is inevitably top of my wishlist. I seldom feel I'm missing out.

Anyway, perhaps I feel a little less strongly about television being worthless after a friend started talking about a series called Kirstie's Homemade Home and sent me the link to watch the first episode. The show features Kirstie Allsop who has bought a house in Devon and decides to decorate and furnish her new house with as much homemade and locally produced items as possible. I have only watched one episode was absolutely wonderful. It wasn't a high brow documentary, or an award-winning drama but it was entertaining, informative and inspiring. I learnt a little about pottery, glass-blowing and the laws of taking things from skips...and that was just from the first episode. I dream of buying a house, of interior design and collecting beautiful things from charity shops (a habit I'm trying to suppress as I have no space).

I now give myself my complete permission to watch the whole series (on my laptop, rather than on a television) just for the sheer enjoyment and look forward to becoming a temporary couch potato with Kirstie Allsop.

Episode one:

Kirstie and Poppy-thank you!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The Nicest School Evening I've Had in a While

I came home, jumped straight in the bath as it was dusky outside, and after dozed for 10 minutes with my hair in a towel. Rejuvenated I went to the kitchen and chopped onions and garlic, mixed up some warm spices and made a delicious vegetarian chilli and rice dish. I looked through my holiday photos of Venice and dreamed of going back while eating biscuits for dessert. Hating to waste too much time online, I shut my laptop and sat on my bed crocheting a rabbit's body to old Incubus and Radiohead cds. Now I'm ready for bed, my lava lamp is on and and Morning View plays in the background. A collection of small nice things have made up the best evening I've had a in a while.

Gillingham Ladies Reserves v. Brighton Ladies Reserves

Facing the Enemy

Attended what turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining football match on Sunday to take some photographs.

The sun shone and it was springlike warm, I was glad I had the opportunity to be outside on a field.

Below is the link to the photos I took which were featured.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Autumn in the Garden

The view to the school's garden through a hole in our fence

The sun shone, the sky azure blue. If it was July it would have been one of those hot, still perfect summer's days. It's halfway through October though and the wilted flowers and chill air were a reminder of how late in the year it now is.

Regardless I decided to spend the afternoon in the garden and was perfectly comfortable with a jumper, although I did half wish for my mittens when the sun left the valley.

The hydrangea has lost its colour and the fuschia looks tired and ready to give up. It's all rather sad. Every year I try to like autumn more. I find the shedding of the leaves and all the colours beautiful. I enjoy a cold, bright autumn morning as much as anybody, and the smell of smoke hinting at Guy Fawkes' festivities to come. Yet, no matter how hard I try, autumn always seems a little tinged with melancholy for me. I dislike seeing all the flowers dying and the trees turning skeletal.

I've planned to bake autumnal cupcakes, bought ground ginger, noted the pumpkins to be bought in the shops come payday. I've lingered at the Hallowe'en display and contemplated dressing as a witch or cat. I've picked a conker, shuffled through some leaves and worn mittens. I've surveyed my collection of cosy lights and candles to help assuage the loss of daylight and planned film evenings. I've dug out two sachets of luxurious Italian hot chocolate hiding under my bed and started burning my oil burner. Yet, I still long for spring. There is nothing equal to the joy of seeing the crocus arrive and feel the air turning warm for me. I think spring and summer will always be my seasons and that is that.

So I took my camera and lunch into the garden and tried to pretend spring isn't five long months away, even if the wait is bisected by Christmas.

Still working on that spider photo

A fuschia flower hanging on

Another spider web photo. Not sure how good the quality is on here

Friday, 7 October 2011

One box of my old received mix tapes

I used to visit this website all the time in the days when I made and exchanged mix tapes (and cds) with people. In fact when I met someone new, often a music enthusiast themselves, one of the first things we would do to cement our new acquaintance was to exchange a tape or cd of our favourite songs. You can read a lot into a person by hearing their top 20 favourite songs I believe.

I used to spend a lot of time on this site browsing through all the indie playlists, then listening to (and downloading) songs on Kazaa and Winmx. I discovered many loved songs on this site, including songs by The Decemberists, The Shins, Pedro the Lion and a myriad of other indie bands.

The dawn of the digital age has inevitably seen a diminished number of mix cds (and even tapes) exchanged, which I find rather sad. Of course you could send somebody a Spotify playlist but it does lack the magic of mix cds with their smudged handwritten playlists and rough handmade artwork. Also by creating your own playlists, you're more likely to stick to your own tastes and the music you know you'll like, rather than listening to somebody else's choices and opening yourself up to different sounds.

artofthemix is a mix-loving community of people who upload mix tape/cd playlists. There is an active forum and a search engine so you can see which playlists your songs appear in. The site is linked up to Spotify and Amazon in case you want to buy any of the songs, or indeed the whole playlist. However when I used the site a lot in the mid 2000s, if you were interested in somebody's playlist you could arrange a cd swap via post. I suspect that there are people on the site though who would be game for an old-fashioned mix cd exchange with a stranger. Waiting for the postman to put a new mix cd through my door is certainly a little pleasure I'd happily welcome back into my life.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

My Date with the Enchanting Icelandic Horse

Icelandic 'sunrise'

Following a night of howling wind and relentless rain, I was repaid in the morning with a beautiful dramatic sky. The morning's weather oscillaited between heavy showers and unexpected but welcome cameos from the sun. A rainbow arched over the city on the walk into town to hunt for the elusive 'Best Hotdog in Iceland' stand.

For me the day began when we arrived at the lava fields for our ride on one of the beautiful Icelandic horses. It was one of the highlights of the trip, even if I did wake the next morning with a very sore behind. One of the American tourists, a lady from Seattle, who we shared a ride to the stables with said "you can't let the rain stop you doing things; you just have to get on with it". You certainly have to have that attitude in Iceland where it can rain non-stop for days. Strangely though, you get used to it after a while and it's even possible to not really notice it unless it's combined with a wind which blows it into your face.

We were provided with waterproof outwear, then matchmade with one of the horses in the stable, instructed how to get on....and off we went.
At first we were led onto the lava fields through some open land and I was buffeted by very strong winds and a cold spiteful rain, making it hard for me to stay upright on the horse. I wondered if I'd made a mistake in booking the tour. However my horse fared better and reassuring and sturdy he walked steadily into the lava fields while I could barely stay upright in my saddle. Brave little horse, built to withstand the Icelandic weather.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take a photo of my horse but I've searched online and I found a photo of a horse which looks similar. One of the staff told me his name but it was Icelandic and I didn't catch it. 

The Icelandic horse is a purebred horse which has never been mixed with any other breed and its lineage goes right back to the first Viking settlers in Iceland. They are much loved for their calm and friendly dispositions. The Icelandic horse also has two special gaits which no other breed has. One is called the tölt.

An Icelandic horse at tölt

The other is called flying pace

The other is called flying pace

I don't know which gaits my horse showcased for me but he was a speedy little thing, who took off when I least expected it, and forced me to cling to the saddle, his mane...anything in fact so I didn't bounce out of the saddle. I grew quite attached to him, even if he seemed to ignore me when I pulled on the reins, convinced I was going to tumble off, and would have kidnapped him but for the fact that if an Icelandic horse ever leaves Iceland, it is not allowed to return. Instead I will imagine him happy, running through the lava fields, around the mountains of Iceland and munching grass and other treats.

Back in the fields I fell in love with on my first day, I was taken with the beauty of them all over again and started to really enjoy myself. It is not every day that I get a chance to ride a horse through lava fields.

The wind whipped across the fields for the whole 90 minutes but the rain abated often enough for me to look around and enjoy the sight the moss-covered lava and trailing azalea stretching around me (to paraphrase my friend "it looks like someone has thrown a green carpet over the lava rocks").

At the end of the ride I got trapped between my horse and another and they both nuzzled me. I felt sad to leave these beautiful gentle little horses I'd grown so fond of in just one ride.

We had Mexican for dinner. The Icelanders are very fond of spicy food-Thai, Indian, Mexican. One can only wonder why. You can of course eat traditional fare if you want to-puffin, whale and shark are advertised loudly on menus around Reykjavik. Traditional Icelandic prices also apply unfortunately. Being a vegetarian I didn't miss anything and happily stick to my Skyr.

My last day is almost here and an achey sadness is taking root in my stomach.