Saturday 29 July 2017

A Snapshot of My Week

Okay, I know if I start by saying it's been a busy week you are all going to groan and say "what's new?" But boy, even by my standards it has been pretty full on. It has started and ended with birthday presents... I am loving this birthday which just seems to go on and on! My lovely stepson and daughter-in-law, James and Elizabeth, gave me theatre tickets for an outdoor production of "Too True to be Good" by George Bernard Shaw,  performed at Shaw's Corner, home of the man himself for 44 years.

As this was a first for me, it was also something to be added to my sixty by sixty list... I have threatened that once I reach sixty on my list I shall start a 100 x 100! The play itself, which I was not at all familiar with before the evening, was a little strange,reflecting Shaw's strong political views but it was well acted and entertaining, with the house as a backdrop and the terrace as the stage. 

We brought along a picnic of good bread, cheese, olives and hummous plus a bottle of prosecco and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Even the rain didn't come on until we were on our way home.

By Saturday morning the rain had cleared and we set out for yet another sixty x sixty adventure recommended by Paula a regular reader of my blog. We booked a tower tour of Peterborough Cathedral.

I confess, despite not being all that far from Peterborough I had never visited the Cathedral before this week... and it is magnificent.

The tour involved climbing 200 steps up via narrow spiral staircases, allowing access to parts of the cathedral not usually open to the public.We had close up views of  the stunning stained glass and amazing architecture.

It was wonderful to have such views of the cathedral and we were in awe of the skills that were involved in the building of such an colossal building.

And the views from the roof, the highest point in the city, were spectacular.

We were also fortunate to see a fabulous exhibition of quilts, Threads Through Revelation, that is touring British cathedrals, made by artist Jacqui Parkinson in response to the Book of Revelations.

Yet again we were lucky with the weather as the rain only set in for the day on or way home. On Sunday it was time to celebrate an engagement. An enjoyable afternoon, with lots of good food, meeting lots of lovely, interesting young people. And the rain held off once again!

After a day baking on Monday I then headed out to London on Tuesday with friends Jude and Isobel, to visit the Grayson Perry exhibition at the Serpentine Galleries.

As always with Grayson Perry, it didn't fail to entertain, the man is such fabulous astute observer of life today, serious observations executed with a large dose of tongue in cheek. I'm sure his work will provide a wonderful social history in years to come.

I really liked this little shrine with models of himself and his wife, but best of all I loved the glimpse into his sketchbooks. What a treat!

. There then followed a two day overnight trip to Hastings with my Mum for a family funeral, an evening out working, and then James and Elizabeth staying for a couple of nights before they head off for a month in Panama. Mostly it has been a good week and even the funeral was a chance to catch up with family members not seen for a while but I am tired! I have finished the week with a fabulous day out painting acrylic abstracts, another birthday present, this time from my Mum, but I think that can be another blog post all of its own... mostly because I'm too exhausted to write anymore!

Friday 21 July 2017

A Miniature Art Challenge

My blog will be ten years old on Sunday. If you had asked me ten years ago would I still be doing this now I think I would have considered it to be unlikely but I have come a long way since that first post. In the early days it was a way for me to document my art. It was largely visual with few words, although I hadn't worked out how to add a photo to that first one. Those ten years have seen many changes... there has been less art in recent years and more about food and family life, although to be fair there has alway been cake right from the early days. It is still very visual because I find it hard to blog without photographs but there seem to be more words of late, which may be why it has also become less frequent. It takes longer to write each post and think about what to say, not to mention the editing out all the typos and spelling mistakes. To be honest, I can't see me finding time to write two or three times a week like I once did, I can feel a shift back towards more art though.

I recently met with my friend Catherina where we had lunch and a wander around some galleries and shops. We spotted these tiny little canvases in an art supplies shop and a spark of an idea was sown. We each bought a canvas with the intention to decorate it exactly how we wished before swapping our finished canvases with each other. I love a challenge to get me motivated!

After priming my canvas with gesso I immediately got to work with my acrylic paints to make a miniature portrait of Frida Khalo reviving an old interest in this enigmatic artist. I struggled with the likeness but it is interesting that now, by looking at the photograph I can see where I was going wrong (the mouth!)

Rather than paint in the final details I added some 3D jewels and flowers. I wanted to use those little ribbon roses you can buy but couldn't find them anywhere. I know I have some stashed away somewhere in the house! I had to make do with paper ones which were a little big but overall I was quite pleased with the effect, especially considering the whole thing was only about the size of a matchbox.

I popped it in the post to Catherina and the very next day I received Catherina's artwork in return... a beautiful little handstitched piece to celebrate my birthday. 

And this little challenge combined with my inspiring day out has kick started me into working in my sketchbooks again, which in turn is already starting to spark ideas for new work. I'd say watch this space but you just might have a long wait... but who knows!

Have a good weekend... we've got a busy one so not much time for painting, but then what's new!

Friday 14 July 2017

Tea for... Sixty!

Last Sunday I hosted afternoon tea for sixty of my female friends. The idea was to invite as many people from various walks of my life over the years as I could. Invariably there were several friends or groups of friends I had to leave out - not because I wanted too - but simply from a practical point of view. It would have been wonderful to invite everyone I know. How lovely it would have been to invite all the people I've met through blogging too, but that might have required another whole party of its own! But perhaps you would like to join me here for a virtual tea party...

I have been filling the freezer with cakes over the past four weeks and on Sunday morning whilst I finished off making sandwiches, the men in my family got busy laying tables with vintage china, pretty cloths and flowers and blowing up ballons etc to decorate our village hall.

There were scones with clotted cream and homemade apricot conserve.

As well as cakes of all descriptions... brownies, sponge cakes, bakewells and macarons... there were biscuits...

I spotted these "tea bag cookies" on Pinterest the week of the party and knew that they just had to be made. Fiddly bits of nonsense that were probably not the best idea when I was catering for so many but worth every second. They were just the sort of detail I wanted on the afternoon.

As the guests arrived, my team of gorgeous helpers sprung into action pouring glasses of Prosecco and cups of tea, handing round cakes and sandwiches... my four sons above and my stepson and grandson below...

As well as my brother and his stepson, and my soon to be stepson-in-law and not forgetting Stewart of course.  All the special men in our family in fact!

And then the guests arrived...

And here they all are... some ladies I've known for over thirty five years and others who are recent friends or members of the family. But it was such a lovely gathering and a brilliant atmosphere. I wish I could let you hear it, so much laughter, chat and catching up.. as one guest said "As you approached the hall it sounded like a children's playground"!

There was an impromptu speech...

And it wouldn't  be a party without cake. Of course I made my own... I got what I wanted that way! Several layers of a gin and tonic sponge and buttercream 'naked' cake with fruit and flowers.

It all added up to one very happy sixty year old who had just the sort of party she wanted...
Tea, cake, lots of fabulous friends... and the odd glass of Prosecco too!

I couldn't have asked for anything more!

Although we are still eating left over cake!

Friday 7 July 2017

My Big Day Out

Until the beginning of the week I had no idea of what I would be doing on the day of my birthday. There had been mutterings about a day at the seaside with fish and chips but nothing planned and at the last minute we decided that it had been a long time since we'd had a day in London... so did that instead, ignoring the weather forecasts of torrential rain and thunderstorms.

On arrival at Kings Cross, we headed behind the station towards the Regents Canal where there has been much regeneration and restoration. In my youth this was a run down, seedy red light district (not that I would know anything about that of course!) but it is now a pedestrianised area of open spaces, modern water features and an abundance of restaurants. We chose Caravan, a lively open plan eatery housed in a large grain warehouse next door to Central St. Martins.

Having skipped breakfast in the knowledge this would be our first stop I opted for a poached egg on avocado on sourdough toast... despite being tempted by a fresh nectarine and amaretti pancake. I wasn't disappointed although maybe wished I could have had both.

The other member of my party went for the full brunch... and finished the lot! It really was as big as it looked.

Finding ourselves fully replete we headed towards the Royal Victoria Docks for the first of our mini adventures and another 60 x 60 wish... to ride on the Emirates Air Line over the Thames.

At almost 100m over the River Thames, the Air Line cable car spans for 1 km from the Docks to Greenwich.

We were really lucky that it happened to be very quiet and we walked straight on with a cabin all to ourselves. The views were stunning... as were the blue skies!

Two years ago we walked over the top of the O2 and it felt so high... but it looks nothing looking down on it here! A great experience that I can recommend.

Back on terra firma we made the short walk to North Greenwich pier and picked up the river bus to head towards the Embankment in Westminster. A much nicer way to travel through the city than going underground.

Our next stop was The Royal Academy for the summer exhibition. It is a few years since I last went and there is usually plenty to see of interest among the vast numbers of exhibits, but I have to say I felt rather underwhelmed by it all. It felt tired... but maybe that was me! There were some vaguely interesting sculptures and a few "nice" prints but nothing that really grabbed me. My favourite gallery was curated by Yinka Shonibare, mostly because it was colourful and a bit subversive but in truth I preferred the art we saw walking around Cambridge Open Studios last weekend. Pretentious and trying too hard to be "edgy" was what sprung to mind. And what's more... £3 for a bottle of water... that's just having a laugh!

Our next stop was another 60 x 60 list item and that was to visit the London Icebar. There is no doubt this is very gimmicky and something you would only do once but it was a laugh!

It is a small room tucked in a side road off Regents Street that is kept at -5 deg C. The bar and seating areas are all sculpted from beautiful clear ice that comes from Northern Sweden and even the glasses for the cocktails are scuplted from ice. Fur trimmed capes and gloves are provided!

We were only in there for half an hour which was really one big photo opportunity but it was fun... more fun than the RA!

We did wonder about this 21st century phenomenon that requires us to seek out such diverse and bizarre experiences but then decided it was best not to over think it and to just enjoy the fact we were drinking outrageously expensive cocktails from glasses made of ice sitting in a large freezer. If nothing else it was welcome relief from the heat outside... no sign of the rain or thunderstorms yet!

On leaving the Icebar we eventually managed to hail a taxi after walking a fair distance first, both being reluctant to head underground at rush hour, and ended up at Ottolenghi's in Spittlefields for our dinner... and a glass of fizz! As ever the food was wonderful... as was the entire day. A fabulous day to celebrate turning sixty and a couple more things notched off my list... past the half way point now!

We were home by the ten o'clock news and I even managed an early night... well, I am in my sixties now you know!