Tuesday 31 July 2018

What Next?

So here I am, the disappointment of a less than successful Open Studio and a cancelled class now just a distant memory as I start to plan for what's next. In the immediate future that's an easy question to answer as next week I will be at The Festival of Quilts where I'm teaching a couple of Quick and Easy workshops... a machine embroidered nature inspired needle case in just an hour! Still a few places left on both Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th the last time I looked. And if you don't have tickets for the show yet you can get them from the website www.festivalofquilts.co.uk or by calling 0844 581 1289 and if you quote the code WT26 you can get a 15% discount.

Of course in order to get the needle case made and finished in the short time allocated I have to provide ready to go kits with designs already drawn out onto calico...

and all other materials provided and cut to size.

It took a lot longer than I thought it would, a lot longer... just saying!

And then I thought I should try a few samples of my new designs to see how they looked and how long they took for me to make. I discovered I can make one from a pre-prepared kit in about 30 minutes so I think that notwithstanding any disasters involving machine malfunction or operator errors we should get the projects finished, allowing time for some teaching etc... I hope!

After that I have a couple of one day classes in August but then things get a bit quiet and once again I'm left wondering about long term career prospects. I love what I do but unfortunately there is also a need to earn some money. This seems to be a cyclical thing that I need to go through every so often and as often happens I find I return to my other love, which is cooking. (It was that that led to me baking cakes for two years!)

I made a batch of pecan and cranberry granola (you can find the recipe in this post) along with an apricot and blackberry compote. The idea was to have some healthy breakfasts at the weekend but I ended up making pancakes too. They were good!

There were also some honeycomb brownies for a hen-do. I used a Nigella Lawson recipe for the brownies which is always my go to recipes when I make brownies as I know it works reliably with my oven. Instead of walnuts or other additions I added crushed Crunchie bars. I didn't make my own honeycomb... I'm not feeling quite that enthusiastic about cooking! They were also good!

And finally I took along some savoury puffs to another gathering of friends last night... ready rolled puff pastry (No, I didn't make my own pastry either), spread with goats cheese, wild garlic pesto (from the freezer - I did make my own, recipe here) and chopped sun dried tomato. Roll it up like a Swiss roll, cut it into slices and bake on a silicon mat on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 220 deg C (200 fan)

I'm not sure I have quite got the cooking out of my system yet. For some reason I have a desire to make some Danish pastries so watch this space. But as for future career ideas I'm still not any further forward with ideas. Although the exciting news I hinted at last week does look like it's going to happen, so as soon as I have details and the go ahead I promise you'll hear it here first!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Sixty by Sixty

As I mentioned in a previous post, in between the excitement of the weddings I just happened to have another birthday. It came and it went, I was busy setting up for Open Studios all day and we celebrated in the evening with a fish and chip supper. The only thing of any real significance is that I am now 61 and so according to my own rules I am at the end of my sixty by sixty project.

Except I'm not really as I'm only up to number fifty five! But they have certainly been a lot of fun and introduced me to lots of new things, some I will definitely do again, some I will never do again and some that have opened up new opportunities. It was never meant to be a bucket list, although there is still a list of things I would like to do before it's too late (I've yet to see the Northern Lights for one), it was always more of a project to open my mind to new experiences started because I happened to mention in passing I had never been to a music festival. I've still not been to a music festival!

So it was always a project to try things I'd never tried before, visit places I had never been, achieve some long held ambitions and to do things that I may have never have thought of doing before. The only proviso was it had to be a new experience. It was no longer good enough to say "I would like to do that one day"... I intended to do it because life should be an adventure!

There have been some really exciting things like the indoor sky diving (I still think I might like to try the real thing), climbing over the O2 and maybe best of all, riding VERY fast on the back of a motorbike (Although I'm sure we weren't going THAT fast officer!)

One of my long held ambitions was to do the London Moonwalk, which was an amazing experience and there are already plans afoot to do it again next year with some friends.

Afternoon tea at The Ritz was another highlight that I loved but probably would never do again... unless of course someone feels like taking me.

Handling big birds of prey was another fun day out despite it being on what was probably the coldest day that year.

I also realised a long held ambition to start my own baking business which I did for two years. My first commissioned cake was this Guns'n'Roses cake

The last one was a twenty first birthday cake for a young doctor in training.

Much as I enjoyed it, I decided it was taking too much time away from my textiles and so reluctantly closed up my kitchen to the public last Christmas. However one of the other things I did over the 60 x 60 project was get involved with Free Cakes for Kids, a lovely charity that provides birthday cakes etc for children who would otherwise not have a cake. From my very first cake for Orla, I have gone on to make many more, some for children's centres, some for homeless charities and some for children undergoing cancer treatment... all of them a pleasure to make and something I will continue to do. The best thing is that without my 60 x 60 to spur me on I may never have got involved. The more I think about it, many of my 60 x 60 experiences involved cake!

I still don't know if the friend I nominated for an honour will be considered. It can take up to eighteen months to process and the only way you know is if it is successful... I'll keep an eye on the New Year honours list! There have been so many exciting and interesting experiences all I can say is do look down the list (in my sidebar) and give some a try! I can highly recommend Bletchley Park, Kew Gardens and Peterborough cathedral if you have never been.

And so to my last "experience" which was riding a zip wire... can you believe I have never done that before. We were meant to be taking our grandson to the park to play on the swings but I fear his Nanny-G may be a bad influence!

And as a result of the zip wire experience I was given a voucher to "Go Ape" for my birthday,  so I can't stop my project just because I turned 61 can I? I have been recording each experience in a scrapbook so will continue to fill it until I reach sixty things (my project, my rules!) and after that I will just carry on, trying new things, seeking out new experiences and going to new places, embracing and enjoying life to the full.

I don't think I want to call it 70 x 70... but maybe I should be really ambitious and name it 100 x 100. What do you think? Any ideas?

You can see all my 60 x 60 posts here.

Monday 23 July 2018

Thoughts on the Future

I have been participating in Cambridge Open Studios since 2005 only having missed two years. The number of visitors is always fairly consistent, never huge crowds with living in a village outside of Cambridge centre but always enough to make it worthwhile. There have been years when no-one has turned up for the first few hours and I have wondered if I have opened on the wrong weekend but it always evens out in the end. I mostly sell enough to make me feel good about what I'm making and to cover my costs (participating in Open Studios is not cheap). But this year felt like a disaster... where was everyone?

My visitor numbers were less than half the usual number overall and mostly consisted of people I already knew. with the exception of about three or four people. Everyone who came was a great support, even the man who opened with "Are you the cross stitch lady?" was enthusiastic when I explained how I work. I sold a few bits and pieces too but still it felt soul destroying. And although I would make and create things even if it wasn't my job I can't help feeling it is all a waste of time. I guess we all need validation for what we do.

The feeling has been compounded this week on finding out a course I thought I was teaching had been cancelled and no one had thought to tell me. Made me feel really valued let me tell you!

I'm sure these feelings will pass soon but right now I'm wondering how to get rid of the huge amount of stuff I have made and accumulated over the years, especially in light of the fact we hope to downsize in the not too distant future. I contemplated a skip... a yard sale... giving it away to passing strangers (except we don't really have many of those in the village) but in the end I thought I would do a little Etsy shop update starting with my latest mosaic makes. I did in fact sell a few of the mosaic pendants over the weekend but the rest have ended up in the shop. I'll decide how to deal with the rest of the stuff later!

I was also considering a drastic career change... Brain surgeon? Bus driver? Bar maid? But then an email popped into my inbox this evening with an offer that might... just might make things look a bit rosier in the future. But you'll have to wait to hear about that!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Sitting Doing Nothing...

So here I am again, sitting around for another weekend of Open Studios... quiet so far and although I know it is still early in the day (most visitors tend to come in the afternoon) it is hard not to feel a little despondent. So much work goes into these events that I do wonder if it is worth it. 

I'd like people to come along just to see my new discovery... I can see me doing a lot more mosaics in the future. In-between the weddings I just happened to have another birthday and inspired after my day making mosaics with my friend Terry I asked for some basic supplies to get me started. I just happened to have a handful of these blank wooden gift tags, like you do, so decided to try decorating them with mosaic to make little pendants.

Why start with a simple project when I could be doing something intricate and fiddly... well I know why now!  Not to be deterred I persevered and have made sixteen little pendants which have been added to my Open Studios sales table.

Not perfect by any means but passable enough judging by the reaction they have received on Instagram (I'm gina_ferrari_art on Instagram since you ask)

And if they don't sell this weekend they might make an appearance in my Etsy shop next week.

Although I might keep one or two for myself. This one goes particularly well with my new top.

And of course, should you be reading this and be within spitting distance of South Cambridgeshire I'm open until 6pm this evening and all day Sunday too.

There are textiles and paintings to see on the walls.

And lots to tempt you should you be in the mood for spending, although of course no obligation to buy... just come along to say hello!

Another five and a half hours to go... I hope someone turns up!

Wednesday 18 July 2018

A Marriage of Two Parts - Part 2

After two days of baking it was on with the posh frocks once more and off to Childerley Hall for the second part of Sam and Elle's wedding. The part they had proclaimed as their bandit wedding as opposed to their legal wedding!

The setting was gorgeous, in the grounds of a stunning Tudor house and the weather was perfect.

The bridesmaids were beautiful and the groomsmen (and women) and groom were very smart in their matching waistcoats, which by some stroke of luck all fitted!

The marriage ceremony took place in the orchard, overseen by a humanist celebrant, Sarah, who clearly knew Sam and Elle very well. I'm not sure I could easily sum up these two very unique and quirky individuals but a better match is hard to imagine and Sarah managed to convey that to everyone present. Although of course, we already knew that! 

They had written their own vows which were beautiful and just perfect. Their love for each other was very evident.

With the ceremony over, we gathered in the garden and as Sam and Elle appeared down the steps we all blew bubbles rather than throw confetti. They both love bubbles!

There were cocktails and canapés and lots more laughter.

It was then into the Victorian long barn for a fabulous meal provided by Provenance Kitchen, accompanied by some wonderful speeches from Elle's parents Ros and Nigel, from Sam and Elle, and also from the 'best man' Vicky who spoke beautifully without notes.

During the past year Elle has painstakingly crafted 1000 origami cranes which filled ten vases to decorate the tables. In Japan they are thought to bring good luck and everlasting happiness.

And of course there was cake... over 150 cupcakes in four different flavours

As well as a fruit cake which was a collaboration - Elle's Mum Ros made the delicious cake which I decorated.

There was dancing to a live ceilidh band and before the night was over there was more food, including fabulous ice cream from Jack's Gelato.

So now here we are on the other side of two weddings in two weeks, I now have two married sons and two lovely daughters-in-law, our various house guests have all moved on and it feels a bit quiet if I'm honest. We've not come to the end of our family weddings yet - Stewart's daughter gets married at the end of next month but at least we have a few weeks to catch our breath, to focus once again on our house move and to possibly even get some work done. 

Tuesday 17 July 2018

A Marriage of Two Parts - Part 1

We had no sooner come home from Greece from my eldest son's wedding than we were donning our glad rags once more for my second eldest son's wedding. And whereas the first was a totally Greek experience this time it was typically Cantabrigian.

Sam and Elle's legal ceremony took place in Cambridge on Wednesday attended by close family and friends.

It was an intimate ceremony where they were married in the eyes of the law.

After which the entire wedding party walked down Castle Hill to the River Cam. Long time readers will know that Sam's day job (when he isn't writing) is pushing punts for tourists but this time he was allowed to sit and enjoy the ride as his punting company provided three punts with chauffeurs for us all.

The prosecco flowed and there was much laughter and fun. It was wonderful to see Sam and Elle look so happy.

Everyone enjoyed themselves from the very youngest member of the party, our grandson

(Who didn't stop giggling the entire afternoon)

to the oldest member, my Mum, who thoroughly enjoyed herself.

Once off the punts we then headed to the rooftop bar and restaurant of The Varsity Hotel with its views over Cambridge where we had a lovely meal.

It was another very happy occasion... but it was just the beginning...

Three days later we were celebrating all over again for what was in many ways the main event. The vows, exchange of rings and the party. The two days in between I spent baking and decorating cupcakes... but you'll just have to come back tomorrow to see the cakes and hear all about the second instalment!