Friday, 31 May 2013

Handmade with a British influence...

A friend of mine is leaving the UK after ten years to return to Australia. I gave S some sewing lessons earlier this year, as she is planning on starting a business that will include pet accessories.

During a recent unexpected trip back to Australia for family reasons, her sweet little dog was cared for by some of her friends (who also have two dogs of their own). S asked if I would make her some pillow covers for her to give them as a thank you gift.

We met in Kingston on the weekend so she could choose the fabric and tell me what design she would like. Over the long weekend I spent a few hours on Monday making them...

I cut the pattern for the v-pillow case from one that she provided for me. After a quick internet search I was able to find a template for a westie dog which I then appliquéd on by hand.

It had been quite a few years since I had attempted any of this style of appliqué, so I had to provide myself with a quick re-cap tutorial via youtube.

I was quite pleased with the finished product, and she was delighted when she collected them this now I just hope that the recipients will be equally as pleased!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Highgate Cemetery...

We enjoyed a bank holiday weekend this past weekend in the UK, and finally had some decent spring weather in which to enjoy it. To make the most of the warmth and sunshine I met my friend K for a stroll and a picnic.

We started in Highgate village, with a plan to explore Highgate cemetery. The West Cemetery is Victorian and can be visited via a free guided tour. We chose to visit the East Cemetery, which dates from 1860. You can pay a small entrance free and then wander at will.

The cemetery is a very serene space. Beautiful and verdant, peaceful and atmospheric, and a very easy space to enjoy a quiet stroll.

Beautiful stone memorials...

...and dainty spring flowering...

After our visit we repaired to Hampstead Heath for a picnic and enjoy the rest of the afternoon...

We had such a nice day that we made a goal to plan some visits to other heretofore unexplored parts of London - any suggestions most welcome!

Monday, 27 May 2013

Chelsea Flower Show...

 Last Thursday I joined my friend C for our annual visit to the Chelsea Flower Show - during the celebration of its centenary. Despite the dire weather predictions we managed to visit during a window of beautiful afternoon sunshine. Unfortunately, the temperature didn't quite match!

The Australian garden by Flemings (above and below) won best in show and was drawing a huge crowd. I much preferred this Australian garden to the entry from last year. The mass planting was lovely with a mix of native and introduced species. It even came complete with a billabong.

However, my favourite garden was the centenary garden which incorporated elements of garden design that have been popular at Chelsea over the past 100 years.

 And some other lovely glimpses inside and outside of the pavillion...

Finally, the show is held in the grounds of the Royal Hospital - and it is always nice to get a glimpse of the beautiful architecture not normally on view to the public....

Monday, 20 May 2013

Home again...and anticipating Chelsea

Image via


My brief trip to California finished on Friday and we caught the overnight flight back to London, arriving Saturday lunch time. I managed to have enough energy to get some essential groceries and put on a couple of loads of washing, but then basically hibernated for the remainder of the weekend.

But, I was back in to the swing of things at work today without feeling the after effects of jet lag too greatly.

As of 7.30 this evening I am ensconced on my sofa watching the bbc coverage of the Chelsea Flower see, I need to be prepared for my visit there on Thursday afternoon. Despite grave predictions that spring flowering is very late this year, the gardens I have seen so far seem beautifully blooming as always. Last year was my first visit to Chelsea, and very quickly decided that it needed to become an annual event for me to attend.

I'll be back later in the week with hopefully some pretty pictures of my afternoon - and I have my fingers crossed for some sunshine (or at the very least, for it not to be raining).


And on an unrelated note, the Mother's Day tea cosy was a perfect fit...


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

California - Monterey, Carmel and Capitola

Sunny California - and a little time for sight-seeing interspersed with conference attendance...

Carmel by the sea


Seals and sea lions at Monterey



Apparently, I've managed to chose a very good week to be away from London where it is cold and raining...


Saturday, 11 May 2013

A handmade mother's day gift

It is mother's day today in Australia, and this is the little tea cosy I made for my mum. Last year (or the year before...I can't quite remember), I bought my mother a sweet little 2-cup teapot from Windsor Castle for her birthday gift.

She has a couple of tea cosies for her larger teapots but they swamped the size of this petite version. My sister managed to surreptitiously confirm the dimensions of the teapot for me, and I down-sized this pattern to make her gift.

I had to make some guesses in terms of how wide each of the side openings needed to be, but hopefully it will be a nice fit...and do the job of keeping her tea warm...


I arrived back in London last Monday on what was a beautiful sunny bank holiday. In fact the weather (temperature and sunshine) was virtually exactly that we had left in Texas. I spent the last few days of my trip in Fort Worth at a conference which was excellent, but with a very full programme of sessions. A lot of learning and a lot to absortb now that I am home.

This was my view on Thursday morning as I exited Westminster Station on my way to a training programme that is part of one of my scholarship programmes. (Sadly, the lovely sunshine didn't last...). The programme was very interesting - basically it aimed to give us insight into how the Department of Health/NHS is run from a Government/political and Whitehall/civil servant perspective. Despite being completely stressed for much of the day it was still a very valuable learning experience...and whilst I have never held political aspirations, that was very much confirmed for me after the day's events!

It has been a flying visit home - I am on a flight back to the US tomorrow morning to present at another conference. I'm going to the West Coast this time (near Santa Cruz) - predicted temperature on arrival is 28 degrees (much nicer than the 14 degrees we are having here in London today). But, my skills at capsule packing have improved over the last month, so I'm all packed and ready to go

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Dallas: Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository

JFK Memorial, Dallas


I'm currently on the final leg of my fellowship, and arrived in Dallas on Saturday afternoon. I travel to Fort Worth tomorrow for a conference, which is the last element of my trip before flying home to London on Sunday.

So this past Sunday was my last chance for what has become a customary Sunday exploration of a new city. I didn't really know what to expect of Dallas. I have never watched the old television series (so had no preconceived ideas from that perspective), and also knew that it wasn't the stereotypical cattle or oil city that people from outside of the US might expect...but other than that, I had little idea of what to expect.

My first observation was that this is a very car oriented city. On Sunday morning I walked from my hotel (which is in the uptown area) to the downtown part of the city ... a walk which only took me about 25 mins - and in that time I only saw one other jogger out on the street. That said, there also weren't many cars around at 10am either. Even later in the day I really only saw people clustered around the more tourist focused sites (e.g. the Dallas Art Museum, Clyde Warren Park and Dealey Plaza). I can only assume that the downtown area is really just business focused, and has very little in the way of residential living. There was certainly a greater number people out and about in the uptown area when I was there later in the afternoon.

My Sunday exploration this week focused on Dealey Plaza and the 6th Floor Museum in the building that in 1963 was the Texas School Book Depository.

Standing in Dealey Plaza looking across at the area which became known as the 'grassy knoll'


This is obviously a very popular visitor site in Dallas - there was a lengthy queue even at 10am when the museum opened. I was most intrigued to hear the recollections of the people around me about where they were when they heard the news that JFK had been shot. Almost 50 years on from the events of that day, it was clear that this was an event that continues to reverberate in the psyche of US citizens, and those from around the world.

The top two floors of the building have now been transformed into the 6th floor museum, and it was a fascinating exhibition. It takes the visitor on a journey - beginning with a synopsis of the various issues that were facing the US at the beginning of the 1960's, through JFK's election campaign, and through the major events of the years of his presidency. The exhibit becomes more specific as it imparts information on Kennedy's visit to Texas in November 1963, and the events of the morning leading up to the motorcade in Dallas. As you wind your way through the exhibit you are gradually drawn towards the corner window from where it is alleged that the fatal shots were fired.

The view from the same angle from the 7th floor of the building


Using a mix of multi-media you are thrust into both the immediate aftermath of the assassination, and the events in the days that followed, leading to moving footage of his funeral and internment, and how the impact was felt around the globe.

The remainder of the exhibition follows the various enquiries that have been established over the years in an attempt to find a definitive answer as to whether Oswald was guilty that day, whether he worked alone, or whether the assassination was part of a great conspiracy.

It was a fascinating way to spend a few hours - and having spoken to a few people since, it has made me realise that the events of 22 November 1963 are still one of the defining characteristics of this city.