Friday, 31 October 2008

Half term fun in Somerset and Avon

We've spent a few days in the west country, and did a few very touristy things with the children.
The drive down meant I could complete a few more granny squares for my growing blanket (picture soon!) ...

On Tuesday we visited the SS Great Britain, which was towed back to England on the back of a barge from the Falkland Islands in the 1970s and restored. In 2005 they began an expensive scheme to set it into a perspex kind of cradle, so you could walk around the hull and look up and see the ship through a layer of water. It's apparently the first scheme of its kind in the world. We'd visited it just before this was about to be done, so were keen to see the result. It was very impressive, and we spent a fab time on and around the ship.

From the bow, below the water line...

Inside, there are lots of re-creations of what life on board would have been like 160 years ago. The children loved it. They could dress up...

Pretend to cook for the passengers...

Explore first class passenger cabins (as well as cramped third class dormitories)...

The attention to detail was amazing. There's much better pics on their website here, if you're interested in visiting - it's well worth it. It got a high vote from all of us, even if the children were a little bit spooked by all the wax dummies in the cabins!

Right down at the bottom is a recreation of a stables - complete with an awfully accurate manure smell and lots of neighing. It must have been hellish down there when the ship was under way...

On Wednesday we headed to Wookey Hole Caverns. You can walk through the first 9 caverns, missing out flooded 5, 6, and 7. At least I think that's right. They are spectacular, and we had a fabulous guide. You aren't allowed flash photography, so this is from their website - it's probably the most spectacular cavern you can access (number 9) as it has a narrow walkway, and is around 70 ft in height (it's called the Cathedral Cavern).

On the way out, you get to try out papermaking in England's only surviving Victorian handmade paper mill...And there's a little dinosaur park...

And (late edit!), thank you Dancing on a blade of Grass for reminding me! There are slot machines, which I have just remembered to add a pic of as we had great fun with these. They were all from the 60s and 70s, and took me right back - you could buy 25 pennies for £2, and the kids had a lot of fun with 8 pennies apiece. They kept winning, so it was difficult to move on!

We then headed for Cheddar Gorge. Now, there's a series of steps here, Jacob's Ladder, but it costs £4 per adult and £2.50 per child, plus around £3 to park, and Cheddar heaves with tourists and shops. It's not particularly pleasant. So we avoided the crowds, drove up through the gorge, stopping to take a picture:

then parked at the top and climbed up a part of the West Mendip Way. It was a beautiful (if chilly) walk, and the kids really enjoyed the views from the top. You actually end up a lot higher than going up Jacob's ladder, and we passed very few people.
This was the view from the top of the gorge, looking out over the reservoir towards the Bristol Channel. We could see Wales, but not in this photograph!

On Thursday night, we went for a treat in Bristol. Now, I lived in Bristol for a while, and I was stunned at the new Cabot shopping centre. I've never been stunned by a shopping centre before, but if you knew Broadmead in the old days, the Cabot Circus centre is stunning (although Broadmead is still there). So, on thursday night we treated the children...

We've had a fab week.
Right, I have to go and help carve a pumpkin. And warn the not-so-young-but-game-to-help-the-children-have-fun neighbours we're a coming! Hmmmm. Wonder why that could be?! ;-)

Monday, 27 October 2008

A day by the river at Hampton Court

We managed to pack an awful lot into today, from having nothing planned. We met friends by the River Thames at Hampton Court for a cycle. We'd already tried going one way...

Aren't the leaves so beautiful at this time of year. It was such a sunny day.

We then passed the Palace, which must have the largest mistletoe endowed tree anywhere...

We stopped on the way back, having collected fish and chips (or sausage and chips for two particularly fussy little people!), for a picnic, probably the last one we'll manage this year. It was delicious.

This decorated archway was at the entrance to the car park. I thought it was pretty special.

and a close up...

There was a lot of scaffolding going on, so I took a shot of the new temporary entrance...

...and middle daughter had fun joining Henry VIII's procession. Apparently he's returning to Hampton Court in 2009. The mind boggles!

Now the two girls have gone for a sleepover and my 8 year old has gone to Chessington Zoo with a friend. What a life! They've fitted a lot in on the first day of their hols. I've also managed to almost make another Roman blind since yesterday so I've fitted in a bit extra as well. Hope you're all having a good week.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Happy birthday!

Happy Birthday to my darling little boy! You have been such a fun addition to our home and family life since the day you were born (at 2.21 pm on a brilliantly sunny day, just like today, for the record!). Thank you for being such a wonderful little boy, and for making us laugh so much, all the time.

Now, littleun wanted to go climbing, and we were fortunate enough to have a centre relatively near that wasn't too expensive for a party. So, littleun and a few friends enjoyed an hour and a half on a variety of climbing walls. I have to say, this was a hugely successful party for little boys. Here's my star:

They had the chance to get pretty high:

And this was his birthday tea table. Rather birthday lunch as it was early afternoon!

And as for his cake. Well, he wanted a sweet shop, after being inspired by a little book we looked through. So, here's his sweet shop. This was fun to make, as they all joined in, each doing a little counter...

We love you loads. Always and for ever. x

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Autumn fun and an award

I love Autumn. Actually, I love winter, spring and summer too, but all for different reasons. But autumn is fun with the children and with leaves and stuff like that. We had a competition recently. They had to make a face out of what they found lying around...they set about it really eagerly. Wow. Mum was actually going to choose and prove which was her favourite!!!! (which incidently and for the record, I definitely don't have, as they are all so wonderful). Anyway, some 20 minutes later, and after a lot of giggling, the judge set out to judge the results, having not informed them that there were three categories. The under 8s. The 8-11s. And the 12s and overs. They pointed out that this meant there was only one entry in each category, but were very happy with their prize...A piece of chocolate for each category.

So, the winner of the under 8s category: The judge particularly like the big big smile on this entry.

And the winner of the 12 and over category. A very carefully thought out entry, with clever use of props, and wonderful colour:

And the 8-11s entry, which showed wonderful attention to detail and another cheery smile:

Well done all three of you!!! That was a lot of fun. xxx

Speaking of prize giving, I'm the lucky recipient of another award, this time from Amy at Home acre. I love it! I love getting awards. Thank you. I'll display it very proudly. It's so nice to know my blog is read and appreciated.

I've also received another lovely treat from Melmel, which I'll photograph and post soon. You are such a lovely blog friend, but you are very naughty. Thank you so much.

And finally, pictures of my 12 year old's party table. Now, she was lucky. She had a party for 10 or 11 of her friends from her old school... with this table... (Melmel - you may recognise something that looked so lovely on the table we just had to add it!):

and this cake:

and then another party for 4 of her new friends with this table...

and these cupcakes, which I've tried to post the right way up, but which insist on flipping over sideways. Don't know why.

She wanted to bowl for her party. So muggins spent a couple of hours in the local bowling alley on a Saturday, and a couple of hours on a Sunday. She had a fabulous time. I managed to grin my way through the bowling! You may guess that this is not my favourite activity. And in the face of embarrassment from my little darling, I couldn't even take my crochet. But it was all great fun.

Off for my tea now - bangers and mash cooked by my lovely hubs. Yum!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Learn to crochet - Part 2 Double crochet

Well, I hope this helps somebody, because it's taken an age to take the pics and upload them. I say I hope, but I'm not sure how helpful it will be as there's nothing like somebody sitting next to you and showing you. But let's give it a go. I have tried to be really careful in creating the sequence, but it's taken an age and I'm tired and a bit all over the place cos of too many birthday parties/cakes to make/pressies to buy etc etc, so if I have gone out of sequence let me know - and huge apologies. The text instructions are right.
So earlier this week I posted about making chains. Assuming everybody's fine with that...

this is what you can build with chains and double crochet - and it's what I'm currently making lots of for my blanket.

So you begin by making the centre, which will look like this...Look closely and you can see that it's made up of four lots of three double crochets, each separated by two chains.

Holding the hook and wool as before, do a chain of four.

Now you need to make a circle, by taking the hook through the first chain, picking up the wool and pulling it through. Then slip the stitch on the crochet hook over the wool you have pulled through. You have a circle.

Now you're going to make those double crochets...
1. Hook the crochet hook under the wool strand as if for a chain. It gives two strands on the crochet hook.

2. Now take the hook through the centre of the circle - this is a bit fiddly. If you prefer, make a 6-chain circle so it's easier to see what you're doing (all this means in the scheme of things is that the hole in the centre of your granny square will be slightly larger). Catch the strand of wool by passing the hook under the wool and hooking it!

3. ...and bring it back through the circle's centre. You'll have 3 strands on the hook...

Hook the strand of wool, again as if making a chain, and bring it under the first two strands on the hook - they slide off the hook. Hook the wool again, just as if for a chain, and slip it under the last two strands on the hook. One double crochet made.

Now you repeat all that for the next double crochet. Yarn over hook, as if for a chain. Hook through the centre hole you created by joining the initial 4 chains in a circle. Pick up the yarn as if you are chaining. Bring it back through the circle. Yarn over hook. Pass this over the first two strands on the hook. Yarn over, and pass this yarn over the last two strands. Second double crochet made.

Here's a series of pictures taken as I continued. You need to make three double crochets. Then chain two (to go on to make the centre of your granny square), then three more double crochets. But I'll go on with that once I'm reassured that anybody out there has a clue what I'm on about? If you click on the pics, they'll get bigger which may help. Again, apologies for my fingernails/hands - I am painting and decorating. Got to the F & B Dimity stage now, so very exciting!

Here you can see I've completed the first two double crochets:

Do note that America and Australia term differently to the UK. A single in the US is a double in the UK. Their double is our treble. Etc. So I'm showing you the UK double crochet stitch. Just to add to the confusion!

Right, gotta get back to 7 year old's - to be 8 year old - cake! Toodles!