Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Computer, I salute you!

It may have come to your notice that I am rather keen on old photos.  

I suppose because all my grandparents (and most of my relatives) were in South America during my childhood, my parents took quite a lot of photos of me and my sister and brother when we were young.  But as many of the photos were then sent of to the far-flung family members, we don't have copies ourselves.

So a while back I bought my wonderful slide and negative scanner (you can read about it here).  This was great, especially for the slides.  

But we have heaps of black and white negatives that are about 5cm square and these do not fit in the scanner.  I looked on the internet to see if you can buy a scanner for this size of negative, but they are prohibitively expensive, so I wanted to find another solution.

And I have found it!

It was simply a case of using my ordinary scanner to scan in the negative on 'Greyscale' setting.  Then I pasted the image into 'Paint' (you can use other programs like Photoshop, I believe, but I haven't tried that out yet) and went to the 'Image' button and selected 'Invert Colors'.

I then copied it back into a photo editing program and adjusted the contrast and brightness.  Although the images are not as good as I'd like, it is a start, and I can now have a play around with different methods, to see if I can get better results.  And even if these are as good as it gets, they are still enough to get the memories flowing...

A day out to visit relatives in Oxford.  I think we went to an art shop and got new blocks of colour for our watercolour sets.  Strange the things you remember.
Sitting on the log at the end of the garden.  The garden backed onto the New River, which was built in the early 1600s to bring fresh drinking water to London.
We were given this swing by our cousins' grandparents, I think.  I loved it throughout my childhood, spending hours swooping away on it.  I had solid metal instead of chains, so you couldn't waste time lying on your tummy and twirling yourself round on it - you had to get on and do what it was intended for!

Aren't computers great?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Happy Day Memories

Sixteen years ago today,  my parents' garden was looking especially lovely...

It had gained a little bit of covered space...

And the ladies of the Flower Club had been busy...

The house was looking immaculate...

And even little Meg had had a wash and blow-dry...

Family and friends arrived from far and wide...

 Everyone dressed in their finest...

A special car had been laid on...

Because sixteen years ago today, my marvellous Mum...

...and my darling Dad...

...finally managed to palm me off on someone else!

Happy Anniversary, Mr U-t-B!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday

Don't worry - the title is not more evidence of an increasing level of battiness that is creeping over me (evidenced by yesterday's sandal mishap) - I do know it is now Thursday, but as I now devote most of my free-time on a Wednesday to actually working on the unfinished projects, I always forget to post about them.

Yesterday was a nice, sunshine-y sort of day, with winds less strong than has been the case of late, so after I'd finished work, I took a bit of sewing into the garden and enjoyed both the warmth and the good light.

Without Mr U-t-B and his enthusiastic hacking-away-at-things, certain plants are getting burgeoning forth.

The 'New Dawn' rose, honeysuckle and purple clematis look and smell lovely, but I will need to rein them in soon, as they are making it very difficult to get into our little garden shelter, where all the tools are!

Yesterday I concentrated on the cross-stitch, managing to finish all the letters.

Last week

A bit more grass has appeared, and a couple of cows have been finished.

This week

Working outside is really the key to getting this one complete as the linen 
can be tricky in less-than-perfect light.  I know I should get a daylight simulation lamp!

Work on the tapestry has also progressed, in spite of a couple of small setbacks which I need to correct.

Last week
This week

I have realised that I have stitched the feather shaped leaf in the centre in the wrong shade of blue-green, and also that the speckles on the breast and tummy of the bird are the wrong colour.  I am tempted to leave the bird alone, but will have to unpick the leaf as there's lots more to do around it.  I guess this is one of the downsides of charts that are coloured, rather than made up of symbols.

The coloured chart - pretty it may be, but symbols would make it so much easier to get right in poor light!

So, progress has been made, albeit only a little bit.  It may feel like it will be another few decades before these are finished, but at least they are heading in the right direction!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Little Bit of Bob

Being a Radio 2 listener these days, it has not escaped my notice that today is the seventieth birthday of Bob Dylan.

Mr U-t-B is the real Bob fan in this household.

I like to think that I was a tiny bit young to appreciate his music, given the 'meaningful' nature of his lyrics, though it may just be that I wasn't cool enough.

But I do have a few favourites that I thought I'd share today.

This one takes me back to the age of about nine and, somewhat surprisingly, to school assemblies and hymn practice.  We had a new, young and trendy male teacher who played the piano brilliantly.
Paisley-shirted, brown flare-wearing, moustachioed Mr W
(with hair that touched his collar!)
was a great hit with all the girls at school, small though we were.

Suddenly we found 'Blowin' in the Wind' and the '49th Bridge Street Song (Feelin' Groovy)' amidst our usual repertoire of 'Onward Christian Soldiers', 'At the Name of Jesus' and 'For the Beauty of the Earth'. Assemblies were never the same again!

Then there's this one, that I became aware of when Simply Red covered it on their 'Home' album.  

I'm not quite sure why a song that is so full of negativity and vitriol appeals  to me, but I think it is just that we took that CD on one very happy Alpine summer holiday and played it constantly, singing at the tops of our voices as we drove around.

Lac de Montriond, near Morzine

Then there's this which I didn't even know was written by Bob...

And last, this one, for the sentiments it contains...

Happy Birthday, Bob!

(I'm sure he'll be reading...)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Car Booty

I did get to the Car Boot in the end yesterday, and the rain held off until later in the morning when it sent me scuttling home from the allotment.  The  Car Boot was not as busy with sellers as the previous time, but I came away pleased all the same.

Here's most of what I found...

A vintage nightie pattern - not sure how with four and a half yards of material this is an 'economy' design, though.  I'm quite tempted to make this but know that Mr U-t-B would laugh his head off if I wafted into the bedroom dressed like this.

Then another pattern, for a 1 yard set of aprons.

50 p each pattern!

Next I spied these sweet coffee cups (on the stall of the lady I bought the 'Herb' book from last time I went)...

The jug matched and it did seem a shame to separate them!

The tray was only a pound, and it is good and solid.  I think the Annie Sloan paint will be out shortly...

Then I saw this sweet little doll. 

Her face is ever so sweet, and look how bright the colours are! (Even if she does look like she's got a nasty case of 'slapped cheek' syndrome.)  Her eyes are the prettiest of blues, and they work properly.

 Her dress looks original, though rather faded, and she has her nappy and slip too.  She's a 'Pedigree' doll.  She has lost her voice though!

I think she has spent most of her life just sitting there looking sweet as she shows very few signs of having been played with.  But she does have one problem.  She had a plastic bag of hand-knitted clothes...

..and out of the bag (in a rather gruesome way) fell... 

...one of her fingers!   

 I don't know what happened to her - maybe she put her hand in a fire, but she has a discoloured stump for a right hand...So she had to come home with me!

(It's true - up until the point when I spotted her problem, 
I was just looking out of interest 
(I'm not really a 'dolly' kind of person)
but once I saw her poor hand, a wave of sympathy swept over me 
and I found myself asking 'How much?'  
And the young man obviously wanted her to find a home, 
as the answer was  'One pound, please!')

Mr U-t-B had better get better soon, so he can accompany me on my Car Boot trips and restrain me!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Leaden Skies and Sunny Music

Awake rather too early today, and disappointed to see steely grey skies and big raindrops plopping into puddles (yes, puddles!) outside!   
I ought to be pleased - we've had practically no rain for weeks on end and things at the allotment are getting a bit trying.  

But I was looking forward to a mooch around the big 
Car Boot Sale near Guildford 
(Miss U-t-B is at a friend's and Mr U-t-B sleeps his way through most of the morning these days, so I thought I'd go and find some entertainment) 
but if it's wet, I'm not sure how it will be. 

Anyway, I have plenty to keep me busy here at home, as yesterday I wended my way up the A3 to Kingston-upon-Thames (makes me sound like some crazed, erratic driver) to visit John Lewis in search of some dressmaking fabric. It's nearly two months since I bought a little pile of patterns (see this post) but so far all I'd made was a little baby sundress (which you can find here - nothing like a bit of blatant self-promotion!)

The journey to and from John Lewis was made much better by the recent arrival of this...

Oh, yipee!  This was a great purchase!  

It's the kind of music that puts pictures (mostly of the grainy, 
black-and-white variety) in my head - which I guess from the title and the little intro to each track in the lyrics booklet, is exactly what it was meant to do.

Listen to this and I'm sure you too will find yourself imagining sitting in the darkly atmospheric, smoky bars of the 1930s; driving something red, sporty and typically 1950s down precipitous mountain roads leading to the shimmering Mediterranean; standing on an ornate balcony in New Orleans, watching the jazz band inside through the louvred shutters...

There's even a homage to the hero of Saturday evening television...

'Dr Wanna Do'.

It seems I am not the only one whose thoughts immediately turned to David Tennant when I heard this immensely catchy song - I 'YouTubed' the song title and look what popped up...

(Prepare yourselves ladies!)

Oh my!

ANYWAY...I digress.  And the sky is now blue and car-booting looks on the cards again, so I'd better hurry up with this!

So to John Lewis I went, and after a while of difficult decision-making I came away with these...

 This yummy one is to make the cap-sleeved top, middle row on the left. The colours are gorgeous.

The paisley was bought on ebay over a year ago - I bought the blue for the contrasting band to make the right hand skirt.

This one looks a bit boring here, but it's nicer in reality.  And it was only £4 the metre!!!
I already had this pattern - bottom left version is the one I intend doing.

I cut out the top last night and nearly finished it, so there will be a reveal sometime soon.

7.20!  Better get my skates on!

Friday, 20 May 2011

How big is 'a pinch'?

If you read my Banana Milkshake Cake post, you will know that I like a bit of certainty in my recipes and that therefore vague measurements such as
 'cups' and 'handfuls' and 'pinches' just don't cut it with me.   

Especially 'pinches'. 

 In my Mum's recipe book, the recipe for 'Mamma's Scones' has 'a pinch of salt' in the ingredients and then, handwritten beside it 'NOT LIKE YOURS!'  I'm not sure if this comment was made after a disastrously sodium-laden batch or ones rendered bland by lack of salt, but I've always been wary of 'a pinch'.

It's not so bad when the pinch concerned is to be one of salt, as bland or salty just spoils the enjoyment.  But when I began on my Elderflower Champagne experiment, I was mildly alarmed by the idea that 
'a pinch of yeast' might be required.

'Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if it's not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.'

I thought my Elderflower Champagne would behave  as it should and ferment without support but alas, I was disappointed.  No fermentation was evident when I looked at my brew and I had to get out the yeast and ponder exactly how much to throw in.

Because in this case, too small a pinch and my brew might never get started on its journey towards fizz and a hint of alcohol, and too big a pinch and I might have mass explosions in my kitchen.  I remember a sticky ginger beer splattered kitchen many years ago and have no desire to repeat the experience.

Erring on the side of caution, in went a small pinch.

A day later, still no signs of micro-organisms making merry in the sweet, fragrant liquid.

So in went another small pinch.

The next day, plenty of bubbles were rising and I wondered if the second small pinch had been a mistake.  

But I have strained and bottled the fizz, and jolly good it looks too, with the grand labels that I couldn't resist in the home-brewing shop.  I've used the pretty lemonade bottles that we always bring back from France, because I had read that the IKEA stoppered bottles aren't up to the job.  

And here they are...

And here they are with some of the cordial, which was bottled earlier in the week.  

My plan is to test out a little of the champagne in about a week, to check it is quaffable, then to lay it down in preparation for a 
Summer Drinks Party once Mr U-t-B is up and running again.

But just in case my pinch was too large (especially once doubled!) and the brew too lively, I have put the champagne inside an old sleeping bag.

No way I'm having shards of glass and sticky patches all over my kitchen for months to come!