September 2008

autumn is well and truly here with a vengenance. Not only is the weather grotty (i got soaked taking Jess out this morning, and this evening when i popped to the shop), but the leaves are starting to turn. The weekend was quite pleasant, and it seems, as if, overnight, autumn has arrived.

I took loads of pictures of autumn leaves and the changing of the seasons last year; enough that unless i see something really new, i’m not going to do the same thing this year. However, there are some photos from the weekend that are nature related – taken either by me or by my Mum – and its these i’d like to share today. More photos behind the cut of course….

a tree near where we live thats starting to split down the trunk. I reckon the first good storm we get should see it break apart completely.

a tree near where we live that's starting to split down the trunk. I reckon the first good storm we get should see it break apart completely. Quite sad really.



as promised… some of the photos from saturday. No photos of people though.. i still protect privacy i’m afraid!

flowers, for grannies birthday - bought by mum, arranged by me.

flowers, for grannie's birthday - bought by mum, arranged by me.

more photos behind the cut…


i discovered that Mum had scanned in some old photos over the weekend. While many of them are of other family members and thus i can’t share them here (for privacy reasons) I can share some of the ones of me…… mostly baby photos! one up here, the rest behind the cut..

opening a christmas present in 1976 (no giggles about the curtains im wearing please)

opening a christmas present in 1976 (no giggles about the curtains i'm wearing please)


Its been a wonderful weekend. I’ve seen just about every member of my family – at least, of the aunts/uncles and grandparents – its been really good to touch base with everyone.

Just now i’m still at Mum and Dad’s, killing time before i have to leave to meet Mum for lunch. I’ve about an hour and thought i’d blog about the weekend. No photos though, they’ll have to wait till i get back home i think.

Friday was a very busy day. I’d offered to cook a meal for us to take down to my grandmother’s on the saturday; she was just returning from a week’s holiday herself at my uncle’s home in Newcastle, so to expect a meal would be a bit silly, even if she wasn’t 90. We ended up cooking braised lamb with flageolet beans – a delia recipe – which was absolutely gorgeous, espedcially for something a bit more special. I also did an apple pie for afters, following Michiel’s Mom’s recipe (and this time, remembered to put the egg in). That went well. On top of those i also did meatballs for friday dinner – just beef ones, this time, but it went down well with Mum and Dad, served with a rich tomato sauce and spaghetti.

Mum and I also went food shopping at the local supermarket and chatted just about all day, so it was a very busy day, with all this – and then, to top it off, we went to see Dad’s mom, Nannie, after tea, which was a lovely visit. It was good to see her again, i haven’t seen her since last November. Nannie gave me a few things – some embroidery that she wasn’t able to finish (she has carpal tunnel in her hands and that means she can no longer do many of the crafts she used to do), some tops, and a silver chain/locket bracelet that her husband had given her, my grandfather. He’s not a man i ever knew as he died before i was born, and i don’t know a great deal about him – in fact, i’ve only seen photos of him in the last few years. but it was clear this bracelet meant a great deal to Nannie. To go with it were some small silver coins – 10 cent Dutch coins, which are called Dubbeltjes. These date from before Euros, and they were the smallest coins in the world, along with a Russian coin.

Nannie had actually obtained these on a visit to the Netherlands with her “works” (her employer) back in the ’70s, and the men were all given these small coins by the works manager in case they needed to use the outside toilets. However, the men (not wanting to spend the coins, and fitting very well with their “wildplassen” Dutch counterparts) would duck behind the nearest tree instead – and Nannie threatened to take their photographs and put them on a wall of shame at work, if they didn’t give her the coins instead! When she returned she bribed someone to drill small holes in them with the intention of attaching them with links to the bracelet – only never got around to it for one reason or another. Anyway, she gave me the bracelet, links and coins, and said i could either wear the bracelet without the coins, or i could complete the job if i liked. I do like, and i will put them together, as its fitting, kind of.. well… full circle, given that my partner is Dutch, i think. So that’s something i’m very touched by, and i will cherish a lot.

Speaking of bracelets – Mum and Dad also gave me a bracelet at the weekend. This one is quite chunky, made of hemacite, from Orkney, which they brought back from holiday. I’ll try to take a photo of both of these and post here. Its a lovely bracelet which goes quite well with my style of clothing, i think it’ll see a lot of wear. Thanks, Mum & Dad!

On Saturday of course we went to see Grannie for her 90th Birthday celebrations. As i’ve already said, she was coming down from Newcastle that morning with my Uncle & Aunt, and we actually beat them to the house. Fortunately Mum has a key, so we were able to get in and warm the house up for her – we pinned happy birthday ballons to the door, decorated a little table in her sittingroom with confetti and her presents and a helium balloon, arranged some flowers Mum had bought (roses and lilies, her favorite), and got the kettle on ready for them when they arrived. Me being there was a complete surprise to Grannie, she knew Mum and Dad were driving over, but not that i was going to be there and i have to say, when she saw me, she was hugging Mum at the time, and she saw me over Mum’s shoulder, and it was almost like she couldn’t quite believe i was there until i said “hello, Grannie”. “ohhhh!” she said… “I wasn’t expecting to see you!”. She looked so happy, it was worth the work of coming down to see her. We all said hello, then went in for tea and coffee, chatting and exchanging news. Grannie sat happily opening her cards, and we arranged them around her living room along with the cards she’d received while at my Uncle’s house, i don’t think she realised quite how many people regard her so well (and how many knew about this, i think she realised from some of the cards she’d gotten that people had been talking about her, cos there were cards from some people who she didn’t even think knew her birthday was then, let alone how old she was!) so it was something else that meant a lot to her. I spent most of the day with Grannie – it was what i was there for, after all, and in the last few years when i’ve seen her, its been at Christmas and of course, then, i’m running around doing the cooking and so on. This time it was really nice just to be able to sit with her and talk about things, her memories and so on – and because of all the work i’ve put in on the family history and her memoirs that she wrote out for me about 15 years ago, i knew many of the people she was talking about anyway, we looked at photographs and i think she really enjoyed the trip down memory lane. Her memory isn’t so good for recent stuff, tell her something that happened yesterday and she’d forget it five minutes later, but she’s still sharp for anything that happened when she was a young woman or a child.

She got presents from us all too – a lovely cardi and scarf from Orkney from Mum and Dad (cashmere too), and from Michiel & me she got chocolates and smellies. I introduced her to bath bombs, she loves bath salts but they’re quite hard to get these days, but bath bombs are essentially the same. I did get a little broken one to show her how they work – i just hope she remembers.

Dinner was a success – the lamb went down well, the apple pie even better. Even my uncle, who has a horror of apple pie since he was a child (something to do with being forced to eat a very badly made apple pie at school, one made with pips and all.. ewww) tried this one – and he liked it, he liked the fact that they were proper pieces of apple instead of the mush you usually get with English apple pie (which is usually made with bramley apples). I even raided Grannie’s apple tree for more apples – half my suitcase is full of them! – which i’m looking forward to turning into yet more apple pie and apple crumble (i do love a crumble, me) when i get home.

It was a long day but worth it, worth it to give Grannie that surprise, worth it to be able to tell her, “Grannie, i love you” (which you can never really say too much, to my mind), worth it to spend the time with her. That’s her real birthday present, that time, and something i will cherish for a long time to come.

Sunday – yesterday – my other Uncle (Dad’s brother) brought Nannie and his daughter, J, around for a cup of tea in the afternoon. D (my uncle) is just back from the States, where he’d spent his holiday driving down Route 66. He had a whale of a time from the sound of things, and brought back a brochure telling you all about Route 66 – it something i wouldn’t mind doing myself, i think, if i ever had the money. Dad’s sister & her husband also came over for tea that afternoon (it got quite crowded round here) and were telling everyone about their holiday in the south of France, they gave me a bottle of bordeaux, which i know Michiel will love! It was a lovely afternoon and good to see Nannie again.

Mum took a bit of time last night to teach me to crochet. It was fun, and i managed to pick it up quite quickly, she showed me where i was going wrong and i think i’ve got the hang of it now. I had her in stitches at one point, i was muttering as i was working, “wrap it over, pull it through, do one extra, wrap it over, pull it through, through the circle, do one extra.. ” and when i asked what was so funny she said she had this image of Michiel yelling at me .. “SHADDUP!” but i don’t think Michiel would do that. Still, it was fun and i’m looking forward to doing more of it when i get home.

well i’ve got to leave in 15 minutes and i still have to brush my teeth. Anything else will have to wait till i get home; i’ve tons of photos to sort out, although most of them are of family and old photos that Mum has scanned, so i won’t share those here, because of protecting people’s privacy. However, i think there are a few i can share, so look out for a post from me in the next couple of days on that.

and yes… i’m making sure i’ve got my tickets before i leave this time!!!

next time you travel….

                                                         … don’t leave the train tickets at home!


Oh, yes i did… i left home with everything (and the kitchen sink)… and forgot the tickets. Stupid me. fortunately i’d gone to the library to return a book that was due back before i left to go to the station and realised then that i’d left them at home, so i had time to jump into a taxi, go home (and ring Michiel to meet me on the street with them), then race to the station. I made it, but, boy, it was close.

Sitting here with Mum and Dad now – Dad is waking up from a nap to watch the World Championship Cycling, Mom is giggling at loldogs. We’ve had dinner and opened pressies (they gave me a pressie from their holidays, a lovely bracelet from Orkney), so we’re all relaxed and comfy…

Tomorrow: cooking lamb casserole and apple pie to take to my grandmother’s on Saturday, shopping and chatting with Mum. Should be a good day!! 🙂

I finally got the waistcoat and the skirt done last night. I was up till 3.15am, stitching the applique to the skirt – and oh! how my fingers hurt this morning! – but its worth it, they both look wonderful, and i’m really pleased with the bias binding i bought to finish the waistcoat. This is almost an entirely new outfit, the white top apart, the whole thing cost around £3! the waistcoat was made from 2 pairs of Michiel’s old jeans; all i had to spend on that was the buckle and the bias binding. Even the buttons for it came from an old jacket (I knew that time spent cutting off buttons and zips would come in handy!). The skirt was a pair of old jeans of mine where the thighs had worn thin; recycling it like this means i get more wear out of it. Even the material for the inserts, front and back, the colourful material, which was also used for the applique and the buckle ribbon at the back of the waistcoat was donated to me by my grandmother, so the skirt cost nothing except the electricity to operate the machine. So i’m really pleased with my new, thrifty outfit, and i feel much more confident about making more waistcoats in future. More pictures behind the cut, below.

Speaking of my grandmother.. today is a very special day. Its her 90th Birthday. She’s an incredible woman, at least to my mind, someone i admire very much and look up to. She, and her husband (who’s now dead) are the inspiration behind the blog, well, the “Stoneheads” part of it, which was the name for their home. She was a primary school teacher for most of her life (only not working when she had Mum and her brother, before it became acceptable for a married woman to work, after the war) but she’s always worked, in one way or another, even after retirement. She’s put a lot of work in serving her local community, the village where she lives, but she’s also a craftswoman – she sews & paints – and a gardener, something that she inherited from her father (and it seems to run in the family, as my mother is also a gardener). Gentle, but opinionated, well read & intelligent, there’s a lot to admire in her. And as i said on her card: youth is the gift of nature… but age is a work of art.

Happy Birthday, Grannie…. i hope you have many more!

I’m off to Birmingham in about half an hour – i may be able to blog from there, but if i don’t get time… see you all when i get back!


No photos tonight; i’m really really tired, i’ve been sewing all day, apart from when i stopped to make/eat dinner. Having said that i’ve acheived a lot: a waistcoat that fits and looks good, out of black denim, made from old jeans, and a matching denim denim skirt, converted from a pair of old denim black jeans. They’re not quite finished: the waistcoat needs buttonholes putting in (which i can’t do till i get the buttons), and something to finish the edges. Its just too bulky to hem the traditional way, so i’m thinking either some kind of bias binding tape, perhaps in a nice contrasting colour, or bondaweb, but i’ve only got so much of that. I also want to add some decorative detail to match the skirt. The skirt is all done bar the hem and some decorative detail, which i shall work on tomorrow. The shirt pattern has come in for me to collect as well so on Wednesday i shall be heading into town, early, to get a bunch of stuff. Either way by Wednesday night i should have almost an entirely new outfit, and i think its warm enough for winterwear as well, which is an added plus. I’ll make sure to take photos then!

Part of the reason for this rush is that i’m heading down to Birmingham on Thursday afternoon to stay with Mom and Dad for a long weekend – we’re going to see one grandmother on friday night, the other grandmother (who’s 90th birthday it is on thursday) on saturday, and its a surprise, she knows Mum and Dad are going to visit but she doesn’t know about me coming along for the ride..! Anyway, i want the waistcoat/skirt outfit to wear this weekend, although when, i’m not sure. Probably not saturday as i’d like to look a little smarter for visiting my grandmother – i might wear the first top i made, my purple one, with a pair of black trousers.

I’m also hoping to get a little shopping done while I’m down there, (got to get Gran’s birthday present too!) to visit some arts/crafts shops and possibly some material shops – Birmingham has the Bullring market, of course, and i hope the material shops that were there before are still there (and yes, i’ll take my patterns with me!). I’ve also asked Mum to teach me to crochet, so i can crochet some grannie squares, i’d like to have a go at that.

Either way it should be a fun weekend, and i’m looking forward to seeing all my family.. just a couple more days of sewing to get through first!

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