Tuesday, 30 June 2015

My New Carry-On Bag!

It's been a while, hasn't it?!  But I have finally been back at the sewing machine and this is the result. The pattern is the Avignon Traveller from Nicole Mallalieu's "The Better Bag Maker".  It is a bag of many pockets - behind the dandelion print on each side of the bag are large, zipped pockets which are good for magazines or travel documents, then inside there is another zipped pocket and a large compartment pocket (a bit hard to photograph!):

There is plenty of space for everything you need on a flight.  I've just got to Scotchguard this and then I'll be ready to try it out!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Another Postcard from New York!

Brooklyn Bridge

We're just back from a few days in New York - the fact is you can't really 'do' New York in just one go and, despite a short trip a few years ago and 4 days last year, there were still things we wanted to see, so we headed for lower Manhattan.  

If you discount lots of waiting airports for delayed flights we had a great time ... did everything on our list, walked our socks off, ate good food and took loads of photos of which the following is but a small sample!

9/11 museum and memorial

World Trade Centre 

Lower Manhattan skyline from a crowded boat heading out to Liberty Island

Statue of Liberty

Hudson River (looking towards New Jersey)

We had a great time, but it is good to be home again and away from the hordes of tourists and Manhattan's traffic!!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015


Here are a few snaps taken today at the butterfly house, a local attraction that I've been meaning to get to for ... how long have we lived here? ... about two years!

I'm generally not a fan of insects, but I can pretend that they're not just a prettier version of moths (which I detest).  Not a fan of them landing on me though!!

I was a bit confused to start with as there were lots of bright blue butterflies flitting around the butterfly house and they never seemed to settle on the vegetation for me to photograph them ... then I realised that only the topside of the wings was blue; the underside is brown.  It blends in particularly well against tree trunks, but that didn't make for a good photo!

Those blue blurs are the blue butterflies in flight (yes, I could have changed my camera settings, but I didn't!).

I liked this one!

Not quite as stunning but it posed for its photo, so why not!?!

The flowers were pretty too!

I'm trying to get out and about with my camera more this summer as we're planning a photo holiday in Utah this autumn and I need to get used to carrying my camera gear or I'll really suffer.  So, lots more photos coming up!!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Photos from St. Louis' Zoo

Last weekend we took advantage of the nice weather and, along with several thousand other people, visited the zoo.  St. Louisans are very proud that there are no entrance fees to many of the city's major attractions: the zoo, the art museum, the science museum and the Missouri history museum ... the downside of this is that they are all packed, most of the time.

It's a hard life being a big cat!

Maybe they were up late partying the night before?

Who knew that digesting breakfast was such hard work?!?

That's more like it!!

Phew!  I was beginning to think they'd all been given sedatives!

Elsewhere the animals seemed a bit more awake....


And that's all of the elephant that I could get into frame with my telephoto lens!!

It was nice to get out and about with my camera for the first time in ages ... hoping to take many more photos this summer and get back to some crafts soon!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Postcard from Route 66

The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, New Mexico

We've been on a road trip, but it seems like a distant memory now.  We've been back at least 3 weeks and I've been wrestling with an operating system upgrade and Adobe software that is suddenly no longer compatible .... arghh!  Due to these technology issues I can't watermark my photos, so I've been playing around with mosaics - not my normal format, but this will probably shorten an otherwise photo-laden post!

We spent almost two weeks on the road and clocked up 5,000+ kilometres driving west from St. Louis on the old route 66 through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.  We stopped at the continental divide - just east of New Mexico's border with Arizona - and then left route 66 to head north and back to St Louis via a different route.  The following mosaics give you an idea of some of the things we saw!


We had fun driving through Missouri on what is left of the old route.  Interstate 44 cuts right through a lot of it, so you spend your time hopping from one side of the interstate to the other and following odd remnants of the road, but there is quite a lot of Americana still to be seen.  The giant rocking chair in Fanning was definitely the best 'giant' that we saw along the route - in fact, we drove past many of the supposed giant signs without noticing because they've been dwarfed in more recent years by modern advertising hoardings!


Route 66 cuts across a very small corner of Kansas for about 20 kilometres.  Not surprisingly there isn't an awful lot to see in such a short distance ... and when we drove back across the state on the way back from Denver later in our trip there wasn't much to see then either.  

Sorry Kansas!  We did like Kansas City, but that ain't in Kansas ... go figure!!


Oklahoma was a bit of a mixed bag!! We liked Tulsa and were pleasantly surprised by its architecture. The downtown was similar to St Louis in that it is obviously full of office workers during the day and deserted the rest of the time ... no shops and many restaurants only open at lunchtime ... guess where our hotel was!!  The road from Tulsa to Oklahoma City was interesting with lots to see, but after Oklahoma City things became decidedly boring and very uncomfortable.  

The writer of our Route 66 guidebook waxed lyrical about miles and miles of original pavement (that's the road surface for all of you non-Americans reading this!) and called it the best pavement on the route.  I beg leave to differ - our very comfortable car's shock absorbers were well-tested and my bad back certainly suffered ... after a while we resorted to cruising down the motorway instead!  It was a good call!

You may be surprised to know that in many places you just can't follow the original Route 66 - between what the interstate destroyed when it was built and the lack of maintenance on some of the older sections, there are places where the old route is just a dirt (or, if you're lucky, gravel) track.   Then there are bridges that are no longer passable and places where the road just dead ends because the interstate has cut it off.  Whoever is navigating needs to stay on their toes!


We didn't spend all that long in Texas - in fact I think we zipped through most of it on the interstate because the guide book seemed to indicate lots of dirt / gravel tracks or original concrete ... and we didn't want to go through that again!  We stopped off at McLean to visit the Devil's Rope museum (that's barbed wire to you and me!) because, well, why wouldn't you?!  It was surprisingly interesting!!  

A good reason for not spending long in Texas was the weather - we'd wanted to look round Amarillo but ended up taking refuge in a steakhouse to avoid a torrential downpour/ thunderstorm that reduced visibility to zero.  It was quite amusing to sit and eat steak surrounded by stuffed animals looking down at us from the walls and watching 5 people each trying to eat 72 ounce steaks (that's just over 2 kilos in real money!) in an hour.  We've never seen this sort of competitive binge-eating in real life before ... just on the telly!  It's a very American thing and I just don't get the appeal in real life or on the box.  None of the five succeeded, so I assume that along with their 'to go' boxes (another very American thing)  they got a hefty bill to pay (if they manage to eat all 72 ounces, the steak is free!).  Madness!!

New Mexico: 

We spent quite a while in New Mexico - 5 nights in total (2 on the route and 3 up in the mountains) - and we loved it!!  The scenery was spectacular, the views of the milky way at night were breathtaking  and there were interesting places to visit (Santa Fe, Taos, Los Alamos....).  

We'll be going back to New Mexico for sure!

Return Trip:

After New Mexico we headed north into Colorado. Crossing a plateau that was approx. 3000 metres above sea level, we drove mostly through 'low' clouds and rain, so sadly we didn't see much!  From Denver (traffic nightmare) we headed due east and had a very long day on the interstate driving across Kansas.  That was a distance equivalent to driving from Brighton to John O'Groats: we did it in just under 8 hours on the interstate and hardly saw another vehicle.  Very strange day!

We spent 2 nights in Kansas City, Missouri (great art galleries - we had to stay indoors as we were on tornado watch) and then headed for home. 

Next year we're planning to pick up a bit of route 66 in Arizona ... and there may be a trip up to Chicago too.  One way or another we'll probably do most of the route before we leave the States if we can fit it in with our other holiday plans!  

Friday, 8 August 2014

Purses - A Quick Catch-Up

I don't think I've posted photos of some of the purses I've made this year.  These two were a present for friends we visited when we were in New York ... seems like ages ago!

This one was a present for a recent birthday.  I love this fabric - shame I can't get any more of it.

And this one I decided to keep for myself (why not?)!  I've made umpteen purses like this over the last 5 years and this is the first one that I've kept!

All made using a tried and tested pattern by Nicole Mallalieu of You Sew Girl!

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Here's One I Keep Forgetting...

This little purse simply doesn't excite me - probably something to do with all the trouble I had making it, but it got left on one side a lot and only got its frame glued on last weekend.

The pattern is this one and it gave me lots of problems.  To cut a long story short (because it got me quite mad) the printed pattern that I was sent with the purse kit wasn't printed to the correct scale and came out on the large side.  I contacted the designer and one of her team sent me a digital version with instructions to print at 100% which I duly did and guess what, the damn thing was exactly the same size as the one I had received in the post.  So after some major procrastination I pfaffed about rescaling it and finally got it right.

I was ready to throw in the towel at that point but eventually got back round to it and started making the purse.  That is until I got to step 7 in the instructions - the bit about making a flat bottom in the lining - when everything ground to a halt.  I tried to pin the thing the way it said, but I couldn't get the material to replicate the photo.  I tried many, many times; I emailed the designer but didn't get much further with her advice and finally I hit rock bottom and asked Andy, my engineer husband, if he could make it work!  

He said it had to be bad if I were asking him about sewing patterns (don't I know it!)! He agreed that the instructions were unclear and we cobbled something together that does the job and doesn't look too bad. Once I stopped paying attention to the instructions things started to improve.  In fact, I'm really not sure why there was any attempt to create a flat bottom in the lining as the purse outer doesn't have one and it's quite tight in there - you wouldn't notice a flat bottom even if it had one!

Enough said. - It's a fairly cute little purse; it just wasn't the best sewing experience!