12 July 2017

Kensington Palace

After the feast of Highclere Castle came the famine of Kensington Palace, all I can say is "Don't waste your money, you will be paying to walk around empty rooms". I was very disappointed. 

It has fine staircases, paintings and statues, beautiful floors and ceilings but empty rooms except for a couple of bedrooms. 
The exhibition of some of Princess Diana's dresses was very good, most of them have been seen in magazines or on the TV but it was nice to see them up close and real.
The day had been arranged with some American friends that I met when I did my Everest trek. They have visited London before and seen many of the visitor attractions but hadn't been to Kensington Palace and neither had I. They were happy with it though.
It wasn't a complete disappointment, we strolled through Kensington Park and the gorgeous gardens and we had a good lunch. We wanted to to the Orangery restaurant which looks beautifully posh and serene, but it was full so we went to the courtyard cafe which had a good selection of sandwiches, salads and scrumptious cakes. 

10 out of 10 for a great day with lovely friends

4 out of 10 for Visitor Satisfaction

Polly x 

4 July 2017

Downton Abbey

I hope the ambivalence I have been feeling towards my blog has passed.  I lost interest, wanting to do lots of other things instead - outings, crafts, hobbies, gardening, all of which I hope to tell you about. And now I have Wimbledon to add to my list of distractions!!
Anyway lets make a start with Downton Abbey, it must be one of the most loved series worldwide. A recent visit to Highclere Castle where most if it was filmed was a real treat. 
Before Downton Highclere Castle was just another struggling English family home with the usual 5,000-acre estate, 50-plus bedrooms, portraits by Van Dyck, Victorian gothic design, towers, follies, tapestries, heraldic shields, a museum of Egyptian artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb, and the usual collapsing roofs and debts. Today it is probably the most famous stately home in the world with a future that is probably more secure than at any other time in its existence.

It is a beautiful country house designed in the Jacobean style by architect Charles Barry, surrounded by a park designed by Capability Brown. It is currently home to the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and the seat of the Carnarvon family for over 300 years. It has a varied and interesting history beginning with an Iron Age Hill Fort. Then came a medieval palace built during the 12th and 13th century and later succeeded by a much admired red brick Tudor house. 
Major rebuilding works were carried out in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the old red brick and freestone house was converted to a classical Georgian mansion. In 1838, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform his home into a grand mansion which would impress the world. It was a time of energy and change. The young Queen Victoria had just come to the throne, and the whole decade witnessed innovation in politics and cultural life. 
The structural work on the interior of the Castle was finally completed in 1878. Once built, the Castle became a centre of political life during the late Victorian era, and in many ways Highclere epitomised the confidence and glamour of the Edwardian era. Visitors books record house parties attended by politicians, technological innovators, Egyptologists, aviators and soldiers.
During the First World War, Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon transformed the Castle into a hospital, and patients began to arrive from Flanders in September 1914. She became an adept nurse and a skilled healer and hundreds of letters from patients and their families bear testament to her untiring work and spirit of generosity. In 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. There is a very interesting Egyptian exhibition in the castle.
During the Second World War, the Castle briefly became a home for evacuee children from north London.
Following the death of the 5th Earl, his son, who then became the 6th Earl, returned to Highclere where he lived until 1986. The current Earl and Countess of live partly in the Castle and partly nearby but remain closely involved in the Castle's day to day life and future.

Visitors are greeted by a magnificent pair of gothic doors leading into an impressive hall with marble columns 
and a vaulted ceiling
Photography wasn't allowed. I get that flash is bad for furnishings and fabrics, but many places just ask people not to use it. I have  theory - I think it's a ruse to get us to buy their books! I followed my usual MO and bought some postcards. 
The rooms are beautiful and sumptuously decorated.

The Saloon

The State Dining Room

The Library

The Smoking Room

The Drawing Room

My visit was in April, another overcast day. 
Most of the time was spent indoors though and I dodged the light showers to admire the gardens.

Universal Sundial, John Singleton inventor 

This border is lavender and climbing roses, it probably looks spectacular now.

Jackdaws folly was built in 1743 by Robert Herbert who had inherited the Highclere estate from his mother, Margaret, 8th Countess of Pembroke and daughter of Sire Robert Sawyer, Attorney General to Charles II and James II. It was built using Corinthian columns salvaged from Berkeley House in London, which burned down in 1733. 

Lunch and snack options are quite good with a cafe serving sandwiches, toasties and cream teas. I was quite hungry so I opted for the restaurant, the quiche and new potatoes were very good but I wasn't impressed with the frozen mixed veg, I don't like frozen mixed veg, frozen peas are good, and sweetcorn but not mixed veg.

The gift shop had lots of lovely items from that era - clothes, handbags, hats, slippers, petticoats and nightdresses. Most of which was very expensive.

Apart from the frozen mixed veg I give it a 10 out of 10 Visitor Satisfaction score.

Polly x 

17 June 2017

Sports Day

I'm bursting with pride.

Yesterday was sports day for my grandson's school. He won 1st for the 300 and 800 mtr. races, 1st for high jump and took his relay team from 4th to 2nd place.
Next week he competes at the TKAT games and the week after at the Central Essex games and he has been asked to compete at the district games. I am a very proud grandmother.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, summer is here!

Polly x 

31 May 2017

A Good Read

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The title is very apt. This is a story about horrible people doing horrible things. They are the kind of people we know exist but hope we never come into contact with. 
Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. As her family lay dying little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived and testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. 
Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well-wishers who’ve long forgotten her. 
The Kill Club, a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes, and convinced that Ben is innocent, locates Libby and coerce her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben, Libby hopes to make a profit off her tragic history by reconnecting with the players from that night and reporting her findings to the club, - for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer. 

Excellent. I liked the characterization and the writing style. Would definitely recommend it, but not for the fainthearted.

27 April 2017

Neglect And Activity

Oh dear, I have been seriously remiss with my blog, and visiting my favourite blogs. 
Once I came out of hibernation I felt the need to do things. 
Gardening, my allotment, visits to garden centres, days out, craft projects, 
reading, Easter, bowls matches, coffee mornings, 
and the blog was neglected. 

March saw a lot of activity on my allotment. 
Sowing potatoes and onions followed by carrots, beetroot, swede, runner beans and broccoli. 
Next I will put tomatoes and sweetcorn in. 

A few weeks ago a friend and myself went to an afternoon tea given by a group of Handbell Ringers. 
It was a lovely afternoon of quizzes, tombola, sandwiches, cake and scones and jam. 
They then treated us to to a selection of their beautiful music. 
The money raised goes to their chosen charity and to help with the upkeep of the bells.

Once a month we have coffee mornings in my village raising money for good causes, 
the current one is Essex Air Ambulance. 
We have tea, coffee and cake, a good old natter and a raffle. 

I won this lovely set at one of them. 
Sanctuary, one of my absolute favourites, I adore the fragrance.

We also had a village "Big Lunch"
A two course lunch for £6 yes £6!! 
The choices were lasagne or a variety of quiches, 
I chose bacon and mushroom quiche with new potatoes, salad and coleslaw, 
followed by apple crumble and custard. 
It was absolutely delicious. 

Then came Medieval Mayhem
archery, stocks, tug of war, maypole dancing, 
apple bobbing, crockery smashing, good food 
and an impressive collection of old and new tractors

Collage courtesy of  PicMonkey

my contribution for the tea and cake stall - a mocha cake, a family favourite.
I used to bake this for my girls when they were teenagers, they loved it.

me attempting to hit the target! I got arrows in the red and blue zones!

ye medieval crusader checking the smashed crockery!

Well that's enough for now 
need to do some work on a quilt 
will tell you about that soon
and my visit to Downton Abbey  :-)

Hope you have a good weekend

Polly x

26 April 2017

Little Bags of Happiness

Can you find happiness in a bag?

Happiness: described as a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. Many things make us happy - being in love, family, good friends, being on holiday, a newborn baby, a hot sunny day, material possessions - wait, what, material possessions, are they meant to make us happy or is happiness from material things considered shallow, trivial, superficial? Well it depends, I have known people who obsessed about having the newest, biggest or best of everything, I think that's superficial, but it made them happy. I have nice things in my home and things that I "make do" with. But when we eventually do get a new kitchen I will be very, very, very happy.

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.
 George Sand

Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city. 
George Burns

I felt happy with these little bags or rather what was in them - sale bargains. 
Oasis is my favourite store at the moment.

This was only £10

And this was half price at £25

It's easy to get carried away with sales, buying just because it's reduced. With the £10 top I know I will get pleasure from wearing it in the summer. When I first saw the jacket in the sale soon after Christmas I didn't buy it because I told myself that I didn't really need it. Upon returning home I regretted that decision. I didn't need it but I wanted it. I couldn't find it online and it was no longer in the shop a few days later. So imagine my delight when it was back in the sale a couple of weeks ago. Wearing it makes me happy. So in answer to my question above, yes I can find happiness in a bag.

Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall.
It's the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.
Joy comes in sips, not gulps. 
Sharon Draper

I hope you find many sips of happiness in all sorts of places

Polly x

24 April 2017

The Dollshouse: Mr Teen's Room

Although Mr Teen's room was easier to construct than Miss Teen's, it wasn't without a few difficulties.  

I wanted to create a New York type theme room. My first job was brick textured wallpaper. 

I was very pleased with this, it was just the colour I wanted to go with a dark wood floor.

I started the floor with some left over bits of wood in various colours, 
some had been painted, some had varnish on, some were very messy. 
That piece of red plastic is a cake caddy, it had cake in it, homemade, I think it was lemon cake, it was good.

It took ages and many coats of wood stain to get them all the same colour, but I didn't want to waste them. 
After a few coats of varnish they turned out well.

I then started to look around for furniture and once again because the top of the house is smaller than 1/12th scale everything I was looking at was too big.  Kits seemed the only way to go.

So with kits for a bed, wardrobe and media wall unit I was good to go.

The bed was very easy to assemble

The wardrobe however wasn't.

Those tiny pins had to go into the top and bottom of the doors, and then into the body of the wardrobe. The edges with the pins in then had to be sanded to a rounded D shape to enable the doors to open and close smoothly. One worked well the other didn't, but it looks ok, it just has to remain permanently closed.

Two drawers fitted into the bottom of the wardrobe

and I was pleased with the finished result.

The media unit was problematic, but largely due to me being overly fussy. 
It went together well. It was meant to have a shiny white film over it, like formica, but instead of looking like a smooth glossy finish it looked more like a badly wrapped parcel.

so I put some scrap bits of wood inside to prevent it from warping and decided to paint it. 

I used spray paint but sometimes it dripped and collected in little pockets at the bottom of the unit, so I tried to smooth them out and made it worse! Then there were the times I left fingerprints on it when I held it to inspect it! So I would put yet another coat of paint on. I created more work and took more time than was necessary. 

But the end result was good.

The standard light behind the sofa was a bit fiddly.

 I stuck the wire along the edge of the stair rail, round the end

 then along the wall behind the jukebox.

I bought the sofa and jukebox and made the bean bag from the same material I had used for the duvet cover and pillow. 

I found a tutorial on youtube. Make a template and cut out 5 shapes. Sew together leaving an opening for the stuffing, I used rice. The first one just didn't sit properly, it was too flat. 

So for the second attempt I used only 3 shapes, it was much better.

The side table and foot stool are Pandora jewellery boxes! 

There are still bits and pieces to add, but for the time being it's finished.

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