Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

52 Weeks of Happy

Have you seen some lovely posts in Blogland called '52 Weeks of Happy'.  This is the invention of Jen at Little Birdie and even though she is well into the year, currently at number 31, I thought what a great way to break up the working week, to reflect on what four things have made me happy  rather than 'phew, glad I'm half way through!'   So many people do this now and when I read their posts, they always make me smile.  So, as I prepare to think and write my normal weekly post what a perfect way to discipline myself to do an extra post per week.  So, what has made me happy so far this week?

♥ Clouds over the Fens giving much needed shade and cooling rain on these hot summer days.

♥ A trip planned to my favourite place in London - Greenwich (I feel as though I am waiting for the sleeps to Christmas! - so excited!).  This is the first time I have taken Mr and Miss Teenager to this part of London and I hope they enjoy it as much as I used to with my darling Grandad Tom (more on the trip on my next post!)

♥ Watching the Cathedral being washed by the rain from my office window.

 ♥ A late evening, watching the fiery clouds roll in knowing that there are no early get out of beds in the morning - I'm on a short working week and the Teenagers are on school holidays!

What has made you happy this week?  I know my new camera has certainly made me happy!

Take care.


(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)

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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

Has it been hot round your way?  It certainly has here, even the occasional rain is not bringing the temperatures down.  The skies have mainly been blue with wispy clouds.
And I have been doing some people watching when able to get a break in work.  Look at these guys with their mobility scooters in Peterborough!

I walked around my garden this week on the sultry, hot, bright evenings and the famous nursery rhyme popped into my head...Mary Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?  Well my garden is growing with the help of these wonderful, furry, busy bundles.
The enormous number of these amazing insects is partly due to the fact that my neighbours house is up for sale and they have had to move on leaving the place empty and the garden being completely left alone.  A queen bee has made a nest and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands around.
We love bees and find them no trouble at all so we are leaving them 'bee' for as long as possible and hope that no one will view just yet.  My lavender is a favourite of theirs along with the various flowers that have burst into life. 
   So, do you want an update on my garden?  Thought so...you know what to do...get that kettle on and the tea cups out.  Have you got a nice cake to munch too?  Ready?  Let's see what the end of July is like at Sweetbriar Dreams...(sorry for the amount of bee shots too...like I said they are everywhere and I am in heaven...

This is my main flower bed that the bees are thoroughly enjoying.
The shasta daisies had a beautiful creamy bee that happily posed while it got drunk on the pollen.
The buddleia has now bloomed and is full of butterflies, so many red admirals decorated the huge shrub...
...and the cabbage whites are adorning the smaller flowers...
The earlier busy activity from the insects has produced so many plums on the tree - we can't wait to start picking!
There is some growth in my kitchen window baskets with the tumbling tomatoes.
My peppers are beginning to swell in the greenhouse, but that's about the only activity in there unfortunately unless we get another growth spurt next month.
The reading corner is more colourful with the hanging basket and the ever creeping ivies.
The foxgloves are welcoming their ever returning visitors.
Alongside is the sweet rocket, another popular plant!
Overhead we heard the buzzing of the small aircraft engines from the local airfield,
but then we heard a much louder sound, that of the Lancaster that occasionally flies over...
The day was finished by us driving to one of the reserves and watching the sunset over the fens.  A quiet and reflective time.
Now, you may have noticed the shots are a little different this week.  I've been a bit naughty and bought ANOTHER camera!  I change cameras like I change shoes!  I loved 'Val' but in the summer months, and on the rare occasions that the sun has been out,  I found the lack of view finder really hard to contend with, and being a certain age I needed reading glasses to see the screen to line up the shot.  So, with a bit of research I found the Fujifilm Finepix HS20 EXR and got a fantastic deal on Ebay.  As normally happens, I have fallen in LOVE with this camera and all the additions you can get with this.  For a bridge camera this is great as you can screw on filters and additional lenses.  A few hours/days/months of playing is on the cards!  My poor SLR camera is still waiting for me to pick it up again but I like bridge cameras as there isn't so much to carry around, so perfect for trips out.  Trouble is it is black and not that beautiful red of 'Val', so tomorrow I am buying stickers for it to 'pretty' it up a bit!!

I also received something beautiful in the post this morning from Annie at The Tartan Bee, just look at this wonderful bag she has made with one of my favourite things adorning it...the VW Campervan!!  Please take a look at her gorgeous blog and Etsy shop (the link is here).
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all so so so much for your beautiful comments on last week's post.  This was a particularly hard post to write as anything to do with my Grandad is still so hard to deal with.  I bore my family with it really so I don't mention it, but my blogging friends have really come to the fore as to why I blog, you were so gracious with your comments and touched my heart so deeply.  I know I'm gushing here, but THANK YOU all.  I am going to put a page together on this blog to put updates on the dolls house and the things I manage to learn along the way with the documents, so you can dip in and out as you please.  I have replied to all the comments made via email, and I am sorry I haven't replied to those that are 'no reply bloggers', so can I say again, thank you so much, your comments were so lovely and mean the world to me.  Right Chel, enough gushing, get a grip and get this project going again!

Have a wonderful weekend and week, we're off to Greenwich, London next week for another trip down memory lane!

Take care.


(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Keeping a Record of Times Gone By

It has been hot, hot, hot this week and not being a sun worshipper meant that I hid away to keep out of the raging sun.  So, my little creative juices and ideas started to overflow and I just couldn't find anything suitable.  Yes, I know my crafts have been taking a back seat for a little while.  I needed to find something that wasn't as warm as being tucked under a woolly blanket while crocheting.  This pleasure is for those cozy dark winter months with members of the family sitting that little bit closer to share the warmth of 'Mum's latest project!'  At the moment I just want to cozy up to my late Grandma's lavender!
Now, yes I know I have loads of projects that need completing but my greatest work in progress has very regretfully been sitting in the corner of my lounge gradually aging with dust and neglect.  Ok, maybe I'm over dramatising this but I am writing this to make myself feel GUILTY!  So, I have decided to kick start my need to get going on this and write a post to put this right in my mind and motivate me into concentrating on this enormous project.  There are no trips out to write about this week (as all I did was moan at how horridly humid it was - my family hate July and August with me because I do nothing but moan!!), the only trip was for this project to make its way outside into the garden to blow away the cobwebs, a GUILT trip for me.
I need to explain from the outset that my dolls house project is going to be HUGE!  It will take years to complete with each thing being carefully thought through.  You see, this is no normal dolls house with the usual furniture, carpets and curtains and hours of enjoyment with little fingers and thumbs playing house with the dolls in each room.  No, this is going to be a family history encapsulated in a piece of 'furniture' that will be loved and respected in the corner of the lounge.  This will be a testimony to my darling Grandad Tom who, when he passed away, left a mountain of paperwork which encompassed his research on the London Docklands and his stories of his life and of the history handed down from my ancestors.  The following photo is the contents of just one small box!
Nearly all the papers are in his own handwriting and, most surprisingly to us, the Museum of London oral archives gave me copies of  7 CD's that they had collected with him over the years of his most amazing memories from 1908 to his death - captured forever.  His writing is all over the archives of the Museum of London Docklands, his knowledge of the area can't be outdone or disputed.  My role is to now put this all together (another reason for this GUILT trip post to also kick start this again!).
I have an old book that I am beginning to write myself where I am trying to piece everything together.  It reminds me of an old Bob Cratchet accounts book in Scrooge.
Now, I don't know when the 'spark' came to me, but I decided to get a shell of a dolls house and put together an heirloom to future generations where there would be a story to each item, a reason for it to be there.  A story literally attached to each individual thing.  I started this a couple of years ago four  years ago - A Christmas present from hubby - A plain brown shell was perfect!
The inside was just oozing ideas to me.
To start with, the house had to be set in the Victoria era.  My Grandad's family originally came down to the East End of London in the mid 1800's from South Shields so that my Great Great Grandad could set up, own and manage one of the docks.  This era was perfect as my love for the Victorian period is basically obsessional!  I love anything Dickensian - Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop being particular favourites.  So, well, obvious purchase really, this sign was ordered from New York and graciously they agreed to add Est. 1879 - The year that my Great Grandad was born.
The roof was a wonderful thing to do.  I wanted to lay this myself and crack and shape the tiles with parts being covered with moss to show the fragility of the roofs back then.  I found a wonderful slate tile supplier on Ebay whose tiles were mixed so that they weren't uniform in shades of grey, each one seemed to be individual.  The calming influence over me while laying these tiles and filling with the moss made me remember the times I used to sit with my Grandad and listen to his stories, sometimes sitting on the floor next to his chair while he slowly went through the maps of the old London town, who lived where, what the streets looked like, the poverty etc.  Sometimes, while laying the tiles I would play one of the CD's of his voice and I was right there with him again, feeling his presence.
The outside walls were the next challenge.  I knew that Victorian houses were brick but I really wanted to have mainly textured walls which exposed brickwork where cracks would have appeared.  Sand and paint was the answer and I drew where I wanted the bricks exposed and set to work.  Believe me, the roof was a doddle by comparison!  I gave up many times, hid it away, cursed it, but one rainy afternoon I laid down on the floor with the brick slips, cut and shaped each individual one and slowly made progress.  Admittedly these are still incomplete as the mortar still needs to be pushed into the gaps - another rainy day soon perhaps.
After looking at many of the old photos, I saw that the houses had darker windows frames due to the industrial area and decided, with a bit of artistic shading, that I could mimic some age to these.  The street sign was specially made to show my Great Grandad's road, this has long gone, well before the Docklands redevelopment, but the stories of that road are still in my Grandad's papers.
The chimney pots were lots of fun.  The dolls house came with some clean, wooden, uncharacteristic tubes which were nothing like the worn, dirty, weathered Victorian chimneys.  So, paint, moss, glue and I set to work with some clay pots I found on Ebay and these were transformed.  One of them cracked in my hand, so with the thought that everything was not going to be pristine, the glue and moss was perfect to create an abandoned chimney that in the future will show a pigeon's nest!
The dolls house came with a porch with arched gaps either side.  Again, inspiration jumped out at me and I thought how lovely it would be to make some stained glass windows.  I will try my hand at anything, but I thought real stained glass would be too much of a challenge so decided on Shrinkies, some glass pens and some research into the colours and patterns from that era.  This was so much fun to do.  Firstly creating a ruler on a full size shrinkie, carefully putting all the lines for each mm, and then baking this until it shrank.  This gave me an accurate recording of what size the windows would be (measuring with the shrinked ruler and then the real measurements being used on the full size shrinkie).  Once two had been created and coloured it was time for the oven.  They curled up - I panicked - please lay flat - then shrank to the right size.  They were then filed a little bit to sit perfectly and Ta Dah!!
Then, my favourite part so far, the door!  The best part of Christmas Carol for me is when Scrooge approaches his foreboding front door, with the lion head knocker.  It speaks the opening of a wonderful story and this is what I wanted to portray.  Again, the door that came with the house was very plain so this came off and a heavier more ornate door was ordered and then painted a deep black gloss.  The door knocker was extremely important and my search went all over the place.  Why didn't I go to Ebay first?!  There it was!  This seller had one that moved and was nicely heavy.  How can something so tiny give me such joy!  So here it is, the door to be opened to start the journey.
My word, I am waffling on this week aren't I?!

So, The Old Curiosity Shop, which is going to be full of curiosities each having some relevance to my family's history.  A shop in the making and that will be cleaned this weekend to prepare for new wall coverings, flooring, a rearrangement of the ground floor to depict an old Victorian shop, cornicing and skirting boards.  A couple of hours will be spent on looking at some of the many Victorian photos I have from my Grandad so I can reduce and frame them.  At the back of each frame will be a pull out book (small of course) with a history of the person depicted.  The history lesson will then begin.
I know this is a break from the norm for my weekly posts, but I am telling myself off a bit.  My Grandad's life's work is sitting in boxes, folders, cupboards and drawers all around my house and needs to be catalogued properly and sorted out so I can put this all in a book that he never got round to writing (he was 98!).  The dolls house will be my mark of his work, something different but equally as educational with my love of crafts and ideas popping up.

So, I can now say to myself I have been well and truly told off!  It has been hard, and with getting some of the papers out, very emotional.  I miss the family that I had back when I was younger, the weekends staying with them, the stories they told, the love we shared.  The memories are still very strong, such as the smell of lavender (my Grandma), the smell of Imperial Leather soap (my Grandad), face powder (my Nan) and tobacco (my Grandpa), but I hope through the years I can encapsulate most things to future generations by the stories, sounds and smells I hope to put in this wooden box of wonder.

Is there anything that you have got hidden away that needs to be completed or re-started?

Have a wonderful week and take care.


(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)

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Time Travel Thursday

Friday, 12 July 2013

A Hot Summer's Walk

Isn't it lovely when you can just walk around shady glades and the only noise is from the ever growing wildlife.  This was how it was last weekend on a simple walk on a very hot day (did you notice that word 'hot'...yes, it does happen!).  At first I was the one that was doing the 'no, not today, I'm having a lazy day'.  Then, seeing Mr Teenager's disappointed face, I gave in and we took a small drive to one of the nature reserves with a very small picnic to keep us going.   Just the redness of the poppies against the different wild grasses and wildflowers was reward enough.

The glades were like entering tunnels of shade with the dappled strong sunlight filling the cracks
 I was so glad I had decided to tag along as this reserve doesn't allow dogs (and irresponsible dog owners!), so me who loves walking bare foot, off came my shoes and the feeling of cool soft grass and moss beneath my feet was luxurious and sweet.  Have you ever done that?  It's was so liberating.
A photo however could not be taken of this event as believe me I have hobbit's feet!  They should be advertising photos of the before pictures for chiropodists!  Truly awful!   Instead, I took a photo of one of the hundreds of  beautiful turquoise damsel flies that were flying away with fear dancing with my footsteps.
There are hides everywhere so that you can capture the wildlife on the water.  Again it was lovely and cool in there as by then the sun was at its strongest.  
These two gulls were on their regal nest surveying everything around them for miles.
The butterflies were varied and flew around us like confetti at a wedding.
This bee seemed to be swimming in the pollen, and flew away quite drunk.
 The wildflower meadows were teaming with life.
The heat was getting to all of us so when we returned home it felt quite heavy but under my pergola the sun couldn't penetrate the vines, fig, clematis and jasmine that surround it.  They really need a prune now!
The shade was just perfect on this day.
I had a brief walk around looking at the perfect apples that were now beginning to take form.
The plums which will be quite a heavy crop this year.
And, squeal, my Grandma's lavender has finally started to show off its beautiful pale blue flowers.  Such a simple thing, but memories always fill the air when that starts to show and emit its fragrance.
Even Coco was smelling of lavender after her bath, a little clip of the fur and her bandanna soaked in cold water to keep her back cool.
The summer looks as though it has finally arrived and the bees have now made there way back to our garden, so welcome one and all to those wonderful miraculous buzzy bundles.

So how has the weather been in your part of the world?  Have you kicked off your shoes yet?

Take care.


(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)

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