Monday, February 25, 2013

Turkey soup

In one of my favourite scenes in  "Cold Mountain," the pragmatic Ruby deals with a "flogging rooster" by wrenching off its head and making of it the yellow stew that Ada has been dreaming about. I always think of this when we have turkey soup.  Not sure that I would be up to killing my own bird, however.  Instead, we start with a turkey leg, eaten as a roast dinner.  Then the rest of the meat, diced and added to a regular vegetable soup, makes the most delicious meal in these bitterly cold wintery days.

This week's task has taken me back to my teenage years.  At the bottom of our garden is my husband's shed.  He had decided to insulate the walls by cladding them with polystyrene and lining them with hardboard. It certainly needed doing.  "Before" pictures would have looked like scenes from "The hoarder next door", as my husband tends to see possible future uses for all manner of unlikely items.  The "After" pictures would show the transformation to a clean and snug working space - like the inside of a cardboard box.

This last week I have been the gofer, locating the tool required and handing it up, bracing items being drilled and basically following instructions.  With only a hazy grasp of the big picture and none of the skills needed, it reminded me strongly of assisting my father with tasks on the farm - milking, calving, haymaking.   In my late teens I spent some time doing each of these, in a supporting role.

My latest weaving project: Last summer I bought a skein of yarn from Susan Heath.  I loved the freshness of the colour combination, although I would never choose these colours to wear myself.
I wanted to see what the effect would be to use this yarn for both warp and weft.  It turns out as a kind of plaid, with a distinctly spring-like mood to it.

Remember this image of the beams in our dining room?   There is a similar arrangement in our first-floor bedroom.   We have been revisited by the team surveying houses in the "Discovering Coggeshall" project.  They have a fascinating web-site.

Our house was shown to have been rebuilt in 1636, reconstructing an open hall, to put in a first and attic floor.  The current theory is that this end wall dates from about 1400, linking it to the house on one side with which it shares a passage-way.  All of these houses were used by merchants and clothiers in the wool-trade, spinning, weaving and marketing the woollen cloth for which the area was famous.  As I warp up my little loom, or as I sit at my spinning wheel, I can almost feel those earlier inhabitants looking on in amazement, that what was once sweat-shop labour is now a leisure activity.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dusted Damson

What was it William Morris said?  "Have nothing in your houses which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful"?  How he managed that, I have no idea.  What about items previously belonging to parents or in-laws which one cannot just throw away?  Anyway, the gas fire in this picture comes decidedly into the first category and the mantlepiece into the second.

This last week we have been up to Cumbria for a spot of renovation and decorating.  Like others of its vintage, our cottage has rising damp and the chimney breast was particularly afflicted.  My husband constructed this fire surround, using a rather lovely piece of oak  for the mantlepiece.  BandQ provided the large mirror, for the remarkable price of £25. 

I chose the colour for the hardboard backing: Dusted Damson  -  just love the name.  This picks up the colours in a vintage blanket which covers the sofa and manages to look surprisingly sophisticated.

We spent most of the week scraping off wallpaper, pasting and painting, enjoying the transformative effect of white gloss and clean, silvery paper.  However, the weather lifted twice.  At Allonby the tide was full in.  Criffel has never looked so distant or so lovely as it did with its snow-cap here.

Later, we drove into Lorton for our regular walk across fields and through lanes.  Again, the snow still sat on the tops, and snowdrops were much in evidence.

These dull wintry days have been much enlivened by the brightness of this lively colourway.  These may well be going into my present drawer for later in the year.