Sunday, 30 October 2016


We became Dubliners for three days at the beginning of the week, thanks to ridiculously low priced tickets from a budget airline. M had been to Dublin thirty years ago, but I had never been to Ireland before. We loved it! A lovely relaxed place to explore, with incredibly helpful and friendly people.

Our 10 year old is on a mission to visit the zoo whenever she goes to a new city, so we agreed rather reluctantly to include Dublin Zoo in our schedule. It proved to be one of the nicest zoos we have visited, beautifully landscaped and with animals who seemed as chilled and friendly as the people. One super-relaxed grandmother gorilla had even settled down for a nap right next to the glass separating her enclosure from the human visitors, apparently oblivious to the horde cooing over the snoozing baby gorilla in her arms.

We visited Dublin Castle, only to find ourselves in the middle of the set of a TV series about the Easter Rising of 1916, populated by authentically costumed extras who were staving off boredom with rather anachronistic mobile phones and paper coffee cups. We didn't get to see any filming unfortunately - all the extras knew was that they had already been hanging around for a long time and nothing seemed to be happening!

Other highlights were the trams (our hotel was some way out of the centre on a tram route), a build-your-own-stir-fry Mongolian BBQ restaurant, and a walk-in science workshop where N learned to solder and built an electronic voice recorder.

Even the weather smiled on us, with no rain and a respectable amount of sun.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

All I Want For Christmas Is ...

... this beginner's lace making kit, because I have been watching lace makers at work and I really, really want to play! This year we have been running a textile art project at the archive, encouraging people to create textile pieces inspired by documents in the archives. The project ended with a series of exhibitions at which a local lacemaking group gave demonstrations. It wasn't until the third and final exhibition that I started seriously watching what they were doing and having a go at basic stitches on a pillow set up for beginners to try. I got hooked.

I like crafting in various forms, but I am definitely more inclined towards crafts with a pattern to follow as I don't have a creative imagination. I don't mind things being intricate or fiddly so long as I know what I am supposed to be doing, and I think I could have a lot of fun making lace. I also like the historic element to the craft. Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire were two of the three main centres of handmade lace in England (Honiton in Devon was the third), and I know there were lacemakers among my Buckinghamshire ancestors.

Not only will I get to make pretty things, I can also collect pretty bobbins. I am trying to declutter and  become more minimalist (although I have a very, very long way to go), but bobbins are small enough not to become a clutter monster and larger projects need a considerable number. I love the idea of using bobbins which are either meaningful or decorative or both. A few I have my eye on are this commemorative Magna Carta bobbin, chirpy Christmas robinscanal art bobbins (these are already painted, but a friend has started doing canal art and she may be getting some bobbin commissions), Jane Austen, and ... well, a glance at this site shows just how easy it would be to get carried away!

Instructions have been issued to He-Who-Hates-Christmas-Shopping and I now just have to wait patiently for a couple of months and hope that I don't forget all the helpful tips and information I was given by the lace demonstrators.

Friday, 14 October 2016

And ... Three Months Later!

July? Three months ago? Really? So ... five things from the last three months as a catch up.

1. A lovely family holiday in Italy, with all the family except senior daughter who does her own thing these days. We have visited Lake Garda before, but had forgotten how stunningly beautiful it is.

2. Middle daughter left for uni in September and is now in a northern city studying Italian and linguistics. So far she is loving it, enjoying both the social life and her courses.

3. Middle daughter also celebrated her 18th birthday and an amazing set of A level results. As she eats dairy free we tracked down a hotel in London which provides both gluten free and dairy free afternoon teas for a celebration mother-and-daughter tea. A nice touch was that when they realised we were celebrating they brought her a beautifully presented mini-birthday cake. Definitely recommend the 108 Pantry at the Marylebone Hotel for anyone looking for a gluten free / dairy free treat.

4. We have been working on the house and managed to redecorate both small daughter's bedroom and our own. Quite a bit of decluttering was achieved too.

5. I took small daughter to a family lecture at the Royal Institution on giant lasers. She has now decided her future science career should be physicist rather than chemist.