I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Creative days like these


I have a new post on the Bernina English language blog today about the inspiring demonstration of some new Bernina accessories and software I went to last week.




I took my amazing machine to Frank’s with me, because of late it’s been misbehaving and not responding to my gentle touches as it usually does.  I left it for his technician to investigate and learned that the bobbin sensor was not working as it should.  A new replacement part was ordered, arrived within 24 hours and hopefully, my machine will be home again in a couple of days, complete with a firmware update and refreshed from a little TLC!




I keep looking at the large space where it normally sits in my studio and feel quite bereft, even though I know I could get my older, Bernina 1630 out to play…or the even older still, Bernina 1030 (do you see a pattern here?)  I know, however, I am not in the same league as many when it comes to collecting sewing machines!  (You know who you are Winking smile )




Speaking of Maggie (!)  who came with me on Thursday and shared all the Quilting Ruler fun, on the way home we had a small errand to run for our dear friend Jordi, who had seen a couple of things online which she liked the look of.  I immediately followed the link to Sue Brown’s blog and discovered that she’s just up the road from me, in Cheltenham.  No need for mail order there, then!




So on the way home, Maggie and I spent a fascinating half hour looking around the yard ARTspace and just knew that we’ll be back there before long.  There’s an interesting programme of workshops and classes, right up our alley, and Sue herself creates some amazing work.




So much inspiration on our doorstep and lovely friends to share it with. 

Now, if only I could stop being bothered by that bird up there…


Leaving my fingerprints behind


I’d completed a visa application form, answering questions such as the purpose of my visit (tourism) and the details of my passport.   I’d been waiting to complete the form for a while, but had to wait for confirmation from our hotel with a reference number to be quoted on the application.  The hotel confirmation had to bear the seal and signature of a certified person and was unique to me: my Hero, Edward and Amy each needed a similar document to accompany their applications.

Just whose idea was it to go to St Petersburg for the weekend anyway?  (He has owned up).

Having completed all the necessary questions about my background, where and when I went to college, where I have worked and who was in charge there, I then needed to find three bank statements to support my application and prove that I have enough funds for the days I will be in the country.


No problem.

But “Have you travelled to any other countries in the last ten years?”


“Please give details and use a separate entry for each visit”.




Starting with the most recent entry on my list (because, yes, of course, I have a record of such things) I took a deep breath and began with “USA Jan 30 – 4 Feb 2017”, adding a new box after each entry. After 20 visits and half way down the first page of my list, it fell over. 

I took the print out with me when we presented ourselves at the visa application office last Monday morning.




These appointments in London are getting to be a bit of a habit, aren’t they?  Though this one did not offer the facility of an appointment – merely a queue.  The office opens daily at 8.30am so in true Heroic fashion, we turned up at about 7.50am, to find ourselves 5th and 6th in line.

The process was actually quite slick and involved a five minute “interview” at a counter in post-office-like surroundings.  We’d been given numbered tickets on arrival, so were called to the counter almost immediately and documents checked, fingerprints taken and money paid (oh yes…) this part was remarkably easy, except for one thing.

Have you ever tried putting both thumbs down, side by side (for fingerprinting) in the middle of a flat surface?




Our reward for an early start was a visit to the Royal Academy, where there were two exhibitions we fancied.  Being in a Russian frame of mind, we began with the Revolution, a wonderfully designed exhibit where the layout and staging of the works on show was so very much in keeping with the art itself.  Some of the art was familiar – in style and tone if not as a specific piece.  The political posters and propaganda were so much of their time, though reading the details alongside individual pieces gave enough background information to provoke another look and further consideration.

Some work was rather brutal, other rooms appeared more hopeful at first, though once more the awful truth was not far away.  In fact, there was very little to warm the soul or to inspire optimism, which doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the art itself. 




It’s just that the reality isn’t always as much fun as it might appear, is it?


american gothic


I’m not altogether sure that America After the Fall offered a vision of fun either!  We’d seen Grant Wood’s American Gothic a couple of times in its home in the Chicago Art Institute and I believe I’d seen some of the other works on show in other locations as well: the Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Hopper pieces in particular.  I hadn’t realised that this was the first time American Gothic had travelled outside North America, though, which could explain why this gallery was so crowded.  The number of people in these small gallery rooms made it tricky to really appreciate some of the work on show and we didn’t stay long.  Three faces remained with us long after we left though – again, painted by Grant Wood




Though I’ve never seen the painting before, I feel as if I know those women so well.  I wonder which WI they belong to?  Winking smile


A night at the Old Havana Cafe


Havana Cafe copy


February can be a dreary month and so usually, we try to get a bunch of friends together for some fun, even though finding a suitable date for eight busy people is a challenge.  This year, they sorted it out between them and when we arrived home from our travels, I knew where we’d be going.

The Old Havana Cafe.  (It bears a passing resemblance to our garden room btw)

We’d enjoyed the spirit and atmosphere of Little Havana whilst in Miami, so with the aid of a few Pinterest boards (what did we do without it!?) I began the planning.  To begin with, I knew how much we all like a bright invitation to put up somewhere, so did a bit of Photoshopping to an old travel poster and hopefully set the scene.




I came across this website and remembering the online class I took to make these I made something similar for the menu.  I’m not sure it’s *that* authentic but for a February evening in Gloucestershire, it was good enough.

Lagom, people Winking smile




We had a few things tucked up our sleeve from our journey – not from Cuba of course, but from “that part of the world”.  Well, Costa Rica is near enough, isn’t it?  (Don’t answer that question)




The cooking was fairly straightforward too, once I’d sourced my ingredients.  Plantains in Gloucestershire?  No problem!  Dulce de Leche ?  A piece of cake!  (or make that two..)




With few bright colours around and a great Spotify playlist on the Sonos, the scene was set.




Fuelled by a few Mojitos (and Nojitos for the drivers) we had a great evening.  I was having far too much fun to remember to take photos, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say how delicious the Lechon Asado was, but the star of the show were the (mexican style) corn cobs which we will forever associate with the Calle Ocho restaurant where we had them first.  Really easy to make,  it was only when we ordered them in Miami that we remembered how much we love to eat corn that way!  We just had to try making them at home and share them with our friends.




Plus, I kept a little surprise to have with coffee Winking smile


One way to spend Saturday morning


The doorbell went as I was in the kitchen, so it was my Hero who greeted the two men in casual uniform who were standing outside.  I heard him say “Come in” and wondered who we were welcoming into our home for a cup of tea.

“We have visitors from the Fire Service”.

Now, I knew the Fire Service had been given additional responsibilities to visit elderly people from time to time, to extend community links and to promote safety at home, but surely, we were not quite elderly enough to receive a call?  Being tactful gentlemen, they made no comment on that score, but introduced themselves and asked if we could spend some time with them discussing a few things and in particular, to do a check of our smoke alarms.




Of course.  My hero and I are receptive to any professional advice, especially when it comes delivered to our door, free of charge and with no sales pitch.  Over cups of tea, we answered a few questions about health and general well being and as Lee swapped our smoke alarms (free of charge!) for new, modern  replacements, we chatted to his colleague, Tim, noticing his casual observation of our kitchen.

“Does your hob light up when it’s switched on?”   Well, yes, it does.  Clearly, his remit went beyond mere fire safety and extended to more general guidance, such as closing the kitchen doors at night, just as my parents always did.

“Do either of you have any hearing loss?”  Tim apologised for such questions, but explained that if we did, they could supply us with additional “pillow” smoke alarms.  Full service here!




Our two woodburners were given the once over and a clean bill of health as a result of a good, straight chimney and advice was offered in the unlikely case of a chimney fire and the candles on our dining table were given attention.  “Don’t light them near curtains, will you?”

I was impressed.  Far from feeling any intrusion, I appreciated the opportunity to have two experienced and knowledgeable professionals give us the benefit of their advice, especially when the subject of “escape routes” was mentioned.  Living in a three storey house and sleeping on the top floor has meant both of us considering what we would do if ever there was the nightmare of a fire.  Thanks to Tim’s survey, we now know exactly what to do and where we should go and shout “Fire!” as we awaited the arrival of the emergency services.  Scary stuff and hopefully never needed, Tim was quick to reassure us that house fires are very rare.




Three replacement smoke alarms fitted (with ten year internal batteries!) there was just one final question.

“Where is your tumble drier?”   I showed Tim the laundry room downstairs and watched as he considered the location.

“One more smoke alarm needed here, Lee!” and sure enough, Lee was back, screwdriver in hand to fit a fourth alarm by the laundry room door.  “Better safe than sorry”.

Well yes indeed.  We waved them goodbye and thanked them for their service.  We assured them that we would indeed encourage any friends or relatives to contact them for a similar visit, because such things are very important indeed.

It’s just not quite how we planned to spend a Saturday morning at home!


with love




(The Sofitel always has amazing flowers)