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Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Grand Depart and the Grand De-Party! at Masham.

Last weekend was spent at Masham in Yorkshire. We parked the campervan for a couple of nights at The Old Station Campsite. This was on the route of the Tour de France and allowed us to get really close.  After a wander round town on the Saturday morning, to view the artwork and sculptures...
 ....we settled at the side of the A6108.
We set up the table and a couple of chairs, newspapers, quiche and salad and wine, just across the road, from the gate to the campsite......and waited. Eventually they all arrived at once.
They were only an arms length away. They seemed to pass in a blur, it was all so fast.
It was VERY exciting and a giant cheer must have followed them along their miles of this stage of the ride.
We all cheered till the last ones went by. It wasn't long!
On our return home, My sister and BIL had been to stay and we wrapped up some paintings for them to take back to the Mudeford Arts Festival.
I've bought some frames from Ezeframe on the internet. They are black floater frames...meant for canvases to drop into. The pics on the sides here are in their frames and the large one in the middle and the two others are waiting for their frames.
This is the latest and is from a lesson in a painting magazine. Very effective and it will be framed the same way.
Life is lovely and busy at the moment. Lots of visitors. More tomorrow including the new great-grand-daughter. Visited the pick-your-own farm today and six jars of jam have been made and "tons" of frozen peas and broad beans are in the freezer.
Cheers for now
Gillian


Friday, 20 June 2014

Hamsterley Forest, Just Right For A Barbecue

It was such a lovely evening on Wednesday that we hopped in the Van and went up to Hamsterley Forest for a BBQ.

It was nearly empty. The air was still. The Bedburn Beck rippled by and we sat and read our books while the burgers cooked.
On Thursday we walked along Burnhouse lane...our regular walk and so much had grown since last week.
Today we took off for the Bowes Museum at Barnie to see the Hockney prints and caught the Coalminer-Painters' exhibit as well. Wonderful stuff!
It's still fine and we toyed with the idea of another barbie but the breeze has come up and it is a bit cooler this evening.
Cheers for now
Gillian

Thursday, 12 June 2014

A Fetching Etching and The Pilgrim Way At The End Of The Day (Lindisfarne)

I've had a lovely arty-farty week. My usual painting class on Wednesday was based on a photograph of "The Pilgrim Way at Lindisfarne" taken by our teacher Paul Dillon. We all enjoyed this one and here is my unfinished piece.
I still have to paint in the sinking sun. Definitely a make or break moment and all could be lost with a careless wipe of the paintbrush.
Then this morning I did an etching workshop at the Tom McGuinness Gallery at the Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Simple dry point on acetate sheet and then inked and printed on Tom's own enormous printing press, now owned by the Town Hall.
I felt like Goldilocks. The first was too inky, the second was not inky enough but the third one was just right!
Here is the best one in close-up. I am hoping to tint or wash the finished products and produce a set of "fine" cards. The ink is not waterproof so I'll have to be smart with the washes.
So here is is my first etching..."Cow Parsley in the Field"
Cheers for now
Gillian

Sunday, 8 June 2014

TOMMY at Seaham Harbour

We went over to Seaham Harbour today to check out the improvements to the old dock area. It has been refurbished into a marina and there are some lovely new buildings, housing the rebuilt George Elmy Lifeboat which capsized at the mouth of the harbour after a rescue at sea. All crew were lost and four of the five rescued fishermen died too. There is a cafe, toilets carparks and lots of new stuff.


After this we followed the people over to the seafront where "Tommy" is situated.
Tommy is very big.
And is loved by young and old.
Loved so much that the people of Seaham Harbour (and all those of us who love the place) are trying to buy the statue so that it can remain there permanently. It is extremely moving and very detailed.
The head is modelled using contour sheets and wire thread for the moustache.
The veins are shown on the hands and the weariness mixed with relief shows on his face as the hour reaches 11.01am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.


On a day like this we think... "why don't we live in Seaham Harbour?"...A couple of the houses in the far left of this pic are for sale! We shall return for a closer look.
Cheers for now
Gillian

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Low Barns Wildlife Reserve... What a Lovely find!

We've been to Low Barns a couple of times in the last few weeks. It belongs to the Durham Wildlife Trust and it is a great renovation of an old industrial site. There is a lake surrounded by a path and green growth is thriving beyond belief.
We took the camper the second time and parked it under the trees. It looks quite cute peeking out there. The picnic site has a "hide" where you can watch the cheekier birds. All the tits and lots of finches and a robin and a wren call by. The blue tits have a blue head and are small and fly away before you can point your camera. The coal tits have a striped black and white head and are too fast to photograph well, but I tried.
And the great tits are bigger and more common...usually.

Because of the mild and moist weather everything is growing well.
This is an enormous patch of "weeds". But what is a weed? I've always considered it an unwanted plant. These aren't really unwanted even though they are nettles and such. They are all an important part of this environment
Behind them are the trees that create the ecosystems that suit all the birds.

Behind all these trees is a billabong or oxbow lake. This is a part of the river's path, left stranded when the river changed course in a flood. The river in question is the Wear, shown below, which skirts the northern edge of the reserve.
The blossoms have been fabulous...
...and there will be lots of conkers later this year if these horse chestnut candles are anything to go by...
...and the may and hawthorn blossoms are everywhere.
Wherever you provide an environment which is food rich you get these two...
The reserve makes some revenue from parking, from a cafe, from the sale of charcoal which they make on site and from memberships.
If you live in the north-east this place is very well worth a visit. It is a mile and a half, on a dry, gravel path, around the lake. There are a few hides to stop in on the way and people are friendly and very informative. I'm too impatient to be a twitcher myself but they were patient enough to tell me that the tall birds in the trees that looked like cormorants with a white chest were in fact juvenile cormorants and their chests would turn black next year...
We shall return
Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mallorca All Inclusive Food and Rest After We Got There

We made the mistake of flying to Mallorca on a Thursday. That's when all the Hens and Bucks go for their four day weekends. Our fellow passengers had been drinking since they got to the airport at 7am. They continued until we got to Palma later that day!!!
We set off across the island to the Calas/Coves on the eastern side of the island.
This is the view from our balcony overlooking the Calas de Mallorca.
And this is the view looking up from the beach.
Most of the days were sunny and we sunbathed on the grassed terraces or at the poolside. Sunday was Market day at Felanitx and we caught the bus over to see the market...
...which winds through the streets to the marketplace at the top of the hill. On our way we visited the grand church of San Miguel....
...easily identified by the statue of the archangel over the door...
...The church was full of splendid statues and frescoes. Further along we found the "Lace-makers and Embroiderers" of Mallorca. They had set themselves up at long tables under gazebos and were stitching and pinning away. Each table had the name of the town they were from. It seemed to be an annual trip.
It started to rain and we headed off to catch the bus back. The rest of the day was very wet but we settled down on our balcony to read "I Am Pilgrim" by Terry Hayes and "A Delicate Truth" by John Le Carre. 
Another day out was to The Caves of Drach. Well worth it. Chamber Music played live from a boat rowed across the smooth underground lake was such a novelty.
The caves were full of stalactites and stalagmites, pillars, curtains and deep pools.
The weather became sunny again but the wind kept the waves up and prevented us from taking a catamaran ride to PortoChristo.This pic shows the small landing jutting out from the cliff which the landing gangplank must rest on.
They didn't stand a chance!!!
And gave up and went away. We took the bus up the coast to PortoChristo. A lovely town and harbour. We had grilled sardines for lunch and picked out a grand, old but friendly hotel for the next visit. 
We spent some time watching the surfers take advantage of the waves which were rolling in from the east, and of course we ate. Lots of salads, fish and desserts. DJ is well tanned but I am less so. Plenty more time yet.

Cheers Gillian


Baking More Bread and other Meals

I continue to use the breadmaker on a regular basis. I now also use it to make dough and free-form it into loaves. One to use and one to freeze. These are half and half ( white and brown flour) with some extra wheat germ and some seeds.
They are our staple at the moment.
 That same day DJ fancied some date and walnut cake. He followed the recipe exactly and the cake was great but half of  to stuck to the tin. Some of the remains were dug out and balanced on top and then glued down with some coffee icing. It was even better.
The last bits were thrown in a basin, splashed with Baileys and covered with caramel sauce from a holiday in Brittany! Specially delicious.
 The next day we fancied a Cataplana. This is a fish stew from Portugal and we emptied the freezer of fish portions and went on to make fish pie too. There is still one in the freezer.
Since these endeavours we have been away to Mallorca and I have just sorted those pics so that it will be posted next.
Our lives are closely connected to our food. The planning, the shopping, the prepping, the cooking and then the eating. Tonight it is a large pot of curry which will be divided into a couple of meals and some left over cooked potatoes will be saved to fry with tomorrow's steaks.
If there was more freezer space we would probably be able to bunker down for WWIII. Maybe not much to come out for  later though!
Cheers for now Gillian