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Monday, 29 July 2013

New Kitchen Toys, Jazz Bands & the Sunderland Airshow

It has been quite a busy couple of weeks. I sometimes wonder how I fitted in the time to go to work. The solar panels are clocking up some clicks and helping out slightly with the bill and repaying some money quarterly. Just  as well cos DJ thought that we would benefit from one of these.
You can see Percy the paper holder through the eye of the Dyson Air Multiplier. It does make the place cooler and it has been a pleasure to have these last couple of weeks.
Then I decided to join in the spendfest and bought an ice maker. Our fridge doesn't offer ice-making options and previously I've found separate ones too large and costly, even though the Oz in me wants ice in everything. So I bought this...and it works very well. I had to buy an insulated ice-bucket to keep all the ice in! And it had to be put in the shed. More about the problems of space later.
And then the real retro Oz in me decided that an electric multi-cooker, known in Oz as a "lectric frypan" was needed too. So this one was tracked down on ebay and immediately put to use. You can cook everything from a roast chook to dinky gem scones without having to put the oven on, on a hot day.  So there we are folks... lots of advice for the hot weather in the kitchen now that it's all over. This pic shows the prawns ready to go into the paella.
BUT...all these new toys means finding space for them. This is usually accomplished by squeezing unused stuff into the corner jam cupboard with the clever roll out shelves, or the old sideboard in the sitting room, or the "shed".
Kitchen toys recently downgraded from the kitchen bench are the "Espresso/Cappuccino maker" cos it's no good for more than one person at a time. It takes too long to heat up between steam squirts and there isn't enough pressure to knock up more than  two espresso shots in ten minutes. And the Jamie Oliver style blender.  You know...the one you use in "fifteen minute meals" if it is on your bench top all the time. These things were firm favourites only a few months ago.
So far the fan is a life saver of quiet cool, the ice maker has enhanced the drinks tenfold and the lectric frypan has cooked up some great food quickly, easily and without heating up the kitchen. They are still winning their place on the benchtop.

We spent some time with friends watching the jazz bands in the Durham Band Fest.
They come from all over and are really great.
And last weekend we went to the Sunderland Airshow. It was alright till it started and then everyone arrived. They were expecting about half a million and they all turned up between one and two pm and stood near us.
The Red Arrows arrived first and were marvellous. They did great stuff and were described brilliantly.
Eventually they went off to do another show that evening halfway across the country. We hung around awhile but the crowd grew beyond bearable so we rode the bus back to the Stadium of Light and drove down to Seaham to watch the Battle of Britain Flypast from the clifftop. It had got hazy by then but we saw it and the Lancaster loomed into view a couple of times.
Then we went home.
We are enjoying the cooler break. Great reading all your news even though I haven't blogged for a week or two, it's been good keeping up.
Cheers for now,

Sunday, 14 July 2013

LIFE DRAWING...Left and Right Handed.

I've been waiting all year to go to Artison again. ( ) There has always been something clashing with the classes I wanted, but this was was booked before the holiday was in a slot.

Life Drawing. Something I have been longing to do. Luckily for us there were only four students. Not so lucky for Artison and I think they are planning to shut for the summer, a bit earlier next year.

The studio had been set up for us with lovely big easels and huge sheets of paper. After a short introduction to other artists' works we were given our first task. Draw the model with a piece of coloured chalk in two minutes, then holding the same colour spend two minutes working on each other's.
Some lovely combinations of line and colour and shape were produced.
Then we were given charcoal and the real mess began. We had to draw the model standing for a change.
Then move the charcoal to the other hand and have another go . The model moved so that we couldn't rely on any familiarity from the first attempt. The one on the left of the paper is my left hand and my second drawing. Yes, the model did still have a right foot but we were given only two minutes to do each one!
We were all amazed at how respectably identifiable our second drawings were and it encouraged us to move on with hope.
The next exercise took a longer time and was an attempt to get proportions right. When I took longer and tried harder the shapes weren't as loose and pleasing.
Mine is the one on the left. My proportions are okay but I love the sharper and bolder contrasts on my neighbour's work on the right. I want to do bolder too!
I try conte on ink coloured paper. Nice again but where is the bold? I plead with the tutor to teach me how to be free with my art.
She gives me a tub of ink and a big stick! I am very careful but still the ink dribbles down the paper, I panic and I have to blend it in with the knee fold. I'm obviously too anal-retentive for this. She relents and gives me a smaller pointed stick. I draw the model's face and it's good and she likes it too and so she smears charcoal all over the paper and erases bits to add texture to liven it up.It looks quite good. I think I'm happy.
But I'm really happy with the softness of this face and shoulders. I also love the ink faces. Overall I am very happy. I love my work and want to do more. I am exhausted and satisfied. It is all over and time to go home. 
I am sorting through the catalogue now selecting more art adventures for the rest of the year.
We watched the cricket...well the telly was on, and I could hear a lot of it. I went in to watch Agar get his century and stuffed that up so I stayed away till today. Ah well! DJ is happy and it's not all over yet.
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Gorgeous Weather Here Too....La Vendee is cooler than Bishop Auckland!

It was a bit cooler today but the last few day,s since returning home, have been very warm. The patio trees are doing well. The cherries have dropped off but the eating apples are doing well.Watering garden pots has been a necessity. The cooking apple tree is based on a full tree root-stock and is going to be too big. Super pruning may help.
The Virginia Creeper is doing well as is the Wisteria and all the other plants have survived our absence.
La Tranche Sur Mer is a known spot for wind surfing, catamaran sailing, yachting and paddling. I was aware that I would like to paint some of the stuff so I practised a bit before we left.
I took lots of pics and made lots of observations. I shall try to paint  some more soon. 

We came across a lovely bar on the beach and met up with others for a few drinks one evening. Here we are, Alice and me, enjoying the evening on the beach.
While we were there there were a couple of wedding preps going on. The French seem to have a lovely routine of pre-wedding traditions, nicer than the "Bucks' and Hens' nights". The girls approached from one end of the beach with baskets of home made goodies which they sold to people like DJ for a euro or two. The men approached from the other end of the beach, having already been through town with drums and hunting horns. I didn't get anything!
As the girls approached from the left the blokes came in from the right.
We are pretty sure that the "bride-in-yellow" and the "groom-in-
superman-stuff" are from the same wedding!
Having fun with the painting knife and stuff,