Anyway, the flight was great (annoying kid aside. not ours, we left ours behind with my parents), we exited passport control in record time, faffed about with the luggage a little and then lost an hour at the car rental place... there were 24 people in front of us.
And then rain.
We're staying for the first three nights at the Parker Hotel.
Very funky. Designed by Jonathan Adler and full of amazing vintage stuff.
This corridor is a little creepy though, don't you think?
Our room is lovely, and not creepy at all and full of things that I want to take home with me... including a gorgeous tapestry on the wall and this cute pillows
(do you think they'll notice if it disappears?)
Very comfortable bed.
And very cool bathroom covered in tiny round, white tiles and with a large photograph of Richard Burton above the toilette. (Sightly weird that).
Yup, rain again.
What is going on?
Not a day to lazy around the pool, so we jumped in the car and explored.
After lots of shops full of midcentury furniture and 'stuff' that made Mr M very very happy we stumbled on this area full of really cool houses...
I finished Bruce's autobiography. Brilliant Book. Fair enough I might be a teensy weensy bit biased but I really enjoyed it. I made me re-listened to a lot of music I hadn't listened to for years and years.... It was quite... grounding for want of a better word. Like it tightened the connection between my younger, free/dreaming self and my middle aged (let's not kid ourselves here), mother/wife/housewife self.
I am but one an only.
I don't like biography but weirdly and the only three I've ever read have been of musicians: Keith Richards, book club choice. I'm not a Rolling Stone fan, and the one of the crazy singer dude of the Red Hot Chilly Pepper, and I don't like their music either, maybe the book was a present? They were both vaguely interesting in a 'they're-life-could;t-be-more-different-from-mine kind of way.
Mr M and I have finally and very belatedly joined the "homeland" fandom. I think it's safe to say we're obsessed. We watched two or three episode a night... We're only half way series 3 so DON'T say anything. Please.
I've finished No 3's quilt and I'll try photographing it later... I need his 6'2" height to hold it up... and as you know teenagers are not always collaborators, not when 'he's playing a competitive and he'll get banned if he stops'. Whatever. Bloody computer games.
I've started de-constructing the indigo dyed vintage quilt:
The hideous background who didn't take the colour as it's obviously synthetic needs to go and be replaced. It's quite a slow process but I like the fact I'm in no rush and can unpick a little bit now, a little bit later... It's meditative in an otherwise frantic day to day.
I almost don't want to do it quickly.
First day of half-term for us today. It's 9.40 and the boys are all still in bed.
They also brought home their school reports. Some take things less seriously than others:
It's Autumn... and people have started losing stuff:
This week my brain has been working out, and you know what? It feels wonderful. I feel wonderful. Everything is wonderful!
(And I have un umpire for Sunday hockey match which, I totally understand, doesn't mean anything to you but it's been keeping me awake at night and totally stressing me out. But no more.)
I've been to a few events at the Cheltenham Literary Festival and I swear to you it's like my mind has been on holiday... I've been more productive at home, my ironing basket is empty and the laundry pile is at a year low level. There's food in the fridge, I know exactly what I'm going to feed my tribe tonight and the beds are made. It's pizza. It's Friday so it's pizza right, it's what they want and sometimes I give them what they want... I'm nice like that.
The only thing that is 'slightly' out of control is my 'to read' pile
I find it really hard when an author I like talks enthusiastically about his/her book not to buy it afterword. And i'm s sucker for a signed book. By the author that is. Not by 'auntie Mary on your 13th birthday' kind signature, the one that you find in second hand books, although they can be funny too.
First event I attended was Maggie O' Farrell. Brilliant. She seemed very unaffected, approachable, smart, funny. The type of woman you can imagine sitting at your table and have a good chat with. Pleasantly surprised as I had NO idea of what she could be like. Incidentally The disappearing act of Esme Lennox is a fabulous book.
Then I went to see Graham Swift. I'm not sure why. I'd seen him before, talking about his book 'Last orders'. I'm not sure I liked it. This time he talked about 'Mothering Sunday', which I've just finished and enjoyed very much. He's very English, very certain of his intellectual capacity and I'm not sure he enjoys the public talks as much as tries to portrays. Probably not good for a dinner party (although I'm sure there's more to him that meets he eye, occasionally some good dry English humour escaped his well tight persona), but very good for a train journey. Does that make sense?
This was followed by an extremely enjoyable hour with Jonathan Safran Foer. Intense young man. (I say young... a couple of years younger than me!). I'd only read one boo of his, 'Extremely loud and incredible close' which I though was absolutely great. I look forward to his other two books. Plus his autographs are really cool.
Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things but to use my wise grandma's wise phrase... 'it all adds flavour to the soup'.
Yesterday I attended two more events. The first one was about Turner, the great English landscape painter; it could appear as a random choice but I knew nothing about Turner and now I do, a little more, so that's a win win for me. No I didn't buy one of his painting... can you imagine that?
And last night I sat in on a talk about 'The great American novel' and it was fascinating.
My 'reading in English career' (career? you know what I mean) started when I was 18 and was spending the summer in Milwaukee (which I only knew it existed because of Laverne and Shirley) at my American sister's house. My first ever book in English? 'Misery' by Stephen King.
Whatever. (It's a very good book though).
Since then I've always been fond and enjoyed more the 'American' voices in all it's various tones, and I left after last night with a long list of books I apparently must ready.
Last week I decided to tidy up my desktop of all the bookmarks clutter accumulated during the last few years and stumbled upon this video:
... I think it was around the time I bought a serger and fancied myself as being able to use it!
Anyway, the starts must have been aligned in the right way because I decided to watch the video there and then and then even act on it. I cleared my table, grabbed this really cute striped jersey fabric and followed the instructions.
Which are great. The instructions are simple and I learned a lot (how to use the zigzag on jersey and how to attach the elastic straight onto the waistband). I didn't even use the serger but my trusty Bernina and the result was this:
... which looks ok, feels great (so very soft) BUT it's so badly made is hilarious. The fabric was very very thin so I had to double it.. and as a consequence even cutting it was a nightmare. Not to mention sewing through 4 layers of slippery jersey material. I'll wear it, don't you worry.... let's just hope nobody looks to closely.
I loved the whole pattern and I decided that what I needed was the right fabric and because the project only needs one yard I took myself to the fabric shop without feeling guilty.
And I made this:
(yeah, Lilli was a great help...)
£6.00, it cost me. How fab is that???
This time I used a much thicker jersey (not sweatshirt weight though) and I'm so very pleased. They might look the same, but trust me, they're not. Straight seams and hems do make a big difference.
I was amazed at how quickly these can be made. And they're so comfortable. And they're highly addictive... And I already have a red/white strip piece of fabric ready to replace the dodgy one... And I'm on the look out for 'winter' colours.
When I was young my mum used to tell me off because I read 'too much' and I had to go off to do... 'something else'. That was her suggestion: stop reading and go do something else.
Helpful, right?... And totally hilarious now that she says the same thing to my kids replacing books with phone. You're on the phone too much, go and do something else.
History always repeats itself.
(Also my mother has a smart phone, an Instagram account and must have been the 4th person in the world to join Facebook. Just saying...
The last book I finished was this one:
It was a birthday present and I wasn't sure about it at first. The writer 'Sasa Stanisic', was born in Visegrad (Bosnia) just like the narrator, and just like the narrator moved to Germany as a teenager refugee during the war. I don't know how much of the book is autobiographical... I haven't been able to find out.
The story is not linear at all and it took me awhile to piece together the characters and who was who and when the action was happening etc. I struggled at first, but I was compelled to carry on by the quirky language and in the end I loved it. Maybe things clicked in my head and I 'got it'... I don't know but I'm so glad I persevered.
The story is loosely based around the time of the Bosnian war, the narrator is a boy who talks about his family scattered by the war and his town destroyed by it. Atrocities are mentioned almost in passing so much so that at times I had to go back and make sure that I'd read it correctly.
It's different, the style, the language... all of it. Different. I'm glad I was given it. Worth a try if you fancy something different.
Next up (who am I kidding I'm already 50 pages into it is this...
... and love it... let's face it... Bruce is a legend, right?
The thing is I've just had a very stressful hour and I'm still a little frazzled.
Why? You may ask... let me tell you .... One thing that you might not know about me is that I get dates wrong.
And I don't mean I miss birthdays or important dates (I'm good at remembering those)... no I mean I book things on the wrong day, or I forget I booked something and don't show up, or I book it on the right date and write it down in my diary on the wrong night so I still miss it...
I mean... I don't do this 'all the time' (now that would be worrying)... just frequently enough that it's getting noticeable. (Drives Mr M slightly mad. Just a little bit...)
So this afternoon my mother called me and tells me the flights I booked for her and dad to come and look after the boys when Mr M and I go to Palm Spring at the end of the month... are the wrong way around... the outbound flight on the inbound date and vice versa.
It's all sorted now but Mr M's eyes are still in the back of his head he rolled them so much...
Anyway, back to food.
I love cookery books.
Recently I had a little tidy up and got rid of the ones I know I'll never use (and put the left over in some sort of colour coordinate order - which btw will change as soon as I'll finish writing this post, it's just not right) and leafed through the others.
I found this one I didn't even know I had?! A present? It's brilliant so why hasn't it ever been used?
I'm not very good nor very confident in cooking meat but the boys love it so I picked a recipe and got to work
Ribs. Who doesn't love ribs, right?
And the results?
It kind of proved my point about cooking meat. It's never as easy as it seems.
The recipe for the sauce was great and tasted delicious... The meat was... hard.
Was it the meat's fault? A bad piece? I followed the recipe but maybe I went wrong somewhere? The wrong sort of ribs?
I don't know, The boys ate them because they're feral and rather than eating the braised courgettes they'd have eaten the chairs but still, I was a little disappointed.
Tonight we'll try another new thing:
"Violetta" potatoes to be precise.
I'm going to mash them... they should make a lovely lilac mash which tastes the same as the normal one.
(Although it'll clash terribly with the green beans and the salmon... oh well)
Drove the kids to the school bus, drove back, cleared the kitchen, filled the dishwasher, made my bed, emptied the drier, emptied the washing machine, filled the drier, filled the washing machine.
Took my big car to be serviced and got a tiny car in return for the day which was soooooo hard to get in and out after the double exercise classes of yesterday it wasn't funny at all.
Not one bit. I must have looked like a right idiot taking 45 seconds each time
Then I went to the supermarket because apparently the universe might have imploded without Nutella for another day... obvs.
Then I drove to school (45 min of roadworks) to pick up No 3 and take him to the specialist for his back. He's fine. He'll live. He's most excited to have an MRI scan in a couple of days. Weird child.
Then I drove him back to school (45 min of roadworks) and did my 'Italian lesson' to the pupils and teachers who are going to Florence next month.
Then I grabbed (figuratively speaking of course) No 2 from the same school and took him (45 min of roadworks) to fracture clinic where they put him in a 'soft cast' which we'll be able to remove without supervision or doctor checking in 5 weeks.
What if it's not fixed? of badly fixed? or not fixed enough?
The doctor did NOT look like a doctor. I know, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover... but I've seen bin men dressed smarter. Call me old fashioned, but... sweaty forehead and creased t-shirts? Yuck.
Then I dropped him back home and I drove to the bus stop to pick up the other two.
Back home for home cooked Bolognese pasta (... she says smugly)... and THEN back to school for a meeting (45 min of roadworks).
I was dead.
The dog didn't get walked, but I did remove my make up before bed.
And I did finish the book... which is totally brilliant until the last two pages then... well I'd like to say it's genius and I just don't get it... but actually it's probably just wrong and nonsensical and the author had lost the plot...
Read it and let me know what you think. I'm seriously interested.
In the morning I put my body through TWO exercise classes because I'm a klutz who can't even manage her diary obviously. Oh boy. Let's just say that if anybody mentions 'planks' or 'burpees' in my presence I won't be responsible for my actions. (Truth be known that not much will actually happen because I'm way too sore to do anything meaningful at all).
I then attended TWO school meetings TWO hours apart and had to go back home in between and feed my children some dubiously nutritionally balanced microwave lasagne for dinner.
Italian mother's guilt and all that followed, but I told myself that it could be put down to a life-lesson for when they'll be in college and let's face it... they will most definitively not be cooking lasagne from scratch.
The 'smell' certainly brought me back to my student days!! Alarmingly Tesco still sells lasagne ready meal for £1.00 a pack. That is an increase of only 0.01 pence since 1995. That can't be right... right? It's scary. Either we were over charged (if you'd tasted them you'd see the irony of this statement) or today's price/ingredients should be investigated. For real.
So two classes, two meetings, one visit from the cabinet maker, one from the glazier, one from the builder/contractor. Numerous coffees were brewed for all of them. The dog was walked.
The hem was sewn on the Esme tunic from yesterday's post.
I went to bed without taking my mascara off which is as bad as feeding the precious fruits of loins microwave food.
I also started this book:
After my' two Popes in one day' day I couldn't resist it. It's intriguing.
And don't you love a book with the bookmark/ribbon thingy? What can I say... I'm easily pleased!
The whole world has been raving about the Esme tunic pattern, why wasn't I listening? After all the two Esme tops I sewed last spring have been on rotation ever since.
Anyway, it's done.
Drum roll please.....
slightly creased but it's linen (linen mix?), right?
Navy. Love navy, especially with my new burgundy tights...
.. I know... not for the faint hearted... and maybe a little too short - note to self add a couple of inches due to age restrictions, one must adhere to conventions a little when ones is approaching middle age. Apparently. Or not. Hence the tights (I also like to see my kids roll their eyes... it's fun!)
It's a really easy pattern and if you're not interrupted by visits to the emergency department and making coffee for the glaziers (see yesterday's post) you can sew it up in an afternoon, easily. I did the small size and like I said I'd probably like to add a little to the length next time. And try it in a slightly heavier fabric for Autumn.
(I can't for the life of me remembering where the fabric is from... )
Now what? Do I dare sewing the Owyn pants? Have you tried them? Thumbs up? Down?)
No 2 broke his arm yesterday, on the 2nd minute of his 2nd rugby match of the season. Buckle fracture, cast and no contact sports for 6 to 8 weeks.
It is going to be fun.
He's already bored out of his mind, and we're only a day into the sentence... it totally feels like a sentence... for me... you have no idea what it's going to be like to have No 2 off sports. It will be ugly..
I took him and No 3 for a quick ran around on top of the hill. It was windy and crispy (bloody cold actually) and he chilled out a little.
Did I mention he also broke a window this afternoon?
Apparently he was trying to open it and it was stuck and his knee slipped, .... I know... don't ask... why was a knee involved? I really don't want to know, I'm trying to be all zen about it.
He was sorry.
And to be honest... he's had a pretty horrid week... his favourite art teacher resigned, he broke his arm and then the window... I couldn't go heavy on the lad.
It was a beautiful evening and the wind definitively blew away all the cobwebs.
Now I'm waiting for the chicken to cook with a glass of white wine by my side... here's to a better week to come!
It's a total sign of sisterly love to accompany your sibling to IKEA on a Saturday to buy a sofa. AND to load the 49674385 boxes to make up the aforementioned sofa in the back of your car (who knew sofas came in boxes? Not me. Life is full of surprises). Because clearly... it's not the best day to visit the place. Not unless you want to park 65KM away from the door. Not unless you like screaming children. To be honest I felt like screaming at times too.
But the sofa was perfect - you couldn't have fitted another tea-light in the back of my car if you'd tried - and I found a very pretty toilette roll holder so that the loo roll won't have to live on the handle of the toilette brush anymore. Mr M will be pleased, he didn't like the toilette paper on top of the toilette brush at all. Me? I have other fish to fry.
Like the laundry, which I swear multiplies exponentially day by day. I don't actually know what exponentially means (I used to... it resonates a little), but it sounds like A LOT and I have A LOT of laundry.
So the reason we went to IKEA is that my little sister is moving back here to live in the same city and I'm very excited.
Changing the subject somewhat I went to Pilates for the second time today (I'm so unfit I can barely press the keyboard keys) and tomorrow I have an induction to the gym. I kind of fear for my life but hey... danger is my middle name... not. It's more like "I'd rather be sitting on the sofa knitting' actually.
More than anything I ran out of excuses, even to myself and I'm excellent at making excuses to myself for not doing something... so we'll see. (she says munching on sourdough toast and literally licking the butternut squash soup bowl)
Boys are well, getting used to the new routine is hard, getting them out of bed in the morning is getting as hard as achieving peace in the middle east... we're operating on a cease fire at a time. At any one time there's one out of the three that doesn't want to move, or leave the school bag behind, or the swim bag behind... or the blazer on the bus... etc etc.
No 1 has a bad back and is awaiting a visit to the specialist. He's not very talkative at the moment. He's also 15 1/2.
No 2 was completely thrilled about the launch of GoPro drone 'karma' today. How is that going to impact on his life I have no idea. He will not get one of those for Christmas.
No 3 burst into tears half way through a bowl of cereals and announced he'd lost his 'conduct card', which they must carry at all time and gets signed by teachers if they forget their homework, or don't have the right stuff with them etc. The irony was totally missed on him. Not in the mood.
Unfortunately quite a few were in a state of disrepair... we've been away a lot this summer and the care bestowed onto them varied from obsessive watering (the house sitter drowned quite a few... we need to have a chat about succulent and cacti me and him) to oops I forgot that was there (think death valley).
So armed with a list I searched for suitable replacements.
First up: maiden ferns. I so love them... but I just kill them with my love. All-the-bloody-time.
They replaced the cadavers in the conservatory (don't worry, no direct sunlight hits them. Not that it made any difference to the other lot).
Then I replanted the three little Arabia pots I found at a charity shop a few years back that live on a shelf above the kitchen sink,
I have no idea what these pretty little things are called, or how mahoosive they'll grow to. Or not.
My botanical knowledge is scarce at best, but I think it's really poor when they sell plants without a name label, how are we supposed to learn?
Then I bought another anonymous weirdo plant which now resides in an old candle pot and replaces a boggy succulent. Sad actually. I loved that plant.
Then I got sucked into buying a whole tray of cyclamens, what can I say, I can't resist them. (The boys think the leaves are 'rude' and so the 'willy plant' is tucked away out of sight).
The conservatory is been taken over...
but I don't mind.
Now I need to do something on the front door... what can I do?
I spent the morning catching up with the ironing whilst watching "inside British Vogue" on iplayer and dreaming of Mr M and I next vacation (sans boys, if you must know... )
Needless to say I can't wait.
I've booked an architectural tour and my American sister will fly in from San Diego (her husband has a pilot's licence, how cool is that!) to spend a day with us... but I need more! I want cool places to shop and eating recommendations. What should we not miss?
The theme of the holiday is well described by the candle on the table ... part of the new range of products by Mr M's company for 'Zoella'.
We're going to chillax (don't tell the boys I said that, it's not a cool word. Sooooo last year) by the pool and drink Martinis. I'm quite partial to Martinis in my old age.
I've had this quilt for years. Probably seven or eight... it was an impulse eBay purchase (don't tell me you've never done that!) and the original idea was to turn into a pair of curtains.
Well, that never happened... I liked it... but it would have been a little to shabby-chic for my taste and needed mending (which also never happened btw) so it lived in a box for a few years, and then on the 'baby feeding glider' which now resides in my study/studio/office/room.
I knew it was too good to be a dog blanket (sorry Lilli) and I toyed with the idea of cutting it up into table runners, or place mats, or even pillows... but but but...
nothing... 'resonated', no ideas felt right. You know?
So the other day off it went into the washing machine with some Dylon indigo dye and the rest its history (for a while I though my washing machine was going to be history too... ahem... I might have used a tad too much dye... maybe... perhaps...).
Because not all the hexagons are 100% cotton some took the dye in different ways and the result is even better than I could have imagined.
I so love this now.
You can see that some of the hexagons are totally shredded, those I'll unstitch and replace with some indigo dyed fabric I have. Also the hexagon top is simply appliquéd onto a big sheet that turned purple and just doesn't feel right...
See? I can unpick all the red thread quite easily and then add a new backing (probably one of the vintage sheets I dyed this summer when in Tuscany.
As part of the 'finishing-itis that's been afflicting me recently I introduce you to a new winter hat. Because that is exactly what you want when the country is gripped by an unseasonal heat wave, right?
Also, it only just occurred to me that this second Norby Hat is in blue like the first one was.
This second Norby has been knitted in a gorgeous Plucky Knitter yarn kindly gifted to me by the lovely Kristina. I'm not sure what happened to the first one either...
(gosh I hate my nose... it's enormous from this angle... sigh)
(must replant that horrible plastic vase)
(must learn to take selfies)
Anyway, it's a lovely lovely pattern and fits well, even though I knitted a couple of extra repeats distracted by the television.
A part from a flurry of behind the scene activities life with three kids at secondary school is taking shape.
I've signed on for a Pilate class every Monday. (I'm so out of shape that even the beginners class might be a tad hard)
The scaffolding that have covered our house since the beginning of summer are finally coming down... (as I type)
The dog refuses to go for walk and only wants to go across the road to the square and then runs back.
I've fallen down twice in less than a week.... the first time I slipped on a tree root that had lifted the paving on the sidewalk. I have the right knee of a three year old. The second time I completely missed a step and plummeted (slight exaggeration) to the floor. Badly bruised pride and a slightly sore ankle.
I'm totally procrastinating taking tonnes of cardboard to the dump... blah.
Yesterday I labelled clothes for two hours and ironed 18 school shirts. The irony of unpacking totally wrinkled 'non-iron' shirt didn't escape me. I'm hoping they'll emerge smoother from the washing machine in the coming weeks.
School starts tomorrow and for first time in four years they'll all be in the same place. Bless the lord.
Same holidays, same timings, same Christmas service...
My attention is being turned to the silly numbers of half-finished projects AND to the long list of projects I've been intending to attempt for months... I'm being realistic and I know there's no way I can finish them all BEFORE starting new ones, BUT I have a ticked off a few this summer. Two table runners, a shawl and a hat are ready for the drumroll.
It must be the September air. The smell of new pencils and the feel of new paper... (I miss going to school. I really do)... September is one of my favourite months, still warm but with a hint of chill in the air, shorter days, golden afternoons... (October is a bit more of a drag, November is awful and December is always bonkers...)
Anyway, first drumroll is for this experimental indigo table runner.
It's made with scraps that got thrown in the dye vat at the last minute and it was a case of randomly sewing pieces together and go from there.
Once again the crosshatch quilt shows its face... I can't get tired of it. Yes, it's bold... but I wanted to get an utilitarian feel here and hopefully this does it.
We don't use a table cloth and the table runners on our table protects from heat and spillages when hot plates and pots and pans are placed on it. They get washed and dried regularly and have to withstand a lot of use. I like it like that.
It'll go in the shop when I can find the big camera and take decent shots... who knows where it is (although I suspect fowl play here).
(I also need to soak this a little more to get rid of the soluble pen marks!)
Tucked away in a tiny side road next to the Roman Forum in the centre of Rome there's a Franciscan convent. High up, under the eaves with glorious views of Rome and the Colosseum there's an artist studio.
Sidival Fila is from Brazil. He's a Franciscan. But he's also an artist.
An amazing artist whose work is sold all over the world
He uses handwoven antique linen for his art. He dyes his own thread. His works are big but strangely intimate, they evoke emotions, tension and at the same time calm.
I was smitten.
I'm not good at talking about art... it's all about the emotional response for me and his work got me.
(that, and his insane pile of antique linens... sigh)