Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Day Out: Bournville and Library of Birmingham

Just returned from a great weekend dropping Albert back at uni. Whilst there we had a look around Bournville - it was free to look around many of the buildings because it was Heritage Open weekend. Bournville is a model village for the workers of Cadbury based on higher housing and living standards with larger open spaces and free sports facilities.


This is the Rest House in the village green at Bournville, paid for by the Cadbury workers for the silver wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs Cadbury.  Can you imagine that happening these days?


We also visited Selly Manor Musuem which is a really interesting house. I love the espalier fruit trees in the garden - something I would love to grow in my own.


Back to the centre of Birmingham, we visited the Library of Birmingham which is an amazing building. I have wanted to explore it since glimpsing the roof terrace when we were in Birmingham at Christmas.


However, the main roof terrace was just a small taste of something much better...the Secret Garden a few floors above and far more secluded! The smell of the herbs was quite intoxicating.


And obviously, being a book lover, the inside of the library was like heaven for me!


Love
Mrs Jones x






Friday, 8 September 2017

Books: July and August 2017

My summer reads were all pretty dark, with the exception of a bit of light relief in Santa Montefiore. 


Burmese Days by George Orwell
I began July with this classic Orwell about the ill fated Flory in Burma whose only real friend is a native doctor at a time when racism and bigotry is rife. The portrayal of the vile orphaned Elizabeth Lackersteen who is brought to Burma to find a husband was wonderful. I found it hard to know whether to feel sorry for Flory or bloody frustrated that he was such a weak man!

Plague: A Cross on the Door by Ann Turnbull
Quelle horreur! I downloaded this audiobook from the library thinking it would be quite a dark listen. Three or four commutes later, it ended. Only after, did it dawn on me that this was a kid's book! 

Canada by Richard Ford
I began reading this following my return from Toronto. This is one of those books which has more impact after you have finished reading it - it stays with you. A great story which is laid out right from the start as being about a bank robbery followed by murder...but not as you know it. The narrative follows the son of the bank robbers as his innocence is lost living under the bizarre and violent influence of Arthur Remlinger in Canada.

The Believers by Zoe Heller
Quite a gripping tale from the author of Notes from a Scandal, this time a family saga as famous lawyer and womaniser, Joel Litvinoff lies in a coma, and how this becomes a catalyst for change for the adult children and finally his stubborn wife, Audrey.

The Italian Matchmaker by Santa Montefiore
I started this shortly after starting my new job as some light relief. Not the kind of book I usually go for but finished it in just a few days and was the perfect antidote to a busy new job. The descriptions of the Italian resort were heavenly, especially the palazzo and the lemon groves. A light love story with a smattering of the supernatural.

What have you read this Summer - any recommendations?

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Home: Dining Room Refresh

We are finally tackling some of the long overdue decorating jobs in our house. My husband (bless him) has spent a fair portion of his summer holiday decorating the lounge and dining room. I am particularly pleased with the dining room.

After


The location of the dining room is in the apex between kitchen and lounge, and also holds the only doors to the back garden, so has become more of a thoroughfare over the years. 

Before

We have played with the furniture in this room over the years, adding a rocking chair, a subbuteo board (don't even ask) and a bookcase which just looked awful in there. It is a dark room, and although this seems contrary to perceived wisdom, I opted for dark paint colours: if the light isn't there in the first, let's just embrace dark and dramatic!




The walls are painted in Dulux Pebble Shore and Sapphire Salute. The latter is the only wall which I painted - I have a steadier hand! I love the blue - it gives good coverage and the colour is really rich.



I fell in love with this picture as I walked past the shop window. It's from a new shop in Bridgwater which sells a range of new and refurbished furniture and furnishings (see below).

Love how the colour from the kitchen goes so well with the dining room.

Carpets will be ordered shortly...and shortly after that, Atticus will probably trash them...

Who me?

Love Mrs Jones x

Sources: 
Furniture: The Old Creamery (not new)
Lamp: B&Q (not new)
Curtains: Dunelm 

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-Long 2017 - Homestead and Round the Corner

Trying to catch up with these quilt-a-long blocks whilst also working hard and starting a new course (CIH Level 4 in Housing)! Anyway, I do love being busy!


The Homestead block (May) is the turquoise block with a slightly floral pattern and was really easy to sew up after the hideousness of the Star and Cross. However, just to throw a spanner in the works, the  June block (Round the Corner) also involved about a million minuscule pieces - enough to drive me round the bend (see what I did there)!! Not sure if anyone else has found this, but this block finishes at a smaller size?!


So, at the halfway point, I thought I would reflect on the blocks I have already made by laying them out together. I am actually really happy with the colours and I am particularly pleased that I added the mustard into the mix.

To date, all the fabric I have used has been from my stash - very satisfying. I have just bought a sumptuous fat quarter of a grey Alison Glass fabric for the next block though. It may have just jumped into my basket when I bought some fabric for a quilt I will be shortly starting for Fred!

So, I bought the new Lloyd and Lola pattern by Elizabeth Hartman (two fabulous llamas) to make into a big quilt for Fred. It's totally different to what I have made before but I can't wait to start.

Love Mrs Jones X


Day Out: Mapperton House & Garden

I visited Mapperton House in Dorset a few weeks back with my family. The house has been used as a film location many times, most recently in the Carey Mulligan version of Far From the Madding Crowd.


It is a beautiful house and you can have a guided tour inside which we opted to do. There is some amazing history related to the collection in the house which contains the diaries of Samuel Pepys and Captain Cook.


But, for me, the most interesting part was the Italianate garden, which is in a coombe to the rear of the house.


It is laid out so beautifully with arbours and fountains and statues galore. Each way you turn, you happen upon something else to catch your eye. You can imagine wandering down with your gin and tonic and watching the sun set!



The house is currently occupied by the Montagu family (the Earl of Sandwich, whose ancestor famously was too busy for lunch so just asked for a piece of beef between two slices of bread!) and the tour guides are often surprised at something unexpected that the boys have placed in a room!!


There is also a lovely cafe on site, obviously I opted for a sandwich, albeit smoked salmon, not beef. Mapperton House is a beautiful location and well worth a visit, although quite expensive - we paid approximately £70 for entry and lunch for four of us. 

Love Mrs Jones x









Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Books: May & June 2017 Reads




The Rescue by Anita Shreve
This was such an entertaining listen for me. A paramedic is called to the scene of an accident involving a woman driving under the influence, and falls in love. However, her alcohol dependency has a huge impact on their fate together, and also that of their daughter. I will definitely be checking out more of Anita Shreve's books.

Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris
This is one of those stories where there are five pretty ordinary characters and how the same event impacts on their lives. It was an interesting read but some of the ways that the characters crossed paths became a little too unbelievable.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
This has been on my "To Read" pile for a while but I caught the end of a program on Radio 4 about it that prompted me to start reading it. It highlights the struggles of a number of Indian immigrants (legal and illegal) in their determination to survive and thrive in the UK for the sake of their families back home. There are some really gruelling parts to this novel but without a doubt it is an absolutely brilliant read.

Not Quite Nice by Celia Imrie
This is the kind of book which I would never buy for myself (it was a gift) but usually really enjoy and this is no exception. I picked it up after a day in hospital and read it pretty much in one sitting. A very light but engaging read about an older woman moving to Nice to escape her vile daughter, and her capers with the other ex pats there.

Love Mrs Jones X

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Bake: Vanilla and Blueberry Buns

I bought a blueberry bush three or four years ago, and finally it has borne enough fruit for me to not only have with melon for breakfast but also to bake with! It was a toss up between a blueberry and white chocolate loaf cake and these. It was the marzipan that won me over.


Vanilla and Blueberry Buns
Golden buns with a hint of cinnamon and swirled with marzipan and home grown blueberries with a sugar glaze.

The recipe is by Bronte Aurell and the original version can be found here on the Waitrose website. I made a few tweaks :
  • replaced the ground cardamom with 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • I didn't weigh the blueberries, I suspect I had less than the recipe requested
  • I omitted the toasted flaked almonds, at the request of Fred (good job really, because I didn't have any anyway)!



Once rolled out and filled with berries, I froze half. The recipe makes 16 buns - even I am not that greedy! 

I ate mine warm and sticky with the glaze. Absolutely delicious.

Love Mrs Jones X

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-long 2017 - Star and Cross and Quilt Barn Trail

The Fat Quarter Shop's April block, Star and Cross, was one of the most fiddly and complicated I think I have ever sewn. We are talking little patches of fabric 1 1/2 inches square!! No wonder it took me so long to finish them.



However, they do look really pretty and I am glad I went for a solid mustard fabric given the scale of the block pattern.


It's always so much easier when I have help!!

This has put me a bit behind, but thankfully block 5 is much more straightforward. My other blocks are here: one, two and three.



Whilst I was in Canada earlier this month, we started to follow the Ryde Quilt Barn Trail in Muskoka. I have never heard of a quilt barn trail before, so was intrigued. Unfortunately, shortly into the trail the road was closed so we only spotted four of the barns.


Does anyone know of any quilt barn trails in the UK?

Love Mrs Jones x

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Sewn: Burda 04/2017-117 Cutout Bias Dress

It has been a long time since I have sewn a garment for myself (the last thing was a dressing gown nearly two years ago). I got a bit annoyed that I kept changing size/shape so I stopped. However, I have recently discovered Handmade by Carolyn's blog and this really inspired me to have another go. She uses a variety of patterns and makes everything - even down to tights and shoes

I fell in love with this bias cut dress in the April 2017 Burda Magazine and with in no time I was raiding my stash to find something to make it in. The fabric was given to me by a lovely colleague and I think it is a polycotton. 




Size
The Burda pattern is in a Tall Size range, but even though I am short, I do have quite a long torso, so I cut the size 80 (which is a UK 14). I am a shop size 12 but my measurements suited the 14 better. The dress has a roomier fit in the bust but the waist is fine.



Alterations
I couldn't find an invisible zip at the correct length and so used an ordinary one. I also lengthened the skirt, which seems crazy for a tall size, but I prefer it that way! 

Try a Caesar in Canada (a bit like a Bloody Mary)!


I always find the Burda instructions a little confusing (much prefer a little helpful diagram) and couldn't even see a mention of joining the shoulders together [edit: just spotted it now - I could have sworn it wasn't there!]. It was also a bit hazy about attaching the lining at the back, however I just finished it off by hand.



Conclusion
Love the dress so much and have worn it several times and had some compliments to boot. I even took it on my recent holiday to Canada ... last seen cycling the Toronto harbourside (above)!

Love Mrs Jones x

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Books: March & April Reads



A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. At over 700 pages, and with a gruelling backstory of appalling childhood abuse, it is not for the faint hearted. It reminded me a little of Donna Tartt's The Secret History, in so far as the main characters meet at university. Just a heads up, I sobbed almost solidly through the final 100 pages of this novel.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
Another brilliant novel: I listened to this one on my commute, and the narrator was absolutely superb with the different characters' voices. This centres around a private investigator in a hunt for a missing adult in a gypsy community. There are some brilliant twists in this tale.

The Trap by Melanie Raabe
I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book. The story unfolds at quite a rate and is a quick read but I either didn't like the writer's style or the translation. The plot - an author planning to lure her sister's killer into a trap is pretty intriguing, but I won't be seeking out any more of her novels.

The Gathering by Anne Enright
The wonderful Irish tones of Fiona Shaw reading this frank story about the death of Liam, one member of a large family is very engaging. The death dredges up stories of the family over generations and childhood mysteries as they prepare to gather for the funeral.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Although I enjoyed it, I'm not quite sure why this book got all the attention it did - am I the only one to think this? I think that the three main female characters were all pretty interchangeable (versions of each other under slightly different circumstances) - maybe this was the point? The interminable drinking was enough to make me not want to drink again!

An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro
This was an absolute dud for me. Again, I listened to this one, but the narrator was wooden, and to be honest so was the story. Disappointing.

Love Mrs Jones X

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-long 2017 - Box in a Box

I never seem to make enough time for sewing these days, although I have just managed to finish the March blocks from The Fat Quarter Shop's Make a Wish quilt.


The March pattern was Box in a box, which is really nice and easy and looks pretty striking. As I said before, I am trying to use up my scraps as far as possible and so continued this with this block. I think I used all these fabrics in the Retro Boys Quilt.

It doesn't seem to matter how many scraps I think I am using, they don't seem to be disappearing very fast! I can't even remember the last time I indulged in some fabric shopping!

Love Mrs Jones X

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-long 2017 - Diamond Panes

In January I posted my first batch of blocks in the Fat Quarter Shop Quiltalong 2017. Tomorrow, the March block pattern is released, so I thought I would show my progress to date.


February's block is Diamond Panes. Although I have sewn HST quilts before, see here and here, I have never done it with this method of sandwiching two squares together (I have always used my Sizzix HST template). It does make the process pretty simple.


So, six diamond pane blocks completed. I'm still not wholly sure where I am going with the colour palette on this because I am trying to use scraps as far as possible. I am leaning towards green, blue and grey but I recently saw some lovely quilts with mauve in the mix which is also pretty tempting!


Here are my blocks so far. Any colour suggestions?

Love Mrs Jones x



Sunday, 26 February 2017

Books: January & February 2017



The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
My first read of 2017, was one that had been on my "to read" pile for a while. I wanted something snowy and wintery to read for the New Year and this hits the spot. It follows the journeys of Mrs Ross, her son and various members of the village following the mysterious death of Laurent Jammett. It contains both murder and mystery but is not a conventional murder mystery!

Stef is a wonderful story teller, and I am really pleased to have discovered her. I am about to start listening to The Invisible Ones.

Coffin Road by Peter May
This is the kind of book I would never select myself but was recommended it by my Dad, and surprisingly I was hooked from the first page. A man washes up on a Scottish island with no memory of who or what he was before. I loved his quest to find out who he was, particularly when the signs point to the fact that he may have had a sinister past.

The Lower River by Paul Theroux
I loved Mosquito Coast and I was hoping that this would be similar. In a way it is, but took a while to really launch into the story. Ellis Hock is nearing retirement, his wife has divorced him and his daughter has abandoned him. He sets off to return to a better life in Malawi, where he spent a wonderful few years as a young man building a school. However, when he returns, all isn't as his rose tinted spectacles remembers. 

There is real darkness to this book as he becomes trapped in the village and there is an ongoing power struggle between him and Manyenga. I didn't find Ellis a very likeable character and (without revealing too much) you do wonder whether he gets what he deserves. 

Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks
I am a fan of Sebastian Faulks, but this one isn't one of his best. An elderly Psychiatrist, Pereira, who fought with his father in the Great War asks Robert Hendricks to be his literary executor. Robert fought in WWII but had refused to unlock his memories of it. However, his visits with Pereira become the catalyst for him to remember his love and battle stories from that time. 

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
Unfortunately, this was another dud for me. I wonder whether it was the narrator on my audio version but given the story, it just didn't grip me like it should have. This is the life of Shostakovich who falls out of favour with the Stalin government, is reprieved from execution and subsequently becomes their puppet. 

In other news, I was told by my Physio that reading in bed is really bad for the neck and back, which is a complete shocker for me as that is when the majority of my reading gets done. It is something to do with the angle of the neck and pressure of holding the book.

So, what have you been reading lately?
Love
Mrs Jones X

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Patchwork: Quilt-a-long 2017 - Souvenir of Friendship

The Fat Quarter Shop are hosting a Quilt-a-long in aid of Make a Wish. Block patterns are released on 15th of each month in 2017 (suggested $5 donation).





The first block is called Souvenir of Friendship and is relatively easy to construct once you have got past the idea that the pieces are insanely tiny (1 1/2 inch square anyone?). Having said that, it is an ideal block for using up scraps, which is exactly what I have done. If you are astute, you will recognise that this fabric has been repurposed from this skirt.


There are twelve patterns in total, and you make six blocks of each. Some quilters are using different fabrics for each of their six blocks, but I wanted to keep the same pattern per block. I am hoping to add in some lime greens and greys into the mix.

Love Mrs Jones x










Monday, 23 January 2017

Patchwork: Retro Boys Quilt

This quilt was finished before Christmas (2016 - ha!), but hasn't yet reached its recipient who lives in Kent. I made his twin sister a quilt back in the summer


He had a particular colour palette in mind and I hope I have achieved something fun but not too young either.


The fabrics are a combination of things I had in my stash, combined with Thicket by Gingiber and Nocturne by Janet Clare.


I kept to a fairly simple nine-patch block, but even so, some of my piecing has gone a little awry. I quilted it sparsely with stitch in the ditch (neither me or my machine are really up to anything much more than that), and finished it with no binding because I think it stands up to more vigorous machine washing that way.


I can't wait to meet up with our friends to give this to their son.

Love Mrs Jones x




Sunday, 15 January 2017

Books: The Hits and Misses of 2016

Anyone who knows me well, will know that I always have at least one book on the go at any one time. In 2016, I set myself a Reading Challenge of 24 books, which I actually surpassed. I also started listening to Audio books this year - a great way to spend my hour commute.



Fiction Hits
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes: this seems to be a bit of a Marmite book, but I loved this action packed thriller which no doubt will also make a fantastic film.

The Bees by Laline Paull: set in a beehive, this book about a bee who breaks out of her allocated role is brilliant.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters: a wonderful ghost story.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma: (2015 Man Booker shortlist): the story of four brothers and how they are affected by a curse after fishing in a forbidden river.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: a heart-warming story about a grumpy old man and his neighbourhood which has you laughing one minute and crying the next.

Us by David Nicholls: a couple on the verge of break-up who take their son on a European Grand Tour the summer before he starts uni. I read it in the summer before Albert went to uni so was quite poignant for me.

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes: a very witty book about a man whose life suddenly changes one day due to a medical emergency and the resulting impact it has on his life.

At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier: I love Tracy Chevalier's writing - this is about a dysfunctional family trying to grow apples in the swamps of America.

Fiction Misses
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: This sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird just didn't do it for me. Disappointing.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: The first in a trilogy that I thought I was going to love but actually hated.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy: (2015 Man Booker shortlist) - it was so bad that I can't even remember what it was about. I just remember thinking it was pretentious.

J by Howard Jacobson: (2015 Man Booker shortlist) - I didn't hate this, but struggled to read it. I usually like dystopian novels but not this one.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: (2015 Man Booker Prize Winner) - I tried reading it but resorted to the audiobook but it just didn't do it for me. There were far too many voices and it was just too bloody long!

Fiction: The Rest
The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies: This was a gift and not something I would usually read, but I did really enjoy it.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I enjoyed this book which is about a blind girl hiding a gem in St Malo in WWII, but thought it could have been so much shorter.

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell: I wanted to read this because someone told me it would make me cry. It didn't. Perhaps I read too much, but I found it a bit predictable.

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood: I'm not usually a fan of short stories but the majority of these were great and all a little macabre.

Number 9 Dream by David Mitchell: It was a little difficult to separate the fantasy from the reality in Eiji's narration, but this is a great story.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey: About a lady with dementia who is convinced her friend is missing but uncovers the truth about her sister.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier: This is a great book for quilters!

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper: Etta journeys on foot from her home to the sea and her and Otto's love story enfolds.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood: In a similar vein to Oryx and Crake, another dystopian novel from Atwood. Not quite up to her usual standard.

Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene: This felt very dated - not Graham Greene at his best.

Harvest by Jim Crace: An interesting tale about a new family that settle in the neighbourhood and how this becomes a catalyst for a whole heap of trouble.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler: (2015 Man Booker Shortlist) a good story, but again, Anne Tyler has written better.

The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark: A disturbing little tale about Lise, an office worker who is taking a holiday but turns into something much more sinister.

Non-Fiction
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande: I love a good medical book - absolutely fascinating.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: I watched the brilliant film with Reese Witherspoon before reading this. It was a joy to read of her hike across the Pacific Crest Trail.

So, what were your reading highlights from last year?

Love Mrs Jones x