Hello from Sunday night

This always happens, and, we really should know better.
Towards the end of the summer, Robert and I go a bit mental and take on a huge home project. This weekend we decided to build a carport against the end of the garage and this required chopping down a huge damson plum, moving ton’s of wood and Jaguar car parts out of the way, and general over-the-top energy expenditure.

By Sunday afternoon we were gonners (British for tired/moodswingy/divorce central!).

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We took a walk in one of our favourite places, The Whomping Willow Walk. The Whomping Willow is actually a huge horse chestnut, but Chloe named it that when she was about 9yrs old, and the name stuck. :D

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I tend to trip over four leaf clovers and find them everywhere, but felt lucky to find this one because we usually see deer in this area, and it felt like a good omen to me.

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And just as we walked into the forest, there he was! A beautiful little muntjac deer walked across our path.

We stopped instantly, but he noticed us and bounded into the forest.

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I stood up on a stump and tried to look for him, but he was well camouflaged in the bracken and grasses.
I stood there for some time listening to the bird song and the rustle of the great trees and bracken in the wind.

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Then we walked on, past the thistle sending itself into the forest…

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…and to the Whomping Willow, (which is actually a horse chestnut)…

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…and past the Whomping Willow to the alley of yews.

Someone must have planted these yews years ago. They are so huge and make a dark bower over head. Someone keeps a small, child-like fort under one of the yews. It has a few stumps for a table and chairs and a woven branch roof. Chloe used to pretend it was fairies inviting children to have a play.

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We walked to the end of the yew alley and turned back for home.

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On our way out of the forest, we spied the muntjac grazing in the field. The wind was howling and we were upwind from him, so he didn’t notice us at all. We watched him graze all the way back up the path past the wildflowers.

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And then we drove home.

Sharing with Judith and all the lovelies at Mosaic Monday.

Woodcarving 101, another practical class

You got to love the Victorians, don’t you. They had such a quirky sense of style, or keen sense of humour…which ever way you look at it. It seems to be a combination of ornamentation and colour and pattern and import-anything to the max and then push it a step over the edge and beyond! Like grab anything and everything and especially if it’s imported and expensive, and throw it together, and there you are! :D

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But the heart of ornamental Victorian fancy was probably started a century before, with one man, Grindling Gibbons, (1648-1721), and his contribution to woodcarving.

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I’m such a big fan of art and learning new things and I’ve always admired wood carving.
So when the opportunity came up to take a practical class I jumped at it.

You know, I love the way that some carvings look as though they are floating above the wood beneath. You know what I mean? Look at the holly leaves above. Yeah, like that. That’s what I thought I wanted to try to learn how to do, (in an hour and half!!!). I’ve has a couple requests to show you the practical class in woodcarving, but I had to borrow a friend’s chisels to finish my piece, so sorry it’s coming in so late after Art in Action, but here it is.

The practical class was being offered by a master woodcarver and he brought all the tools for the students to use. You can basically see what you need: a G clamps, mallets, chisels, and a wood vice. And, of course, wood for carving.

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When building a relationship with tools which are capable of slicing thru wood, it’s probably the best idea in the world to learn how to use the tools safely.

The most important rule to remember is both hands on the tools at all times. This is relatively easy if you’re using a chisel in one hand and a mallet in the other, but not so easy if you’re only using the chisel, because, if you’re anything like me, the temptation to move some wood shavings off your piece, or to readjust the piece under the clamp, while you’re working on it is overwhelming. DON’T DO IT!

Always clamp the piece of wood either to your work surface using a G clamp, or into a vice.

This is the hand hold you want to have on your chisel. Chisel away from you, from your body/arms/legs at all times.

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Chisels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As a matter of fact, there used to only be four types of chisels and then the Victorians discovered woodcarving and suddenly dozens of different chisels were in circulation. But actually, you only need about four. They are, a small V wedge for making fine lines, two U shapes (a small and a large one) for gouging out the wood you want to get rid of, and a fishtailed or straight ended one for undercutting or making straight cuts.

Also, chisels with a good steel are a bit on the pricey side, so it’s a good idea to take care of them and keep them in holders so they don’t clank together and dull. It’s also a good idea to take care not to accidentally hit the metal vice with your chisels.

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The wood we used was linden. This is a soft wood and very easy to cut. I hope, if you try this, that you find a lovely piece of linden as your first woodcarving.

I drew a simple leaf design.

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With woodcarving, much like lino or stamps, it’s important to cut on the outside of your drawn line to keep your design the shape you intended. A V shaped chisel makes the best first line in the wood and it’s easy to control.

I had a little trouble at first not burying the chisel in too deep, but soon got the hang of it. If that should happen, just come at the line from the other direction. That will cut the too-deep gauge away and you can crary on.

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Here is my initial first cut line and so far I’ve only used the V shaped chisel.

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The next part is pretty monotonous. With the large U shaped chisel, I cut away the outside-of-my-design wood quite substantially. This took the longest time, and, I soon figured out that the linden wood was so easy to carve that I put the mallet down and simply dug away at the wood holding the chisel with both hands and using a bit of extra pressure. This gave me (and, by now, my shaky, weak hands) a break and more control.

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I kept going down into the wood, further and further until I was happy with the relief of the leaf.

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Now the class was only 10 minutes from ending and I was concerned with learning the next and final steps and so I didn’t stop to take photos. (My bad)

But the next step was to start giving the leaf a real-life contour, and so I drew some contour lines on the leaf; kind of like contour lines on a map might look like, and started trying to imagine and cut away some valleys and hills on the leaf. At this point I must admit that having a leaf there to look at would have been the best thing, but as it is, I imagined how it might bend and lay and tried for that.

Just as the class ended, I asked the instructor to show me quickly how to undercut my leaf so I could continue and finish it at home, and he did. You can just see the beginning of an undercut on my design.

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Here is a closeup of the three chisels I used to get this far in this class, in one and half hours.

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So home at West Cottage, and I borrowed my friend William’s chisels…

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…and started to undercut the leaf. William doesn’t have a fishtailed chisel, but has a flattish one I could use. You can see how I cut into the side of the leaf and to an angle so it goes underneath.

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The next cut comes in from the underneath to (hopefully) meet up with the top cut and take a wedge of wood out. I felt fairly successful with this, but had a problem not really knowing how to handle the tip of my leaf, and so took extra care in that area because it seemed pretty fragile.

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When I thought I did the best job I could, I grabbed a little bit of sandpaper and gave my leaf a brisk sanding. I know I could sand it completely smooth, but I liked the hand-made feel of the chisel marks.

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And here it is, my completed wood carving. It’s not a Gibbons…lol…but I’m pretty proud of it.

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William has given me a piece of maple to have some fun with. I’m looking forward to carving something else now that I’ve got the hang of it! Hope this is a little inspiration for you to try it. It’s not that hard, and it’s very satisfying. :D As soon as I wax or oil this carving I’ll take another photo and show you.

Let me know how you do or if you have any other questions.

WordPress weekly photo challenge: Silhouette

Are you kidding me? :D I love taking photos into the sunlight and getting silhouettes. As a matter of fact, if I could, those would be the only kinds of photos I’d take; that’s how much I love it.

I love the results of shooting into the light, like the boats below.
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But I also love the light itself as a silhouette.

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And my most favourite is capturing silhouettes thru unlikely screens, like leaves and flowers.

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Let me see if I can dig up a sunset shot out of the files. I like those too. :D

For the WordPress weekly photo challenge: Sillouette

Summer’s bounty is all around us

There’s so much abundance around us here in Oxfordshire.

When I drive thru any of the villages around us, I usually find a roadside stand with some freshly picked veggies and flowers and an honesty box requiring you to deposit a pound or two.

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And now people are having that late summer bumper crop that they don’t know what to do with. Do you know what I’m talking about? The other day, in my neighbouring village Appleton, there was a roadside box full of zucchini and marrows and the sign “Free, help yourself” on it. I helped myself to three zucchini.

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At this market, just beside Charlecote Park, I bought an enormous box of tomatoes for £4. That’s about $7. They were grown organically and locally. We’ve been having the most amazing salads, or just eating them fresh with a bit of salt, and they are so good. Don’t you love when tomatoes taste like tomatoes?

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The other day, my friend Elaine brought over a paper bag full of runner beans from her garden. They were gone in no time! It put me in mind of my Vancouver garden and, when I spoke to Chloe yesterday, I gave her a job of harvesting the runner beans, blanching them, and freezing them.

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That’s the most wonderful thing about this time of year, isn’t it? I feel like the little worker ant, from the children’s fable, harvesting and storing the summer’s bounty for the lean, cold days of winter.

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And I wish I could do more! I wish we had a much bigger freezer here in the UK and I could make pies and crumbles till I use up all the cooking apples here in the garden. But I can make a few pots of hedgerow jam because I just spied a ton of ripe blackberries and elderberries out in the fields. Those, plus some of the cooking apples and some damson plums. That combination always make a wonderful jam.

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Last year I canned a ton of cherries in some light syrup and the year before that I canned some peaches that Kerstie brought me. They were so delicious. Each year I also dry some fruit for snacks. Does anyone else do that? I love dried apple slices, although our UK cooking apples are so sour it would be fun watching someone try to eat them dried as a snack…lol. But maybe the Victoria plums might be nice dried. I’m not sure how to do it in the oven, but I imagine there’s a way. In Vancouver I have a food dehydrator that sounds and feels like a blow dryer on low speed. I usually plug it in in the garage overnight so no one has to listen to it.

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But the thing I love so much this time of year are the flowers; it’s like a fireworks explosion! Armloads of dahlias and sweet peas are at most of the roadside stands now and that means I get to have wonderful and fragrant bouquets around me all the time.

Where would we be without late summer dahlias anyway? Aren’t they the queen of the border this time of year?
I hope your summer is bountiful and abundant and you have access to it all. :D

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Hello from Sunday night

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Gosh it’s been such a busy week and I’m extremely behind on commenting and visiting everyone. Come to think of it, it seems like that’s the case with practically everyone out there. :D Are you all enjoying the last couple weeks of summer holidays? I hope so.

Oxfordshire is so golden and beautiful in the late summer and it’s so lovely to be here in the country rather than the city this time of year.

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Robert and I have been trying to get on top of major house and garden projects…like extending the garage and planning a conservatory…as well as getting out to enjoy our world.

Work on the Land Rover is moving along at a snails pace mainly because we keep finding more engine or body work problems, but it’s coming together. We’re almost there for taking the Landi in for its MOT.

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I’ve been sanding, cleaning, patching and repairing the body like crazy, and finally got it to the point where I’m happy to paint it with a rust-proof primer.

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The primer has made a transformation! Now I can paint with the original Land Rover sandstone paint colour it should have been. Yay, progress! All so exciting.

We’ve decided to keep the original face where the vintage tags are on the central panel. I like the little bit of history.

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Not much to report from the art department this week either.

A little more work on the blackbirds. All three fireweeds (willow roseherb in the UK) are drawn in in black India ink and a first layer of colour is in some places. Loads of work left and I better get on with it if I want to show it in the village competition in two weeks.

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I’ve been doing a bit of linocuts and having fun with those, especially since I bought some easy to cut lino form a fantastic on-line company. Gosh, do you know how much I love the whole UK system of buying things on-line and then they come in the next day or two? The whole Royal Mail system is just dynamite!

But the only other piece of art I managed this week is this little bullfinch. He’s been stalking the garden these days. I put him on a page from that old 1918 dictionary with the words “splendid” and “splash”. He is a little splash of splendid colour in the garden.

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We were going to take the mini racing this weekend, but the weather has turned rainy and cool. (Can’t race in the rain) We did, however, find this magic crop tiny mushrooms all over the place. Well then, hello autumn?

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My time here in the UK seems so short now by comparison to when I came here late June and now it seems that I can actually feel the time drawing to an end. I hate feeling the pressure of having to change countries, of leaving Robbie, exactly the same feeling I have when I leave Vancouver and leave my children. Wish I could be in two places at the same time.

Wow, this summer seems to just be flying by. I hate that. Is it just me, or does anyone else have that feeling? When time seems like that to me I have to make a conscious decision to slow down and live in the moment. Every moment. :D

Charlecote park kitchens, laundry and brew house

Oh boy, I was in heaven in these Charlecote park rooms.

As a collector of all things vintage, my heart went all out to everything here and I just wanted to move in. As a matter of fact, I contemplated applying for the volunteer job the lady had in the kitchen, making scones for the children and petting the kitchen cat all day.

Except I’d end up painting in these rooms…lol…I just know it. Great big canvases stood up all along the walls. Might not go over too well with the National Trust.

Anyway, have a look and this incredibly photo-heavy post…but then you already know that’s the standard round here. :D

What follows is the most beautiful vintage house porn you’ve seen in a while, and, if you’re like me and love old copper and black steel and ironstone, let’s move in here together.

You can do the scones and I can paint. ;D

Kitchen:
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Laundry house:
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Brew house:
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WordPress weekly photo challenge: Texture, and Photo Friday with Nature

Do you love oaks?

I do.
Here is a wealth of old oak and texture from tip to root.

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Sharing with WordPress and the weekly photo challenge: Texture and Photo Friday with From Nature

Visiting Charlecote Park

My friend Elaine dropped off a book at the cottage with instructions that I should read it as we shall go visit a great house. The book was The Mistress of Charlecote, the Memoirs of Mary Elizabeth Lucy. And I dutifully read it.

Mary Elizabeth could have stepped right out of a Jane Austin novel. She was the good a dutiful daughter from a well-to-do Welsh family, who was married at 20 to an older George Lucy. She cried and pleaded with her parents against her marriage, but Lucy had a great fortune of £10,000 per year and the estate, and her parents would not be moved. Her mother said, “Love WILL come when you know all of Mr Lucy’s good qualities.” and she did grow to love him, as her mother said she would, and together they had 8 children, (five died), and she lived in his ancestral home till she herself died at a ripe old age.

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The book was an enchanting and, at times, heartbreaking read, and I’ve fallen completely in love with Mary Elizabeth, her husband George, all of the children, and this great house and park she called home.

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The Lucy family have lived in this house since the 13C and have farmed fallow deer on the lands. Now, a herd of about 200 deer roam the park, which was redesigned by Capability Brown in the Victorian times.

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And here is the Tudor house, (with extensive redesigns to Victorian flavour). I’ve taken this photo from the roof of the entrance gate.

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Inside, most of the Tudor is gone, and that whole “throw in as many patterns and colours as possible” Victorian decoration abounds.

This is the sitting room with silk damask wall coverings and Mary Elizabeth’s harp.

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Here is the dining room with silver and furniture gifted to the Lucy’s by Queen Victoria and various other nobles who stayed at the house on holidays. The amazing wallpaper is gilded and flocked.

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Up the grand stairs hallway is a corridor with some bedrooms.

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This was Mary Elizabeth and George’s bedroom, where all four children who were born there died. George also died in that bed.

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Another bedroom.

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Back down the stairs is the grand library. It contains original notes and first editions from Shakespeare! Can you believe it? As well as some illuminated books worth fortunes.

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A formal garden to stroll in overlooking the park.

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And just there, in dark brick, is a Victorian addition holding the grand library. (That is overlooking the formal garden.)

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Just here is the river Dene, which joins the river Avon along another side of the park.

Isn’t this a dream house and park? I still want to show you the kitchens, the brewery and laundry and other lovely Charlecote parts. :D

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The palace next door

It makes me chuckle to say that.

Blenheim is very close to us here in Northmoor. It takes us maybe 10 minutes to drive to it and, they have this terrific scheme for annual passes, that, if you buy a day pass, you can upgrade it to an annual for the same price. How terrific is that? Consequently, R and I have had annual passes for a decade.

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I’m always happy to come here, walk the grounds, have lunch in the cafe and tour the Palace, and I always know that photos aren’t permitted inside the Palace, and so, have only really taken one or two with my iPhone. (When no one was looking)

So, when we walked up to the front entrance and the guard told me that photos are now allowed without the flash…WHAT! You’re kidding me? Hooray! :D

I guess it makes perfect sense. Too many non-English speaking, iPhone toting tourists around.

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Blenheim Palace is an amazing trip down British history, and, believe it or not, a certain fisherman’s daughter named Betty Ridge (1745-1808), who was born and worked on the Thames right here in our village of Northmoor, married into the Blenheim Palace family by marrying Viscount Ashbrook William Flower. My friend Julie Godson wrote the book and, as soon as I finish reading it, I’ll tell you all about it.

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Though most people know that Blenheim was the home of Vanderbilts and Churchills and now it is the home to John George Vanderbilt Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough and his family.

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They don’t live in the public rooms though. These rooms function as a museum and art gallery.

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See that painting above the fireplace? That’s one of my favourites here. It’s Consuelo Vanderbilt (1877-1964). There are loads of paintings and sketches of her around the palace. In all of them she looks very beautiful and elegant and has the most graceful, long neck…like a swan.

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There is so much to look at and take in. This formal dining room has painted plaster walls and ceiling in a giant mural by an 18C painter, Louis Laguerre.

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Even the tiny details are lovely.

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But one of my most favourite rooms is the great library.

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Hundreds and hundreds of books behind these ornate doors. I often spend some time reading the spines and they mostly turn out to be history books, encyclopedias and classic literature.

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It’s good to know that Canada isn’t forgotten. :D

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But the book that intrigued me the most was this little, blue, out-of-place book. Like someone wedged it out of that spot beside the red book to the right, lay it down and wanted to read it. Oh, can you imagine how much self control it took me not to reach in that cupboard and leaf thru it! Especially since the red book beside it says Diary 1898!!!

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Round here

I can’t believe how fast the month of July has trickled thru my fingers!
Where did it go? I also can’t believe that a whole month has past here at West Cottage. Sometimes I wish I could make the time stand still.

Spoke to Chloe today on Skype. I miss that girl of ours so much, but isn’t it a wonderful world we live in that I can see her live whenever I want to? I also love that she’s finally (after I threatened to not renew her web space if she didn’t do something with it), keeping her blog. And, can I just say that her photography skills are so amazing now! She’s got my professional Canon in Van and has learned to use the tripod and timed shutter release and some of the photos are taken that way. But all are taken by her!

So lately I’ve been gardening weeding waging total war on weeds in some pretty impressive heat, while watching the beautiful Oxfordshire skies for approaching thunderstorms, and having silly fun; like raiding Catherine’s pebble drive and collecting odd pebbles and flints and designing prehistoric families. (My prehistoric man had an impressive cod piece for a while but Robbie waved the subtlety flag.) :D

in Oxfordshire

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This morning R had to run some chores just very close to Oxford and so I begged a ride into town. Thursday is the antique market in town and I was dying to visit the map seller. I usually buy a lot of damaged old maps form him that I can paint on.

Things worked out pretty well as R was going to be about an hour, and so we agreed to meet in 50 minutes and I hoofed it the last mile into town. Good thing I did too. The traffic was a morning grid lock and, despite the ridiculous number of students clogging the sidewalk, (for the summer months), I got to the market in ten minutes.

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OMG! So many beautiful things to see! I want to come back and buy some lovely blue and white plates for Kerstie’s collection, and this dress! If I were to get married I’d so chose a 1940s gold embroidered beauty like this rather than any new gown in the world. (Oh, and also have a couple ribs removed to fit into it! LOL)

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But mustn’t get sidetracked by the shiny sparklies. (I swear I’m half magpie)

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Here is what I came for. This wonderful seller has a box of damaged maps. Just perfect for me and my art. I never want to use perfect old maps. I love the broken, ripped, drawn and written on ones. You know, the ones which have a history; which have been loved to pieces.

Unfortunately, before I got to the map bloke, I came past a tool bloke and got seduced by a sexy chisel. I did have £30 to spend, but, after my chisel I only had £24 left. I chose the maps I wanted and explained to the nice map man about how I couldn’t help myself with the chisel and he laughed and said, “Let’s see what you want and I’ll give you a deal.” Then he totalled up my maps, which came to £30, and said he’d take £20 for the lot! Wow! So I went to a used book stall and spent the last £4 on some more maps! Hooray! Now I have loads of maps to paint on. :D

So happy.

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Later this aft, I took a couple of hours to do some work on the blackbirds. I walked out to the fields and picked some fireweeds and drew them around my blackbirds and began painting them in. Lot’s more work to do still, but I like the way this little painting is coming along.

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And, the village flower and veg show is coming up, so I might enter the blackbirds into the painting competition.

So tomorrow is August. Welcome August! I’m settling into the summer grove and loving life.

And speaking of love, I’m crazy in love with the beech forests right now and R has promised me a walk thru them. Can’t wait. But first we’ll go for a walk beside the Whomping Willow, (which is really a huge chestnut, but C called it that about 10 years ago). I love it there. We always see some deer. Actually, I surprised a muntjac deer yesterday evening. He walked out of some tall grass right in front of me, got scared, ran off and barked at me from the trees. Boy are those little creatures loud!

I think I might go for a walk this evening again to see if I can find him under that amazing sliver of a new moon out there. :D

Big hugs to everyone. Hope your last July day is a sunny and warm one filled with beautiful moments.
:D