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Today is my daughter Ellen’s 17th birthday so in honour of that here are a few pictures. We have had a quiet weekend at her request – we went to Nottingham yesterday to visit the Robin Hood exhibition then out for a meal at which this pic of her and Jake was taken.

Ellen and Jake

Today we went for a girlie afternoon trip to the cinema to see ’27 Dresses’ which was very good. Here she is with her birthday cake and her favourite bear with its new outfit which was a birthday present from her friend Charlotte.

Ellen and cake
Ellen’s bear

Ans I know she will probably hate me for this but I couldn’t resist showing you one of her looking cute at 1 day old to go with the rest of these lovely pics – so here she is!

Ellie as a baby

How time flies! Happy birthday darling from all of us.

As I mentioned in my last post I have been collecting textiles from EBay and had just got some beautiful crewelwork. I was on EBay earlier on this week and one of my fave sites to go and browse on had the most wonderful item ever. Normally this seller Antique Textiles and More has some wonderful bits of goldwork and embroidery but this week she had a full priest’s cope in the most wonderful purple fabric with amazing flower embroidery. Well it was on Buy It Now and I had to rescue it ! Just look at these pics and you will see why I am so excited!

Cope 1

Cope 2

It has some wear to the lilies on the back of the cape that I will try and re-stitch but otherwise it is fantastic and I am so looking forward to it arriving – hopefully it will do tomorrow. It is obviously not medieval – the seller had it listed as 19th century and French – but it is still amazing. Most of the other things she sells are only pieces but a whole cope is fantastic. Do go and view her site and have a look as there are some wonderful examples of embroidery there. I can see I will be visiting again for more birthday and Xmas ideas!

I am very into ecclesiastical textiles as befits my role as a nun (see medieval re-enactment page for pics of me in role) and love visiting churches and looking at altar frontals and preists’ garments. This is of course if the children will allow me in churches – I sometimes get limited to one a day unless I can sneak off while they are not looking! As well as the textiles I love looking at the religious art – below is a fantastic piece which is is the cathedral in Oriheula, Spain.

Oriheula cathedral

This following picture was taken in the cathedral in Valencia, Spain which I visited last July.

Valencia cathedral

 As well as the wall art the cathedral in Valencia has the most wonderful ceilings with angels playing musical instruments. This photo only gives you a tiny impression of how magnificent it is.

Valencia ceiling

I bought some prints of the ceiling which I have hung in my bedroom. When we moved house a couple of years ago we decorated the room with a medieval theme so that we could display some of our wonderful textiles, boxes etc – I will post some pics of that at some point.

I have also seen some wonderful textile pieces in museums such as the famous Syon cope which is in the V and A museum in London. Below is a small picture of the cope which really does not do it justice at all.

Syon cope

I have spent some time this week looking for embroidery qualifications to do next year, once I am half time at work and I come back from my trip to Nepal. I have been trying for the last year to find a class that I can attend to do my City and Guilds’ embroidery but cannot find one close enough to home. So I have decided to do a distance learning course and have been doing some research on what is available. If anyone has done this and has any feedback on the course they did please leave a comment as that would be helpful – or if you know of somewhere that teaches it is West Yorkshire.I have found some Creative Textiles classes at local adult education centres that are just for leisure without exams that I will enrol on next year as I find it helps to work with others and share ideas.

I have also treated myself to a wonderful book about the textiles at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire which I have visited many times. Hardwick was the home of Bess of Hardwick a contemporary of Elizabeth 1st and sometime stitching companion of Mary Queen of Scots and is full of the most amazing 16th century embroidery. My new book is a catalogue of the textiles – pic of the cover and link below. I have only just started reading it but it has a wealth of detail about the textiles.

The Embroideries of Hardwick Hall – Santina Levey

Hardwick hall textiles

I also have another book by the same author called an Elizabethan Inheritance which is about the general running of the household and the costs of the textiles. The pic below is just a small sample of the wonderful work that is in the hall so do visit if you can.If not the books are a fab present!

Hardwick Textiles

I have been watching ‘The Tudors’ on DVD which was an Xmas present and we went today to see ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ at the cinema. The costumes for both were so wonderful and I would love the chance to see them so if any knows of any exhibitions please leave a comment. I have just found this web site about ‘The Tudors’ series which has some wonderful images in the gallery if you are interested in this era of costume. I am thinking about doing a piece based around ideas of blackwork and Catherine of Aragon (who is credited with introducing it to England) so as soon as I get the huge pile of marking I have to do finished I will start on the research for that!

I will leave you with two final pictures – one of Maria Doyle Kennedy who I think is fantastic as Catherine of Aragon in the series -

Maria Doyle Kennedy

and one of the Queen herself.

Catherine of Aragon

What I always find rather pleasing (being a woman!) is despite Henry divorcing Catherine in his desperation to get a male heir his second daughter Elizabeth eventually gained the throne and reigned for a very long time, only superseded by Queen Victoria (another woman) who was of course recently beaten in that record by our present Queen Elizabeth. Kind of makes you believe in divine retribution doesn’t it girls!

I hope that you have had a happy day if you have been celebrating. I have had a very good day for lots of reasons.

First of all I got some lovely presents – my daughter had bought me some lovely presents as you can see from the pic below.

Mother’s Day presents

The candles are because I love having candles around the house – not that I light all of them as some are too pretty to burn and the Mrs Beeton cookery books are a very special present which I will say more about later.

I then decided to clean out the cellar – having promised myself a day of just embroidery and relaxing but I was in the mood to declutter and in the process of that we found a lost key and a lost phone so it was very useful. Next weekend it is the turn of the garage which we have some mice in. We have known for a while that we have mice as I was keeping the bird seed in there and it was getting eaten.

We found the nest today but as we were removing the box it was in two of them jumped out so are still somewhere in the garage. Not that I really mind them being there – I felt a bit sorry for them as they had made the sweetest little nest out of old magazines and bubble wrap but we have all of our tents stored in the garage including the expensive medieval ones and all the tapestries and hangings that go in the tent so we don’t really want them nesting in that. We have bought a (humane) trap but they have not been interested.

Ellie and I spent the rest of the day baking as she is having a bake sale at her college on Tuesday to raise funds for her Kosovo project. She is going to Kosovo in July with some other young people from her college to run a summer school for war orphans and they aim to raise about £3,000 through  various activities. One brave volunteer, Will, had his legs waxed last week and they raised about £90 from that. They are also selling books and Ellie has made some handmade cards to sell. Below is a pic of some of the cakes with the Mother’s Day card she made me and a pic of Ellie hard at work icing gingerbread.

CakesEllie icing

I have also finished my charity knitting and I am really pleased with the results – it is the first garment I have knitted for years and I did not have problems with any of the shaping or the neck.

Feed the children jumper

I have also recently acquired two rather wonderful pieces of antique embroidery from E-bay. I have bought a few things before but decided that I wanted to start collecting some things that I could display when I start trading at re-enactment events as a historical embroiderer. I am intending to do this in the not too distant future so have bought the items below.

Crewelwork pictureBed hanging

The crewelwork picture of the Tree of Life is absolutely gorgeous and was quite expensive but is really a museum quality piece – it is just as good as the things I saw on display in my recent visit to Gawthorpe Hall. I really had to battle to win the auction – was even checking bids while we were at the hotel in London! It is now hanging in the hall.

The other piece is not in very good condition but it was cheap and I had to rescue it as it is so sad when things that someone has taken so much time over get left to rot. It has some big holes in the top and smelt of mothballs but basically the rest of it is ok. I’m not sure if it is crewelwork but it is wool stitching on linen in various autumnal colours so I suppose that is the best category for it. I plan to take off the side pieces and remove the damaged area and put new backing on it so that I can use it as a table covering for my one of my display stalls in my trading tent.

Now back to the presents from my daughter which I said were very significant. As well as decluttering the cellar and various cupboards over the last few weeks I have also been sorting out some major re-arrangements of my life. I have been in my current job for the last six years – I work full time as a teacher trainer and anyone who teaches knows that full time really means all the hours God sends and overtime when it gets really busy!

I really enjoy my job but I have to work late till 8 or 9pm two or three evenings a week teaching and meanwhile that leaves me out at work all the time, stressed and tired when I am at home and the poor kids having to fend for themselves a lot of the time. Since they are only going to be around for a few more years (Ellie will be off to Uni in Sept 09) I felt very sad that I was not here especially as she is doing A levels at the moment and Jake starts his GCSEs in Sept.

I have worked full -time since Jake started school and have taught evenings for the last 16 years and like lots of women who are trying to build up their careers I have often had to miss things that they are doing at school as I have been at work. I have had fantastic child minders and my Mum lived down the road for four years till she moved to Spain but there comes a time when there is no substitute for parental support – after all proof reading Classics’ essays and helping with all the ‘what am I going to do with the rest of my life’ questions are not something that you can ask other people to do with your kids.

My job was not going to get any easier and I felt that I was really missing out on ‘quality of life’. I have seen other people at work get ill through being stressed and was always determined that it was not going to happen to me. So I have taken the momentous step of downsizing to a half time post from Sept this year!

Actually once I had made the decision it all seemed to be so clear and I have now had official confirmation from work that it is happening. I hope that everything will be ok for my colleagues as I feel very guilty that I have left half of my teaching and someone will have to be found to do that but I feel very much more relaxed already and very positive about the decision.

Which is where the books come in – I have been saying to Ellie for the last year or so about my desire to do more gardening , bake bread and devote more time to the craft and household activities so bless her she bought me the two Mrs Beeton books for when I go half time. I am really looking forward to being in the house more – I have a really lovely house and garden that I have seemed to be hardly ever in and we have done nothing at the weekends for months (apart from Project Nepal) as I have either been too tired or have been cleaning! So I am really looking forward to my new life in September. I plan to take my City and Guilds embroidery qualifications, as one of the things I would love to do when I retire is to teach embroidery and after Xmas plan to join a local Creative Textiles class at an Adult Education Centre.

I put it down partly down to my age (Ellie is convinced I am having a mid life crisis) and to reading all those lovely blogs from people who are at home and doing things but also that in the last few months we have lost two people from the medieval group – both sudden and very tragic losses and it really does make you put everything in perspective. One was a friend’s daughter, which really made me think about how little time you might have with your family, and the other a friend nearing retirement age who did the same job as me. It made me realise that I did not want to put off having quality time until a few years from now and that money is fine but does not buy you extra time which is what I have been sadly lacking.

So yesterday I went and bought  new baking equipment much to everyone’s amusement ( ‘what is wrong with re-discovering your inner domestic goddess I asked him?’) including a loaf tin for bread making and today I decluttered and baked. Yesterday glamorous, exciting and totally knackering career,  tomorrow (well 1st Sept really)  hello the new me!

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