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Royal Ascot Ladies’ Day – The Fashions

So, our day started well – six of us met at Templecombe station, cracked open the champagne on the platform and caught the 9.45 to Reading for the first leg of our train journey to Ascot.

Two stops in (Tisbury) someone laughingly asked if we’d all got our tickets. Mr. H-L and I thought each other was joking when we both said “No”.

Oops.

This is us after alighting at Tisbury, ready to catch the next train back to Templecombe. Luckily, a friend had a house key and popped in to collect the tickets. She dropped them off at the ticket office for us to save time as we had got a lift to the station and had no means of getting home.


Having caught the next train, we were only an hour behind. Of course, all the food and champagne had gone on ahead with our friends, so we had to try and recreate the excitement with Pringles and Prosecco bought on the train.

We’d opted to travel First Class so it was no problem. We got chatting to a few other race-goers on the two and a half hour journey and two changes of train.


And at least we’d got our tickets!!


Safely in by 1pm, we had time for proper bubbly before the Royal Procession at 2 o’clock.


Bubbles were flowing like a river and everyone was having a great time, gearing up to the first race at 2.30.


We ambled over to the parade ring in time to watch the Royal Carriages arrive. Queenie looked radiant in cerise, although Prince Phillip was too ill to accompany her this year so Prince Andrew is sat next to her.


And then the action began!

We had our race card and picked this patriotic-looking bookie with which to place our bets.


We won some, we lost some. The viewing is great despite the thousands of people as the huge screen means you don’t miss a thing, which is otherwise possible despite the horses thundering past just a few yards away as the photo below illustrates.


On to the fashions of the day. Our party of six scrubbed up pretty well, I think.

These are two close friends who feature a lot on the blog.


Another friend who joined us for the first time this year.


Lovely Ruth from the USA was in England for just a week and her first day coincided with Royal Ascot, an event that was on her bucket list – AND she even got to see the Queen! She was one happy American!


And, of course, you’ve already seen pictures of The Mister and Me.


Dress codes are slightly less formal in the Queen Anne Enclosure, but there were plenty of gents still choosing top hat and tails.

Yes, that is a man touting Stella Artois by the pint in a barrel on his back.


Three piece suits seemed to be the most popular mens’ attire by far, and there were a surprising number of different looks.


How about this bright red one, scarlet right down to the matching shoes and trilby!


More variations on formal menswear, some good……



….and some not so good!



As for the ladies, hmmm.

A few got it very right and embraced the elegant, classy look that Ascot is famous for.






A lot more were almost there, but missed the fact that hemlines should ideally be knee length or lower.


Some girls thought bodycon Lycra was an appropriate choice!


But, unfortunately, there were far too many girls in their early twenties who just didn’t get it. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph them, but this press photo from Aintree races gives you the gist. More like “Barbie Goes To The Races”.


The hats were incredible as usual.



Although not my thing, fascinators were a very popular choice with many ladies. A massive hat wins every time for me:)

The six races were over all too soon, then it was off to do the traditional singing around the bandstand at 6pm.



Just time to nip into the shop before heading back to the train.


There was even a mobile seller with Cuban cigars.


The fifteen minute walk back to the station saw the majority of ladies in flip flops, hobbling after a day in ill-fitting-but-gorgeous shoes. Not me – I kept mine on all the way home!


First Class was full to bursting on the return journey, but we were fortunate enough to get seats on all three changes of train.

On this leg, the carriage was silent until The Mister pipes up at the top of his voice “SWEET CAR-O-LINE….!” And the rest of the carriage finished it with “…..Bah, bah, bah!” What followed was a spontaneous rendition of all the other songs that had just been sung around the bandstand that continued until the next change of train – great finish to a fabulous day!!


I’m already thinking about next year’s dress – we’re going to upgrade to fine dining so an even posher dress could be on the cards. 

Any suggestions gratefully received!


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Wedding Anniversary Mini-Break

We made a conscious decision to spend as much time as possible together after Mr H-L was ill a few years ago, and going away for our wedding anniversary every year is part of that. This year, we chose to stay in England and booked Wilton Court in Ross-On-Wye, close to the Welsh border, a five star Elizabethan hotel dating from 1500.


Being a good husband, Mr H-L insisted on the best room, so this was our bedroom for three nights. All low beams and creaky floorboards, it was lovely and cosy and very hard to force yourself out of bed in the mornings – good job breakfast was served until 10am!


Situated right on the banks of the River Wye, the views from our room were breathtaking. Watching a pair of swans fly in and glide on to the water in absolute synchronisation was a treat. That’s out hotel, just right of centre.


A bit of a grainy mirror selfie on our first night, but you get the idea. We made it even more special by dressing up to the nines every night for dinner – I actually took three different frocks so I didn’t have to wear the same one twice!


Suffice to say that the food was incredible – here are a couple of the starters, just two of the many dishes we devoured over the course of three days.


Venison and Black Pudding Scotch Eggs – wow!


Mr H-L’s shirt matched the flowers at breakfast the next morning.


We decided to leave the car at the hotel and explore on foot after breakfast. It was just a twenty minute walk into Ross-on-Wye and, luckily, the rain held off all day for us.

This notice made me laugh – not much of a display to boast about at the moment as the flowerbeds were totally empty!


How’s this for a tiny front garden to make you look twice? Pink cushions and matching pink gravel.


There is lots of interesting architecture in Ross, if that floats your boat like it does mine. All fascinating stuff – and this pub had a huge piece of art outside the front in the form of a fish sculpture.


No, not the crumbling walls of ancient city walls at all – this was built in the 19th century to look like ruins!


If you like browsing through antique and vintage shops, you’d love the ones in Ross. ‘Elizabethan House Antiques’ was the perfect building in which to house antiques, being over 500 years old itself.

Yep, that’s me about to go inside as the Mister quickly hides his wallet.


On the first floor, the floors and walls were all over the place. Can you see how the window is leaning out? It’s not just the camera making it look that wonky – it really does lean that far from upright.


A glass of fizz and a prawn cocktail at ‘The Royal‘ was all we dared eat for lunch, knowing that we would be having three courses for supper.

Relaxing in the library back at the hotel. It’s a small room with not much natural light, but doesn’t the black make it feel cosy as opposed to gloomy?


Champagne and canapés before dinner. Well, there were canapés, but we’d eaten them at this point!


The following day Mr H-L drove us forty minutes to the other side of the county to visit the Chase Distillery as he’s a fan of their gins and vodkas. It was a Sunday and he hadn’t rung to see if they were open. 

They weren’t.

So we headed to Hay-on-Wye instead, a town we’d been planning on visiting anyway. Of course, we had to sample the cider and fizz in a local pub, as well as the pork scratchings!

As we’d saved ourselves for dinner again by not having lunch, we were ready to demolish all that was laid in front of us that evening, including these five local cheeses.


A record, even for us, to each have five different drinks on the go at the same time!!


Heading back on Bank Holiday Monday, we took the scenic route following the River Wye and stopped to explore Tintern Castle, which is actually ancient monastic ruins dating from around 1100.

In order to delay going home for as long as possible, we picked The Boys up and took them out for lunch with the family.

The Boys recently decided that they’d like suits “Like Daddy’s” – how cute?!


This was just a starter!!


No, I’m not bored of champagne yet:)


Finally, it was back to normality on Tuesday…….but just for a day!

Our actual wedding anniversary was on Wednesday, so Mr H-L insisted on taking me out to Holbrook House for lunch on the day itself.

My red dress has been out a lot this past week.


More amazing food and a wonderful way to end a fantastic few days.


Or so I thought, until we got back home to find these on the doorstep.



I assumed they were from the husband, but it turns out he was as surprised as me to see them sitting there.

On reading the card, we found out that they were sent by the jewellers from which my darling hubby had bought me an incredible anniversary present.

If you love watches, then you’ll know what was inside this iconic green box.


I’m one lucky lady, that’s for sure!!


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Yarn Shopping In Amsterdam

I was just catching up on some blogs when one particular post by Zeens and Roger struck a chord. Rosina has just come back from a weekend in Amsterdam and it reminded me that I never blogged about my trip there back in December, so I thought “Better late than never” – and here it is!

Mr. H-L works for a Dutch company which is based just outside Amsterdam and he travels there on a regular basis. Back in early December I decided to join him, but with plans for something a little more exciting than business. I contacted a fellow blogger, Marianne Dekkers-Roos who blogs at MaRRose, and we arranged to meet at my hotel about half an hour after our flight landed. She was already there waiting for me by the time we got to our hotel!


Marianne is just lovely – and very tall, as are all the Dutch so it would seem! After a quick coffee, we hopped into Marianne’s car and drove the short journey into Amsterdam.

I gratefully accepted Marianne’s offer of the scenic route past some of the more historic parts of the city. A dull day doesn’t show the palace off at its best, but what struck me was how it blends into the other buildings (it used to be the town hall) and isn’t sealed off from the public at all. I know it’s not a place of residence for the Dutch royal family any more, but official occasions are still held there and I would have thought security would be more of an issue.


Having been before, I didn’t take many photographs, but still admired the distinctive architecture that tells you that you can only be in The Netherlands.


The Amsterdam Light Festival had started the previous day, running until mid January. Described as “A Winter festival of light, art and water”, we were treated to some fabulous displays on our walk through the city.


As it was the 2nd of December, Christmas decorations were everywhere, but this one was particularly spectacular, spanning as it did through three floors of a shopping centre!


On to the main purpose of our visit – yarn shopping!

Of course, the first stop HAD to be the famous Stephen & Penelope’s, run by Stephen West and Maria Joseph (no, not Penelope!).

What a shop!! 

Skeins of luxury yarn in every shade imaginable and in row after row of highly organised colour. Stephen’s inimitable designs were showcased and, tempted though I was to buy this book, I knew the likelihood of my making anything from it was low.

The shop goes back around the corner as well so this is just a portion of what’s on offer.


In fact there was SO much that it was a bit overwhelming and, as I didn’t have a project in mind, I didn’t actually buy any yarn.

BIG mistake – I have regretted it ever since!!

I did, however, succumb to the charms of this beautiful book about brioche knitting. It certainly is a lovely book, although I have yet to try the brioche stitch, let alone make a scarf out of it.


I also bought these needle gauges – they were on my list before I left England. How cute?


Obviously, I needed to buy a project bag to carry them home in.


Our next stop was Hooks and Yarns which had not been open very long at the time of our visit. If you go, don’t be put off by the Dutch language website as they speak good English and are very friendly.


The style of decor was very modern – stark concrete and exposed steelwork which contrasted brilliantly against the softness and bright colours of the yarn. Resident dog behind the stair gate!


I can’t remember the names of the owners, but they were so friendly and hospitable that they insisted we stayed for coffee and we ended up chatting for over an hour!


Marianne dropped me back at my hotel later that afternoon and we said goodbye. Did I mention that she has a book on crochet coming out soon? Look out for it – it’s sure to be fantastic.


The following morning I ventured out alone whilst hubby went to another day of meetings. The local shopping mall was festooned with all things Christmassy – Sinterklass’ companion Black Pete being a Dutch tradition.

I found some crocheted stools for sale.

I wasn’t tempted, but isn’t this display a good one?


I found a quiet spot for a nice cup of tea.

Look at the selection I was offered!


This was my little haul from the shopping mall – did you spot the buttons that I put in my Stitching Santa parcel?


Back at the hotel again, I sampled a few G+Ts whilst waiting for the husband to finish work.


Finally, at the airport we had supper before our flight. See the tablet on the table? That’s how you order nowadays, apparently!


You make your selection which you can add to at anytime, and it’s brought over to you. Simple, but brilliant.

A few days at home, then we flew to Lapland…..another trip that I must get around to blogging about eventually….


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Sunday Sevens #122

1. Last Sunday, 26th March, was Mother’s Day in the UK, and I was given these beautiful tulips by my children.


2. They came in this lovely jug with a rustic heart motif on the front which, unfortunately, hasn’t photographed very well.


3. A lovely Sunday roast with the family at our local pub.


4. I’m ferrying No.1 Son to and from his physio appointments since his knee op. Progress is good and he should be able to drive again in a week or two. Luckily, his job allows him to work largely from home otherwise he would have had to take six weeks off.


5. Did you spot a dog curled up on a cushion in the photo above? Apparently, a soft velvet sofa isn’t quite good enough for our two Yorkies. They prefer to fashion individual nests out of the feather cushions. 


6. Mr. H-L choosing something appropriate from the wine menu to go with his fish pie and my blade of beef when we went out for a pub lunch midweek.


7. Friday night was my nephew’s 18th birthday and it just so happened that a band was playing in their local pub.


8. The day after the night before……pie and mash to soak up the previous evening’s excesses. 


9. I went in to buy three 50p sheets of felt and then saw this set of garden furniture in the garden centre…….


10. ………yep, quite happy with the way it now looks in our garden!


11. Mr. H-L put on his best pinny and did himself proud with a barbecue.


12. The perfect way to christen the new furniture – invite some good friends around to enjoy the barbecue with us!


13. You may have noticed the lack of anything crafty in this week’s post. In fact, progress on the socks went backwards as I had to frog a whole evening’s work back to an earlier mistake before picking up the stitches and trying again – infuriating.


Linking up with Natalie from Threads & Bobbins, Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series showing your week in seven-ish photos.


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Sunday Sevens #102

Time for another Sunday Sevens as organised by Nat at Threads & Bobbins . Not that we’ve heard much from Nat lately – where are you Nat, we miss you?

  1.  Working on the lacy border for the Baby shawl commission that I’ve been slogging away at for a few months. Baby was due yesterday and I’ve run out of time! Trouble is, I get a numb bum if I sit for more than two hours at a time, so I can’t knit it any faster.

2. Whilst I’m still in my Summer linens and flip flops, I’m looking ahead to more typical Autumn weather and thinking about what to wear on the chillier days to come. I’m making the main view in orange and brown Ponte Roma – very seasonal colours. It’s actually a dress which looks like a skirt and top and I reckon it’ll get a lot of wear as it’s as comfortable as a tracksuit but MUCH smarter for everyday use. In fact, I’ve already got plans for a second one in different colours.

3. I finally got around to buying some spray starch for all those crocheted daisies that I made back in July. What a difference it makes. These are going to be a garland for my upcycled oak dresser.

4. As you probably know, I cook a LOT, so should be pretty good by now. However, cakes are not my forté – they always taste great….but look rubbish. Not this time! I used this Carrot Cake  recipe and followed it to the letter and it actually rose!

5. I doubled up on the icing so that I could put some in the middle, too, and topped it off with the grated zest of an orange.

6. Here’s what’s left of it on the far right after a friend hosted a very successful charity MacMillan Coffee Morning during which over £200 was raised!

7. My iPhone 5s is currently residing in a bag of rice. Why? Dear husband left it in his trouser pocket and it went through a wash cycle. I think it’s too far gone to dry out in a bag of rice. I’ve got 18 months left on the contract and no phone so you can imagine how cross I was. Anyone got a spare one…..?!

8. No.1 Son took a snap of the harvest lunch (as I no longer have a camera phone…). It was taken at the end when people had started to leave  so you’ll have to believe me when I say the hall was full and it was a lovely atmosphere.

9. And finally……#stitchingsanta 2016 has started! Click on this link to sign up and take part this year.

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Knitted Lace Cardigan

Just after Christmas, after months of making things for other people, I had the urge to knit something for myself.

I love Artesano (and was gutted to find out recently that they have gone into receivership – another independant yarn shop gone) and I found this lace cardigan pattern on their website, for free, no less. Here’s the link – download it while you can as I assume the website will be offline soon: – free lace cardigan pattern

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The suggested yarn was their Alpaca Silk Lace, so I went ahead and treated myself to four skeins of ‘French Rose’.

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The lace pattern is a simple repeating pattern and, although I lost concentration and made a few mistakes, the pattern is quite loose so they don’t show at all.

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Fast forward to May and the goal was to take it to Spain as a light cover up in the evenings. Well, the knitting was finished in time….but not stitched together, so I took all four panels with me with the intention of finishing it on the first day or two of our holiday.

I blocked it.

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I even sewed it together.

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Then it came back to England with me and I forgot all about it until the other day.

Re-discovered underneath several WIPs in my lovely sewing cabinet, I dragged it out and sat down, determined to make the flowers there and then.

Look, matching nails and dress, too:)

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Half an hour later, the flowers were completed and all that was left to do was the chain cord that would act as a buttonhole, joining the two flowers.making-cord-chainknitted-chain-cord

Finally…….Tadah!

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It’s quite special as cardigans go, so I thought I’d glam it up with a pair of designer mules for the photos.

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I love the scalloped edge at the bottom.

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It’s so easy to wear and not at all restrictive.

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The pattern calls for twelve knitted roses dotted about on various seams, but I left it at two, on the front opening edge.

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I slapped on a matching lippy and met hubby for a drink at lunchtime and he loved it. Or was it the heels…….?

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Chalk Painted Dresser Makeover

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to buy this solid oak dresser on eBay for just £96.00.

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Now, I know there’s nothing wrong with it and it is, indeed, a beautiful piece of furniture just as it is, but I had plans to paint it.

We have a large kitchen diner with a LOT of wood in it, so yet another ‘heavy’ piece was never going to look right. I spent months searching for the right dresser at the right price and the right size and eventually found this modern one, which was beautifully made and really solid.

Mr H-L drove for over an hour to go and collect it and wasn’t particularly happy about it being painted, but resigned himself to the fact that I was going to, anyway. What he DID object to, though, was that I wanted him to chop a section of the dresser out, in order to fit our coffee machine in.

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I won that debate, too:)

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Having used Annie Sloan and Rustoleum chalk paint successfully in the past (guest room makeover), I opted for ‘Bleu Clair’ by Autentico, purely because they had the exact shade of blue that I was looking for.

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The main reason that I chose chalk paint in the first place is that there is no need for preparation on most surfaces – you just slap it on.

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Two coats are usually needed for good coverage, especially when covering dark with light.

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When the paint was totally dry, a coat of finishing wax was rubbed in and buffed to a sheen to protect the surfaces.

I’m told it takes a month to cure completely, so be careful until then. It’s been over a month now, and the finish is still blemish free.

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With a bit of determination (for which, read ‘impatience’), I managed to get two coats of paint and a coat of wax on in just one day.

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Then I left it for a month.

Or two.

And decided that the knobs had to go.

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I dug out four wooden knobs leftover from the kitchen cabinet doors and painted them with two coats of ‘Walnut’ wood stain and a coat of Matt varnish.

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Now they match the kitchen units.

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So this is the finished article, brightening up the other end of the kitchen part of the room, and I have to say that I’m very pleased with it.

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The coffee station works brilliantly with everything in one place – all I need now are some beautiful mugs to hang on the new hooks we installed.

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Turn around 180 degrees and this is what greets you, so you can see that both the style and the colour work really well as a whole.

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Before and after: –

I love it both ways, but it just sits in our kitchen better now it’s painted and if I ever change my mind, it should be easy to get dipped back to the plain oak.

What do YOU think – love, or loathe?