Friday, 22 July 2011

Giffords Circus

On Monday night we were all very excited to finally see the Gifford's Circus show, we've been meaning to go for the last couple of years, but with the girls now being 7 & 5, it seemed a perfect time, old enough to sit still (sort of!) and not too old to be disapproving of anything that isn't 'digital'.

Every year the show has a different theme and 2011's was to be 'War and Peace', I will admit to being a bit sceptical about this, a bit too depressing and high-brow?
Well I needn't have worried, the story telling was succint and flowed nicely, interspersed cleverly with the wondrous talents of the performers.

Upon arriving at the show ground, Barrington in our case, you're greeted with the charming old fashioned site of lots of beuatifully maintained trucks and trailers, like something out of an Enid Blyton book.  The organ was playing, the big top rose out of the field like it had stood there all year and there was a lovely community feeling, I wondered if it was more like a travelling family than just a group of touring performers.

Inside the tent, it was surprisingly light and beautifully arranged, being claustrophobic I was a little apprehensive that it would be dark and that I'd feel crammed in.

The performers were all so talented, everyone seemed to almost double up, as actors and fabulous musicians, the size of the band was just wonderful, lots of saxophones, trumpets, violins, drums etc.
And all the costumes?!  Well they were my favourite, all perfect detail, from choice of fabric to style and all seemingly suited for quick changes!

 Lots of horses, which pleased my eldest, each scene change happened seamlessly and Tweedy the clown helped gel everything together in a light and child friendly way, I would like to reassure you that he is not one of those tacky colourful cliche's but rather an endearing entertainer and both my girls thought he was thoroughly silly and very funny!

 This fabulous acrobat was here alluding to be a comet, referenced I presume in the book (apologies, I haven't read the book or even know the story, I shall have to rectify that) and her performance was breathtaking, seeing it up close you could really appreciate the skill and physical prowess needed.

 Yes, she did jump through the ring of fire!

Here is Napolean, who did a nifty bit of knife throwing too.

The fire jugglers were just astounding, I didn't want to watch at times as it was quite tense!  Seeing this sort of performance live just can't be matched on television.

 I'm so glad we went, the girls really enjoyed it and have talked about their favourite bits all the next day, I really would recommend it to all ages.  It only tours locally around Gloucestershire and the South West usually but it's well worth tracking them down, I think we need more of this sort of entertainment on offer, especially for kids to be able to enjoy and realise that entertainment doesn't have to mean switching on the TV.  Their website has more info and great images.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Sunday was eagerly awaited in our neck of the woods as our local working farm museum (which was closed in 2009 due to council budget cuts) was due to re-open under a new charitable trust.

Cogges Manor Farm was opened to the public in 1974 as a working museum, a Victorian farm with livestock, a manor house and lots of demonstrations, from cooking to milking to steam threshing days.
It had been popular as a local venue for families and school excursions, so when it was announced that it was to be moth-balled, it really felt like such a waste.  I remember going in my youth and then loved taking my kids there too, it was a familiar place for them, their Grandparents lived just down the road and used to take them almost weekly in the summer, so just being able to go back in was like greeting an old friend.

These pictures make it look a bit quiet but actually it was fuller than I'd seen it for a long time which was really great to see.
All the barns were open and the main purpose of the opening was to publicise the fact that it would not be running as a farm to begin with but as a local venue for a farmers market and a brand new cafe with good food.

There was a lovely mix of food sellers, from bread to veg, to sushi to cheeses (full list on the Cogges website)

Some of the open barns (where they used to display old farming equipment) had been changed to be a lovely area for kids play, with art and craft tables

a beautiful mock playroom and even a mud pie making kitchen!

The Manor house was open (not the upper rooms sadly) and the popular kitchen was full of people, warmth and cooked biscuit aroma!

The old dairy, which is so cool and dark, is filled with all the original butter & cheese making equipment, I'm almost tempted to have a go at butter making.  The girls could relate to this as we've recently read the 'Willow Farm' series by Enid Blyton which describes most of the process involved and how the children of the farm would help.

I was really pleased to see the kitchen garden has been brought back up to be carefully tended, as during the closed period it had been left to go wild.  One of the aims of the trust is to get school children in to learn about organic farming and the cycle of food from earth to table, so there is a little children's garden too.

I never get tired of looking at the house, the sun came out in bursts and it really brings the building alive.  There was a lovely atmosphere too, lots of local people keen to support and keep it open.

'The Real Food Cafe' 
This is a new enterprise to use the site in a different way, it's being run by the people behind Oxfordshire's Natural Bread Company and will be open Tues- Sun 10-5pm, offering good food and drinks.  I think they're also keen to have a few evening openings with guest chef's.

I think the day went really well and I hope it continues.  The website lists the opening times and season ticket charges.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Quick Lick of Paint

I got these nice corner shelves from the charity warehouse a few weeks back for only £4, they were covered in thick varnish so I thought rather than sanding them back I'd try out some Annie Sloan chalk paint on them. I got a little pot from 'The Old Pill Factory', for about £5 and after a deciding on which colour to choose (it took a while!) I went for the duck egg blue.

I was very impressed, the paint was lovely and thick so it only needed one coat and I've still got loads left in the pot for another project.  I was done in about 10 minutes and now I can use it straight away, rather than having a long labourious sanding/waxing task!

 All I need now is to get the OH to put it up!

The next task will be this peg rail, I was hoping to sand back but I think now I may use more of the Annie Sloan!

I've also finished the Ercol plate rack I picked up months ago - the sanding and waxing was a long process for me! I'll try and get some pics soon but I'm still waiting for it to be put up, if only I was trusted with the power tools!

Friday, 1 July 2011


 While we were on holiday it was my Mum's birthday, so before going I was desperately trying to finish the handmade gifts I'd started.
First off was this felt Japanese cherry cake, I got the pattern from 'The Softies Kit' which I got at a charity shop ages ago, it's by Akiyo Kato and it came together quite quickly.

 Secondly, was this shopping bag kit from 'Hamble & Jemima', which I found at my local yarn/sewing shop.
All the bits needed are supplied and the Scottie dog fabric is fabulous.  The instructions were quite simple and it sewed up quite quickly.
The only difficulties I found were that no seam allowance was stated, the handles are quite wide and there was no guidance on the best placement of them, I think I've put mine a bit too far apart.  I also cut the bag rectangles differently, the instructions state to cut a back and front rectangle separately and then sew together along the two sides and bottom but I cut it on the fold, so that I'd only have to sew the sides and hopefully make the bottom more durable too.

I'm pleased to say that they both went down very well!