Thursday, 10 October 2013

Cheese & Chutney

When I was growing up my mum's repertoire of sandwiches consisted of only two varieties and those were cheese or ham.  Sliced tomatoes would liven them up a bit with the addition of a lettuce leaf, a slice of cucumber and a blob of Heinz Salad Cream elevating them into salad territory. I will never forget the dismay when on school trips, of delving into my duffle bag to find the cling filmed warm soggy white medium Mother's Pride cheese and tomato. These waterlogged offerings would be destined for the bin on the way to the cafe and gift shop at Dudley Castle and Zoo to be replaced  with a welcome plate of chips with tomato ketchup. Things started looking up though when she introduced Cheese and Branston to the menu and sometimes she would sneak in Cheese & Piccalilli (not keen!)  Nowadays though the humble Cheese & Pickle sarnie has been transformed with the advent of gourmet pickles and chutneys turning up at food festivals and farmers' markets with all kinds of combinations of ingredients on offer. I can never resist buying a couple of jars at these events so consequently have a bulging storecupboard of them getting ever nearer  their eat by dates. Needless to say Cheese & Pickle is the regular sandwich filling in my household or I should say Cheese & Caramelised Onion with Garlic Chutney which is one of the ones currently open and taking up space in my fridge along with all the other jars we are told to refrigerate after opening and is that really necessary I often wonder.  I can't be the only one with a fridge so full of jars there is hardly any room left for the food (don't get me started on that little bugbear).  The point of all this is that as a member of Solihull Embroiderers' Guild we were invited to exhibit our work at the Cheese & Pickle Festival at the beautiful National Trust property Coughton Court.

We had two great days there promoting our branch and all things embroidery. Saturday was brilliant as we were outside in the sunshine but the heavens opened on the Sunday and we had to retreat to the house which was no bad thing as we were able to exhibit and stitch rather appropriately in the Blue Drawing Room.

Coughton Court has been the home of the Throckmorton family since 1409 so while I was there got the chance of a little explore around the house....

and gardens......

and discovered a sculpture trail of over 250 exhibits.....

and not forgetting the Cheese & Pickle Festival......

and yes I did buy a couple more jars of pickle to add to my chutney stash. Well I couldn't resist!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Solihull Art Trail 2013

Last weekend saw another successful Solihull Art Trail with 9 venues dotted across the borough and a total of 18 participating artists all members of Solihull Artists' Forum.   The Art Trail gives visitors the chance to see artists up close and personal, working in their own studios and houses, giving demos, talking about  techniques and their inspiration with the opportunity to buy artworks. 

In recent years I have been a regular visitor to the Art Trail but this year was my first as a participating artist. I shared a venue with textile designer/maker Kathryn Pettitt and painter and ceramicist Paula Hamilton with Kathryn kindly transforming her house and beautiful garden in Knowle into Venue No 7 on the Art Trail.

Kathryn's girl cave studio at the bottom of the garden

We had some lovely weather over the two days which enabled us to display our work in the garden unlike last year when rain stopped play causing the gazebo to collapse in a soggy heap. 

Molly guarding our precious artworks  

Copious quantities of tea and coffee were served to our many visitors along with home made chocolate brownies and cookies baked by Paula and myself. Kathryn's two dogs Buster and Molly, and Paula's dog Ellie moseyed about the garden charming our visitors as did Mike, Kathryn's lovely chatty husband who kept everyone entertained but who also lent a hand with the washing up and keeping the cuppas, cakes and cookies coming. (I have to say though Mike, I can still only score you 4 out of 10 for your coffee).   

Paula doing battle with her easel
All in all another successful Art Trail weekend spent with lots of visitors and generally having a great time outside in the sunshine playing with the dogs and feasting on cookies and cake. It was lots of fun and I will certainly take part in it again next year.

Paula's family of ceramic birds

Kathryn's mosaic dog (from her Sustaining the Person Within exhibition)

Kathryn's woolly cat (from Sustaining The Person Within exhibition) in front of the Lilliput House - lucky hens!

Kathryn's cat looking a bit wound up

Kathryn's textile artworks 

Paula in the Conservatory with the Dagger

Jacqui in the Dining Room with the Sewing Machine
Many thanks to all our friends and visitors who supported us by coming to see us with commendations going to those who were tenacious and dedicated enough to try and visit all 9 venues along the trail. Also many thanks to Kathryn and Mike for their hard work in setting the venue up and lending me and Paula their house and beautiful garden for the weekend.  Same time again next year then guys!