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March 2010

Deer Valley Quilt

Deer Valley Quilt

by Clare Mansell

Crikey, this is my fourth quilt of the year and it’s still March!

Fabric is Joel Dewberry’s Deer Valley in Azure. I ordered it from America a few weeks ago, cut out a load of charm squares, laid them out on the floor and absolutely hated it… put it all away for a few weeks, then used the fabric to make these cushions and in the process decided I liked it again…

So I rejigged the design and added strips made from a plain Moda jelly roll and completed it.

Now somedays I like it, somedays I don’t… funny how some fabric just has that effect.

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Goodbye greenery….

Goodbye greenery….

by Clare Mansell
 These buds may look promising…
 But this is not the beginning of something…

It is the end….

It may be spring in Cyprus, but although for the rest of the world this is a season of growing and new life, on this island it marks the end of the most fertile time of the year.
In winter, with frequent rain showers and cooler temperatures, Cyprus transforms into a little oasis of green. The dusty sides of the road sprout grass and all sorts of wild flowers pop up in the garden.
But there’s a ticking clock running on all this greenery. As the weather warms up and the sun grows stronger, we are going to see a return to a lot more dust.
Most years there is a hosepipe ban which makes maintaining any sort of lawn impossible. That said this year shouldn’t be the driest – the weather in Cyprus runs on a 10 year cycle, with a dry spell for three to four years, a period where figures are close to the average, and three years of very wet weather. Its that latter period that we are in now, which is why we should escape the hosepipe ban this year.
So we are enjoying the grass – and the weeds – while they last, before my pots become the only source of colour in our garden…
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Banana Bread to Afghanistan

Banana Bread to Afghanistan

by Clare Mansell

Last week I made reference to Jim working on a “cooking project” – I am now able to tell you exactly what that project was…

A colleague of mine and good friend of us both, Jenny Packham, is deployed to Afghanistan at the moment. Shortly before she left Cyprus in February, Jim started making his now legendary banana bread and made her an ambitious promise that he would get some to her while she was in Afghanistan, some way, some how…

Posting it was one option, but unfortunately the military mail from Cyprus goes back to the UK to be sorted before flying back via here to the middle east, which could have meant the banana bread would have taken a week to reach her. Jim considered trying to preserve it in some way by adding alcohol, but a few experiments using sultanas soaked in rum were not entirely successful.

So in the end the solution lay with our military connections. A contact at this end, a contact at that end (which then meant two lots of banana bread had to be sent – a second for the other friend in Camp Bastion!) and the banana bread hitched a lift on a direct flight to Afghanistan from Cyprus last Friday.

Over the weekend while we waited for news it had arrived, it all went ominously quiet, and whilst temperatures in Camp Bastion rose into the 30s, I had visions of the banana bread sitting in a hanger expiring in its cling film.

But, there is a happy ending to this story, because today the banana bread reached its destination…

…and Jenny assures me it has not suffered on its journey!

PS – Coincidentally Jenny also features in an article in the Independent today, do click through if you are interested in finding out more about what she, and the rest of the BFBS operational team do in Afghanistan.

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Hello summer!

Hello summer!

by Clare Mansell

This weekend the weather in Cyprus has been significantly warmer, and although it is only the middle of March, it has suddenly felt like summer has arrived. The temperature in the middle of the day today reached 28c, so the summer clothes are back out again and we are once again eating breakfast on our little terrace at the front of the house.

Coincidentally (or not?) our first two visitors of the summer also booked their trips this weekend and I have another three friends who I’m hoping will visit in June. We still have a fairly small social circle here, so it’s lovely having visitors and it also provides much needed impetus to our garden makeover.

Talking of which, we had an extremely productive shopping trip on Saturday, where we bought a barbecue and some garden furniture. We missed out on a second hand barbecue and some furniture last week, but brilliantly our purchases yesterday actually cost us less than we would have paid for the second hand stuff and I prefer it. The furniture will be delivered tomorrow, whilst Jim is on a course at the other end of the island, so I may attempt to assemble it myself…

This weekend also involved the usual things. Cushions…

(This pair are for a BARC raffle next week. The fabric is Joel Dewberry’s Deer Valley in Azure)
(This one is my husband’s special request made from fabric he brought back from a detachment to Kenya in 2008)
Lunch at the mess in the sunshine…

With the first Brandy Sours of the summer…

And taking excitable dogs to the beach…

Hope you also had a good weekend wherever you are…

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Sources of inspiration

Sources of inspiration

by Clare Mansell

This week I have learned that inspiration comes from strange places.

The plate in the photo above has been languishing in our work kitchen unloved for several years, possibly decades, until I picked it out of the stack for my cheese sandwich last week… and then stole it.

Although, I’m not entirely sure if it can really be classed as stealing as my boss was watching at the time, and I announced quite loudly that I was “stealing this plate because I love it.”

Nonetheless, it will soon be taking up a spot on the wall in our kitchen and I found that when I needed inspiration for an applique cushion cover this week it was just the thing….

AND to make the whole thing even better, I have now discovered envelope backs for cushions! Seriously, why did no one tell me?

I’m also going to try an exact replication of the design after I’ve bought some fabric paints, which are on the shopping list for our Easter trip to the UK….

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