Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tree-wrangling and strikes......

Thank you for all your lovely comments. Sigh. It is such fun to be able to get excited about something now and then! No, I had not thought of selling them - I was just on a roll again. I never know when to stop when I make things I like!

And, feeling suitably festive, and because the sun is shining, I decided to do some tree wrangling. I unpacked the huge tree, which is now 35 years old, I think, and got the branches into piles to check the wing span. I wanted to see if it would fit where it always goes, only that is the spot where Mum loves to sit. It almost touches the ceiling. So, with the bottom branches in place, I started moving it from one place to another, and NOTHING WAS RIGHT. My festive spirit deserted me, and I ended up putting it back where it has always been. The family agreed. Mother will have to sit somewhere else. David did the branches. And that is where we are now. The tree is in place. It is still as beautiful, even bare, as it was all those years ago. The process took most of the morning.

It is still November, so there is no way I am decorating it until December. That would be tomorrow. And the lights had better work. Can you tell that the mood is not quite as serene as one would want for festive decorating???

My heroic efforts to relax and de-stress were not helped last night by being woken by the phone ringing after 11pm. Someone wanted to talk to Stan. Who does not live here. "DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE TIME IS?" I bellowed, after leaping in the air and hurdling the footrest to get to the phone, thinking Death, Disaster and Dire things.

Poor kid. I think he will remember the time for a while. 11.08PM.

So I made coffee and was ready to fix the universe. Adrenalin does that to you.

Adrenaline surges do not aid relaxation.

The nation is on strike today. The massive Public Sector, rather. Supposedly 2 million people are striking re pay freezes and pension adjustments. No matter which party is in power, and this is global I think, they face horrible decisions re getting out of the massive debts our countries are in. The bitter irony is that the bankers, who caused it in the first place, sit in little ivory towers, and seem to be totally untouched by the way the rest of the world is having to pay for their lunacy. Jobs being lost, pay frozen, Inflation rising. Economies slowing. And yet there is so much which does not make any sense to me.

Take for instance, the fact that the government says we will all have to work until we are 67 before we can retire. And so they want everyone to work, in a time when thousands are being made redundant. Chance would be a fine thing for many of them. We also have over a million 16-25 year olds who cannot find work because there are no jobs in a stagnant economy. AND THEN - get this - they announce that they are providing free nursery places for two year olds. SO THEIR MOTHERS CAN WORK FULL TIME.


When there are no jobs anyway?

And why would they want to put all 2 year olds into state funded nurseries when their mothers could be raising them themselves at home, saving the tax payer billions? But then, they reckon that the tax generated by mothers at work will fill the government coffers, I suppose, and provide more money for citizens (the mothers) to spend, fuelling the economy. Chickens and eggs, people.

I come from what seems to be a dinosaur age. I so firmly believe in mothers being giving the respect they deserve for choosing to raise their children themselves. I despair at times.

Oh well, rant over. I need a Milo drink. Only I do not have any. It is like Horlicks. Ovaltine. Hot malted milk. I loathe milk, but could do with the soporific effects Milo brings. Coffee may have me back here in an hour expounding on something else.................

It is turning into one of THOSE days around here.

Day 30: For freedom of speech and thought. For a forum to voice those thoughts and opinions. For cuttlebugs and paper and snowflakes and thread. For medicines. For hope. Faith. Trust. And for the fact that it is Wednesday, and my son is cooking again tonight!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A little packaging makes a big difference.....

Do you remember these little round blobs I made? They are hand-warmers - fleece circles filled with rice, which you nuke in the microwave and then tuck into pockets or gloves to keep you warm. 
 But they looked a little uninspiring. So I decided to do a little fiddling with the instructions for heating them, and that led to me playing with Wordart, and that led to clipart, and that led to an internet message to daughter in NZ (the graphic artist) to request help. But she was in bed, as I said yesterday.
 So David and I came up with the basic design. I called them "Warm'nCosy" because it sounded sweet and warm. I did not have a clue how to flip half the words so they both faced the right way up, or how to re-size them, but David did.  And so did Diana.
This arrived last night, for me to use. Isn't it great??? A special design! For ME!

And then I decided that I should make some more blobs and machine embroider "Warm" and Cosy" onto each of them, because...well, I could, and that would make them look more special, and I like my embroidery machine......
See? They are really cute.....

 I have some cellophane bags which I always buy in Switzerland for packing up cookies. Perfect size.
 And when the headers are cut and folded like this.......
 And stapled in place.....

Voila!! This is what I ended up with! 
 And I was dancing about here in delight. I use the term dancing lightly.

Sigh. It is all in the detail. They are so sweet, and make me grin, and I have had such fun. You know, they have cost almost nothing to make. The fleece, the rice, the thread, the bags and the card. 

And they look quite professional now. The time spent .....well, that is what a gift is all about in the end, isn't it? Taking time to think of a friend, or loved one, and using MY time for their benefit or enjoyment. That is why I love home-made Christmases so much. Time. Thought. Love. 

And I am ignoring the Autumn Budget being delivered live in TV as I am writing this. I do not want any more doom and gloom. It is Christmas soon, and I am going to be celebrating. 

Day 29: Sausage rolls straight out of the oven. Enough money to pay the bills. Roses still blooming. Ideas clamouring for attention in my head. A pile of Warm'nCosy bags, Smiles. Hot coffee. Red. Snuggly blankets.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

A little fun in the creative line.........

This morning, I decided that I would make the presentation of my little gifty thingys more classy (I have such a way with words, don't I) and started playing with Word Art. My basic starting point then got worked on a little, and I was rather hoping that Diana would be around to help, but she was in bed, so when David zapped past in search of breakfast, I collared him, and plonked him down at the computer.

"Turn this, please", "Flip that over", "Change that", "Adjust size", "Make 4" have no idea. Poor man. I was born to be a general. I now admit I have a suspicion where Missy got her ordering about talent from. Me.

The printer whirred into action, and the guillotine came out with the cellophane bags and so did the stapler, and my family will tell you that you would have thought I had won the lotto, because the squeals of delight were loud. I was SO excited, and it all looked SO cute, and I then zapped back into the sewing room to make some more things. A little more detailed than the first ones, and they are waiting to be finished as I speak.

Little things, people. They bring the most delight. My mother kept shaking her head and laughing as I walked by singing " I am a GENius" at the top of my voice. Then going back to check that she agreed with me. As one does.

I think she thinks I have lost my mind, actually.

But I had SUCH fun. I will show you tomorrow when I have finished the enhanced versions. And too bad if some of the intended recipients see them before Christmas, because I have to share my brilliance with the entire internetty world.

Not that I am shy or modest at all. I pat them as I pass the table and they still make me grin with total delight. My daughter may well wake up and design an even more brilliant version too. I just checked my emails and she is on the case. Hahaha. Watch this space, my friends!

Day 28: For fun. Just having a wonderful time laughing, making things, and loving every moment. FUN!!!! We need more of it, don't we?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Changing things and other stuff ( I can't think of an exciting title).......

Well, it is all Kelli's fault. The blog template thingy. I had forgotten that RCR needed a bit of seasonal change too, so I started off on Blogger who have got a surprising array of interesting backgrounds if you click on the picture template and then background, and then the little arrow next to the one in the corner, and woah, all the options start appearing.

However, they failed to have any decent winter / Christmas ones, and the ice and snow and trees were good, but the snowy look made me feel that I needed to light a fire and warm myself. Or bury myself under piles of those blankets, and that was just to read a few words here, so it had to go.

I have a few ideas re a header/banner thingy and may or may not do something about it. One day. Maybe. Perhaps. Probably not.

The most important thing is that you can read this and it is easy on the eye. Thanks for all the feedback! Good. It can stay.

Until after Christmas. Or maybe Spring.

Speaking of Spring, the garden still thinks it has arrived and more and more seedlings are poking their heads out of the soil. Poor misguided things. But then maybe our winter will be like this - vaguely tropical. Divine intervention with my heating bill would be a wondrous miracle, after all. And tis the season of miracles.

I had just started the blog change procedure when a friend called to chat and after about 10 mins of me patently not concentrating on either my friend (appalling, Linds) or what she was saying (I can't believe I did that), or the blog change (which was all wrong), we put down the phone. I loathe changing the blog. I am really terrified of doing something dire and irreversible. It took me all of 20 mins to admit to myself how badly I had behaved, so I made a cake and called her back - in Scotland, so the cake was for us, not her - and apologised and had a very good hour of proper chatting. Gone are the days of multitasking.

And then I had a piece of cake. And coffee. I was wearing my Christmas apron, you see, and it makes me feel all domesticated and mother earth-ish. I need to cook when I tie it on. The blog had to wait till the creative urge was gone.

This morning at church, I was asked to talk to the children about homeless people. Of course, I will, I said. No problem.  And then I started worrying about how to talk to 3-11 year olds without terrifying the wits out of them re how people become homeless. Did you know that one of the highest contributing factors is having served in the armed forces or the merchant navy? The figures are dreadful. But then, if you work away from a community where you become known and valued, who or what will be there to support you later? I could go on forever.

However, I talked instead about a house. I drew a stick figure and then I asked them what was important to them. Food. That was a good one. Their stuff. being safe. Having water (wash, teeth, drink). Somewhere to sleep. Somewhere to be warm. And with each idea, I drew a line around the stick figure and a triangle on top so we ended up with a house. And then I took the lines away and made the face sad, and we talked about how to stay warm, wash etc etc if you didn't have a home. And then I made them lie on the concrete floor of the church to see what sleeping on the pavement would be like. I was a little flummoxed when one 8year old with attitude told me it was really comfortable. I nearly trod on him. Oops. The others were a little more honest!

Ah well. Hopefully they will remember to think. They also came up with ideas of how to help, like the collection of food.

And now I am quite exhausted and am going to have a nap. Do not ask re the tree. it is not up. Maybe next week.

Day 27: For my home. The warmth, the water, the food, the security, the place to sleep, and the place for my belongings. My life. (And this is based on the Sunday School talk I gave this morning). Sometimes simple is best.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I am trying out templates. Things will be a little odd here for a while......

Saturday Snippets from the Rocking Chair..................

Well, thank heavens the wind is blowing this morning, because my garden was saturated with toxic type fumes last night, and it was starting to seep into the house too. The fumes from the plastic kind of rubbish that they burnt were obviously heavier in the air and they stayed. By midnight it was totally impossible to breathe outside. I checked, and started coughing so retreated back indoors. I sincerely hope this does not kill off my plants. And yes, I did try calling the Environmental Health people but they apparently do not work over nights or weekends. Which makes you wonder if environmental hazards only appear between Mondays and Fridays, 9-5. Or 9-3.30pm on Fridays, it seems.

But hooray for the wind.

Can you believe that I have just chopped down the dahlias? It is almost December and there are still buds on the plant, but with the weather getting chillier, it was time to do something or risk losing it altogether. I still have African marigolds flowering merrily in the garden though, and gazinnias. Bizarre. I have saved enough of their seeds to let them go on doing their thing for now.

So today, the mission is to clear the table in the kitchen and remove the autumn cloth. The last of the autumn things left out, and then make the table winter. Well, I would like to actually see the advent wreath by tomorrow and not have it buried under paraphernalia relating to other Christmas ideas. The Dremel may be a marvellous invention but it does not enhance the decor!

Have you all got your trees up and decorated? Somehow, I cannot bring myself to do it before December. I need a little breather before I introduce more chaos to the house. I wonder if the lights will work this year. I check before I pop them on the tree, and then if they go out once it is decorated, I just toss another string over the top. There is NO way I would go bulb by bulb to see which one is broken. Now Geoff would have got out his test meter and done just that. He would NEVER let a bulb  get the better of him. I can just see him now. He had way more patience than I did. It is so long since I put up the tree here. Years. If I am not here for Christmas, there seems little point to it. And I never ever thought I would say that, you know. I do know that I just love sitting in the light of the tree. There is something so peaceful and magical about it, with the candles burning too and the peacefulness. I love it. So this year it is going up, no matter what.

I must also find some bears for a friend. There is a tree exhibition running at the village church in December. Local organisations all do individual trees, and the little tots at church are called the All Bears, so they need bears for their tree, and they can't find any. I am absolutely certain I have some at the very least, if not dozens. I just need to find them.


The cowl. It is warm. It works. The end.
Day 26: For the wind, which may be cold, but which has blown away the revolting stench of burning plastic from the garden. For the son unpacking the dishwasher as I speak, and the chicken waiting to be roasted for supper. The coffee in my mug next to me and the crochet hook and ball of wool next to my couch. The fact that my hair co-operated this morning and the warm jersey.... the list never ends, does it?

Friday, November 25, 2011

The wrong kind of bonfire ............

Two doors down the road is a rather neglected house. The owner died 2 months ago in a hospice, but no-one locally knew, which is really sad. She lived alone, and shunned everyone, even when we knocked on the door or left notes to see if she was alright or if we could help. However, her son has arranged for the house to be cleared and sold, and the really sad thing is that 90% has gone into a series of huge skips, and the other 10% is being tossed out of the upstairs window and burnt on a huge fire in the back garden. This is the 5th day of huge fires, and so help me, they have burnt furniture, plastic bins, the lot. Billowing smoke is blotting out the blue skies today, and I have found large pieces of black ash around the house. It is coming in through the hot air vents somehow. And I have also found clumps of molten plastic in the garden. The air is not clean right now out there.

One day of wood burning was ok, Two days, I could cope with. But today when I saw the huge mattress being tossed on to the fire, I was less than amused. It cannot be within the law, but we are all too nice and no-one is doing anything about it. The wind has started blowing a bit, and I swear I am about to unravel my hosepipe just in case. Wooden fences surround the gardens and if they caught fire, it would race around to my house in seconds.

Patrolling the perimeter is not something I would normally choose to do.

I hope Thanksgiving was perfect for everyone who celebrated yesterday, and that you have plenty of leftovers so don't need to cook for the next 3 days. I am presuming that there is a long weekend? Well, apart from the shopping. Amazon here has had a Black Friday Week which has been a little confusing, as Black "Friday" tends to give the impression that it should be on a Friday. I have resisted.

This afternoon, Glynis and I were on duty in the local Fair Trade shop which runs on a Friday and Saturday for the month before Christmas. We get to sit in the warmth and chat and crochet and drink coffee. There were 3 lots of customers in the 2 and a half hours, and one was the local vicar. Not exactly like it should be on Black Fridays, perhaps! But the chat and crocheting was good, and so was the warmth. I think the ladies who take turns sitting there for a couple of hours tend to spend more than any customers! Maybe there will be a sudden surge next month.

I took one look at the pile of possible presents I have unearthed from the stash, and I packed the lot back into boxes. I think I will wait until the tree goes up and then I will start wrapping. It always seems special if you sit and wrap in front of a tree. Well, to me it does....!

Have a great weekend!

Day 25: Finally finishing the cowl. Aka The Beast. I just have to darn in the ends and my neck will be warm when the cold weather arrives! On the strength of the fact that it is finished at last, I temporarily lost my mind and started another one. Watch this space. Thicker wool means more adjustments to the pattern in my future, but if the weather gets REALLY cold, I will be prepared. Hmmm.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, America.....

I suspect the blogging universe will be a little quiet today. I also suspect my American friends will be indulging in a few pies and a lot of turkey today. That should be the other way around, of course. The pies and the turkey. I love the idea of Thanksgiving. I say this every year, don't I. I especially love the idea of a really big holiday with no presents involved. Just the people.

But this is the UK.

I have been to aqua which turned out to be aquazumba again - that was 3 days in a row, people. I am a prune. And I emerged from the pool, the spa and the shower, and, after towel drying my hair, discovered that I had left my hair brush at home. I therefore started a new look in the Wild Women line. This is particularly fetching when trying to do one's make up next to a row of beautiful lithe young things in lycra with hair in place and not an ounce of excess flesh in sight. WHY DO THEY NEED TO BE AT THE GYM WHEN I AM THERE???


And on to the supermarket with mother to get some vital essentials. I loathe the chain of supermarkets beginning with T and ending with O here in the UK. As we approach Christmas, I loathe them more.  And now, I have to get the rest of the mess out of the way. I had great plans for finishing it last night, but I fell asleep at 9pm in the rocking chair and woke near 2am, so just fell into bed and that was me for the night. I may be a little weary. I am sure my ridiculous sleep patterns of recent days make thrilling reading. I need to find something more erudite to write about, perhaps.

Day 24: I am very thankful for all my American friends, both in real life and here on the internet - and I am so thankful for the wonderful addition you are to my life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

RIP Turkeys......

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trying to restore some order....

I am slowly finding my way out from under the boxes, people. There is no shortage of Christmas stuff in this house, and I have yet to get the big tree decoration boxes out of the loft. Well, order son to mountaineer through the hatch, that is. I will have to start wrapping and listing things soon. Just to get them out of the way, but November is a little early, really. For me.

More aquazumba today and aching bones again, but otherwise, things have been quiet around here. I have made the decorations for the advent candles - I must take a photo. Unlike yesterday. Remember I said I would be barring the door? Well. Five minutes after hitting the publish button for the post, the doorbell rang and in walked  Peter - Glynis's husband for coffee and a chat, followed swiftly by another knock on the door, and a visit from Sue. And then, for good measure, one of my neighbours arrived this morning to ask for help emailing photos, and at that point, I gave up worrying about the chaos.

I know I have said in the past that I absolutely love people popping in and I really do. But yesterday was so out of control in terms of mess that it was a slight exception. Ah well, we can all have off days, can't we? I went to bed after 2am after a valiant attempt to Get Things Sorted.

America is preparing for Thanksgiving tomorrow, so I would really like to say Happy Thanksgiving to each of you and your families. I hope your day is warm and filled with the joy of knowing how blessed we all are. So very much to be thankful for. Have fun! (I rather fancy some pumpkin pie!)

Day 23: I am thankful for the friends who pop in and who totally ignore the chaos here. For finding old ornaments which make me stop and remember so much. For not letting the fact that the white candle bridge thingy with red painting on is MISSING irritate me too much. It is here somewhere. I need it. Now. Maybe I need to go and finish that cowl instead. I am nearly there.......

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

And we are about to change the colours yet again.....


My house looks like a consignment shop. In a fit of totally unreasonable enthusiasm, I decided that, as Advent starts on Sunday, it would be a good time to amass the Christmas and winter boxes. And blanket and cushions and gifts and candles and EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN.

One does need to find the Advent wreath.

Why today?

I have no idea. Well, my sister started doing her house yesterday but she has an excuse in that she goes back to work after the annual "Let's check the state of the cables for the cableways on  the mountain" month so that made sense for her. For me, it makes no sense. I just like to keep up with the sister.

So my house looks too dreadful for words, because I have now run out of energy. There was aquazumba today, remember, and that always knocks me for six. Let me just say that the son in residence did the amassing of boxes and I simply provided the meltdown when I saw the chaos in the lounge.

I do not do well when I have a lounge in chaos. If there is one room in the house which I really really need to have some order in, it is the living room. The place people see when they happen to walk in the door.

Right now, I will be attaching all available arms and legs to said door if the bell rings, and barring entry. I do like to be welcoming.

So then I thought.....well, tomorrow is more aquazumba and pilates followed by more aquarobics on Thursday and my house may have to stay in chaos for the rest of the week. It does not bear thinking about. I don't even think I can get to the curtains to close them as night is falling. That would be around now, because it is dark already and just 4pm.

And I don't know where all the brown cushion covers are. I hope they are somewhere. I need the brown cushion covers. Hmmm.

Right. I need coffee. I also need to conjure up something for supper soon as I forgot to defrost anything this morning. Baked potatoes, I think..... they will take an hour or so to cook. Yep. That will have to do.

Day 22: Today, I am thankful for a strong son who carries and climbs and stacks heavy things with ease when his mother decides to re-arrange the planet. Long-suffering are words which spring to mind. He is also a star.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Looking back a little.....

The fog of yesterday is still lurking here today - "lurking" - isn't that a great word to use with the word "fog"? Anyway. It is foggy. I know what I mean.

Thanks for the lovely comments re the sewing room stuff. I have to confess that they have all been works in progress for the past year. The bunting was cut a year ago in a fit of enthusiasm and then it sat there next to my machine for 11 months. As things do around here. Ditto the strips for the runners. Pacing, you see. That is my excuse!

The cowl I started crocheting a few weeks ago is a different story. Stupid thing. I ripped it out for the 3rd time at 1am this morning and started over. This time I am making up the pattern as I go along And IT WILL WORK or so help me, I will chop it all up and toss it out for the birds to make a nest. The irony here is that it has a pattern which consists of about 4 lines of instructions and is supposed to be easy. Hah. First it looked like a dress. Then it was too tight and then it was too loose, and now it had better be perfect because I am beginning to look at it with a baleful eye and soaring blood pressure. I know this because it is giving me a headache.

And of course there is nothing wrong with my following of the pattern. Impossible.

Moving on (because the headache returns as I think about the wretched thing) .....

We toddled off to drop off the huge amount of stuff gathered at church for the local homeless shelter this morning, after Jean got her Christmas cake in the oven, and then the 3 of us went wool shopping again. Yarn. Mother was running out. She is on a mission to keep the nation warm, as I think I have said before. If I go awol, just search under the mountain of wool or blankets. Well, at the moment, the pile of blankets is low, because they went to the shelter too, as well as to the church for the supply chest for families in need. But Mother has 2 in progress and more planned. She is not going to let the supply of blankets dwindle.

While I was wandering through one of the cheapy shops, I saw this little pillow, and I just loved it. It looks great on the couch with all the autumnal colours, and it is exactly what I want people to do in my house. So this is my impulse buy of the week. £3.99 was entirely reasonable. I LOVE it!

The autumn months seem to have flown by, haven't they - next week it will be time to haul down the 34,993,735,356,378,849,490,373 Christmas / Winter boxes and it will be all change around here. Yet it seems just yesterday that I packed away the summer things. It is still mild, especially when I think back to this time last year. Hang on - let me go and check.......

35 minutes later....

Oh my. I went back to November 2010 and started reading and it took my right back there immediately. We had snow by the end of the month and in so many ways, this month has followed a similar pattern, even down to the fact that tomorrow last year was the day I wrapped presents. And tomorrow may well be the day I start hauling things out to do just that this year.

It is such fun to read about my own life from a distance at times. I forget so much. I even forgot that I did a month of things I was thankful for last year.

I did write something about toasted cheese sandwiches which did not require a sandwich maker. And I don't think I ever explained that, so here we go. My great aunt had a wonderful housekeeper called Doreen. I remember Doreen well, because she was gentle and quiet, but mostly because she cooked and baked like a dream, and her desserts were legendary. She is the one who used to make us toasted cheese sandwiches. All she did - don't forget that we are talking about the dark ages here - the early 1960s - was to make a cheese sandwich, and lightly butter the top of the sandwich, then flip it over onto greaseproof paper, and butter the other outside part of the bread. Then she folded the paper round the sandwich and got out the iron. Yes, the one for ironing clothes. She never had any grease problems though. She was a genius. And she ironed the sandwich until it was golden and the cheese was melted. I can smell it now. We used to line up waiting for our turn, drooling. Simple. It worked. She didn't need fancy machines.

And another non-sandwich  maker idea we started when the kids were small was at BBQs. If you do not have copious quantities of meat, a great way to fill up the  bottomless pits children and teens seem to have is to BBQ cheese sandwiches on the grill. I just spread a little melted butter on the outside of the bread, pile on the cheese, onion, tomato etc and another piece of bread and pop it face down on the grill, and then brush the other side with melted butter and flip it with tongs before it gets charred. It is even better if the meat has already cooked and once the cheese starts oozing out, whip it off and eat. Delicious. Everyone loved these. I must remember to make them again next year when the BBQ emerges from its winter coat.

And on that note, I am off to stir the crock pot and find something to nibble.

Day 21: I am very thankful that Skype worked today and that I could talk to my daughter. And see the book she is working on (which is amazing!) as well. She is a star.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What is emerging from the sewing room......

Well, here are the things I have been making. They are simple, not complicated, but they look just fine, and will do nicely for gifts. I hope. 

 Little hearts and other shapes cut, sanded and drilled and now waiting for the blackboard paint. I will show you what they look like when I get them finished. They are a work in progress at the moment.
 My kitchen table is long. It is just as well because the end near the study area is covered with the vital essentials for the wood work! That little pot is the blackboard paint. Did you know you can make your own with tile grout and ordinary paint? Any colour! Pinterest, again.....
 And see, there is my scroll saw right next to the food mixer. Don't worry, I do move the mixer when I use the saw. That food mixer has been going strong for 35 years now, you know. Wonderful machine. It has never let me down.
 Now, if you remember the Recession Heaters I made a few years ago, these will make sense. They are hand sized fleece warmers, stuffed with rice to pop into pockets or gloves. You just nuke them in the microwave for 30 seconds and they stay warm for over an hour. I will add a Recession Heater pic at the bottom if I remember, for newer friends.
 Little bean bags. I made  loads of them, because they are so quick and easy to run up and they are great for fine motor skills for little ones. Easy to learn how to catch.
 So Missy and a couple of other little ones will be getting a drawstring bag, with a few bean bags inside.
 And a little apron. They all have pockets in the front for odds and ends. And are great for messy play or baking.
 Some are multi-coloured - made from scraps I had lying about, and they are fun - bright and cheerful. I really love these ones. I may give my daughter-in-law some to keep at her house for when Missy's friends come to play and want to do painting etc. They would look really cute hanging in a row, wouldn't they?
And then there are the aprons for the adults too. I used Christmas fabric for these. This is one of the smaller ones. I saw an apron in a coffee shop (belonging to the waitress) which looked simple to make, so I borrowed it, and an old newspaper and traced it there and then, and then came home and made a proper pattern. And about 10 aprons. They too have large pockets. 
 And this one is a bigger longer apron, which is more like a Cath K one belonging to a friend. I made a few of these too. With the large pocket, of course. 
 And a Christmas one for little girls. Missy and her Mum have ones in this fabric already - they need them to wear while they bake for Christmas, don't they. They match. :-)
 And then there is the bunting. Last year, everyone wanted bunting when they saw the ones I made. So I started cutting, and my super easy way of doing it means that I got totally carried away and we have hmmmmmm, about 12 strings of the stuff. Maybe more. Enough to decorate the village, in fact. If anyone wants to know how I make my super easy version, let me know. I could do a quick tutorial. (Me? Tutorial? Huh?)
 So I had scraps left, and decided to make table runners. Right. There are quite a few of these as well. I told you I had been on a roll.......
 Bunting and runners...................
Lots of them................

These are two of the Recession Heaters. Rice stuffed inner tubes with fleece or flannel covers, which you heat in the microwave and then use to keep warm. I made them the year the world plunged into recession, and gave them away as gifts, and they have been a great hit. My friends have still got theirs and use them constantly - and ask for more too! 
So there you are. The stuff going on here in the RCR sewing room. Nothing complicated. But fun to make.

And welcome to any of Kelly's friends who may have popped over to visit! You are all very welcome. If you leave a comment, I will be sure to pop over and say hi too!

Day 20: I am thankful for my garden - the joy it brings me - even in the quiet winter season. The miracle of growth. The promise of the spring. There is always hope in a garden.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A creative day................

Well, Saturdays are still my best day of the week, even when I don't get a great deal done. I had a lovely long chat to my sister on the phone this morning and we had to laugh about the fact that we both LOVE making things, and while we may need some creations for presents, we can't stop at one or two. No. We keep making things, and then sit and look at the pile and wonder what on earth we are going to do with it all.


We will have to have our own Christmas Market one day and sell the lot.

But then, you see, if you finally get something to work, you are on a roll and have to make a few more because you may forget. And seeing that most things are done via the "winging it" school of craftwork in this house, there is never a pattern and list of instructions to refer to later.

Of course, there is nowhere to store anything either. Not in this house. We passed the critical bursting point a long while back.

And after the chat, I headed back to the sewing room, and conquered the dilemma of how to make the hand warmers look respectable, and then it got dark and I cannot sew on black fleece when I cannot see what I am doing. SO I finished the runners - 3 more. Do I have recipients in mind? Um, no. Not at the moment. But I need to get out all the stuff and the list and sort and wrap and then I will know what I am doing. At least they are not UFOs any more. That has to count for something.

Things are a little disorganised here right now.

I am out at a birthday do this evening, so, while David was sorting the supper, I drilled holes in the wooden things I cut and sanded. Do I know what I am going to do with them? Hmmm. Not at the moment, but I am sure I will work that one out too. I have the paint and paper all lined up to try something with them. Maybe tomorrow. I must take some photos.

At midnight last night, I ripped out the crocheted cowl I was making because it was too big, too loose, too everything. And started again. I am SO excited that I get to use the little stitch markers I ordered. They are so cute! It is as if my crochet thing is wearing earrings. These things amuse me. I have no idea if this version will work, but I can always rip this one out too. I am winging it again. Once I had undone it all last night in the early hours of the morning, I started again, and got to row 5 before I gave up at 1.30am and headed for bed. It is navy and working with dark colours under false light is a disaster for the old eyes. I start seeing things in triplicate. Blurry triplicate.

Certifiable. That is what I am.

But the creative urge is fit and well and resident right now. I am making the most of it.

Day 19: I am thankful for the little things I need to be creative - for a working sewing machine. Paint. Drill. Computer. Needles. Thread. Fabric - the Good Lord knows I have been over-blessed with a fabric stash which is extensive, to say the least. Yarn. Paper. Ribbon...... Combine all of them in a multitude of ways and you have one very happy, thankful me.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Royalty visits.....

I suspect that my day so far is not one that many of you will be experiencing regularly. Royalty came to visit the village. I, however, would not have had a clue "It" was coming had I not gone to have my hair done yesterday and seen the piece of paper on the coffee table asking clients not to park near the entrance to the shoe factory today. Because royalty was visiting. The Princess Royal, to be exact. Princess Anne. I have enormous respect for her, I have to say - she is incredibly hard working (who would want to visit a shoe factory, for goodness sake) and has managed to raise two beautiful, normal kids to adulthood unscathed. 

So, because of you lot, I arrived on Jean's doorstep at an early hour, armed with the camera, and off we went. 

 Autumn is beautiful round here. The skies were blue then (they are not now) and the sun tried to shine. And we took up position outside the baker's. They were making bacon rolls and I cannot tell you how wonderful the smell was. I resisted the temptation. There was a real party atmosphere - everyone talking and armed with cameras. Lots of older people, and young mums with their babies. And we waited as all the children from the Infant and Junior Schools in the village arrived on foot with their little union jack flags to wave. 

Dressed in pyjamas for the most part. Teachers too. It is Children in Need Day today - a major annual fundraising project, so of course they would be standing outside a shoe factory wearing pyjamas waving flags to welcome royalty. 
 They practiced their waving for the official photographers. We were still standing outside the baker's shop drooling  - the bacon, remember.. 
 More flag waving practice. 

And then at 10.10 (she was late) I saw a black landrover sweep around the corner and in the time it took to say "I think she is coming" she had swept past at 30 miles an hour. She waved at me as I tried to take a photo. Why the driver did not slow down so she could be seen, I do not know. It was ridiculous. And my attempt at a photo????????????


I was not successful. She was sitting at the back on the right hand side of the car. This is such a stellar photo, you have to agree. I have surpassed myself. (But wait....) And the children....well, the planned  welcome - the cheering and the waving - was over before it began. They didn't realise she was there and it all got a little haphazard and late. They did their best. Maybe being in pyjamas made them a little dozy. 
This is even better. See that black boot on the bottom left???? That belongs to the Princess Royal's left leg. Oooh! You can spot a bit of the leg. And the skirt!!! 


This is why I am not a reporter, or photographer. My skills are sadly lacking. 

So then, she went inside the factory and everyone went home or back to work / school. She is going to be there for 40 minutes say some and 2 hours say others. Whatever. When she comes out, there will be NO-ONE to cheer and wave anything at her, and she can depart at speed once again. 

We walked back to Jean's place, and had a word with one of the policemen, and even he said that he could not understand why they did not slow down and let everyone see her and wave. 

Blur. Hmmmph. 

I tried, people. 

Day 18: I am thankful for a sense of humour. It can make a real difference to the way I see things. I am also thankful for hot coffee. That aids the sense of humour, which makes a diff..........

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gift suggestions........

After reading something on Vee's blog yesterday, I thought I would paraphrase parts of it for my local friends. In fact, it is quite possible to make this international, in that we all focus on our own doorstep and the people in our own communities for a while in the time running up to Christmas. I am fiercely against any sort of national protectionism, though, because we live in big wide world and we all need each other.

This is more in line with the simplicity I long for in celebrating Christmas, and if we can make wise choices which benefit our little communities, and help save people's livelihoods, and put food on their tables, then that is all good.


The suggestion is that this year, instead of investing all our hard earned cash in shiny new objects made in far off places, we think a little about supporting our local craft people. Local businesses. There are so many talented people around, you know, with wonderful skills. This is the time of year they are selling their wares. There may still be time to commission something special as well.


Why not give the gift of a voucher for your local window cleaner, hairdresser, car wash, photographer, beauty parlour, coffee shop, butcher, garden service, cleaning lady, game of golf at a local course, theatre tickets, garden centre, toddler play gym...... the list is long, and once you start thinking about it, it gets longer still.

We live in dire financial times. The economies of the world have gone round the bend. I had my hair cut today (and Teresa did it beautifully) and yet the salon was quiet. She told me that so many people have stopped coming, and they get cancellations every day. She has a business to run, people to pay, they all have mortgages, work hard  and need their jobs. One of the wonderful things you can have done is a special hair treatment which involves a head massage and is absolute bliss. It does not cost a lot, but what a great gift that would be. It includes having your hair dried.

Just next door is a beauty salon, where you could have all kinds of treatments. So how about making a gift of a manicure?  A pedicure? The little luxuries that are hard to justify in the face of rigid budgets, but which make such a difference.

I am not going to go into detailed lists, but I am certain that there are small businesses in each of our towns which need more trade. And heaven knows we have enough of the shiny bits.

Christmas is not about getting things. It is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. And what did He tell us to do? To love our neighbour as ourselves (after the BIG one, of course - loving God with all our hearts). Loving our neighbour. Doesn't that mean caring and doing what we can to help them, to keep them afloat?

My Christmas list of gifts this year consists largely of home made things. Gifts from my home, my kitchen, my sewing room. It doesn't matter how small they may be. But if I am going to spend money, I would like to think that it would be for something which would benefit more than just the recipient. You know what I mean? Big chain stores get bigger by the day. But jobs are impossible to find, so using the skills of those who dare to dream and start their own businesses is the right thing to do.

Well, I think so anyway.

Day 17: I am so thankful for all the people who provide the services which add colour to my day right here in this village. From newsagents to baker, butcher to decorator, hairdresser to coffee shop owner, and so many more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Please do not assume I am a whirling dervish, people. I am not. The sanding and the cutting were short lived things. I do a bit as I pass and then a bit more later. Hah. Pacing. I sit, and I stand and a walk a little, and that is how things go here. I do bits of the meal preparation through the day.

It is how I get things done now that life is somewhat different. And the movement keeps you warm too! Added bonus.

Good morning.

I was thinking about traditions, and how we build our own unique ones as we live out our lives. How our children take the parts they love the most and try to incorporate them in their own lives. How some things fade into obscurity until you find an old photo and remember. You know how it goes?

The older I get, the more I think. Those cliched images of old people in rocking chairs reliving their lives and saying "Remember when...." are a little close right now. I think I am becoming one of them. Things change. It is the nature of life. And it is absolutely fine for mothers to remember the days when they controlled the traditions in their families. My friends and I were wondering recently if there would ever be a time when we would be able to have a Christmas which we orchestrated, with all the family present and correct. The enlarged family, obviously. And the extended family. A logistical nightmare in the making.

And then we got chatting about how we didn't actually savour the magic enough when the children were younger. Parts, of course. We were to busy "doing" and didn't spend enough time "being". Mary / Martha, remember. So sit back this year, my young friends, and just savour it all. Etch the memories on your hearts indelibly. The sounds. The excitement, the squeals, the mess. The twinkling lights. The music (Oh Holy Night - Kenny Rogers, in this house), The dinner cooking, and the table. The lot.

Change is good. Of course it is. The traditions still raise a grin, (Kenny will always be a grin-inducing tradition here) and the memories remain, but now that families are scattered widely, there are years when I think, oh, shall I bother with a tree? Or.... I won't do dinner. Shall I decorate? And yet, when I go away or spend the day with friends, there is something strangely missing. An emptiness. I am missing the way the noise and the people paint layers of colour into MY home and MY life. MY heart.


That sounds selfish and I don't mean it to be that at all.

I just miss the time when my children were small and Christmas is the time when I notice it most. All here, where I can see them.

Our traditions in Cape Town used to be very different, as I mentioned in the memory posts last month. Christmas in the sun. People round for sherry and mince pies on Christmas Eve, then the big dinner. Church at dawn on Christmas Day and then present opening at Granny's house. Lazy lunch, splashing in the pool,  followed by supper and huge party at Granny's house.

Here, well, we did and do things differently. Winter for Christmas. Crib service in the church in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, carols in the Square in the evening, midnight service, church in the morning and turkey cooking. (My family announced in recent years, that they do not like turkey. Right. Things change!) Family at home and maybe a walk, but usually games, puzzles and mince pies and the Queen's speech and visiting friends or having them here. The last Christmas my family was home together was in 2007, with Diana's surprise visit. I can still hear the laughter as they watched the Top Gear DVD. Priceless memories.

Christmas in Switzerland is totally different too. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve, and for my sister and her husband, Christmas Day is a normal working day,. An incredibly busy working day. Having a brother-in-law who has his own restaurant means that he cooks there, and all that remains is for me or Marge or Mum to do some baking to fill the house with the scents of OUR memories if we can. If we are there.

It is not letting go of the past. It is taking out the memories and turning them over gently in our hands and savouring them once again. It is not bad to remember. Remembering triggers all the senses going into action - something so small, like an ornament, can evoke so much more. It is not bad to occasionally long for those days. It is totally natural. I just have to bake Moregranny's gingerbread to remember my grandmother. How tiny she was. How gentle. Her big old car. Her copper bangle (for arthritis). And I used to bake the gingerbread every year for my father, to keep something of his own Christmas memories of his mother alive.

I love making Christmas cakes. The fruit cakes. I do not like eating them much. But the smell of it cooking is also Christmas to me, and I remember going to my friend Gill's place to learn how to flood ice and to another friend, Michele where we spent one year making sugar bells for our cakes. You see? One aroma and decades of memories. Good memories. That is the point. The goodness, and the warmth and the wriggling with delight as you unearth them.

I know that Diana will keep baking some of the things she remembers me baking. They also represent her Christmas memories. The Kenwood food mixer. Licking the bowl. Custies. Peanut butter biscuits. Cinnamon cake, maybe. Other stuff.

My children will take some of our traditions with them, I hope, and blend them with new ones, talking too about their memories and revealing little parts of their own history as they do so. And their lives will contain  new traditions which they will take and make their own, just as I did from my childhood and the people who played a part in my life. Their husbands and wives will one day introduce their family traditions too, and so a new pattern will be woven for their families to wrap around themselves.

I am not sad, you see - the world keeps turning and life keeps playing out its days. But as each box comes out of the loft this year, there will be a multitude of thoughts whirling through my mind. The letters to Father Christmas. The time we set up the playmobile for Andrew. The ornaments they made for me. The ones I gave as gifts. The Care Bears. The stockings. The black bags and the make up sets from Dad. Snow globes and Lindt Father Christmas chocolates. Concerts and Christmas flowers (Hydrangeas). Dancing round the kitchen as I baked. Candles flickering.

Tradtions. So personal. So much we could say. Maybe more another time.........

Day 16: I am so thankful for the memories of Christmas over the decades. Of my life. Images of faces flashing through my mind, and the way too, that the scent, sight, touch, sound, or taste of a single thing can evoke a whole chain of those memories. How can it not make me grin? Or give thanks?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not quite firing on all cylinders........

No-one would assume I was in the first flush of youth today. The "crone" version of Linds is nearer the mark. EVERYTHING hurts today. Perfect. So, after a slow start, Jean and I went to aqua-zumba, and for the first time, I struggled a bit. But we got there (to the end of the lesson without expiring), and that spa afterwards was like heaven. I sank into that warm bubbling water and nearly dozed off.

And then home. More things cut out, more things sanded - the sudden realisation that there are 2 more birthdays this week struck, and I am going to have to be creative here. Thank heavens for Pinterest because the brain is beyond coming up with something all by itself. And yes, you can ask why I didn't sit down. That would be because I would have fallen asleep instantly and not woken till midnight. And no, that would not have suited at all.

It is a miracle that supper is all prepared and ready to cook.

The Christian book club meets tonight. We really do have to come up with a name which will draw more people to it, I think. There are about 6 of us who try to meet once a month, and we all put in some of our own books, so people can share them, then we read what appeals and discuss opinions when we meet. It is an interesting group. However, I think I am going to battle to stay awake. Maybe there will be a really compelling or contentious  discussion and I will roar into life. Hmmm. We will see.

It is just 4.30pm, and already nearly dark. It feels like bed-time. I just glanced at my notebook next to me, and I have a list of things I want to chat about, but they all require the brain to be in full working order, and today it is jelly.

However, if you want to read a wonderful post re how the real church can nourish the soul, go here. Amber has written so well of what so many dream of being a part of, and I loved every words she wrote.

Day 15: I am immensely thankful for my mother. She has been sitting crocheting a zillion blankets for people who need them, and she still manages to sort all the vegetables for our meals, and zap through crossword books and answer the phone for me and so much more. She is my PA at the moment, and irreplaceable, 86. Pah. She can do anything. Can't you, Mum???????

Monday, November 14, 2011

Missy left.......

Life is back to normal here. The washing machine is whirring away. The dishwasher - ditto. The toys are in a pile waiting for me to conjure up SOMEWHERE to store them until Missy returns. And there is no-one racing up and down ordering me about. "ON THE FLOOR, MOREGLANNY!!!" (She is attempting the "r" in granny and it is not quite there yet.) And I repeat, she will make a SUPERB Speaker in parliament one day. The child is a natural. 

 Glateglanny (see the "r" story above!) blew out her candles and we all ate the beautiful cake Missy baked with her Mummy.
 Moreglanny taught Missy how to play Snap. A loose version of Snap. One where we look at the cards and try desperately to find one so she can say "SNAP!" in a loud voice, because "I am a big girl, Moreglanny!" It was hilarious. I was skyping with my old school friends at their formal reunion in Cape Town, and she walked by, climbed on my lap and informed the ladies that "I AM A BIG GIRL. My name is Missy and I am 2." Then departed. Yep. She is a big girl now.
 Mummy and Missy run like the wind to get to the playground at the country park........
 Moreglanny and Missy attempt excavation. Moreglanny digs and Missy drops. It works. I could operate heavy machinery after mastering those levers.
 The world from Missy's perspective (Ann's photo - quite a few of these are Ann's photos!) - so much to see and a lovely path to run along.....
 And a wonderful Uncle David, who is never more than a step or two away, keeping watch - Missy is one lucky little girl. How many men of 22 would walk along in public pushing a little pink pram when Missy spotted something else to do??????? A star.
 Running to Moreglanny .....

 Oh, believe me, the "retro" FP Little People are a dream. She adores playing with them. They all had names and we made a park and they all took turns on the roundabout. Can anyone tell me why they decided to make them huge after so many decades of small people? The skills needed in the fine motor development department were well exercised this weekend. She didn't touch the new version. It was all the stuff her Dad and his brother and sister played with when they were young. Yes, I know they were a novelty for her, but I suspect she will play with them for a long while. AND the other huge plus is that they are smaller and I can store them in the footstool. The others require a room of their own.......
 Autumn. It is still mild, though. Temps in the teens C. But the light is beautiful, if you catch it in time. Between 1 and 3pm.
 I thought this duck was gorgeous. It posed. I think it is a duck. It has webbed feet and a beak and wings. Yes. A duck.
 Many feathered things in the water. Including a swan or two. I can identify swans.
The old Wild West Town from FP. I was so thrilled when I saw it one year, long long ago and snapped it up. I never saw it anywhere again, and Missy LOVED making the people fall through the slot after being carried across the roof when you wind the handle. Just like her father and uncle and aunt did too.

So Mum had her great-granddaughter here for her birthday and that was a first. There was much singing and chatter, and Missy provided some masterpieces for us all in the artwork department. Skype has decided not to work between Diana and home. Apparently she can skype others, but not us. Any ideas????? I want to skype with my girl! So does her Granny.

Missy has been waking at 3 to play. Three AYEM! Her father is a saint. He got up both mornings, and took her into the kitchen to play and have at least one breakfast an hour in an effort to let the rest of us sleep a little longer. The poor man needs an afternoon on his bed. So do all of us, actually, but I wouldn't change one second. We have looked for squirrels, and we have stirred the dinner. We have filled bags with stars and books and cereal and butternut squash. Peppa Pig is alive and well, and Moreglanny now knows how to find her on the computer. Moreglanny also knows how to get her granddaughter into her clothes after a mega tantrum which involved the discarding of said clothes. Moreglanny remembers dealing with things like that well. Some things never change!

And...."Moreglanny come in Missy's car to Missy's house? Please, Moreglanny?"



Day 14: I am thankful for the photos. The little face I can see whenever I open the file. I am SO thankful for the wonderful gift they brought me - a digital photo frame loaded with photos of my family and the people and places I love. I am thankful, especially, for the thought behind the gift. It has warmed my heart and made me smile......