Monday, February 25, 2013

Chocolate brownies brighten the day................

Hello there, friends - come and see what I have to show you today....................

It remains cold damp and grey around  here, so today, my daughter decided to find a recipe for brownies on the web and make them. Can I just say that my entire house smells of chocolate and that I have overdosed on calories. Chocolate brownies with peanut butter chips. UnbeLIEVably delicious!

Just look at all the calories moist goodness.............


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Bliss. It is great having a daughter in residence. She can stay. 


There was some serious positioning for photos going on here. Placement is all to a graphic designer, so mother sticking the camera over her shoulder was not what she needed. Brownies. Brilliant. Enough said. (Just as long as there are still some there for pudding later.)

We have also discussed the possibility of the baking being the reason we are not stick insects, but rather "padded". I don't want to dwell on that possibility too much. I like the baking. 

So today has been an at home day. I am still waiting to hear from a friend about borrowing a car for a few weeks. My mechanic can't come until Tuesday week. Right. How convenient. And the dentist will get back to me re the appointment needed to rebuild the smile. Tick that box. I have managed to catch up with quite a few computer based things on the "to do " list, so that is good. I was chatting to a lovely blog friend on Facebook, Debbie, this morning. (She sent me a wonderful surprise gift and I was totally blown away by it all. So kind and so thoughtful.) Well, we got onto the subject of grinning like a Cheshire cat as much as possible while dealing with crises which seem to be besetting us all, and I suggested she check out her grin in the mirror, because I always make myself laugh when I see myself grinning in the mirror. I know it sounds ludicrous, but believe me, people, grinning at yourself is a very good habit to develop. Especially when the alternative is to bash one's head on the desk or burst into tears. 

Try it. Hilarious. Seriously. 

Diana looked at me last night and asked me why I wasn't working on my latest project. And what is that project, by the way. Hmmm. I had almost forgotten the crochet together as you go blanket. I must get going on that again. I have just been in flopping and falling asleep mode. Great, but not very conducive to productivity. And I have also almost decided to start selling some of the things I make on Etsy, Folksy, Not the high street or wherever. I said almost. I will have to gather up some of the many projects and see what I come up with. And quilts. There are quilts I have made too. They can go as well. 



I don't usually make things to sell. That way they have to be perfect and so help me, I don't do perfect. I do Linds' way and I think I will stick at that, whether I decide to sell stuff or not. 

I had a chat to my friend Margaret this afternoon - I had just heard that she is to be a Granny for the 5th time in September. All these babies - so exciting! And then David sent me a message to tell me he had got a distinction for his research proposal submitted a few weeks ago. Fantastic! I am SO proud of him.

You see, a grey cold, damp day needn't stay grey cold and damp. A couple of brownies, some excellent news, things crossed off the to do list and an evening of creativity ahead. Who said life had to be grey? Not around here, it isn't. Full of colour. Granny is working on Diana's crocheted blanket. I have mine to work on too, and Diana is always creating. Loads of colour all around me. And brownies. I love it. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

About quilters and talks and other such things.......

Evening, all.................

I seem to remember that my word for the year is JOY. Joy. Okay, so now, before we go any further, please grin cheese-ily at the screen. Yes, baring the teeth too, if you please. 

A big grin.

That will do nicely. It is making me grin, and heaven knows one has to grin during the Year Of Joy.

It has been a trifle trying today, however. Grins have been scarce. First, I arrived home this morning after looking after the dogs, in a car which was spluttering through what seemed like a death rattle. This did not fill me with joy at all. And then I discovered that a member of the household will be making an emergency visit to the dentist tomorrow. That was not on the plan for today either. And so far, we have managed to avoid any third disaster which may have been planning to visit the house. That is, if one ignores the creaking and groaning computer which rumbles every now and then. (I think it may be alive and moaning.)

I am struggling to sit in one place for long. So computers are having to take a back seat for now. I will do my best, but my best may not be good enough. I am trying to visit you all and to make a comment or two, but it is just tough for me at the moment, and I can't walk around with this wired keyboard either. Yes, loads of people have disappeared, but I can't help that. I am not writing much and it is to be expected, but I miss the ones who have gone.



Yesterday. I went to a quilters day. This was new for me. And in the photo above you will see two ladies with coffee cups grinning at me in the middle. Annette and Sue. We got there too late to find seats together. And in the front on the left, drinking her coffee, is Glynis. You will notice that we all look frozen. It was very cold. 

All the county quilting groups apparently meet 3 times a year and have speakers and trade displays etc, and I have never been before. None of us had been before. I really don't think I will go again, because I am not a social quilter, and I do not like crowds any more. There were so many people there and I am sure they all enjoyed it all, but crowds sitting in one place for hours just don't work for me any more. And I have never belonged to any kind of quilting bee. 


You see, I am more the kind of quilter who makes simple quilts, and loves going into her sewing room in her little house, and making up her dreams as she goes type of thing. With the outside world out there and me inside, pottering along. You know what I mean? That is not to say that I don't like friends sewing with me. I just don't want to go and work with a group of people. And I am not a fancy quilter.

But I digress a little. 


So anyway,  Annette got tickets and off we went yesterday because the huge draw card was the speaker. Kaffe Fassett. Those of you who knit or quilt may recognise his name. He was great. Well. I know he was great when I was awake. The trouble was that he was the last part of the day, and by then I was past help, so when the lights dimmed and his slideshow started to accompany his talk, I sort of nodded off. Repeatedly. The body keels over when I have done too much, you see, and it tried do just that all through his talk. I had to tell Glynis to prod me if I snored. I did manage a few photos before the lights dimmed. He was rather a long way away. 

I am, in a sense, more like Kaffe Fassett. (He was born in 1937, so by my reckoning that makes him 74. He is not bad at all for 74, let me tell you. Full of ideas and plans and a hectic global programme. Not to mention all the books and the empire too. (*I can't add either, can I? He would be 76 not 74!)) He is all about colour and feelings and expressions and yes, I get that. It is not intricate. (So why is he an empire builder and me not? Maybe I need to change my name. He did. Hmmmmm. Delores? Maybe I need to think this through a little.....)


I told you he likes colour and knitting, didn't I?

The trade stands were good, but I did not buy a thing. No new fabric, no matter how gorgeous, crossed my doorstep. Neither did the sewing machine, the Big Shot, the dies or the magical threading machines, scissors and other wonderful things. And I was the ONLY one not to buy, and have signed, one of Kaffe's books. But I didn't need one, because I will just borrow everyone else's, of course.


The meeting was supposed to happen in January, but there was too much snow back then, so it was postponed, and yesterday, it tried to snow all day, but nothing much settled. It is still freezing, though.The ladies in the photo above, were milling around the trade stands. I departed at this point, in search of my chair and more coffee. 

I am glad I went. I am certainly glad that I saw and (sort of) heard Kaffe Fassett. And at least I know now that 5 hour events which require me to sit in one place for most of that time just are not Places of Joy for me. One lives and learns. And then comes home and starts planning some serious stash busting, because I really do need to bust some of the stash. The one thing he made very clear was that thinking out of the box usually ends up being delightful. I don't need to follow patterns. I told you he thought like me. I am a rebel with the sewing machine. I like doing things differently. 

And one very interesting fact that I hadn't really thought about much before from the trade man......The thing which revolutionised, and led to a resurgence of interest in patchwork and quilting ,was the advent of the cutting board/ruler and roller cutter combination. That happened a good few years ago now. And the second greatest change is happening right now with the advent of the diecutting machines which cut so accurately, and in multiples. The Big Shot by Sizzix, cuts 8 layers at a time, including the quarter inch seam allowance, and there are SO many dies to choose from, both for piecing and for applique. Amazing. (I resisted the almost overwhelming urge to cripple the credit card at this point.)

He is right. Just as technology moves at increasing speeds, so the sewing world is doing the same. Have you looked at the new machines? Groan. Highly technical, efficient, memory sticks, digital whatsits, long arms, free arm, stitch regulators and all. I am at the stage now when I can say that in all honesty, it is all moving too fast and I doubt I will ever catch up. But you know what? That suits me just fine. I am quite content, as I said before, to batten down the hatches and potter away here in the sewing room. I am so thankful for what I already have. For the  knowledge that I can go out there and make whatever I choose to make, the way I choose to make it, and good grief, I may even finally finish the hexagon quilt I started when Andrew was a baby. By hand. Andrew is approaching 36 at speed. 

It could be time. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

I am back........


There is a cold wind blowing and it feels like snow in my bones, as the old folk used to say. I know what they mean. I feel old. My bones are feeling the snow too, and it is supposed to arrive tomorrow. We shall see what the morning brings. The snowdrops have opened and they are the living promise of Spring for me, and the start of an awakening garden. If you have been around here for a while, you will know how much I love gardening, seeing things grow and sitting out there is the midst of all the flowers. Sigh. I LOVE Spring and all the little seedlings. I must get out the box and check what I have to plant this year. Between us, Jean and I should have everything covered. We keep seeds from each year and plant them on. 

I have been moaning talking about the need for a freezer for a long time. Forever, if you could hear those closest to me. And you know, miracles do happen. One of the ladies in our house group (now called Life Groups) is moving, and she happened to mention the fact that she had stuff to dispose of, so Diana and I arranged to pop in and see what we needed. Well. There was the most gorgeous not too huge little chest freezer sitting in the garage, and it was perfect. Just PERFECT. So I asked what it would cost and nearly passed out when she mentioned a really small - read manageable- amount. Sold! And that wasn't all. David's bed closely resembled a hammock with long since dead springs, and so we also acquired a great bed with a new mattress for a similar amount. I mentioned my daughter's great assistance with the transportation and assembly of The Bed last time I managed to actually write something here.  I cannot tell you how excited we were here at RCR with the advent of a new bed. 

We possibly need to get out more. 

Anyway, the freezer will arrive next week, when I go and fetch it. Or when I watch it being fetched, to be more accurate. Where it will be going will be interesting because I have no idea, but that will be sorted. That freezer has a new home right here, and for goodness' sake, I can always sling a cloth over the top and plonk a vase of flowers on it, can't I........

So there was the emptying of the shed, the bed, and then the trip down south to visit a certain small girl who was about to turn 4. Missy is 4. It seems just yesterday that she was born, and here we are - 4 years old. She is too cute for words, and it was wonderful watching her play with the games we gave her. All on the floor, learning to play them with all of us, and she had a lovely time. So did we. 

Andrew cooked one of the best roast pork meals I have EVER had in my life. At least with a roast, one can be sure it is pork and not horse. What? You haven't heard about the scandal of horsemeat being substituted for beef in some ready made dishes??? Just google "horsemeat scandal in the UK and Europe". This is a good place to start. It is huge news here, and the nation is being very, very picky about where and what we buy or eat in the meat line. It is enough to turn us all vegetarian. Mind you, I am not a great meat eater, so I don't think I would miss it much at all. 

Where was I....

Oh yes - my son cooked a fantastic meal. Then my daughter-in-law produced the most divine chocolate cake with candles too, for a combination celebration of Diana and Missy's birthdays within 4 days of each other. That cake was sensational. The singing was loud and just about tuneful and the candle-blowing-out was perfect.  I must get the recipe and the icing one too.  Having adult children definitely has some perks and I just love being able to ask them for recipes. Both the girls bake beautifully. Actually, all the kids cook very well and they will not starve! Missy loves baking too.


The two birthday girls. Missy learnt to read the cards first before opening the parcels, coached by Auntie Diana. She was very good about that. It just made me realise even more how grown up she is becoming. She starts school in September. Wail. Time is flying by too fast for me.

Her actual birthday and big party day was on Sunday, and she woke up to find a gorgeous doll's house in the sitting room, just waiting for her. A gift from fer Mum and Dad. I think it will give herehours and hours of fun. She adores little things. And the pretty dress? A gift from her other godmother, which she put on, refused to take off, and woke up in on the birthday morning. Ah is only 4 once!

And now, moving on a little - my daughter decided to do some weeding yesterday, and my front flower bed has never ever looked this wonderful. There is one small patch still to do, but she has done an amazing job and I couldn't be more delighted. 
The weeds have been extracted and the remaining ones have been gelled. And my spring bulbs have room to breathe and grow. Irises, daffodils, tulips. I did ask her if she wanted to do the front garden this year, and plant what she wanted, but she declined. Well, as long as she keeps weeding, I will be thrilled to bits. 

After the emptying of the shed saga, I have had a tough time moving, so I went along to my aquazumba class to cancel yesterday, and discovered that I wasn't booked in to it. How bizarre. I could have sworn I booked in. Anyway, I came home and flopped around here, and that was when Diana started on the front garden. So, because I can't sit still, I started weeding some of the back garden. It was a glorious sunny spring-like day. At least the beds are raised, so that wasn't too bad. It is starting to look tidy, and if I get on top of the weeding now, I should be able to keep it under control. The allotment is ready to rotivate too, so I think the men will do that this weekend. 


My tubs at the front door are starting to fill out. I love these little pansy/viola/violets/whatever they are. They can be buried by snow and they are still ready to pop their heads up once it melts. 

Today, Mum had a doctor's appointment this morning, and once that was out of the way, we headed off to Ikea, via the South African shop. I tell you, just walking in the door, I am transported thousands of miles away. Familiar packaging. Familiar foods. Familiar spices, jellies, chutney. Mum and Diana loved it too. Guava juice, 100% pure. Spur salad dressing. Chocrust biscuits(cookies). Lemon jelly for Mum's wonderful puddings. Moir's vanilla essence. Ahhhhhhh. So much. Milo bar (chocolate). And more.

And then Ikea, and clothing rail, plastic baskets and lids and drawers for the daughter to try to organise her clothes. An airer for mother and plastic bags and candles for me. Groan. Plastic bags and tealight candles. My restraint is staggering. I need to go and browse through there slowly, with stops to rest. And have a really good look at it all. One day. 

Jean had asked us to get her a seat cushion, so Diana called her on the way home and asked if she would like us to drop it off, or if she would like to come to us for tea. This is Jean, the baking whizz, remember. She suggested we call in at her house, and by the time we got there (10 minutes later) the scones were going into the oven, and the kettle was boiling, so we spent a hilarious hour sitting around her kitchen table chatting, laughing and devouring those fruit scones. She is very definitely the Scone Queen around here. My waistline is very clear evidence of that. Talking about waistlines - Diana has created another crockpot delight, and it is about to be eaten. Pork and apricot. Perfect for a very cold winter's night. I do like having my children here......


My snow drops again.......just because they are so beautiful..............

Friday, February 15, 2013

Popping in...........

It has been a strange time recently, hasn't it - the Pope resigns and that night the Vatican is hit by lightning, meteors hit the earth in Russia, and asteroids whizz by rather close to the Earth. A Paralympic/Olympic icon and international superstar finds himself in court charged with murder. Valentine's Day did not quite live up to expectations there.

My daughter celebrated her birthday on Wednesday, and I went to aquazumba yesterday. There have been trips to charity shops in search of books and other sundry finds, and the shed in the garden has been almost emptied. You do not want to know about that, believe me. However, I can assure everyone that no rodents were found, dead or alive. I still have to sort out the pile of wood in it. Some is destined for projects and the rest to burn in the chiminea, or, if I get round to making one, a firepit. And right now, I have 3 very large professional size tool boxes in the kitchen. The kind which need 4 grown men to lift.

We have a slight problem with the biggest one. It is one of those red ones, with a front cover which folds down over all the drawers and locks, only, I cannot for the life of me remember where the key to it has gone. I am sure I put it in a safe place, but I have a horrible feeling I may have tossed it out. So I need to either find it, or Make A Plan.

I am sick of Making Plans.

So tomorrow, the family is heading south for the birthday party. Missy is turning 4 on Sunday, can you believe, and we are going to have an early party. Diana, who is my resident star at the moment, is busy icing cupcakes right now. She realised that I had forgotten to start the crockpot this morning, so she made her own crockpot meal instead and it was delicious. She has took apart a bed I bought from a friend and then assembled it  in David's room, and moved everything back into the room again after vacuuming the upstairs. She and a friend of ours took the old bed to the tip, and then she entertained Bekah and the twins when they came for tea.

A star indeed.

I, on the other hand, can barely move and yes, it is all my own fault. It may take a while to get up those stairs and into the bath. So I am leaving the photos till tomorrow............

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello from under more snow......

Step away from the computer for a few days and the Pope resigns, it snows again, daughters fly home, and looking after the dogs means a 24 hour battle with mud, glorious mud.

600+ years since a Pope resigned. I am sure he has good reason, but it makes the whole thing even more intriguing. I am not Catholic, so it doesn't affect me personally, but I have watched the last few Popes and the conclaves which elected them with great interest. I also saw one Pope in real life. A few many years ago.

We have had snow here since 5 yesterday afternoon, and it is just stopping now. It is, however, the wet variety of snow which turns to slush and watery stuff. This is great until it freezes. So it was not a problem pushing the snow off the car this morning. It just needed a nudge and the whole lot fell off. And it is half term around here, so the kids will have had a ball this morning.

Diana is on her way home from a holiday in the Alps and she arrives tonight. It will be great to have her home again, although I gather she nearly opted to extend her stay in the snow. I will only believe she actually caught the plane when she sends me a message to tell me what train she will be on. She may have changed her mind.

And then there are the dogs. If dogs go into the garden and do their business and then the snow covers the droppings, how is one meant to know where it is safe to walk? I had birdseed to pour onto tables on the other side of the grass. Grass? Mud. Thick gloopy mud. Which has been trodden all over the kitchen floor at least 5 times today so far and it is only 2 pm as I speak. So I resist the overwhelming urge, which is totally foreign to me, let me add, to clean 20 times a day and reserve my efforts for the moment when I simply can't stand it any longer. Today's cleaning moment is yet to occur.

And now I am going to go and watch the news and see what is going on in the Vatican. I gather there are many people there who had no idea at all that this was about to happen. I will be back.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

About learning to make things........................

Sometimes my days follow one another in a simple, ordinary, uncomplicated way with nothing momentous happening. I get up, do a little tidying - I was going to say cleaning, but that would be a slight exaggeration - I read things here on the computer, I may go to gym, I may take a walk. I may do a little food shopping, of go to appointments. I cook food for our evening meal. I fall asleep in the rocking chair watching TV, or I fall asleep on the couch crocheting while I watch TV. I may pull up a couple of weeds in the garden. I may not. I may just sit.

And so my days can be ordinary ones. I happen to like ordinary. Quiet. Simple.

Actually, I am getting perilously close to the stage where I would prefer to stay home and never go out, and so, with that in mind, I am making myself plan things so I do indeed leave the house.

Ordinary simple days are never boring. My mind goes off on its travels and thoughts flitter through it, one settling for a while now and then for me to mull over.

I love being at home. I have always loved being at home. I love having a warm and welcoming house, where people feel comfortable popping in. There is so much to do here. I just love having the potential - the possibility of making whatever I think of, because I have supplies or stocks of so much crafty wonderfulness here. And good heavens, I still have Glynis's 60th birthday present to finish and she will soon be 61. Memo to self - DROP EVERYTHING AND FINISH IT!!

Sandra wrote a post yesterday about Home Economics. And she wondered why it is not taught any more.

I do not know about the rest of the world, but I have first hand experience of what has happened to the more non-academic subjects in our schools. I taught in that department, remember.

So I will tell you what has replaced those good old fashioned PRACTICAL lessons which have been a real blessing to most of us of a certain age. Even those of us who didn't like them at the time. I do remember my cinnamon roll biscuits. They were amazing. I also remember making a handmade pleated skirt to fit me in Standard 4. I would have turned 11 that year. We were taught to knit and sew and do embroidery and everything was handmade, and really totally impressive in retrospect.

So what has happened?

Once upon a time, all children learned practical things at school. For example, all through my schooling  (I was at a girls only school), there were extra classes - art classes, singing classes, and some years, sewing and domestic science .  None of these classes had exams. They were a practical addition to the timetable to round out our education. In some cases, the children who were never going to be academic stars, found something they could outshine their classmates at, and they became stars in another sphere. There was drama, gym, sport as well. Winter and summer. None of them had exams. In junior school, there were eurythmics (a sort of wave the arms gym)  and library classes too. Most of the sewing stuff was in the junior school, now I come to think about it. The bar was high. We did not make rubbish.

Once you got to the last 2 years of school, you could elect to take a subject like art as an examination subject - and a few others I think.

So, no matter who you were, you learned a great deal about a great many things.

Fast forward to 2006 when I started working in secondary schools here, and you get a vastly different scenario. Secondary school starts when you are 11. GCSEs are written when you are 16, and a great many children leave after GCSEs. Then there are A levels for 2 years. And you leave school at 18. From 11 - 13, you do rotations of "design" in 6 week lots. That includes Graphic Design, Resistant Materials, Textiles and Food Technology. In 6 weeks you can teach almost nothing, especially if you are only seeing the little darlings once a week. And EVERYTHING starts with composing a "design brief". Move on to the 13-16 year olds and I nearly lost the will to live. Now we have examinations ahead. Not in how good you are at making something, but the entire 2 year period is taken up with identifying need, design briefs, cost analysis, consumer surveys, prototypes, product reviews, marketing etc etc etc. And those 30+ girls did not know how to thread a sewing machine. So I had to teach them from scratch, and then the rest was all about academic acumen. And the exams reflected this. We are training generations of children to draw up design briefs to send to China to have things made by a foreign workforce, because so help me, our own do not have a clue how to make anything any more. The end product is not the goal. It is the master plan and all those details that is.

So, all the kids I taught somehow fell in love with making things. And there was no time in class for them to make anything, so every single lunch time, I had upwards of 40 boys and girls barrelling through my doors so that "Miss - please teach me how to make a bag/cushion/hat etc etc" could happen. They loved making things. I loved teaching them to make things. And this is OUTSIDE the curriculum. My time. There is nowhere left for a lad to excel at woodwork, or metalwork. Nowhere for a budding chef to excel, unless they also shine academically, because that paperwork and cost analysis stuff is more important than the skills needed to make things.

I tell you, it is a total tragedy. I just wanted to teach them all to make and fix and be proud of their talents and abilities as they discovered them. They LOVED doing something as simple as making pompoms. Most had never made one. Couching - even the boys loved that. I taught the boys to use the machines by referring to boy racers, and accelerators and steering - they loved that. Other teachers used to send the troublemakers down to me, and I made them finish the work they were supposed to do before I let them loose on the machines - they worked for me.

One of the 12 year old prima donnas was a real challenge. There were a few screaming matches - I won. And then one day, she came in at lunch and fell in love with the embroidery machine. A week later, I put her in charge of teaching the rest of the kids - some older and some younger - how to use it. "Seriously, Miss? You want ME to teach them?" "Sure", I said - "you know more than any of them." That child grew 3 feet as I looked at her with a grin. A couple of months later, after endless lunches with the crowded room and excited kids all over the place making things, she had never missed a day. As the bell went, she and I were heading out across the courtyard, when she yelled to me "Hey Miss - I am not such a bad kid, am I?" "No, sweetie, you are not such a bad kid after all".

And that was the day I resigned. It nearly broke my heart. I didn't have a choice. But you know, I loved every minute of the lunch times. Not so much the teaching of the academic stuff, but the lunchtimes were a magical time. For me, and, I think, for them.

And now? That school no longer teaches textiles, or resistant materials. I don't know if it teaches graphics either. Art. Food technology. Such a waste. A total and utter waste.

Children need lessons in life - in the growing of food, the preparation of it, the sewing and fixing and mending and budgeting. In woodwork, art, singing, drama. reading, dancing, in playing sport together, learning to win and to lose. In being creative, in daring to try new things. In being messy and in DOING.

When I was at my last school and teaching "Design" - they told me to think up a plan for something interesting as a rotation because they had too many children and so I invented a 6 week course. Hmmm. Anyway. On the last day, I copied one of my colleagues from my first school's brilliant idea. I divided the class into 4, and each team had a bin bag of cardboard boxes, yoghurt pots, cotton reels, paper, glue, string, elastic etc. They had 30 minutes to make a land yacht, and then we raced them along the desks, propelled by a fan. The winners got a prize. You have NO IDEA how much fun that was. They loved it. They had to think, to build, to test and hopefully try to win. They even had their team cheerleaders.

Kids like making things. I love making things. Everyone loves the satisfaction of creating something. And I worry that the generation growing up now will never have the opportunity to learn how to make or do things, with so many parents having to work full time, and with schools missing out on the creative side in favour of making those subjects academic

Just look at the rising popularity of knit and natter clubs/gatherings. Of crocheting, and thank the Good Lord for the internet. There is hope! Maybe the rising number of homeschooled children here too means the tide will turn. And in the  meantime, I can always teach a child myself, can't I.......

Monday, February 04, 2013

Richard III found .............

So Richard III has been found, buried under a car park in Leicester. He died in battle in 1485. That is a long time ago. I am just amazed that they managed to find DNA to work with in a skeleton so old. It is fascinating, though. This is not far from where I live at all. Neither is Fotheringhay Castle (where he was born and where Mary Queen of Scots was executed). The castle is long done, but there are mounds and dips and plans to look at. The battle ground where King Richard died is not far away either. Nor is Naseby.

All of the country is like this, you see - riddled with historical snippets, links and happenings. Did you know that Washington's ancestors came from Sulgrave, not far away? Or that Benjamin Franklin's father grew up in the next village to this? Fascinating, if you like history. And you cannot escape history if you live in old countries which have seen the world change for centuries. Like this.

There is going to be a programme on the discovery and ID check of Richard III tonight. Now that, I hope, unlike the long-winded press conference, will be really good to watch. He was 33 when he died, I think. Young. Jesus was also 33, wasn't he? It is only as my own children have passed that age that the significance of His age hits home. So young.

Not that I am in any way connecting the two, of course.

And what happened to the two little princes in the Tower?

Anyway. Back to every day life. I have just lopped some of the low apple tree branches off, but I am not going to prune it this year. I am told that leaving it for a season will do it no harm at all. Of course, given that it never got pruned for years and survived, I am sure it will be fine. Last year was not a stellar apple year. The year before was bountiful. Maybe this year will be good again. And I must remember to get a bigger freezer before the freezing season kicks off. I think I say this every autumn. Hah. I am on the case this year. Watch this space.

Space being the optimum word, of course. I will never have enough space. I have a collection of American house plan books here. I love reading them. I can visualise perfectly from a floor plan, and I have my favourites. However, in most of them, the size of the average closet is roughly the size of a normal bedroom here. Just so you understand the smallness. It took me forever to get used to lower ceilings and tiny rooms when we first arrived. Claustrophobia. Our homes in SA had high lofty ceilings, and big rooms. And, miracle of miracles, you could have windows on all 4 sides of the house, and what is more, you could actually walk all the way around your house outside.

Not here.

But then, small houses should be cheaper to heat, shouldn't they. One hopes.

I am used to it now, but space is always a problem. Finding space for a small freezer is going to be difficult, but I am sure I can cover it with a cloth and plonk a vase on top and call it a side table if I have to. Inventive. That's me.

There is a cold wind blowing today. A good excuse to stay in now and do some more crocheting. Hot coffee. Good TV to watch later. Roasted vegetables for supper with chicken. A good book to pick up later. All good. What are you all reading at the moment? I keep meaning to ask - I am reading "And I shall have some peace there" by Margaret Roach. She was once a Martha Stewart Inc executive and walked away to her cottage in the woods. I think that when I can manage more than a page at a time, I will get into it and zip along. I just keep falling asleep right now. No matter what time of day! The pile waiting to be read never seems to go down at all around here. There is always something else in the queue!

But I love piles of books waiting.................

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sunday without a Superbowl...........

It is night time here, and I am just waiting for Call the Midwife to start at 8. I know it is Superbowl Sunday, and I am reminded of the many years Geoff used to stay up all night watching it. He loved the Superbowl. I have a little problem getting my head around the number of stops and starts. It doesn't flow like rugby. And I also know that the adverts and the halftime show are great draws, but hmmm. I am not American!

We had a wonderful church service this morning, and we have been challenged to do one random act of kindness for a member of the church this week, and one for someone outside the church body. That is a wonderful challenge. I am already thinking of ways I can do something.

One of the things Adrian used to illustrate love and kindness today was to play a video clip which has been all over Facebook recently, called A few minutes of perfection. It can be found on Youtube, and I really urge you to go and watch it. At first is seems a little confusing, but keep watching and you will soon realise what is happening. It was a perfect accompaniment for the sermon.

I did indeed go and do some more creative crocheting last night - the blanket is growing. I only stopped at midnight when my hands got sore. And I will do some more later.

Jean came to lunch after church - for the ever so easy Prawns and Pasta Creation. I love meals I can throw together rapidly! And coming home at 1pm and then making lunch means that quick and easy is the only way to go unless we eat mid-afternoon, of course. Or in the evening. So it all worked well, and it also warmed the kitchen up, because today has been COLD again.

In the meantime, Diana is having fun in the snow. Every day she gets to shovel mountains of snow off the driveway. Mountains. She may well have seen enough snow for a lifetime by the time she comes home again.  But being in the mountains must be a delight for her too. She loves Switzerland. She takes after her mother.

I have yet another coffee in a perhaps vain attempt to stay awake. My eyes keep closing. This is ridiculous at 7.10pm. Getting older is for the birds, people.

I will be back.......................

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Flower dishcloths and an important link.................

Oh, the sun is shining and the skies are blue and it is just a beautiful day here in Middle England. I was full of good intentions re the weeds in the garden until I went out there, and nearly froze to death. That would be because I look at the weather and assume things. The sun was shining, therefore it would be warm.

You would think that by the age of 58 I would have worked that one out, wouldn't you? Exactly.

So I barrelled inside again and the weeding is "on hold" for now. Instead, I baked some croissants and we had them for lunch, which warmed up the kitchen, so that was killing 2 birds with one stone. Three, if you take into account the fact that I thawed.

This morning, my cousin linked to a post she had read, and really, my friends, I cannot emphasise enough how important I think it is for everyone to read this. Especially if, like me, you have a lifetime of avoiding the camera in your past. The author is a photographer herself, and oh, does she make sense. What a wake up call. We never see ourselves through the eyes of those who love us. Now we cannot avoid doing so. Please read and share and pass the link on. To everyone. Most importantly, to every mother, granny, sister, auntie. Just anyone. I wish I had read this 20 years ago. 30 years ago. 40 years ago. 50 years ago.

So you think you are too fat to be photographed is the post, and it should be required reading for all. Do you think I have made myself clear enough?? Pop over then, and read.

You are back.

Good. Do you see what I meant? I really hope so. I also hope every one of us posts some of those not so flattering but ever so expressive photos we have passed over recently. Crying with laughter, hair on end, bulges and all. Real.

Oh, about the bulges. Maybe 3 croissants was a bit over the top. With raspberry jam and pepper cheese. Hmmm.


 Last night, inspired by my friend, Sandra, I hunted down some cotton in my yarn stash, found the Flower Power pattern she used on Ravelry and made a couple of flower dishcloths.

 They are actually really simple once you get going and work out the US/UK stitches and what they are.

 Mother is making a blanket a week and is making me feel like a slug, because my Attach-as-you -go-Granny-blanket is going slow. (Interpret that as Linds has lost the will to crochet right now.) So anything quick and simple is working for me.


The Granny blanket is actually growing. I am almost finished 2 rows so far, and yes,there is a long way to go, but I have got the hang of the joining now, so if I put my mind to it, it would grow apace. Maybe I should go and do that now. Or make another 20 dishcloths. I found the cotton stash today, so I can make some in different colours for the seasons. Or presents. Or maybe I should make some ordinary square ones. I have patterns. 

Right. It is time to be creative. I will be back. Have a great and warm weekend!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Renewal time and overgrown apple trees...........-

Snowdrops are appearing in clumps all around the garden
I have started writing a few times, and then got bogged down with details. You may have the same loathing that I have of "renewal" times in the house. Insurance. Land-line contract. Mobile contract. Electricity. Car. You name the horrible things, they all have to be renewed, and because we now live in a society which requires you to compare, call around, haggle and then still get ripped off before you settle on a deal which is inevitably cheaper if you just pay on line/direct debit/in advance/while standing on your head etc etc, you lose the will to live. 

So every time I sit down here, I see the scrawled notes and figures  and comparison charts, and names of people I speak to, how long I have had to listen to their tinned music on hold, what they fail to offer and then I get up, go and make more coffee and walk around the garden. 

And get distracted by my apple tree. 

I discovered in my diary that my apple tree was pruned last year on 1 Feb. Hello, 1 Feb - and the apple tree is not pruned, and the friend who prunes it is out of the country. This does not suit. Cue another half an hour of googling how hard pruning an apple tree can be, and fishing out last year's photos of the pruned tree. It can't be THAT hard? Can it? Does it have to be done? Can I miss a year? Anyone want to come and prune it for me?

Then back to the phone line quest for light relief. We have the land line one sorted but I am less than happy re a £5 @month increase for which I get precisely nothing new. The mobile phone one is harder. My contract is up next week. I need to decide. And while I love my phone, multiplying the cost x 24 months is alarming. But then, I don't want to keep paying the same for a phone which is old when I can get another one, but only if I pay £25 up front, and why can't I have a free one when it says other places offer.......

And before I know it, I will be on the quest for cheaper car insurance as well. 

Why can't companies just reward loyal customers who don't want to change, and who just want to be given a good deal and not be ripped off??

Actually, it has been slightly perturbing to hear the young customer service children people say that they have never heard of the concept of cheaper rates for loyal customers ever. Hah. That would be because it died out before they were born, back in the days where we knew our bank managers by name. 

When the banks were run by experienced  men, not machines and little boys in shiny cars who like to holiday in the Caribbean 5 times a year. 

You may have gathered that I am viewing the world with a baleful eye today. I am. And now I am going to post this so I can stop having attacks of guilt whenever I see the rapidly mounting pile of half finished posts and last Tuesday's date on the last one published. The sun is going to shine tomorrow, so maybe I will start in the garden. Or the allotment. Well, I may go and look at it. Something.