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Friday, 29 January 2010

Lucky Me!

I have just discovered that I have been chosen by Artisanne and Ae Fond Kis for the Sunshine award. I can't believe it since it is for bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspires others! Moi?! Surely not - but having been given the award not once but twice I must now try and live up to it! Thanks ladies!!

Apparently I must post the award on my sidebar and then list 12 other bloggers who I wish to award too who must then do the same - of course I quite understand if you don't wish to get involved in this at all - I still love your blogs. So here goes and to anyone I have missed out - I am sorry since all the blogs I follow could be said to inspire me with their creativity and positivity.

First the lovely Lucy at Beads Crochet and Puppydogs.

Louise over at Gephart836 who was one of my first visitors

Marmalade Rose for setting up the 20 minuters!

Pipany at Pipany and the Poltisko Memoirs whose blog photos amaze and lift my spirits

Posy who is feeling poorly just now but remaining positive and cheerful

Lesley at Printed Material who is going through a difficult time

Viota at Shells, bells and Flowers who has been with me from the start

Tabiboo whose first blogging anniversary it is today

Floss at Troc, Broc and Recup who is also not well but remains cheerful

Jill at Third Age Musings whose lovely Marvin makes me smile every time I visit

The Garden Bell - whose blog is always so colourful

Jeanne at Tales from a Cottage Garden whose poems always lift my spirits on a Monday!

I could name many more including Lucy at Attic 24 who got me into this in the first place but I am sure she is too busy just now with more important things and many others who I have met along the way - I am sorry I couldn't name you all as your "friendship" has meant and still does mean a lot to me.

I hope I have managed to do this right and that when I press publish your names and the links to your blogs will appear as planned!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Walking and creativity

Have been for a walk this morning with a friend - we climbed to the top of Pilsdon Pen and it was great - bitterly cold wind at the top but just beautiful although very different to (or should that be from?) last time we went back in September here

Over there where the sun was shining on some light coloured buildings in the far distance is where I live - perhaps I should have stayed at home! (In case you are wondering - no I didn't walk from home!)

Just above the sheep on the horizon you may be able to make out a brighter patch - that is the sea shining in the sunlight way over there too.

It seemed not to be the best of days for us since we had arrived at the Craft Centre for a coffee prior to our walk only to find it closed for stocktaking. Since we had planned to return to the Craft Centre after our walk for lunch that plan had to be rethought and we decided to drive to the next village for a pub lunch but discovered that the pub there was closed too or at least there were no cars in the car park and it didn't look inviting so we took it to be closed (didn't actually get out of the car to try the door). Ended up somewhere else altogether at another pub and the drive there was lovely as the sun came out and the countryside was beautiful and the soup lunch was good so "all was well that ended well"!

Does this count as 20 minutes creativity? I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon in the kitchen slicing and boiling and now have 6 pots of marmalade to show for it. Not sure why I bought the oranges to make marmalade when I still have 2 pots of last year's in the cupboard but it seemed a good idea at the time!

And I made this necklace too. Not sure I like it - the idea was from a book I saw in the library and theirs was made in natural hemp type yarn and had a more ethnic look to it but as I had no ethnic yarn but I did have this I tried it out in blue. I think it needs more motifs to make it look a bit more avant garde - what do you think?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

I'm on a roll!

Have done the flowers and attached them to the bag - what do you think?

My original flower had another layer of crochet behind the fabric but it wasn't quite large enough and didn't really show and after trying to make it bigger I thought "Oh *** it I will just have the 2 layers"!

But did I rest on my laurels? Oh dear me no I am on a roll now so I got started on my next trial and error project some felting. Having been inspired by Jills pieces of needle felt here I thought I'd like to try embelishing using needlefelt and this is my first attempt. The grey fabric is part of a wool jacket that was too big for my husband so when he was throwing it out I rescued it and cut it up and felted the material and saved the rather nice lining fabric too. How's that for recycling?!

Apologies for the poor backgrounds in the pics but it was the only place I could prop up my offerings and tip the Anglepoise lamp complete with daylight bulb to shine on them and give sufficient light for a photo - roll on summer and bright days for photography!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

20 minute update

I am afraid I haven't managed 20 minutes each day this weekend as we had my sister-in-law visiting and we went out and about but I have done an average of at least 20 minutes a day since my last update! I finished the crochet bag - having unpicked the top and redone it so that the cords fitted better.

Today I made the lining for the crochet bag. Shaping the base was not easy - I probably should have cut a circle and made a fitted base but I thought I'd try just gathering it together and then as I was left with a centre of raw edges I covered those with a small patch - this will not be visible once the lining is in the bag as the base is crocheted in double crochet.

Then I needed to line the lining - if you know what I mean. I realised that the gathered method would leave too many wrinkles in the base of the bag in which small items might get lost so this time I tried folding the edges into points towards the centre and stitching them down (not very neatly I fear).

I stitched the blue lining to the bag and then stitched the inner lining to both bag and blue lining. It worked well I think.

Now the bag is finished although I did wonder whether to trim it with a flower made by crocheting a pink flower and adding a fabric layer to it - what do you think?

As always happens when making anything without a pattern or without thinking it through properly I realise now that I could have done things differently and achieved a better finish - but this is the prototype - I don't think I'll make any more though!

Many thanks to all those bloggers who have been kind enough to leave comments on my previous posts - I read them all and take heed of what you say and endeavour to respond to them but time is of the essence and it doesn't always happen I'm afraid. But I really do appreciate them all..

Tell me why it is that gold medalist who has a perfectly good bowl of fresh water always available in the kitchen insists on having a bath run for him? He usually likes to take his drink from the dish put out for the birds or since the snowy weather he has decided that the bath is a better option!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

20 minute update

I feel I have fallen at the first hurdle - does it count if you have done an average of 20 minutes a day rather than an actual 20 minutes every day?

I started on my fingerless mittens using the Rowan yarn I mentioned but I am not at all sure I like the colour scheme even though I liked the balls of wool together so have rather lost interest in these!

I have unrun the top of my crochet bag and am now trying to calculate how to do the row of holes for the cords - involving complicated mathematics and drawing of diagrams which late in the evening I am finding difficult so not much further forward there either.
My patchwork squares are still just that - squares and not yet cushion covers.
My mind is filled with ideas but none of them seem to be materialising this week.
As my old school reports used to say - "could do better" and "must try harder"!! I will I will.

Monday, 18 January 2010

And now for something completely different!

After a beautiful clear sunshiny day we went a'wassailing at Barrington Court a National Trust property which I have written about before here - but this time it wasn't the gardens we went to see but to join in the fun of a wassail held there yesterday evening. We left home about 5.30 and as we drove to Barrington I noticed the sky was pale to the west and there was a faint glow of orange on the horizon where the sun had gone down and against this beautiful backdrop the trees were silhouetted their dark branches so beautiful and the differentshapes of trees showing up. I wished I could cpature it and share it with you but sadly you have just my word painting and your own imaginations!

Wassailing ceremonies take place in January when the apple orchards are "toasted" to ensure a good crop. The biggest and best tree - the Apple Tree Man - is selected and cider is poured over its roots and pieces of cider soaked toast placed in the forks of its branches to ensure a good crop. Wassailing is an ancient folk tradition here in Somerset which is cider country. Some of you may remember the advert for Coates cider which had a song saying "Coates comes up from Zummerset where the cider apples grow" ?

There was a huge bonfire round which the crowd of several hundred gathered - the sky was clear and the stars absolutely amazing.

Morris dancing took place in front of this huge fire - I suspect only a born and bred English person could appreciate Morris dancing! Check it out here

The blackened faces apparently significant as a disguise since in olden times the dancing and begging was not allowed and with blackened faces the danceers might not be recognised for who they were since many of them might be begging from their employers!

There were several people wearing these decorated hats - not quite sure of the significance of these but thought them very decorative.

There was also a mummer's play which although we didn't have a very good view there being so many spectators was really funny. A Mummer's play is often about St George and in this case St George was killed by the evil one who spoke of bringing down a plague bankers' bonuses, swine flu, global warming and so on! Of course St George was revived and all was well in the end. St George's mother a burly bloke in drag attacked the evil one with her big red handbag and raised a big laugh!

More Morris dancing this time without their dark coats - this is more like Morris dancing as I know it from summer fetes and the like!

Then came a band which was surprisingly good and extremely loud - no doubt to represent the banging of saucepans and so on which was the original noise and was intended to frighten off any evil spirits from the orchard in times past.

And finally after following a procession to the orchard the largest oldest tree Apple Tree Man was blest. This involved pouring cider over its roots - in olden times I understand this would have been the must left after the making of the cider - and then taking a piece of toast (why toast and not bread I have no idea) and dipping it in to the cider and then lifting children up to place the soaked toast squares in the forks of the brances of the tree to encourage the robins - and other birds no doubt - to eat there and thus to keep the insects away from the trees.

As a final part of the celebrations guns were fired into the tree branches to raise the Sleeping Tree Spirit and scare off any remaining demons - Health and Safety regulations these days stipulating that the rounds have to be blanks especially after the copious amounts of cider which had been imbibed!.

Then we wended our way back to our cars and home for a nice hot drink. As I said something quite different!!
By the way I discovered last night that apparently Christmas would have been celebrated 12 days later when using the Julian calendar and only with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar was Christmas day when it is now. check it out here Thus the Wassail would have been timed for Twelth Night in olden times. I thought perhaps I might celebrate my Christmas this year on 5 January as in olden days that way all the stuff I hate about it would be over by the time I had mine and I might then avaoid the Post Christmas Blues! Anyone want to join me?!!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

20 minute update

Just a quick post today to bring you up to date on my 20 minutes' worth of crafting recently. I had a go at this little book following Lesley's post on Thursday Some you win some you don't but I am not that pleased with it since for the cover I used some paper which I stiffened by sticking it to a sheet of thin card and now it is curved and I can't seem to flatten it. Also when I opened it to photograph it the pages divided and came away from the spine - still I have had that happen with commercially produced paperbacks so am not too downheartened about that!

I have continued with the crochet bag and as you can see it is all but finished apart from the lining - however I discovered that when I made the holes for threading the cord I should have had an even number and not the odd number I ended up with as now both ends of the cord come out at the same hole. May have to unpick the last few rows of crochet and redo that especially as I was planning to have 2 cords coming out at opposite sides of the bag. As Lesley said "Some you win some you don't!!

I also discovered that the materials I had thought to use for the lining really didn't show up well through the mesh so am wondering if this one might be better - what do you think?

Following Pomona's post about fingerless gloves here I also have some of those on the go using the Rowan yarns I bought in London back in the summer see here. And have bought a ball of soft yellow yarn to make a teddy for a friend's baby so as you can see I am doing my 20 minutes each day!
By the way does anyone know how I can put the link in my sidebar to let others know about this 20 minute challenge - have tried without success so far.

It's a fabulous spring like day here with blue skies and sunshine so mustn't spend any more time at the computer! Enjoy what's left of your weekend.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The only snow on my post today is the thin coating you can see on the grass in the background of this photo! This lovely little lily of the valley was a Christmas present from a friend and I can't tell you how lovely it is to see it blooming just now. It is a little on the leggy side but then I don't suppose lily of the valley is really intended as an indoor plant but the blooms have an amazing perfume and it is new and fresh and green and I love it!

Thinking about my little plant reminded me that the other day I came across some pictures and a piece of writing I had done some years ago when I joined a Creative Writing group with the U3A and I thought I'd share both with you today - if you are interested? If not skip to the final paragraph!


I think I must have been a gardener or perhaps a florist in an earlier life as it is flowers that evoke my childhood more than anything else. Sorting through some postcards recently I came upon one showing a clump of snowdrops and I was immediately transported back to the 1950s. My mother and I were living at that time with my grandfather who still lived in the house in the Forest of Dean in which my mother grew up. Many of mother's aunts and uncles still also lived in the area and it was a regular outing of ours to go and visit Uncle Sid and occasionally Aunty Ede who both lived a short distance away in the little hamlet of Pope's Hill. We usually walked there passing through the village of Littledean where my mother's mother was buried in the little churchyard behind the Methodist Chapel. Sometimes we would stop off there to put flowers on Granny's grave and I would take the jar to the tap at the back of the chapel and fill it with water and return to the graveside where my mother would be pulling up weeds and trying to tidy the simple grassy mound. In summer I liked the peaceful feeling of the little walled graveyard slumbering quietly in the sunshine, its yellow stone walls covered with shiny green ivy, butterflies flitting about amongst the nettles and the sound of birdsong over all but in winter the tap was often frozen and on those afternoons I was glad to hurry on down the road past the village shops and on past the old prison, which looked so dark and forbidding and along the wide road towards Pope's Hill.
On this particular day we must have decided to call in on Aunty Ede - my maternal grandmother's sister - who lived with a man I only knew as Kruger. I think there was probably some story behind ther relationship as she was not married to him and he was not generally liked by our family but whatever the story I didn't know it. He was rarely to be seen anyway as he spent most of hiis time at the Greyhound where what little money he had was swilled own his throat in the form of rough cider. Aunty Ede's cottage was very picturesque in its setting and as we opened the scruffy little gate with its peeling paint and trudged up the rutted path to her door I noticed that the grass under the gnarled old apple trees which formed the main part of the garden was carpeted with snowdrops. Their tiny delicate stems belying their strength as they forced their way through the cold hard ground to produce flowers of such delicacy and beauty they took my breath away. Each snowy white bell so beautifully marked with fine green lines and bravely swaying in the wind. I was allowed to pick a little bunch to take home and I can still feel the thin tough stems between my freezing fingers and the dark green satiny texture of the ivy leaves which I picked to put with my little posy.
Aunty Ede's house was picturesque alright in its setting but it was in a vey poor state and I can remember the galvanised buckets strategically place to catch the rain which found its way in through the ceiling. Nowadays nobody would be allowed to live in such conditions - no running water, no electricity, no gas no nothing really! There was a well in the garden for water, candles or parafin lamps for light and an old black range stove which when they could find enough dry wood or afford an occasional bag of coal they used for heating and cooking purposes.
Aunty Ede was fond of animals and she had a few hens which scratched out some sort of living in the garden and at one time she had an orphaned chick whish she kept under her jumper to keep it warm! My family has always had its eccentrics and I dare say I shall follow suit- some might say I already have although I have never had a chicken under my jumper or at least not yet!
Of course it wasn't always winter and in the spring the walk to Pope's Hill was wonderful as the ladysmocks with their soft pale mauve flowers dusted the meadows often with a gobbet of cuckoo spit attached, the primroses grew in cheerful yellow mounds along the banks to be follwed later by nodding golden cowslips, delicate wood anemones, tiny fragrant violets white, pink and deep purple ones, scented bluebells and many other wild flowers which I gathered to take home and display in a jam jar.
Further up the lane lived Uncle Sid - Aunty Ede's brother - and it was his house that we most often visited. He lived in the house which had been my maternal Grandmother' childhood home and to which my mother had often gone to stay as a child. Mother used to tell me stories of how it was in her grannmother's day with the spotless white tablecloths and the dainty china patterned with pansies but there was not much evidence of such fripperies by the time I saw it as by then it had an air of neglect with its peeling paint and grubby windows. Uncle Sid lived there alone and he too was something of an eccentric. In all the years we visited he never once invited us in even in the winter and we would stand outside the back door under the covered porch talking to him for an hour or so before making our way home again. I think he was ashamed of the state of the inside of the house but he was proud of his garden which although he was somewhat disabled he did manage to keep fairly well under control and here it is the many coloured polyanthus each with its yelow centre, the waxy coral japonica and the glutinous bluebells that I remember most. He had an enormous old cider press which always fascinated me although I never saw it in use. There were a couple of orchards adjoining the garden and sometimes in dry weather I would disappear off to play in these whilst my mother talked to her uncle at the door. Of course in spring these orchards were a mass of apple blossom and the perfume went some was to mitigaing the smell of rotting apples, unwashed bodies and general decay.
When the conversation was finished we would wend our way back down the lane and if we had enough money and had timed it right we would sometimes catch the Gloucester bus back up the hill to my grandfather's but more often than not and certainly if the weather was fine we would walk it - occasionally stopping off at the village shop in Littledean to by 3d worth of sweets on the way. Acid yellow sherbert lemons were my favourites but my mother preferred the black and white striped humbugs.
When eventually Uncle Sid died he left the house to my mother and as about that time Kruger had also died leaving Aunty Ede homeless she went to live in it until she too died some years later. It was a slight improvement on what she had at Kruger's but not much and when she died my mother sold it for a tiny sum - it being in need of almost total renovation. I saw it again years later when I was on holiday in the area and it had been totally done up and looked very nice but it must have been a tremendous job and cost an enormous ammount of money to make it habitable. I can still see the old iron gate though and hear it clang as we made our way up the path between the velvety polyanthus to the back door with its peeling pale grey paint and hear the birdsong over all. Childhood memories.

I will finish by saying a huge Thank you to all those of you who have so kindly commented on my recent posts. I seem to have found some new cyber friends via the 20 minute creativity challenge and for that my thanks go to Fi at
Marmalade Rose. I continued with my crochet yesterday and will do so again today. By the way to those of you who thought I had done the patchwork piece in 20 minutes I am sorry to disillusion you but the challenge is to do "at least" 20 minutes each day and that particular piece took me several days in total!
And to Emma at Around the hook - the recipe for the fat ball mixture for feeding the birds is easy - just melt some hard fat (I used cheap beef dripping) and stir in any bread or cake crumbs you may have along with some seeds and dried fruit (whatever you have to hand) and put the mixture into a mould and leave in a cold place till set firm - easy eh?!

Here is the Gold Medalist doing what he does best - why would he want to go out in the cold when he could be safely ensconced on his mum's crochet blanket all morning (and probably all afternoon too if I know him)?!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

This and that

Released! We managed to get the car out today and were able to drive to the supermarket to stock up on larger items we haven't been able to carry when we went on foot last week. We then walked into town for some other items of shopping and I can't tell you how much I appreciated being able to walk, for the most part, properly and not to be tippy toeing along like an old lady!! There were still lots of patches of slushy ice here and there but in many places the pavements were clear - you just don't appreciate what you've got till it's gone do you!! No photos as didn't take the camera and anyway it really wasn't very photogenic all that grey slush and with a bitingly cold wind taking photographs would not have been high on my agenda either!

Marmalade Rose who has a blog I have always admired for its creativity has issued a 20 minutes a day challenge and I have joined in. The idea is to do something creative for 20 minutes each day even if you don't know what to do - just do something - and it's working!

I decided to incorporate some photos or images into my crazy patchwork and this is a pilot piece. I printed out the centre scrap and then added toning fabrics and embroidery round that. It is on its way to a friend now as I popped it in the post this morning. I am inspired to try doing a photo next time and maybe to do a sort of scrapbook collage of photos .... you never know where it might lead do you once you start? Taking decent photos at this time of year is difficult especially as the conservatory roof - I usually do my photos in there as it is lighter - has a coating of snow so is no lighter than anywhere else just now. There I go again bad workman blaming his tools and all that!

Following on form my bird feeder post on Sunday (many thanks to you all for your comments - you obviously liked that post!) my 20 minutes last night was spent crocheting a similar bag which I am planning to line with fabric and make into a little drawstring bag. This photo shows some of the possible lining fabrics I have - which do you think? Watch this space to see if it works.

Noticed the squirrel having a go at the string bag at lunchtime - he had it in his paws and was trying to make off with it but of course it is joined to the branch and he couldn't! A crowd of small birds were sitting on the ground beneath picking up the bits that were falling to the ground. Again the photo is not good as it was too far away and through the glass but if you look carefully you can see him on the branch!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

String bag?

I don't know if you could call this creativity or not - I suspect you'll think I've totally lost the plot!

Whatever can it be I hear you ask

A little bag but for what? Maybe a very small shopping bag? No.

A little dolly bag awaiting a lining of pretty material - that's a thought - but No wrong again!

It's a bag to hold the home made fat ball I have just made for the birds. Though I suspect that it will be the squirrel who takes a fancy to it and one snip with his teeth and it will all unrun - unless it is melded with the fat! Any other time I'd have plenty of nets from oranges or carrots or whatever but today I had nothing so necessity being the mother of invention I made my own!

PS The blue tits have found it and are busy at it I am glad to see

Saturday, 9 January 2010


I have had enough of snow haven't you? It seems as if we have been living in a white world for such a long time although only last Saturday I went to Weymouth and it was beautiful and sunny and definitely not white. Time and our perception of it is a strange thing isn't it?

We still haven't been able to get the car out as even though the main roads are clear our side roads are not so we went to our local post office cum shop this morning for some bread and a newspaper and the walk through the woods (remember when I showed you back in the summer the same walk?) was hard going since the snow had become really compacted by all the dog walkers this week and it was very very slippery especially where the path sloped.

How I wished that I was able to stride out as I had the day we did this walk near the coast back in April/May!

It wasn't warm that day but we could put our feet down where we wanted to and not have to be careful all the time - something which has made my leg muscles really ache this week!

Oh how I wish I could do this walk NOW! (well not exactly now as it is dark out there at the moment but I think you know what I mean) Through the bluebells...

Listening to the cuckoo and noticing the wonderful perfume of springtime ....

Spring will come won't it?
Have a good weekend and those of you in the northern hemisphere do keep warm and safe.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

In complete contrast to last post!

Yesterday it rained and we were beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about but in the night we got the forecast snow and woke this morning to see this from the bedroom window. Not much by some standards but for us it was quite something!

This afternoon I decided to take a walk in the woods as getting out to go anywhere else was nigh on impossible since we live at the end of a cul de sac which is a very steep hill and none of the houses even have fences so nothing to hold on to. I'd seen one four wheel drive vehicle in the road this morning and that was slipping and sliding backwards down the road so taking the car wasn't an option either.

The woods were beautiful - what a pity my camera (not the photographer you notice!) isn't up to taking better pictures.

I noticed that there were quite a few buds in evidence this one is a horse chestnut sticky bud and above are some small catkins ready for the spring! I was reminded of the quote "In the depths of winter I discovered in myself an invincible summer" I think it is by Albert Camus

Love the textures here on this lovely bark - now how could I use that in something creative I wonder?