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Friday, 31 January 2014

And then there were two

 I have finished the second little quilt - the fabrics were not what I might have chosen had I been buying them and not had them given to me and yet when mixed in a random fashion like this they don't look too bad at all do they?  I machine stitched the patches together but did the quilting by hand and I tell myself that the childlike stitching enhances the naive effect of the random patches - that's my excuse and I am sticking to it! 

I used an old sheet to back them and for the wadding an old cheap duvet which we had bought for peanuts in France and then discovered that, as always, you get what you pay for and it really wasn't much good but folded and fitted into a cover I made from an old flanelette sheet it provided a comfy bed for Thomas in the days when he liked to sleep on the window sill in the sun.  I removed the casing and inside was a thin layer of fleece; it wasn't of even thickness but for these covers it won't matter. So none of it cost me anything - I like that!  What shall I make next?

Now all we need is a nice warm day to sit out in the conservatory with a cup of tea - just now it is only 8 degrees out there so you'd have to wear a coat and be quick about drinking a hot drink!

Now for something completely different - earlier today I read an article here about food waste which really insenced me - I wonder what you think.  The supermarkets throw away tons of food every day which is past its sell by/use by date - it seems that Tesco, the only supermarket to publish their figures for waste (for which Brownie points to them) threw away 28,500 tons of food in the first 6 moths of last year!  That's approximately 57,000 tons of food in a year by one supermarket and to think there are people starving in the world!  Why do they stock so much more than they can sell I wonder it doesn't sound like very good business practice to me.  I can't imagine that we wouldn't be able to find a substitute if we happened to discover they were out of stock of an item occasionally so where's the problem?

The whole business of sell by/use by dates on things annoys me - we have become passively dependent on the manufacturers and stores to tell us what we once would have known for ourselves.  Did our mothers or grandmothers have such dates on the food they bought?  Of course not - they knew by looking at it, smelling it and feeling it whether or not it was safe to eat but we seem to have lost the ability to trust ourselves when it comes to this.  Why are we told to keep jam refrigerated surely the whole purpose of jam is that it is a way of preserving fruit.  If you keep it in the cupboard it might after a while get a little mould on the top but does that mean it must be thrown away?  No of course not just remove the mould and it's fine to eat - I also sniff mine and if it smells wine-y I might dispose of it but this is unlikely unless it's many months since it was opened.  I have a pot of yoghurt in the fridge which is past its use by date by about a week but I smelled it and tasted a wee bit and then plopped a portion on my stewed fruit and it was just fine.  No wonder we are told that we throw away 30% of the food we buy if we follow the manufacturers' and supermarkets' guidelines.  They of course have a vested interest in selling us more!!  I suppose they are afraid that if we are left to trust our instincts (whatever happened to those?!) we might eat something harmful and then sue them. 

Now I am not advocating that we eat meat or fish that isn't fresh and maybe if you purchase ready meals it is difficult to tell if they are OK or not done up in all the packaging but surely we can see if fruit and vegetables are OK and by that I don't mean perfectly shaped and polished and all exactly the same.  We know what is acceptable and what is not and if we don't then maybe we should.  I can see future generations who have no idea what food really should look and smell like and which will be in total thrall to the supermarket who will tell them what they can and can't eat.  How scary would that be?  Bah Humbug I say!!  What about you?

Monday, 27 January 2014

Less is often More Part II

 I think I am beginning to get the hang of patchwork!  I have been busily making this little quilt using up the fabrics I have to hand.  I had wanted to try out the disappearing 9 patch I'd read about on various blogs and so here is my attempt - I made 2 different blocks and used 2 of the cut squares from each block in each cushion to give a wider range of colours.

 I have a couple of wicker chairs in the conservatory which have shaped cushions in what was originally a pale cream colour which needed replacing as they have become stained and worn in spite of repeated washing (the cats having chosen them as their preferred beds in warmer weather) but rather than attempting to make shaped cushion covers I decided that small quilts tucked over the top would do the job, be easy to remove and wash and look just fine.  Now all we need is for the weather to warm up sufficiently for us to sit out there with our cuppas!  The second quilt is nearly finished so now what I wonder?!

Following on from my last post in which I suggested that less is sometimes more and mentioned my book The Garden Cottage Diaries I thought about technology and how much I now use the internet and how I keep trying to cut back so as to have time for more crafting.and other things and was reminded of the Three Day Week and how we were all plunged into darkness forty years ago in 1974.  I wonder just how we would manage these days without electricity 4 days every week?  Of course we had no computers then nor any of the myriad electronic gizmos that people use all the time these days and which require re-charging regularly.

We were lucky enough to have a Parkray fire - this was a cream enameled glass fronted fire with a back boiler for hot water (we didn't have central heating back then) and used solid fuel so we were warm enough in the living room on the days when there was no electricity but of course the rest of the house was freezing as it was from January to March that the 3-day week took place.  We had candles for light and a little camping gas stove which we could heat a kettle on.  But - and here is the thing - we managed and knowing everyone was in the same boat led to a kind of Blitz spirit.  At work we were bundled up in coats and scarves and luckily not having computers nor even electric typewriters an office job was not much affected apart from not being able to see what we were typing after 3.00 in the afternoon and not being able to feel our fingers!!

We didn't have a TV back then so that didn't matter to us and we made use of the radio Mr M had brought with him to our marriage which ran on a battery!!  Reading by candle light was not easy but we managed and I used to make casseroles and suchlike on the days we did have electricity and then we'd have something to re-heat on the camping gas stove on the days when we didn't have power.  And at least we didn't have to worry about not having a fridge as the house was so cold and freezers were only just becoming fashionable and we didn't have one.  Perhaps my childhood without electricity helped me to deal with it all.
Maybe my idea of running away and living off-grid  - which I spoke about here - wasn't such a bad idea after all!  At least I would have some knowledge of such a lifestyle from my years of living in the Forest at my grandfather's of which I have written in my childhood memories posts.  There we had no electricity nor gas and although there was mains water by the time I lived there and the well had been covered up the tap was in an outhouse and shared between the two houses.  Life was different then but I don't remember being unhappy at not having all mod cons even those that were by the 50s available.  After all most homes in the 50s had mains water and indoor toilets along with electricity for lights if not for power (who remembers electric irons being plugged into the light fittings?!).  However we had paraffin lamps for light, a range fire for cooking and heat and a toilet out the back which must have been connected to a septic tank or something - it certainly didn't have a flush.  We had a wind up radiogram which one of my uncles had apparently made years before in the 20s perhaps, and a few rather dated 78's to play on it when we had any needles!  We did rent a radio in time for the Coronation I remember but that required an accumulator to run it and this had to be recharged each week at the shop and necessitated a walk to said shop carrying the accumulator (see below) which weighed a ton!

No telephone let alone a mobile (not yet invented), no computer, nothing electrical no iron (heavy flat irons heated on the fire were used, kettles (black iron kettle on the fire), washing machines (obviously no plumbing nor electricity so washing was done by hand) but there was time which always seems to be in short supply these days.  Time to talk, time to read (preferably during daylight hours!) time to make meals from scratch rather than shoving a ready meal (not then invented) into the microwave (not yet available for domestic use).  Chores took longer of course and were physically harder but together with not shopping for so much (having to carry it all home on foot cuts down on what can be bought not to mention the lack of money and rationing) meant nobody was overweight!

Less use of the car (what car?!) meant more walking as it was the only way to get about other than taking a bus or train.

Less comfort indoors and very little space meant more time spent outdoors playing for me and my friends which meant more exercise - no couch potatoes with their electronic gismos to play on then!

Less money to spend - more creativity - not so much in the way of beautiful crafts but more of the necessity being the mother of invention kind!

I could go on and on but I'd better stop.  Here is a little piece I came across which says it more briefly than I have!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Less is often more - discuss

I have noticed recently that several bloggers have been having a sort out and clearing the decks in these after Christmas weeks.  I too have made use of these diary-empty weeks of unpredictable weather to do some clearing out here at Chez Marigold.  I swear "stuff" breeds as however often I do this there is always more rubbish next time I look!  Many trips have been made to the charity shops and one or two to the tip, I have got rid of all the clothes I never wear - now that my lifestyle is no longer that of a working woman nor even an ex-pat who entertains often I don't feel the need for so many and it is true that I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time.  When I think back to my childhood and the items my mother and I possessed I wonder how I have come to this situation.  When we moved we fitted all we owned into a trunk which was sent on ahead by rail and we took our personal possessions in a couple of suitcases.  True we didn't have furniture nor did we need linens, kitchen utensils,ornaments and so on but even so I doubt I'd fit even my crafting bits into one trunk these days!

 I began to think about less being more and I think that in many cases it is true.  Take books for example.  Time was when you were allowed 3 books from the library at a time now I am permitted to have up to 20 items and although I don't usually take them all at once I often have my full quota at home - does this mean that I read as carefully and appreciate them as much I wonder?  I think not as I tend to flit between them dipping into one here and another there and sometimes not actually reading them properly at all before taking them back.  The above was the current selection and that didn't include 2 books I had in my basket ready to return to the library!  If you enlarge the photo you'll see from the bookmarks poking out that I am reading several at once!  Might it be better if there was less choice both at the library and indeed on my shelf at home and might I appreciate them more and read them better if I had just 3 at a time?  Think back to when people read by candlelight whatever book they could get hold of and truly valued what they had.

In contrast here are 2 of my own books which I love and re-read constantly - The Garden Cottage Diaries is one I purchased after having had it from the library several times (if you check out the link do watch the little video on it too) and The Magic Apple Tree is one which I had mislaid or lost along the way and a blogger friend very kindly provided me with another copy.  So maybe less is more when it comes to books.

The internet is a wondrous thing and the answer to all one's questions are there at the click of the mouse and yet...  it does mean that I spend far too much time at the computer reading mail, checking out blogs that I follow which then often lead me via links to something else I find of interest and so it goes.  I remember a children's programme on TV many years ago called Sesame Street and the criticism leveled at it that it encouraged children's attention spans to be brief as they never had to sit and watch anything without a change of topic for more than a few minutes.  I don't know if that was a valid criticism or not but I do think that the internet is like flicking through a magazine and we don't actually take in much of what we see - we gain a lot of superficial information but not much by way of depth.  True or not?

Constant connection one with another is yet another thing I wonder about - time was when a letter was the preferred means of contact between friends with perhaps an occasional telephone call; both were truly appreciated but now with e-mails winging back and forth not to mention text messages (how I hate those since I am no good at saying what I want to say in so few characters nor can I get the real meaning when there is no way I can read between the lines!) and mobile phones.  Once upon a time if you were on a journey you were not contactable now it seems people are constantly available - where's the quiet and moment of calm in that?!  Of course I can see the advantages of having such instant communication in an emergency but not all the time surely?  Less use of technology is a good thing isn't it?  I have in mind making myself a challenge to have at least a couple of days a week technology free although I might still want to use the oven, the electric kettle and so on!
I can see that this line of thought could go on and on but maybe I will stop here and do a follow-up post another time.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Signs of Spring?

  Yesterday afternoon I took a wander up through the woods and out onto the main road to see if the daffodils there were in bloom yet.

 I wanted to know as on Saturday whilst in the car on the other side of town I had noticed swathes of them - I did ask Mr M if he could stop for a photo opportunity but he either didn't hear me or else he didn't take any notice so the pic is poor but does give an idea of what it was like!

Whilst not "tossing and dancing in the breeze" exactly the local ones were certainly coming into flower as you can see.

 Looking so pristine and bright...
 ... and so full of hope that I barely noticed the noise of the traffic.

 As you can see there are still deep puddles everywhere  but on a day like today they serve to reflect the blue skies - we noticed this last weekend along our route to Weymouth when the flooded fields, whist being a problem to the farmers, served to look like stunning lakes sometimes with the odd swan or other water bird swimming on them!

It had been a beautiful sunny day but by then the sun was going down behind the trees so I hastened home back the way I had come.

Enjoying the blue skies of yet another day of respite from the everlasting rain!  We had done a bit of tidying in the garden earlier but it had been chilly in our garden which doesn't get much sunshine during the winter when the sun is low.  I thought of friends the other side of the world where the temperatures are so high and was glad I live where I do as cold to me is preferable to too much heat - luckily!!

Thank you all for your comments on my previous post - I am glad it isn't only me that finds life so complicated these days!  Thank you too for your tips.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The simple life

About fifty years ago I bought myself a radio.  I wanted one I could carry round with me to listen to in the garden or in my bedroom and so I went to the shop in Sherborne and bought one.  I can see it now two shades of grey plastic and quite small and light.  I don't remember there being any complications to the purchase I just asked for what I wanted and paid for it and that was that!  I had that radio for years and when I met and eventually married Mr M he too had a radio of about the same vintage or maybe a little older so then we had two (neither is with us now though - mine got broken when some piece of furniture we were trying to move fell on it and we can't remember what happened to Mr M's) We can't remember ever having bought any other radios (though maybe we did but have forgotten) until Mr M bought me this one, which is also a CD and tape player, probably in the 1990s .....

...which sits on the lower shelf in the kitchen and is fine unless I want to change the programme when I need to kneel on the floor to be able to see the numbers when moving the dial.  Then when I want to return to Classic Fm - my usual programme of choice - I can't find it again.  I thought a smaller radio which could sit on a higher shelf and preferably one with pre set programmes would be a good idea and I could also take it with me when I go into my workroom to do some sewing without too much effort. Easy you might think - I want something small and light weight that can be preset to several programmes.

Yesterday being another blue sky day we went to Exeter for an outing - this is the car park at the station as we left.  As we were in Exeter I went into John Lewis to have a look at what they had.  Well there were all shapes, sizes and colours.  There were DAB digital and FM radios, some with clocks and alarms, clear OLED displays and an inputs for your iPod/MP3 player (not that that mattered to me not having either of them).  Some had built in Bluetooth and some had a listen later facility.  How was I to know which I wanted and what all this lot actually means?  I managed to find a salesman to help me but I really do think that people who do understand all this technology find it really, really difficult to conceive how it is that some of us really don't know our DAB from our OLED!  I hate this feeling of being a total nincompoop but I did eventually choose a radio and wanted to buy it and what do you know they didn't have one in stock!!  I think I will continue with the one I have and not bother with a new one after all!

The other thing I was interested in was a laptop - I use the desktop computer which I share with Mr M and  I thought it would be good to have something of my own and, as I like to write, something I could use whenever and wherever I wanted to - in the garden in the summer or at the kitchen table whilst waiting for something to cook and so on.  Once again I came unstuck as there was so much choice and all I knew I wanted was a keyboard that I could touchtype on easily and comfortably, but it seems they can do all kinds of things I might never want as well as some I might, they have different sized memories (so what?  Although I now gather they work faster the larger the memory) , they can be Blue tooth enabled (what exactly is Bluetooth anyway) some had 8GB of RAM (good bad or indifferent?) built in webcam (I do know what that is as I do use Skype!) and innumerable other specifications.  They don't come with any of the packages I would want such as Word and you can't buy said packages singly but only in a pack along with Excel and various others which I would never use but not with Publisher which I might like.  My mind was boggling with all this information and I decided to call it a day and maybe buy a new fountain pen instead!!

Then there is banking - not so long ago I received in the mail a new Debit card with instructions to cut up the old one and guess which one I cut up by mistake?!  No problem, I thought, I'll just telephone the bank and get them to post me another one.  Haa! - no such luck of course, and it took me over half an hour and left me in tears telling Mr M I must surely have the first stages of Altzhiemer's  as I really couldn't remember any of the stuff I was being asked for.  When I did eventually get myself set up with a new password I was told not to write it down - not write it down are they mad!!!  And then have to go through that experience all over again next time I wanted to speak to anyone about my account?  No chance - it IS written down if only I can remember where!

Life was so much simpler years ago- we had bank accounts and even cheque books or maybe just cash in our purses, the scale of choice was so much smaller and technology hadn't raised its head to the same extent.  Sometimes I can quite see the attraction of being a hermit living alone somewhere off-grid and having nothing to do with it all.  Oh for the simple life!!

Monday, 13 January 2014

In the depths of winter...

... lay an invincible summer - to precis Camus.  After the dreadful weather we have been enduing lately there comes every once in a while a day like Saturday which lifts the soul and reminds us that there is hope.

My sister-in-law was with us this weekend and on Saturday we went to Weymouth for an outing and to take advantage of the beautiful day .

We walked round the Old Harbour... the Nothe and along the South West Coast Path.

The recent storms had washed up piles of seaweed onto the rocks.  Last time we did this walk we met a lady collecting seaweed for use on her allotment - she would have needed more than a few bags to collect Saturday's harvest!

The South West Coast Path turns inland for a while away from the fallen cliffs and as we walked along a quiet residential road we saw these.

Our route brought us to Sandsfoot Castle - a ruin but with fabulous views from the windows.

It's hard to believe it is still January and that the storms have been lashing this coast isn't it?

Tranquility in blue!

At Sandsfoot Castle we joined the Rodwell Trail which follows the route of an old railway line - it's been a while since any trains stopped here as you can see.

I love this litte bay - always quiet even in summer and a different world to the main beach at Weymouth with its Punch and Judy, donkey rides and so on.  Not that these were in evidence in January anyway of course.  We noticed a family on this little beach cooking lunch on a little barbeque sheltered amongst the rocks and it looked such fun.  Children poking about on the sand and in the shallows in their coloured wellies and Mum sitting on the beach well wrapped in her coat whilst Dad cooked whatever they were having for lunch.

We had no food with us nor any barbeque so we crossed the road and wended our way to the Chesil Beach Visitor Centre where we planned to have our lunch.

Last time we were here we ate indoors by the window and this was our view but this time being a Saturday, being a little earlier in the day and lunchtime and being the first sunny day for what seemed like weeks all the world and his dog were out and wanting to eat here so that we had to sit outside at one of the tables in the sunshine.  Imagine eating al fresco in January especially after the weather we have had!  The sun on our backs was warm but by the time we had finished our sandwiches our hands were cold and we decided to have coffee indoors as by then there were spaces at the tables.

Having warmed up over our coffees we set off  to walk along Chesil Beach to Portland and to get the bus back from there.  It was hard going walking on the pebbles but beautiful.  Looking towards Portland.

Looking the other way towards Abbotsbury.

Looking to the left towards Osmington across the bay.

The beach was littered with rubbish washed up by the storms.  I found a couple of pretty bits of drift wood to add to my shells and pebbles on the bathroom windowsill.

I was shocked at just how much of the debris was plastic and especially those coloured plastic disposable cigarette lighters - there must have been hundreds of them in the stretch we walked.  I felt Nature was saying "Disposable?  No way - you can have these back!"  Where does all the rubbish come from?  Is it tossed overboard from boats?  Although that can't necessarily be true as apparently a dead cow was found amongst the stuff when conservationists helped to clear some of it from the beach!

Having walked on the pebbles for about a mile our legs and feet felt very strange when we stepped off onto the pavement at Chiswell where we caught a bus back into Weymouth (we all have bus passes of course!) and this was the view of the main beach where we had started earlier in the day now with the sun sinking and lighting the distant hills with an orange glow.

On the drive home the sky ahead was a watercolour wash of pink and blue ...

...whilst to the west the sun sank gradually below the horizon and every twig on every tree was delicately outlined as a black silhouette against the wonderful sky - shades of bright orange through peach, lemon, pale blue and deeper blue - beautiful

The end of a beautiful day! Home just before it got dark and had the kettle on soon after!  Nothing can beat a day out walking in the fresh air for raising the spirits. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

End of the Festivities - Twelfth Night

So it's all over now - the decorations have all been taken down - well truth to tell that didn't take long as I'd brought the door wreath in a few nights ago as it was tossing about in the wind and the tree was only a very small one - but tell me why having packed everything away and resealed the box and stored it in the eaves cupboard there is always one thing left out that you come upon too late?  The cards have been removed, re-read and looked at before going in a bag ready to go for recycling and it's back to normal tomorrow.  Apparently in Tudor times Christmas was celebrated for the whole 12 days with feasting and merry making - though guessing what life might have been like back then they probably needed a couple of weeks break and to fill up with food before going back to normal!

When we lived in France we were introduced to the custom of the Galette des Rois which is a cake served at Epiphany and containing a fevre or dried bean although nowadays it is more likely to be a little china figure like the above.  The cake is usually some kind of brioche type ring shaped cake although we ate all kinds of different sorts including a chocolate one and a puff pastry one.  In France you need to wait till after January to start your diet I can tell you!  Anyway getting back to the cake whoever gets the slice containing the fevre is crowned King for the day and wears a gold cardboard crown.  That is if he or she hasn't had to dash off to the dentist for emergency treatment after biting into the fevre!  Well they say you learn something new every day or as the French say you go to bed less stupid each night and I now discover - having watched the Tudor Monastery Farm Christmas that this custom was once  a tradition we followed in the UK only in our case it was a dried pea that was the token.  I dare say the custom died out with the Reformation though I haven't researched it.

We have had some stunning skies lately in between the heavy dark grey ones which have dumped yet more rain on us.  Here are a few photos:

 Sun going down the other afternoon giving us a beautiful peach coloured sky.

 Two more taken on the same afternoon - looking towards the east.

 This morning when I went out to feed the birds this amazing sunrise was in evidence - I know red sky in the morning means shepherd's warning - which did turn out to be true as it's rained all day since soon after I took this - but isn't it amazing?

 The sun did try though and you can perhaps see the light in this one - such are the moments we value here just now!  The grass was frosted and just for a brief moment all was well!  The birds are enjoying the coconut shell and nuts as well as the table which seems to be well used now word has got round.  A lesser spotted woodpecker is a regular visitor to the fat/seed filled shell I made and the blue tits get right inside it for their turn.

As I said it's been wet all day here so this afternoon I spent a happy time making some Seville marmalade - I have left it simmering on the hob and will add the sugar in an hour or so.  As I sliced the orange peel  I was taken back to the lovely week we spent some years ago in Seville where the oranges were falling from the trees and all over the pavements - what a good place for foraging that would be eh?  None of your nettle soup or wild garlic pesto but lovely oranges for marmalade!!!

Hope you are all keeping warm and dry (in UK) and warm  and not snowed in (in US) and cool in OZ!!!