Two Big Beasts

A couple of weeks ago I had a message from my son – could he have the use of a space 3m x 3m in my workshop? He had put a shipping container on the garden of a house he owns and rents out in the same road as his home with the intention of using it as a workshop. But the a neighbour complained to the Council who told him it was ‘not in keeping’ and must be removed. That left him with all his tools stored in a small shed in his own smaller garden (which already houses his office) but nowhere to use them. Of course I said ‘Yes’ and by rearranging my stuff created the space he needed.

So a flurry of parcels and packages arrived and he sent me a list of materials he wanted me to order from the local Builders’ Merchant. Then they were followed, last Monday, by the man himself plus his cat. Not your average moggy, not even a pedigree cat. This is an F3 Savannah Cat, at least twice the size of my more humble ones. But a lovely softie who acts more like a dog in many ways and obviously thought that my garden was Heaven! He did give my dogs and cats a bit of a shock though – not quite sure what sort of big beast had entered their domain!

Odin explores this new territory

My son is a software developer but, like his father, my father and my paternal grandfather, loves making things in wood. It transpired that the workshop space was needed to build a computer controlled wood cutting machine thus combining his two passions. He has a small one at home which can cut things about the size of an A4 sheet of paper but having seen its potential he wanted one which could do handle anything up to a full sheet of plywood – 2.4m x 1.2m! Hence the large area of floor space required.

With intermittent help from me to ‘hold the other end of’ and a couple of trips out to get things he hadn’t realised he would need, he built the worktop the sheet of wood will sit on. It is 2 layers of heavy ply with framing and 2 sheets of insulation between them to stop it flexing.

The cutting head has to move in 3 dimensions – up and down the bed, from side to side and deeper or shallower, so he also needed a gantry which travels along the sides of the bed (the x axis)) with another piece which moves side to side (y axis) and can also raise or lower the cutter (z axis). The gantry and other wooden parts run on small wheels on tracks and are pulled into position by motors which have thin rubber tracks around a cog wheel – think caterpillar tracks. The motors are controlled by the computer.

This bit travels from side to side on the gantry and the top part raises or lowers the head

By Friday evening the thing was built and he had wired up 2 of the 4 motors but ran out of time (he had to drive home early on Saturday morning) to connect the other 2 let alone test it all and make something. He will come back as soon as he is able to finish it and then we can start playing with it! As you can see it is pretty massive – definitely a big beast!

Now all I have to do is tidy up the rest of the workshop!

My reward is that I will be seeing my son more frequently and can ask him to programme the machine to cut wood out for me and drill the holes where they should go – a sort of ‘made to measure’ IKEA in my garden 😉

Over the border!

I have been quiet for a while, not because I have had nothing to write about but because I have been too busy to sit down and type about it all!

Now that restrictions are easing and I have had both my Covid vaccinations I went to visit my daughter for a few days. Some of you may remember that she works as Learning Support Assistant in a primary school and it is easiest for her if I visit during the holidays so I went for part of half term.

As you can imagine it was wonderful to see her especially as the last time was August! We packed a lot into a few days. The lease on her rented house was coming to an end and although she could have renewed it she was considering moving. She has made the house into a lovely home and has some fantastic neighbours but the landlady is very reluctant to spend money on maintenance and repairs. Last winter the badly fitting, single glazed windows and lack of loft insulation meant the heating was not up to the job and the house was very cold. Then 2 neighbours (both in rented homes) announced they were moving – who would come in their place? It seemed sensible to look at other houses to rent. So once again I found myself viewing properties with one of my children! Front runner was a very similar house to the one she was in, on a quiet estate within walking distance of the town center, but with a slightly different layout of rooms and much better maintained. As in many towns and cities, especially those built in the 60’s and 70’s the suburbs are arranged around roads which radiate out from the center of town and the buses run along those radial roads, So to visit friends a couple of miles away in the next ‘village’ means a bus into town and another out, or using the car. So paradoxically living near the center should help her kids’ social lives! After a lot of weighing up the pros and cons including the hassle of changing her address on everything, dealing with the benefits system and packing everything up, she decided to move and we set the wheels in motion.

Two viewings of the place on different days meant we were in town so I hit the charity shops to replenish my wardrobe after being unable to do so through the Covid restrictions. I had noticed that another aspect of my rut was that every morning I pulled on jeans and a t-shirt type top, the only decision required being short or long sleeves, then a fleece hoodie. Sometimes they were clean and tidy clothes suitable for being seen out in and other days they were gardening wear with stains and holes but that was the only difference. It was so long since I had worn earrings that the holes had almost healed over and I abandoned my watch when the battery ran out. By going into ALL the charity shops we found a skirt, a dress, a pair of smarter trousers and several tops in my size.

A selection of my finds – some are in the wash!

And as we were out and spending money (It hardly hurts at all to wave a plastic card over a machine which beeps its thanks!) we had a pub lunch one day and ate out at Wagamama another evening. If any of you know of a good cookbook or website that would introduce me to cooking Japanese cuisine (bearing in mind that my local supermarkets have limited ranges of ‘world foods’!) please tell me. What we had was delicious but very new for me. The pub lunch included a particularly nice relish which I managed to re-create at home – recipe below.

Red Onion and Red Pepper Relish

Sweat half a kilo of thinly sliced red onions slowly until beginning to soften, add one and a half red peppers cut into short thin strips and continue cooking until everything is soft and starting to melt. Add salt, pepper, a generous slug of balsamic vinegar, a desertspoon or so of dark muscovado sugar, a heaped teaspoon of grain mustard and a splash of blackcurrant vinegar (or pontack sauce or red wine vinegar). Continue to simmer for another ten minutes or so stirring frequently for the flavours to mingle. Check the taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Either pour into a jar and store in the fridge OR pour into a bottom lined cake tin, top with a circle of ready rolled puff pastry and bake at 200 deg for 20 mins then invert onto a plate as a tart for a delicious lunch. I made it when friends came and they asked for seconds so it must have been OK!

There are at least 2 more posts about my activities in my head and I will try to get them onto the screen soon!

Ker-ching! A Penny drops!

There were some lovely comments on my last post about the blanket I was making to use up those little balls of wool that every knitter accumulates. The ‘granny squares’ are not all the same size necessitating strips and stripes and extra rounds to make them fit together and the colours are multiple and varied – yet the effect is cheerful and lively and most of you loved it as do I. Why?

Looking around my home and at the assorted handmade blankets in my cupboard I realised that the pieces I like best are the scrappy ones – the patchworks (usually fairly random) and the multicoloured. Partly this is because they will fit in with any colour scheme, adding both pattern and a hit of colour to the space. So in that sense they are very practical – change the decor? No problem!

Musing during a dog walk (as you do!) two memories from childhood came into my head.

The first concerned my childhood heroine; the woman I wanted to be like when I grew up. My Mum’s eldest, and much older, sister Aunty Nan. Nan and her husband Francis were childless (not by choice – as she said ‘In our day if it didn’t happen it didn’t happen and there was nothing you could do about it’) which meant that she had not given up work to raise her family. By the time I was old enough to remember them they were both lecturers at Alsager Teacher Training College near Newcastle-under-Lyme and lived in half a very long Nissen hut on the campus left over from World War 2. Francis headed up Rural Studies and Nan taught Craft. I found Francis slightly intimidating and when we visited he and my Dad would talk bees which they both kept. Nan would always find something crafty for me to do so that she and Mum could cook and talk. Later they bought 3 adjoining building plots where a new estate was being developed and had a bungalow built. Nan was furious that the architect would only talk to Francis even though she was the more artistic and better at design! She was even sidelined during the discussion of the kitchen! It was a beautiful home, very up to date in its furnishings and, of course, with Francis being an expert gardener, set in a fabulous garden. But what I really loved was their very early VW Dormobile.

Francis’s passion for bees meant he was not content with keeping a few hives of honey bees. He was really a thwarted academic and one of his good friends was Alan Gemmell (If you are old enough and live in the UK you may remember Professor Alan Gemmell of Keele University from Gardener’s Question Time. Prof’s passion was potatoes). So every summer he and Nan would spend the long vacation travelling Europe so he could collect wild bees and identify them. He had a cabinet of shallow drawers in his study with serried ranks of bees filed according to their latin name.

To make these expeditions easier, especially when he had exhausted Western Europe and started exploring behind the Iron Curtain, they got the Dormobile. To me it was a playhouse on wheels! And in it were blankets made by Nan on those journeys. She would take a pair of double pointed knitting needles – the short ones used for socks – and odd balls of wool so that she had some knitting to do in the evenings or while she was sitting in a field somewhere half watching Francis stalk his prey. Squares were easy to carry around or store in the van. Some were plain but lots were stripey or half and half. Sometimes the wool was thinner than she would have liked so she would use 2 colours together making a tweedy effect. Those blankets were part of the magic of the van for me. So very different from the contents of her house or of any of the other houses I knew.

The second memory was of a couple whose names I cannot remember but they were members of the Manchester and District Beekeepers Association, of which my Dad was Treasurer. The Association met once a month for most of the year. In the winter they rented a room somewhere for an evening and had ‘talks’ about bees and related subjects. But in the summer there were ‘Apiary visits’. One member would host the rest for an afternoon wherever they kept their bees. One of the more experienced members, often my father, would go through the hives explaining what they were doing, what they were looking for and why. If the bees needed extra space or a super full of honey needed to be taken away then that would be done. So winter was for theory and summer for practical. And on Apiary visits families were invited along too. There were a couple of single women who kept bees, a couple who did it jointly but most of the keepers were men. So the families consisted of wives and a few children who would sit around on deckchairs as far away from the hives as possible and chat. Everyone would take a picnic tea and once the hives were safely put back together again the beekeepers would join us and the host (or more usually the host’s wife!) would make cups of tea. It was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon and most of the gardens were delightful.

My Dad when he was young with his bees

The couple I am thinking of hosted a visit every year but not in their garden – I never knew where they lived in winter. Every summer they would decamp to a field where he kept his bees and where they had 2 old railway wagons. One was where he stored all his bee equipment and extracted his honey – a dim space which I always tried to get into at some point to enjoy its scent of wood, wax and honey. The other was where they lived with two single beds arranged in an L shape at the end furthest from the door, each covered with a multicoloured, home made blanket, a small table and 2 hard chairs and a rudimentary kitchen with a camping stove. Outside was a compost toilet and another table with a washing up bowl on it and a tap on a post behind it. The field was on a hill and there was an amazing view over the valley. I knew of no-one else who lived like that – it was like being in a story!

One huge granny square!

I suppose that from those 2 experiences I came to associate blankets like the one I am working on with a simple life, being unconventional, having adventures but also with being cosy and self-sufficient. No wonder I like them so much – by making them I am constructing my very own magic carpet of the imagination, opening up possibilities of adventures and new ways of living!

Things are looking up

A fairly disastrous start to my garden had me feeling rather dejected but at last the sunny days/ frosty nights weather has given way to the usual ‘chilly with varying amounts of rain’ variety. Not nearly as nice for working in but better for growing.

I brought the trays of tender seeds indoors and put them on the living room windowsill. The window faces due South and there is a radiator underneath. At last some have germinated.

these are cucurbits of various kinds and peppers – sweet and hot.

I planted a net of first early potatoes – some outdoors and some in large pots in the lean-to greenhouse on the South wall of the house. The outside ones have kept trying to send up shoots and been nipped by frost despite a heavy mulch of paper so none have shoots more than 2 inches tall. In the greenhouse they are almost ready to flower!

Last year I ordered some plants and when they arrived a free gift of a few dahlia tubers had been included. I was hesitant because in the past slugs have munched every dahlia that put a shoot above the soil. But they were free so I put them out in pots and they came up well. In the Autumn I brought the pots into the lean-to greenhouse, stood them on bubble wrap and tied more round the pots then added a layer of shredded paper to the top. They have come back well.

Everything will be late but there should be some things to eat from the garden!

Indoors I have been decorating my bedroom. In this slightly weird old cottage that meant doing the stairs as well – we knocked 3 small bedrooms and the landing into one generous room so the door is at the bottom of the stairs. I didn’t realise that DIY stores were fully open (in my world they are useful but not essential) so I ordered paint online for collection. I knew that the colour I saw on my screen was not accurate – would I like it when I saw it on the walls? Should I order tester pots first? Since Carmarthen is 20 miles away I decided to risk it. It is paint. If I didn’t like it I could buy another can in a different colour and go over it again. I did however invest in some good quality paint that promised to cover any previous colour in one coat. So

From this

To

One friend’s reaction was ‘Oooh! You’ll have to be properly grown up now!’

I thought the pale colour would be a lilac grey and it is bluer than I expected but actually I am happy with it.

On the rut jumping front I have continued trying to expand the range of foods I eat. Yesterday I picked a large handful of ‘greens’ which included old favourites chard and wild garlic, shoots of asparagus kale which I grew for the first time last year and have been picking leaves from all winter, but also dandelion leaves and vine leaves. I had thought that dandelions had to be blanched under a flowerpot but Carolee (https://herbalblessingsblog.wordpress.com ) assured me they didn’t. I chopped all the leaves and sauteed the whole lot in a little olive oil, sprinkled with salt and they were delicious. Today I have made Soda Bread (from Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking), Blinis (from Michael Mosley’s The Clever Guts Diet) and Oatcakes (from The River Cottage Handbook No 3 – Bread by Daniel Stevens).

On the crafting front – wait for Scrap Happy!

At long last we are able to start meeting up with friends, have workdays and non-essential shops are open. Yesterday I met friends in Cardigan to have coffee. As it was fine there were more people out and about than usual. We cannot yet go inside but the Council has reduced the High Street to one lane allowing cafes to put chairs and tables out on the pavements and spill onto the side of the road. It wasn’t ideal with delivery lorries trundling past but a big step towards normality!

The other thing that has lifted my spirits is that my son plans to move nearer to me. He no longer needs to be able to commute to London every day but instead will be working from home most of the time. His job in IT is stressful and his health is suffering. Moving out of an urban environment should help him relax. His wife, who has very little experience of living in the country, prefers to stay put so for now he will buy somewhere small, but big enough for her and their adult children to visit, and split his time between here and there. That way she can try living down here (very different from staying with your M-I-L!) and see if she likes it after all. I have been helping him house hunt and he has made an offer on a place he saw the other side of Carmarthen from me. Of course there are many things that can go wrong between offer and moving in but knowing that he will buy that or another place soon and I will be able to see more of him is lovely.

Back to the Beginning

Embroidery? Well, yes, I learned to do it as a child. I had no choice. My Paternal Grandmother won prizes for her needlework. Her daughter, Aunty Megan, embroidered tablecloths and tray cloths and such like. On my Mother’s side of the family it was more utility sewing. Her Eldest sister, Nan taught crafts at a Teacher Training College but was more into weaving and bookbinding than sewing. However the next eldest, Buff, had trained as a Tailoress and by the time I was a child was teaching dressmaking at evening classes and looking after their father who was bedridden (by choice – but that is another story) and Peggy, the third daughter, who also still lived at home, made soft toys for the Sale of Work at the Church. So yes. I learned to sew and do embroidery.

There were three types of embroidery in my world. The one everyone did most of was to buy a pre-printed cloth, with or without the threads supplied as a kit, and follow the instructions. Painting by numbers with stranded cotton. A slight variant, mainly used for hankies, was to use iron on transfers to provide the outlines. The only creativity involved was choosing whether the flowers would be pink, blue or yellow.

The second was drawn thread work. Mum had done that at least once but the cloth was so precious it was never used. The third was cross stitch using either painted canvas (Does anyone else remember getting a Penelope kit for Christmas?) or working from a chart on Aida fabric. Painting by numbers again.

Mum had a set of books of traditional embroidery designs from various parts of Europe complete with traceable patterns but I never remember her using them. I have them still and I have never used them either!

I inherited more than enough embroidered cloths to have no incentive to make any more. And although I admired the skill that had gone into them and understood how many hours of work they represented I was never all that keen on them. I have, from time to time embroidered small items but again it has been ‘trace a pattern and colour it in’

In my teens I had an idea to create a picture with embroidery but it stayed as an idea and never got made. I just did not have the confidence to have a go and had a sneaky suspicion that asking for help would just cause problems. Then life got busy!

Over the last few years I have become aware that creating things from a pattern or kit is not the same as ‘being creative’. Not that there is anything wrong with following a pattern – the skill required can be considerable and the effect lovely. But I am ready to spread my wings and move up to ‘being creative’. I am exploring several ways to do that and one of them is to resurrect that idea of making pictures out of fabric and threads using techniques that come under the general heading of ’embroidery’. I want to have a go! Now I have cleared some wall space and am really enjoying having John’s pictures (and some of mine) up I want to create more but in different ways.

I started sketching some ideas but realised that my stitching skills are rusty and my repertoire of stitches limited. Then I came across the site Pintangle (www.pintangle.com) and Sharon’s Take a Stitch Tuesday series. So I went back to the beginning and am re-learning stitches I have known for years and lots of ways to elaborate them plus some which I have never tried before. Each ‘lesson’ I do on a square of fabric then glue it to a piece of file paper so I can write on what each stitch is called. Her instructions and pictures are wonderfully clear and her stitch dictionary is a revelation to me! From time to time she also posts about a stitch which is not part of the ‘course’ and I try those as well.

As with the boro bag and mat (read about them here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2021/02/15/scrap-happy-february-2/) I have learned that my straight lines are not very straight and my stitches not always as even as I would like! I have bought some of those pens which have ink that disappears with water and some fine Aida to practice with. I also now know that whilst I have stranded cotton in a range of colours and one hank of perle I need to buy some more interesting threads! Meanwhile I am learning, stretching myself and enjoying the different effects I can create. I can already see some possibilities for elements of the designs I have in mind. Watch this space – but please don’t hold your breath – these have been incubating for 55 years and don’t look like hatching just yet!

Scrap Happy #1 for 2020!

Actually these are things I made last year but were Christmas presents so had to stay secret until now!

John’s immune system had been very damaged by all the chemotherapy so we hardly ever saw our grandchildren and in consequence struggled to know what they might like for Christmas or Birthdays and what they already had We got into the habit of sending a small token gift and putting what we would have expected to spend into a bank account so that we could help fund things like school trips that their parents might struggle to afford. I still send them either just a card or a small handmade something. This year, for grandson number 2, who is 19 and currently has a small motorbike, I will top up what his Mum can afford for driving lessons for him to ensure he is able to pass his test.

Anyway, this years gift to all the grandchildren, including the fostered ones, was based on a free pdf download pattern from Ann Wood handmade. I chose to do more embroidery on mine than she specifies and used beads not small buttons for the eyes. It used very small scraps, part of a reel of ribbon I had been given, left over embroidery thread, stuffing from stock and a lot of love.

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate and Gun (see links below) on the 15th of the month. Not everyone posts every time but if you want inspiration for using up scrap this is the place to look!

Kate, Gun, Titty, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline,
Sunny and Kjerstin

New Year, Renewed Me, New Projects

I really enjoyed my Christmas break!

It was obvious back in the Autumn that it was going to be a strange one and that any plans might be scuppered at short notice by restrictions being imposed or lifted.

My son, being Muslim, doesn’t celebrate Christmas and, as Head of Triage in the IT department of a multinational company, had volunteered to be ‘on call’ on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in case a computer glitsch stopped the cash flowing. That meant he couldn’t come to see me – my broadband is not good enough! I knew I was welcome to go there and that he always cooks a huge meal for the extended family. However my daughter-in-law is terrified of dogs which makes visiting complicated.

My daughter was planning how to spend the first Christmas in her new home with her 2 teenage kids and since her husband believes me to be the source of most of his woes, ‘putting her up to it’ and misses no opportunity to tell the kids how evil I am and that it is my fault the family has broken, it seemed wisest that I not be in the mix this year.

Being on my own for the festive period held no fears for me. The infection that proved the last straw for John began on a Christmas Day and he died early the following January. The next year I decided not to inflict my misery on anyone else and refused all offers to join others. Since then I have mostly stayed home alone though I have sometimes accepted invitations to lunch with local friends. There was a debate about whether I would go to my daughter’s on Boxing Day when her 2 would be at their Dad’s and maybe we would drive over to my son’s. In the end the Welsh lockdown and then the English one kept us all apart.

However I had formed a plan! I did the bulk of my shopping, including for food, booze and chocolate, early. I promised myself a ‘staycation’ from Christmas Eve until the 4th of January when everyone would be back at work. During that time I would only do essential housework and no gardening. I got plenty of books from the library and bought some from charity shops. I also made a list of projects I wanted to at least start but kept not making time for.

Just after Boxing Day I got the weirdest sensation – that I had shrunk! A quick check showed that physically I was the same height as always and if anything slightly wider – well booze and chocolate do that to you! But I felt the same size as my Aunty Megan who was 5 feet nothing and skinny with it. It took a few days to work out that I had lost confidence in trying new things or ‘having a go’. It wasn’t my body which had shrunk but my sense of self. I think that all the restrictions have meant that my world has shrunk and whilst I have been busy in the garden and house it has been maintaining what is already there rather than doing new things. Partly I think it was feeling that if I started something and it went wrong it would be harder to get someone to help me put it right. In addition I haven’t been on a course to learn a new skill for ages so there was nothing new to practice having been shown how to do it once.

That seemed to explain the projects which had stalled when I got to a tricky bit or one requiring decisions as well as the ones I never started. I get lots of inspiration from reading all your posts, my head is full of ideas but can I actually do them?

In one of those nudges the Universe sends my way from time to time one of the non-fiction books I had got for my holiday reading was ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes recommended to me by my new tenant, Laura. It isn’t an easy read – she is a storyteller and Jungian psychoanalyst of Mexican birth but raised by Hungarian foster parents in the USA. The slightly odd English mixed with bits of analytic theory are – um – interesting! But I have found what she has to say very interesting and enlightening. Particularly the chapter on why we procrastinate!

I am still trying to determine which of my 4 legged companions chewed the cover! Lucky it is my own copy!

A ‘good talking to’ was required so I went and did some yoga stretches to pull myself up straight instead of being rather crumpled and then gave myself one.

I recognised that on my break I had taken the time and trouble to cook nice meals and that I had previously rather got into the habit of leaving it to the last minute to decide what to eat so that it had to be quick and easy. So I started to cook my main meal at lunchtime. I am usually indoors in the mornings so I can combine cooking with another job whereas in the afternoon I am often in the garden and don’t want to bother taking my boots off and coming in to start a meal. I also browsed my cook books and recipe file noting things I hadn’t made for a long time. Food is now a lot more interesting!

I also reviewed all the stalled projects and realised that most could be finished quite quickly if I just stopped faffing about and dithering. One big one which has been going on for over a year, partly because of shops not being open, will be another post but I finished making a pair of slippers for my daughter (yet to be posted as the roads have been icy) and turned some granny squares into a cushion cover. Another lot of squares are mostly edged and I have worked out the placement but have run out of the yarn I am using for edging and joining so no more can be done until the market reopens.

I now feel back to my normal size (with a little extra for self-indulgencies!) and having ‘cleared the decks’ am ready to start on new creative projects. My next post will be scrap-happy which will be presents I made but I hope to be able to regale you with more new things soon.

Not Edwardy but ….

A few years ago my daughter came across a Christmas tradition which I think originally came from Scandinavia. On December 1st one of Father Christmas’s elves appears in the house by magic. During the day he behaves impeccably but once everyone is asleep he plays and makes mischief. Nothing nasty you understand, but he may raid the biscuit tin leaving a trail of crumbs across the kitchen, be found asleep on the sofa with an empty beer bottle at his side, or he may have had visitors for a game of cards which remain scattered on the table. When he visited me with them he kicked a loo roll from the top of the stairs to the bottom like the puppy in the Andrex ads. Then on Christmas night, when Father Christmas delivers his gifts, the elf hops onto the sleigh and returns home with him.

My family’s elf was called Edwardy and was a dapper young man dressed in green. When, in the middle of lockdown, my daughter reached the end of her tether with her emotionally abusive and controlling husband and fled on the advice of the police, she was able, helped by friends, to remove her personal belongings and some things of sentimental value but didn’t have time to search the loft for Christmas stuff however precious. So Edwardy remains incarcerated in a box.

However she and her daughter want to continue the tradition. (she may be 14 but who cares!) But it is important to them both that their new Elf is not like Edwardy which rather ruled out simply buying another one. But that is what Mam-gu is for! Could I make a fat, rather scruffy, old elf in something other than green (or red which triggers bad memories for my daughter) but still Christmassy? Good job I enjoy a challenge!

I started to think, mainly during dog walks, then played around with paper and sticky tape to get the main shapes, work out sizes and the position of his face and limbs. I found I was having enormous fun! I could almost have claimed he was a Scrap-Happy but I did have to buy the purple and blue felt. Everything else was from stuff I had lying around my workroom.

For the technically minded among you his legs are pieces of thin hemp rope (bought for the garden) with a knot inside his boots to bulk them out and give them weight. His arms have a pipe cleaner bent double inside so can be repositioned and I stitched his staff to the inside of his mitten before I sewed the two sleeve / mitten pieces together so that it is attached but the stitch is not visible on the outside. His hair, eyebrows and beard are DK wool stitched on then unravelled and his eyes are 2 black beads. I stuffed his body with toy stuffing but inserted a spoonful of rice wrapped in muslin near the base to weight him.

Until today this new Elf had no name – it was up to his new family to christen him. As I was writing this post the news came through. He is McJingle Toes. Let the Christmas fun begin!

Little Things

Last time I posted I was feeling rather glum as I had been limiting myself to essential trips and then Wales went into National Lockdown just as I would have been able to go out again! At least ours was only two and a half weeks whereas England has just started a four week one. I can go out on Tuesday! And I will – I have an appointment to have my hair cut and plan to do some other errands whilst in town.

After writing that last post I decided I needed to get things in perspective. I am not ill, frightened or hungry. I have plenty of friends and can email or message them. So I took myself off to one of my favourite spots for a good talking to! It is in the woods I rent from my neighbour. There is a small clearing next to the stream and on the hill above it a huge Oak tree which most have been part of a hedge once upon a time as there is a noticeable bank running down the hill to the stream – an old field boundary. The stream chatters away as it rushes to the sea and the tree stands majestic and solid. Both have seen it all before; pestilence, famines, wars (I am told that the Home Guard trained by shooting across the stream into the hillside opposite during World War 2) as well as good things like the farms thriving, children playing, lovers meeting. I tell them my worries and grumbles and I can almost hear them telling me to stop whingeing!

But (isn’t there always a but!) the path from my garden into the woods had become overgrown with brambles so I had to take a pair of secateurs with me and cut them back. As I did so I uncovered a tiny nest – I assume a wren’s. Two tiny birds did all that work to build a home and raise their chicks. They don’t care who wins the American election, who gets Covid 19, whether I am happy or sad. They just get on with their lives and do what their instincts tell them.

The cup is just 2.5 inches (6.5cm) across and beautifully woven

I realised that I needed to stop fretting about things I can’t change and focus on the little things that bring me joy. So as well as that nest…

I finished a jumper for the collection at Studio 3. This is plainer than I usually do and to the pattern they provide. That makes 5 I have done for them to different designs. I have enough yarn in my stash for at least one more which I will try to get done before the end of the year. A group of refugees have recently been moved to a disused army base not far from here causing quite a lot of controversy – some protesters unhappy with the decision especially as it all happened suddenly with very little consultation, and some people organising to try to help and support them. What must it be like to be dumped in the middle of nowhere with hardly any resources in the middle of lockdown? I know my jumpers will go to a different group but if knitting helps people worse off than me I will knit!

A couple of days ago I found this little fellow in the car port. I have seen newts in the garden before but it is nice to know they are still around. Once I had taken the photograph I moved him to a safer spot. I know there is a lot more wildlife here than I know about – they keep well hidden. What a priviledge to share my space with so many other creatures.

I was weeding the bank next to the deck and found these dahlias. They were facing away from the house and as I hadn’t staked them were hanging down below behind their pot. They have taken a battering in the wind and rain but add a splash of colour to the kitchen table. I have never succeeded with dahlias before but will definitely grow them next year to brighten up the Autumn (and next year I will stake them!)

I also came across what, at first sight, looked to be a HUGE toad but turned out to be my son’s drone. Over a year ago he was here and playing with it (He’s moved on from the radio controlled car he had as a child!) and it got caught in the big Ash tree next to the deck. We tried all sorts of things to get it down but to no avail. It must have eventually blown down and landed under some self-seeded raspberry canes where it hid. Finding it reminded me of spending time with him, his 3 small foster children and my daughter, who took the opportunity of lift to come with them. That brought a big grin to my face!

What is making you smile at the moment?

Blessings # 13 – M is for Momentos

Lots of the things in my home have stories attached. They remind me of the person who gave them to me or an occasion. They are bits of my past brought into my present. And whilst I am alone so much more than usual they have taken on extra significance. They root me in my family history, my past experiences, remind me that I am loved, that I have suyrvived difficult times in the past and that I have the resources to get through this.

Photos of course

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The pot my father put his cufflinks and small change into every night when he went to bed sits next to a gift from my daughter. At the other end of the shelf is the wooden moneybox I put my pocket money in as a child.

My huisband’s Grandmother’s dinner service and her kitchen scales. I still use the scales though I have now bought a set of metric weights to go with her imperial ones.

The grandfather clock left to me by my mother’s oldest sister.

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Souvenirs of travels.

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Some pieces my husband turned.

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Special greetings cards which we received have been framed.

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I have had an interesting life and made many precious memories – and intend to go on making more!.