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

IMG_20200407_104503888

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.

IMG_20190630_150823835

Souvenirs of travels.

IMG_20200407_120327080

Some pieces my husband turned.

IMG_20200407_103704687

Special greetings cards which we received have been framed.

IMG_20200407_103757350

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

Blessings # 5 – E is for Electronic Communication

When my maternal grandmother died, two months after I was born, my Mother’s older sister took a stack of small change to the nearest telephone kiosk to contact my Mum. There was no phone in my parent’s house but a neighbour who had one had agreed to help. So Peggy dialled 100 for the operater, gave her the neighbours number, and waited to be connected. The neighbour answered and ran to our house, my Mother snatched me up out of my cot and ran back with her to take the call whilst Peggy shoved pennies into the phone to keep the connection and the operater no doubt listened in.

Every Sunday afternoon my parents wrote a letter home as they had done all their adult lives since moving out from their parent’s places. And every week a reply came from one of their siblings. I was 5 or 6 before a phone was installed at our house. After that the letters were replaced with phone calls but carefully timed so they weren’t too expensive.

Subscriber Trunk Dialling so you could make long distance calls without going through an operater, phones with buttons not a mechanical dial, home computers, dial up modems with their sing song tune as they tried to connect, email, cordless phones and car phones the size of a brick, then mobile phones equally pretentious, laptops and tablets, wifi and iPhones…. All that in my lifetime! Now BT is abandoning its telephone kiosks because they get so little use and for many people a landline connection is only used for broadband access.

IMG_20200330_115157389

Whilst we are all self-isolating my children check up on me every day with Whatsapp and we chat with each other in a 3 way conversation sharing things to raise a smile and commiserating over the frustrations. My daughter emails me drafts of her Open University essays for me to comment on. Friends keep in touch by email, whatsapp and facebook. I read blogs from around the world, see how life is lived in far flung places, get inspiration from the projects others share. Thanks to wifi most of those phone sockets we installed so we could plug the laptop modem in in any room in the house, are redundant. I could write a blog post sitting in the garden! If I had a mobile signal here I would have even more options.

I realise that being constantly available is not always a good thing. Employers can abuse staff by expecting them to work outside their contracted hours. Social media can be used to spread lies or to bully. But I for one would find this isolation a lot harder without being able to reach out and make contact with people instantly and easily – all you lovely people who read my blog and whose blogs I follow included!

Plan Z

I had last week all planned out. I was going to do some housework and then start on the re-decorating which I have been promising myself I will do for several months. Part of the delay was in choosing colours. I have studied shade cards and bought tester pots but still not been sure. Each room downstairs is routinely visible from at least one other so it feels important that the colours I choose go well together. My daughter spotted a lovely scarf in a charity shop which had the colours I was thinking of in it and bought it in the hope it would help me. But I could not match the shades to ‘off the shelf’ paint and having it mixed increases the price. Then when I was visiting her to help with her bedroom (read about that here) I found some individual cards with paint shades on and picked a load up. Playing with them I found I could hold one shade against another in a way that is impossible with one of those fold out sheets in a booklet. There were 3 colours amongst them which go well together and would be good for the three downstairs rooms. The bedroom can be tackled later!


the very pale shade should be a pale yellowy green called celery leaf!

But of course what had looked like a quiet week turned out to be anything but.

It all started unravelling on the Monday when I realised that my library books were due back on the Tuesday. No problem thought I – just renew online. But one could not be renewed so that afternoon I went into Cardigan to return it. And since I was there I did a few bits of shopping. As I passed the eco-shop which raises funds for the Community Forest Garden I saw my friend Martin’s van outside so went in and found him doing one of his stints as a volunteer. His partner Jill was there too so we had a lovely long chat catching up with news. By the time I got home and had put my shopping away it was time to feed and walk the dogs. Never mind – plenty of week left!

aberteifi6
Cardigan town from across the river

Tuesday I was due to go to ‘Over the Rainbow’ the guest house run by my friends Marie and Rose. Every Autumn they have a weekend where friends go and help with big jobs in their garden and for the last several times I have pruned the blackcurrants. This year I was away so unable to go but Rose asked me to teach her how to prune them and we had fixed on Tuesday as one we could both do. I went to set off and found I had a virtually flat tyre. The local tyre people could come out and deal with it but not at once. So I asked Rob who lives in the cabin and helps me to take me over to Aberporth knowing that Rose would be coming back this way to teach her weekly yoga class in Hermon later. We had a lovely time together, the bushes got pruned and, as usual, we put the bits we cut off into tubs as cuttings.

otr-panorama
the garden at Over the Rainbow

The tyre chap came out as promised and sorted out my tyre then it was off to my friend Jeni’s for supper – home produced duck with home grown veg – delicious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Jeni’s Cottage

Wednesday I had an appointment to have my hair cut in Carmarthen but first had to order some bits of chimney for the new burner in the cabin – lots of looking on the website then going to measure, then having another think…. and eventually sending an email to the company for advice and more information. I got into Carmarthen and then discovered that my appointment was 2:15 not 12:15 – the cats had left muddy paw prints on my diary page and one of the smudges had confused the time! There was no point going home so I treated myself to lunch! When I got home I had to actually order the parts for the chimney then get organised for making a new recipe for the next day’s lunch.

A new friend, a fellow volunteer at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust, came to see me on Thursday and we talked for so long that there was no time for her to look through the workshop stuff I am getting rid of to see if anything would be of use to her – she will have to come again!

And to round off the week Chris from C&M Organics down the road came on Friday morning to see how I prune my grape vines. She is, of course, an expert grower but has only recently planted some vines in her huge polytunnels.

IMGP0015
One of my grape vines

And then my daughter sent through the draft of her first essay for her Open University course asking for it to be proof read – she had reached that stage where she read what she meant to write which might or might not have been what she actually typed.

I was just about to take a deep breath and look for my paint brushes when the phone rang. It was my neighbour inviting me to lunch yesterday. They were having family and friends over to celebrate their adopted daughter’s second Birthday. I felt so honoured to be included but I wanted to take her a Birthday present. I always try to make rather than buy presents so I looked in my pattern files and found one for a soft toy which I could make using yarn I had in stock. (No picture of it until I do the scrap happy post for December).

Maybe next week I will decorate?

It was a fabulous week. I am so lucky to have so many friends and to be able to spend time with them. I love sharing my skills and learning from others. The walls will still be there next week or the week after and I can live with them as they are. But maybe this is why I have not written many blog posts recently!

Scrap Happy November

I spent a lovely few days with my Daughter earlier this month. She works in a school as a Learning Support Assistant supporting children with complex needs one-to-one so that they can access mainstream school. This year she is working in the reception class with a little boy who is 4 years old but has the developmental age of less than 1 year – still in nappies, unable to use language and with a very short attention span. I am so proud of her and the progress she is helping him make! At the same time she has started on an Open University course to complete the degree she started on locally part time, but never finished because the last modules were aimed at wannabe teachers and that is not where she wants her career to go. She needed somewhere to study and to make her bedroom a more pleasant space. It was furnished with the things no-one else wanted, had an old single bed which was not very comfortable and was full of stuff from her days as a childminder which she had kept ‘just in case’.

So at the start of half-term I went over to help her turn her room into a place where she could study, read, write and where she would want to be rather than feeling banished! We had a good clear-out first and shared the spoils around several charity shops! Some of the furniture went to a friend of hers who has an up-cycling business and within 48 hours an old coffee table had been repaired, painted and was in her on-line shop (no that is not my scrap-happy, just my delight that a scruffy piece that was of no use to my daughter found a bit of TLC and will go to a new home).

We decided not to repaint the walls but she used tester pots of paint to create a mural in one corner – you can just see the end of it in the picture below. My son suggested that an ottoman bed would be somewhere to store all the toys she felt she wanted to keep (she uses a lot in her job since often the school budget will not stretch to buying special items). With new curtains and bedding, a second hand bureau from the charity shop the room was taking shape nicely.

What it needed were some cushions to make the bed more inviting. We had seen lots of ‘OK-ish’ ones when we were hunting bedding but decided it was time to get creative. Two old jumpers, one grey and one mustardy yellow made 2 square covers for which we did have to buy new pads (all the old cushions were polyester filled and had gone very flat). But what was needed was more texture and a cover for a rectangular pad that was fine. Then a rummage in the deep cupboard over the stairs to make room to store the old single duvet brought a muffled cry of ‘Eureka!’ And out came an old bathmat. A splash of bleach had given it a few white strands which were hardly noticeable. But of course my daughter knew they were there and so every time she used it that is what she saw – and started kicking herself again for being careless. Folded in half it was just the right size and the white threads could be at the back out of sight. So whilst she made supper I hand stitched the cover together (it was too thick and tightly woven for the machine) and voila! One very textural cushion in just the right shade!

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). If you’ve copied this list from previous posts, please use the one below as it’s the most up to date 🙂

Kate (me!), Gun, Titti, Heléne, Eva, Sue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, Sandra, Linda, Chris, Nancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, Hayley, Dawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

Where did it go?

Did you notice I had not blogged for a while? Did you fantasise that I was soaking up the sun somewhere exotic? On a retreat where all access to the outside world was banned? Nope! Nothing so exciting or unusual. Just busy. You know what I mean – one minute it was early July and then the next it is October!

So where did Summer go? I actually had to check my diary!

There have been visits. I went to stay with my daughter for a weekend so we could go to IKEA for inspiration. I want to turn the old utility room into spare bedrooms. It was originally the garage so is big enough to attract a lot of ‘might come in useful one day’ clutter. 18 months ago I had a new shed built on an existing concrete slab to make a replacement utility space and am waiting for a local builder to come and fit it out for me. Meanwhile I am going through the old one getting rid of things – there is space on the shelves no as you can see in the picture! – and will eventually turn it into 2 spare bedrooms. I wanted to see what ideas I could pick up and knew that IKEA has a reputation for clever small space solutions. The nearest to here is Cardiff which is a long haul so I decided to visit my daughter and go with her to the one in Reading. To make it more of an adventure we got the bus into Basingstoke, the train to Reading and then another bus right to the door of IKEA. No navigating, no parking, we were able to look out of the windows and enjoy the journey whilst chatting as much as we liked.

IMG_20191001_144309559

My son brought his 3 young foster children so there was an excuse to go to the beach and picnic in his camper van. And we went to a friend’s smallholding to pick damsons and see the animals. No pictures because as looked after children I am not allowed to publish their pictures.

My daughter came to stay and we visited another smallholding where I had a go at milking a goat. A bad idea that – now I want one!

And of course there were meals with friends – at their homes, in cafes and here. The deck really came into its own this summer.

IMG_20190621_185619570_HDR

The utility room is not the only space to be de-cluttered. I am on a roll here. The house has been purged and now needs decorating (if only to get rid of the marks where I have taken down shelves!)The workshop is next.

There have been visits with the Permaculture networks which will get posts of their own in the next few weeks. And a lot happening at Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust which I will also write about separately.

I went on a course at Stiwdio 3 in Cardigan (find out more here) to learn how to make a pair of espadrilles with the lovely Nia Denman and had a fantastic day. C & M Organics held another market – just one this year – where I spent more than I should have but got some really good plants as well as food. The Golden Thread Theater Company, normally based in Cardiff put on a performance at the Small World Theater in Cardigan which was a fascinating evening. They invite members of the audience to share very short stories of moments in their lives which the players then turn into improvised performances. The theme of the evening was ‘belonging’ which resulted in a huge range of stories and emotions. (you can find them on facebook)

IMG_20190724_185613666

In between all those things I have tended the garden, continued to write up my Permaculture Diploma and foraged for blackberries, elderberries and sloes which I have bottled and made into jam. Now the weather has turned wet and windy, the nights are drawing in and hopefully I can get back to blogging.