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Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Cornwall Adventure 3

After an exploration of central Truro (I loved the Art Cafe! - yummy avocado, egg and bacon on sourdough - yummmmm), we have beetled along to Camping and Caravanning Club - Sennen Site this evening. 
It's a bit breezy with a gusty draft whipping in from the North, and we were a bit chilly. However, after a Korma we set out west to see the sunset on the beach. This microadventure was only about 20 minutes walk but the outcome was stunning.  This... is my cathedral.:

Monday, 18 April 2022

Cornwall Adventure 2

After a frosty sunrise at Camping and Caravanning Club Veryan site, we headed to Perranporth for the beach today. 
Though the sun was shining it wasn't that warm, though Miss Busy was determined to go in the water. We started with hot drinks outside the Watering Hole while Miss Busy and Mr Build-It got started on ambitious sandcastle building. 
After a bit, when it seemed to have warmed up, hubby headed to the campervan to fetch the wetsuits and then I headed to Pickwicks to collect fish and chips. We sat by the big rock on the beach to eat our lunch and then the other three went for a dip - not me for a change - I was too cold! Miss Busy was a bit surprised by the strength of the waves and glad to have her dad there to grab hold of.
Later, after picking up some groceries in Newquay, we drove along the coast and stopped to enjoy an ice-cream at Bedruthan Steps. Its breathtakingly beautiful there. A fabulous cliff-top spot for just chilling and finding your perspective on the world.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Cornish Adventure 1

Walked from St Just-in-Roseland to St Mawes today. The weather is warm but grey and breezy. The kind of weather where you need your jacket on when you stop, but soon take it off again when you get walking.

This is a beautiful walk through fields along the river, with bluebells and other wildflowers I need to learn the names of scattered all around. The tide is out far enough that there are big sections you can walk along the shell-strewn foreshore too, which is where I'm sitting to write this, while the children play on a conveniently sited tyre swing.
St Mawes is in a beautiful spot. Multi-million pound homes along the shore and a very Joules vibe. I felt distinctly underdressed and scruffy! St Just is a riot of flowers, camelia  rhododendron and daffodils being the cheerleaders at this time of year.

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Being green is hard!

We all want to save the planet. We may not be signed up to Green peace or Extinction Rebellion, but very few of us are blind to the problems that face Planet Earth and the part that humans have had in the crisis.

So we should do something about it, right?


I love to read books about being green. My latest two are:


However, I find that a lot of people who write or blog about being green seem to live in their very own little utopia (I'd love to be corrected on this, so please feel free to comment). It's just that, while actions are suggested with optimism and energy, there's very little acknowledgement of how hard these changes are for people in the real world. We all want to make the changes, but it's not as simple as waving a magic wand.


So we should all shop local and seasonal, buy at farmers' markets or make use of those brilliant zero waste shops? We should leave the car at home and cycle everywhere?


Fantastic idea!


However:

  • We don't all live in a metropolis where we use public transport to get to work and wander past little rows of shops with a grocer.
  • We don't all have a lifestyle that allows us to get into town when the market is on.
  • Most of us have to drop the kids off to school on the way to work, then rush to pick them up and get them to their next activity.
  • We live lives where we balance work, family life, voluntary work, pet care, home care and maybe even a little self-care or sleep - there really isn't much extra time in there!
  • Most of us live in places where public transport is shoddy at best and costs a fortune.
  • For most of us, going to town (where the grocers and the Farmers' Market and the Zero Waste shop can be found) involves driving and paying for parking.
We all know that supermarkets over-transport and over-package their goods, but sadly they have developed to offer convenience and efficiency for those of us who live busy, rushed lives.  It's hard to walk away from that, even though we know it needs to be done.


Use less plastic and eat less meat?


I agree with both of these.


These are definitely changes we need to make to help our planet. However, again, we don't all live a life where that's easy to do.


Most of us live in families.


It's hard enough to change our own habits, let alone to change other people.


If you're making packed lunches for four, switching from pre-packaged (in plastic) snacks and products to home-made goodness is appealing, but takes time and planning. Equally, eating less meat requires you to learn new recipes, meals and ways of cooking, which need to be delicious enough to convince certain members of the family that get confused if a meal has no meat in it.


So of course we want to be greener, but let's just acknowledge that part of the reason we are in the predicament we are in, is because we are in a crazy spiral where lifestyles rely on convenience and convenience relies on lifestyle. Some of the changes we need to make will require big changes to our priorities and our lives.


Let's just acknowledge that this is not an easy thing for people to do.


Let's also get rid of the idea that the only way to make a difference is to go the whole hog and become a green, vegan, tree-hugging super-hero. I mean, hats-off to those green super-heroes, but let's remember that every little helps (oh no! I see what I did there!). If we all look at the problem and think that it's too big to solve, that there's no point because we can't do it all, then the problem won't get any smaller at all.

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" Lao Tzu

 If we all do one small thing to make a difference, what a great big difference that will make. Once one change in your life has been successfully made, you can start to make another.

We're going to do this. We have to do this. But we can do it one step at a time.


Sunday, 2 May 2021

When life gets busy...

 It turns out, that I'm not such a writer after all.

While my dream remains to be a published author and write for a living, it turns out that when life gets busy and time is short, the two things on my "to do" list that I drop first are exercise and writing.  

As a result, I've still not got a book or online course finished to a good enough standard for publication, and I'm still a larger dress-size than I'd like.

My top priority is my family:  

Mr Build-it is motoring through Year 7.  He's still got plenty of time for cuddles with his mum, but kisses are already off limits.  He spends a lot of time in his room learning how to programme and is developing and building websites and online games and learning different programming languages.  I try to keep up, and always show an interest, but quite often he is speaking a completely different language.  He appears downstairs whenever he is hungry.  My main task with him is encouraging him to get some daylight and fresh air on a daily basis, though that's got easier as he's discovered that some of his schoolfriends like to meet up at the playpark up the road so he takes himself up there to meet them.


Miss Busy is at that very delicate age where she has subconsciously realised that she's growing up fast, but is not yet ready, and is clinging to childhood.  This means that she's watching terrible kids' TV, and is requiring a lot of parental attention.  I'm also aware that in a very short time she won't be wanting to spend so much time with me - her friends will become more of a priority.  So when she asks me to do something with her, I'm tending to say "yes."  We had a lovely time drawing butterflies together the other day, and, dare I say it, we had fun tidying her bedroom together yesterday.  She's also super-helpful at the moment, and always willing to lend a hand in the kitchen, take the dog out for a walk or hang the laundry - long may it last!

Husband is, as always, very busy with work.  He's also got a lot to do with our Scout Group.  He became Group Scout Leader a year ago and, never one to do a half-job, is determined to have our Group be the best in the District - an example of "how it works".  He's putting in a lot of hours and it's really beginning to show fruit.  Our Group is a happy place to be.

I've recently gone back to the classroom once more.  I'm teaching a lovely Year 5 class who need a great deal of teacher love.  I'm determined to do a good job for these children, so I'm pouring in the effort and the hours of preparation that they deserve.

In the meantime, with Covid19 (fingers crossed) finally receding in threat, we are back face-to-face with our Beavers and Cubs.  After a long break it's taking us a little while to get back in the flow, and I'm also bringing in a lot of new children, and trying hard to get a few more volunteers into the mix.  My County role has had to take a bit of a back seat while this is happening, but I am also still delivering regular adult training courses and attending meetings.

So... with family, school and Scouting all taking a lot of time and energy, and the continuous cycle of groceries, shopping, laundry, school run and dog walks... that hasn't really left a lot of time for writing or crafting (or exercise).  So that's where I am right now.  I'll come back to you next time with an update on how I'm getting along with those craft plans and New Year resolutions.  










Monday, 5 April 2021

A wildlife friendly garden - making a pond

 You might think that making a wildlife pond in your garden is a major undertaking, both in terms of financial outlay and time and energy taken.

I can assure you that it doesn't have to be a big job.

This pond went from a delivery in a cardboard box to complete in under an hour and a half, and the whole thing cost around £40.

First, the pond liner from Amazon:

I also got some oxygenating pond plants:

1. Decide on your spot.  You want somewhere that gets some sunlight, but not all-day direct sunlight otherwise it will get pretty warm and evaporate quite quickly, as well as going green.  Of course, you can dig a hole and sink your pond into the ground if you want.  I've done this in the front garden with exactly the same type of liner.  However, you don't HAVE to do this, and it's absolutely possible to put a simple pond on a patio.  Mine is in a gravelled corner next to a wall and near an olive tree.

2. Build up some support underneath.  I was considering buying some 2x4 timber and building a support for my pond, but decided that with the curvy edges that didn't fit with the "easy project" I was looking for.  However, you need to bear in mind that water is heavy, so you will need something underneath your liner to give it some support around the edges.  I put some bricks underneath the shelved areas and built up with some rubble that we've had stacked against the wall for a couple of years.   

You may wonder what the yellow hose in this picture is... it's the overflow from our water-butt. It's gravity fed over to this corner to keep it away from the timber of the garage. I've just bent it around and left it some space.  To be honest, the water butt doesn't have much in it at the moment, as I've now put most of the water into the pond!
3. Next, put some pot plants around your pond.  This not only disguises the black plastic of the pond liner and the mess of the rubble, but it also gives a stepped access for your wildlife to get to the pond.

4. Naturalise a bit.  As you can see, we've not only planted up some of those pots with a range of plants and planted some bulbs and seeds, but we've also added some branches from the holly tree I severely pruned last year to create a wildlife ramp and to disguise that black plastic a bit more.

5. Put some wildlife shelter inside the pond.  If you want bugs and amphibians to take up residence in your pond, you need to give them some appealing real-estate.  They aren't going to be taken with an expanse of shelter-less black plastic.  In my pond I installed a terracotta plant pot, a couple of broken pieces of slate, some gravel and some pebbles of various sizes.  This gives lots of nooks and crannies to allow the wildlife to get in and out and to provide them with some cosy places to live.


6. I'm pretty pleased with how this is looking.  Time to start adding some water.  Here's some oxygenating plants to put in too.  At some point I'm going to add some more pond plants - I'm looking at flag irises as they are very attractive to things like dragonflies - the adult clings on to the plant as she deposits her eggs in the water, and the larva will later climb up the iris to emerge as an adult.
It's important to use rainwater rather than tap water, as tap water has chemicals added in to make it clean for us to drink, but not so welcoming for the wildlife! I filled several watering cans from my water butt.

And here is the finished pond looking very happy in its corner.  With wildflower seeds sown in the planters, and plenty of nooks and crannies for wildlife both in, under and around the pond, I can't wait for the wildlife to move in!  I've already seen a blackbird and a pigeon having a good drink (and a Cocker Spaniel, but she doesn't count), and a blackbird helping herself to the wildflower seeds I'd planted.



Please note - this post does contain some affiliate links.  That means that if you follow my links to buy the products on Amazon, I get a small commission.  It doesn't affect the price you pay at all.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Flying the Flag?

 This post appeared on the Your Herefordshire Facebook feed this morning..

I wrote this reply, but in the end decided not to post it, because I couldn't be bothered with the diatribe of abuse that would no doubt follow from the angry people who seem to populate Facebook (and especially Your Herefordshire's Facebook feed).
However, I thought I'd still go ahead and share my thoughts with you on here.  What do you think?



Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Quick crafty ideas - Harry Potter Party bags


Fabulous daughter is turning 10 this weekend.  For her lockdown birthday, she is having an online party with three friends, using Zoom to do a virtual escape room together.

She is very keen on Harry Potter, so I've put together a party bag for each child, which I'll be dropping off at their homes on my daily exercise on Friday.

I had some plain white paper bags, like this:

They struck me as a bit boring, and as many of you will know.  I don't do boring if I can avoid it.  So I followed the instructions on the brilliant...

Drawinghowtodraw.com

on this page:


I drew them in pencil first, then painted with water colours and finally went over all the lines with a black fine-liner.

Here are the resulting party bags:









I'm so proud of them.  Do you like?

In each party bag, I'm putting:

 a wooden door plaque

Some Harry Potter badges

Some Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans

They will also get some snacks to eat while playing the escape room, and a Chocolate Cupcake (still to be made) with a Harry Potter cake-topper.

Please note - this post does contain some affiliate links.  That means that if you follow my links to buy the products on Amazon, I get a small commission.  It doesn't affect the price you pay at all.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

Fabric Scrap Dolls

 

If you're looking for a quick and easy craft to use up fabric scraps and create something lovely, then this is right up your street.  These lovely little dolls are cute and can be as complicated or simple as you want.

I first came across these amazing little dolls at the Medieval Christmas Fayre at Ludlow Castle a few years ago. 

I lovely lady (who I knew from my previous existence in Medieval Reenactment) had a little craft activity where she showed how to make them, and also sold them.

I immediately bought this little family:

To make these dolls, here's what you need:

  • a circle-ish of cream or white fabric
  • a little bit of toy stuffing (just for the head)
  • thread (I use white/cream and black)
  • fabric and wool scraps, felt, binding, fripperies etc. 
  • pinking shears are very useful depending on your fabric - felt doesn't fray, but most other fabric will unless you pink or hem the edges

Instructions

To start with you will need your circle of fabric, your toy stuffing and about a metre of white/cream thread.
Place a little bit of toy stuffing in the middle of your circle.

Gather the fabric together and wrap the thread around tightly to create a head.  Fasten the thread around the neck.  You may need to arrange the fabric a little here so you don't have a big wrinkle where the face will be.

You now have a head, and four corners of fabric hanging down. Take one corner, fold it under and then gather up to make an arm. 
Take one of the loose ends of thread from the neck and wrap it firmly around the arm in a spiral down to the hand and then back up again.
 
 Hold it in place while you do the same with the opposite corner and other end of thread to make the other arm. This may take a bit of trial and error to get the arms the right length for the proportions of your doll.

Wrap the threads diagonally across the front and back to create a torso and waist.
You have now created the basic body and for a female you would just need to add clothes.

To make legs, you manipulate the final two corners of fabric and repeat the same process as for the arms.  These can be a bit rougher as most of them will be covered with fabric.
Next, make the clothes using fabric scraps:
  • Some bias binding or a strip of fabric wrapped around and held in place with a couple of stitches are good for leggings or trousers.
  • a little felt hat or a fabric scrap headscarf are good, or you can sew some wool scraps in place for hair.
  • A simple tunic held in place with a wool belt are nice and easy, but you can wrap fabric into a dress, skirt, cloak or apron, or even add wings for a fairy. You could also sew on little facial features.
My nine-year-old daughter sat and made these with me and was delighted with the results.  It's such a quick and simple activity, and a great way to make use of your scraps.
This is one of the activities in our "Year of Crafts". I'd love to hear how you get on if you try this activity. Let me know in the comments.