Friday, 24 November 2017

Ultimate Upcycling

I met a delightful little girl yesterday when I went to see her nana.  She was off school because she was poorly.  In my view she looked decidedly perky.  Anyway at one stage during the visit she started crafting, making a giraffe from some of those furry balls and pipe cleaners.    'We've got a houseful of boxes.' her mum told me.  Apparently she obsessively collects them for her crafting.   How wonderful that the creative urge is  strong in someone so young. I've got to go back and promised I'd take some cardboard cartons with me on my next visit.  I wonder what she'll do with them.

I returned to my printmaking class last night and was encouraged to have a rethink on my collagraph crab.  Things need to be really well stuck down and it wasn't panning out.  I'm starting again from scratch and will work on a new flatter plate.    Suddenly I've become a bit of a magnet for textured scrap so I'm amassing a bag full of bits  Even a string bag that was past its best and burst rather spectacularly in Aldi the other day has been considered treasure.  Going against the tide of interior design fashion I've also  developed a strange liking for anaglypta wallpaper.  My recycled polystyrene pizza plate was admired.  I've embellished it a little more but didn't get around to printing.  I might clear the kitchen and get the inks out over the weekend so I can show off what can be achieved with the technique at my final class next week.

I came across someone else who's keen on recycling  the other day.  Kate Kato has named her website 'Kasasagi' using the Japanese work for magpie to describe her kleptomaniac tendencies.   She gathers together found objects and incorporates them beautifully into designs that are inspired by nature.    There's so much gorgeousness that I was hard pressed to choose what I liked best.  So pop over to the website and be inspired yourselves.  I'm particularly taken by the pieces that incorporate those old Observer identification guides.  They brought back such strong memories of childhood  forays.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


A bloke fiddled around in my downstairs cupboards the other day and then planted this smart meter on my worktop which monitors both my gas and electricity supply.  My inner geek is as thrilled with this as when it keeps track of the fuel consumption of the car.   But it's also awakened my obsessive compulsive self very nicely indeed.  I was pleasantly surprised that cooking my tea wasn't too onerous in cost terms but something is niggling.  What the hell am I spending 50p on overnight?  Investigation is required.  And how much electricity does the meter itself use I'd like to know.  One thing is certain.  I might possibly never pluck up the courage to fire up that toaster ever again!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bubble, Bubble

When I was poorly my friend Helen came to see me briefly.  Even though I'd given directions she'd literally spent hours wandering the streets trying to find my house.  People often have trouble getting here the first time.  Why it's so tricky to I can't really fathom.  Anyway by the time arrived Helen couldn't stay long as  nightfall was nearly upon us and she doesn't like driving in the dark. 

She's very perky at the moment and, in her short visit, she put her healthiness down to 'golden paste', a concoction devised by an Australian vet that's apparently good for humans too.  It's made out of turmeric, coconut oil and a shedload of freshly ground black pepper.   The recipe is here on the Turmeric Life website.  All sorts of health  benefits are attributed to curcumin, one of the active ingredients of turmeric.  Here's another link with some of the claims. I haven't got time to trawl through all the evidence to see if it's up to much.  Take it with a good pinch of salt....or pepper!

I thought I'd give it a go as I like conjuring up a witchy brew.  After all I need a bit of a boost after being laid low for the best part of a fortnight and the anti-inflammatory claims for golden paste were grabbing my attention.   So I cooked up a batch of the stuff last night.  It's ever so easy to do but wear old clothes and have cleaning cloths handy.  Even though the gas set really low the pan bubbled away like the mud pots at Yellowstone and golden gloop spewed upwards all over the cooker and surrounding surfaces.  I've just noticed that the Turmeric Life  has a handy page on stain removal.

What does it taste like?; I asked Helen. 'Disgusting!' was her response.   I took my first spoonful expecting the worst.  Actually it wasn't at all bad.   Like Helen, I've become a member of the TUG, the Turmeric Users Group on Facebook.   I'm hoping  though that my sheets don't turn yellow like hers.  Apparently it's not a common effect so fingers crossed.

My big batch will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks and there's plenty more turmeric when that's run out.  It was on a multi-buy offer at Holland and Barratt.  As the stuff would stain my normal Lakeland containers I looked for  alternative storage.   My former mother in law bought me this casserole dish made by Michael Gaitskell at the Old Mill Pottery in the village where she used to live.  It's lovely but is rarely used.   I'm so pleased it's found a new lease of life as my golden paste pot!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

In Its Entirety

When we're driving around Louis and I take it in turns to choose tracks to play. He lines them up to autoplay on Spotify.  I have to grin and bear it through some stuff that isn't to my taste.  On other occasions I'm pleasantly surprised by what my boy chooses.  My fandom of Imagine Dragons is a result of what I've been exposed to on these musical forays.

The other day Louis complained that my favourite Gary Numan track, at six minutes or so, was too long.  He cheekily cut it short and then  continued to ask me for my playlist for the day.  Casually  I threw  'Supper's Ready' into the mix. I thought I'd got away with it as it started.  Then it dawned on Louis.  'It's twenty three minutes!' he exclaimed and moved on to his next choice.

Anyway, for any of you who fancy a classic of prog rock I thought I'd treat you to the track in its entirety, complete with a rather flaky home recorded video from the '70s.  It's worth it just to Peter Gabriel's famous flower impression and Phil Collins playing the drums with some kind of kitchen spatulas!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Advent in Reverse

Sorry to mention the C-word a  bit in advance but I promise you I've got good reason.  As an intro, here's Louis' advent calendar which he made with his auntie. I've just dug it out of the loft when I was putting some camping equipment away.   It's in use for the third or fourth year running and I fill it with Ferrero Rocher.

Now my teenager would be extremely peeved if I denied him his pre-Christmas confectionery fest but I've just heard about a scheme that's much better than any of those novelty adult calendars that are around now.  Like twenty four days of pork scratchings,  I ask you!   I for one don't need any mini bottles of prosecco,  chocolate or piggy bits.  As my son reminds me I'm a bit fat and the lack of ability to exercise recently hasn't helped the situation.  So I welcome the  chance to gift to others instead of stuffing my face.

No, I  much prefer the idea of reverse calendars.  During the run up to Christmas  you put aside an item to donate to a local foodbank or homeless charity on a daily basis.  As I've started early enough  they'll be time to hand in my own two dozen goodies well in time for  them to provide  much needed festive cheer.    But it really doesn't matter when you begin.   People will be needing food, toiletries and household goods to make daily life just a little easier well into the New Year.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Autumn Reframed

My trips outside the home over the last two weeks have  been restricted to running Louis around.  The new car's role as Mum's taxi is unerring even now I'm on the route to recovery.  It's  a full on weekend of teenage chaffeuring.  As part of the curriculum of his studio school Lou will be doing regular work experience from now on.  I think it's once a term.  He's off to spend a week with a structural engineering firm in Plymouth in December and will stay  with Auntie Salty Dog to make it logistically easier.  We headed off down to 'The Ocean City' as it's dubbed on the approach signs of the A38 to check out the offices and work out the public transport route he'll need to take on his commute.  A pub lunch and a scout around the charity shops on Mutley Plain with Salty Dog was thrown into the equation.

For the most part in the last fortnight my drives have been limited to getting Lou to the bus stop in Totnes where he connects with school transport.  There's a beautiful vista as we drive along the main road from Torbay and cross the border into the South Hams.  Soft rolling hills are backed by views of Dartmoor.  I'd love to stop and take a picture but it's not feasible on such a busy route.

So today's picture is a random one off the Internet but bear with me.  In the past I've been so busy  digging out my SAD lamp and  fretting about the shortening  daylight hours that I've never noticed before the quality of the light at this time of year.  This image captures its crispness.  The intensity particularly hits me when we take in that view.  Stunning!

 I'm viewing this as a marker of how much my outlook on life has changed over the last year or so.  No seasonal dip in mood so far.   All that 'hippy nonsense' might be having an effect.  For the first time it  seems that I'm literally seeing autumn in a glorious new light.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Two Places In the Sun

I am at last feeling much better.   So I'm finally emerging from the boudoir and getting out and about.  Even so I'll be taking it easy over the next few weeks.  I don't want a re-emergence of this baby.  Two chest infections in the space of two months is enough for anyone.

One of the things that I've been doing whilst laid up is dreaming and scheming about my next two trips away.  It's occurred to me that I haven't done a show and tell of where I'll be staying in Malta and Portugal.  So let's fix that right now shall me?

This is my hostel room in Malta.   There's two reasons why I chose it.  The first is that this getaway has to be super cheap, one my friend Meanqueen might be proud of.   Sure I'd like to go swanky and upmarket but the pennies don't allow it at the moment.    But the other is that I thought that a little room  hostel would give me a bit of sanctuary yet allow me to mingle with like minded travelling types.  I'm quite pleased with this accommodation. It's reminiscent of retreat rooms that I've stayed in.  Perhaps it sets the tone for a contemplative holiday?

And this is where we're staying in Lisbon in February.  I gave Louis a budget to spend on AirBnB and set him the task of choosing our accommodation.   This is what he came up with.  Wow!  I'm glad to see that he's inherited his mother's distaste for neutrally decorated living space!  I stipulated that a central location,  two bedrooms and a balcony were absolutely essential.  He met my remit.  What do you think?  I reckon he's come up top trumps.