Thursday, 30 September 2010

Just finished reading: The Final Call: In Search of the True Cost of Our Holidays

My bedroom book over the last couple of weeks has been a little unfit for purpose.  It is a collection of essays by Leo Hickman about the environmental impact and economic implications of tourism.  Challenging and stimulating yes, but not reading that has settled my mind ready for a good night's kip for it triggers a big fat juicy, insomnia provoking guilt trip.

Whilst the Lovelygrey family have cut down our use of air transport  The Final Call, is being read at a time that a transatlantic trip to Yellowstone National Park is being planned.  Even though I've offset our carbon (at considerable cost) and it's the first time we've flown long haul in ten years the remorseful feelings have not entirely been eradicated.  But even worse, I've decided to fly to Edinburgh for a weekend away with the girls because it's the quickest way of getting there.  I believe that this quote from Richard Shapley, a professor of tourism which is cited in the book explains succinctly my motives for doing this.

'....tourism is an essentially egocentric, escapist activity, tourists do not want to be burdened with the concerns of the normal world....Tourists pay significant sums of money in search of relaxation, fun and entertainment.  They are, therefore, most likely to give priority to satisfying their personal needs rather than demonstrating and responding to a positive concern for the consequences of their actions'.

Maybe to guarantee a good night's sleep in the future I may need to lighten up, accept my dark side and realise I'm not going to be perfect all the time.  Then again, I could think about how my actions might better match my values....

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dizzy Desert Island

Today,  as a pure piece of self indulgence and egocentricity, I thought I'd pretend to be on the popular Radio 4 programme 'Desert Island Discs'. I'm not sure why the presenter, Kirsty Young, would be inviting an anonymous blogger to sit in the chair where so many famous bums have perched. It was Tom Jones this week! Also, I'm putting aside all my doubts about the practicalities of the situation. Would there be some secret essential supplies and a decent sleeping bag, for example? Anyway these would be my current musical choices.
  1. Leonard Cohen:  Go no more a roving:  Absolutely my favourite Leonard track ever which leaves me with some guilt.  After all the words are Byron's and not Leonard's own.
  2. Robert Palmer:  Johnny and Mary:  A relic of my teenage years.  Before buying this single at the wonderful Golden Disc in Southend, I had to make do with hearing it via Radio Luxembourg's crackly reception.
  3. Mad Dog McCrea: Am I Drinking Enough?:  Excellent offering from local Plymouth group.  Both Louis and I are big fans (especially since he went back stage autograph hunting at Ivylive and was treated so kindly by the band).
  4. Allegri: Miserere:  Superlative piece of 'classical' music which proves that I am a posh girl at heart.
  5. Kylie Minogue: Can't get you out of my head:  A piece of near perfect pop which will be ideal for bopping to on my beach
  6. Simply Red: Home:  More perfect pop of a more slushy nature.
  7. Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Sylvan:  Forbidden Colours:  Beautiful stark piece of music reminiscent of my university days
  8. Leonard Cohen: Gypsy's Wife (from Live in London):  A momento of the most wonderful live gig that I've ever attended (Louis swears that he can hear my shrieks on the soundtrack).  This would be the one that I would choose if I had to pick from my eight tracks.
For my book I think I'd choose a great big combined French grammar book and French Dictionary (if such a thing exists). And the luxury has got to be a never ending store of craft supplies. When my rescuers eventually arrived they'll be surprised to find a bi-lingual grey lady on her self decorated Gaudi-esque isle!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Following on from yesterday's post here's the interim results of my concerted effort to use up the contents of my bead box, or the spherical bits at least.  I'm creating a cornucopia of swirly whirly sterling silver necklaces, in various stages of completion, which are going to form the stock of my on-line Etsy and Folksy shops.

After all,  the government aren't going to increase my salary for two years and VAT is going to rise soon.  So, I'm going to have to find an alternative way to effect a 'pay rise' to keep up my mortgage overpayments, sustain my hobbies and maintain the year on year increase in payments to charities.  My fledging jewellery emporium could be part of  the answer!

Monday, 27 September 2010

Use it Up!

I have a confession that may be all too familiar to other people with a passion for craftiness. Buying supplies can bring out unpleasant shopaholic tendencies. A bead shop or craft fayre, for example can send me, as a normally thrifty lady into a buying frenzy. Good for Louis's treasure hunting prospects in my workroom but totally, totally bad from a finanical perspective and counter to my decluttering ethos.

So I've set up a personal trade embargo. There is a ban on buying craft supplies for the next six months...unless it's absolutely essential to finish a project.  My inspiration for a fish mosaic-ed tabletop that is currently in progress is this beautiful piece by American artist, Claudia Nagy which forms part of a mural in a New York apartment block. I particularly like how she has used the space between tiles that is normally filled with grout to outline the fish's mouth.

Now I've seen round tesserae for sale that would save me doing some complicated cutting, the perfect excuse to flash some wads.  But instead I'm going to get the nippers out and create some circular-ish shapes of my own out of my existing square stock.  And although there is a vast spectrum of coloured tiles of the market that would match the original design I'm sticking to my existing stock.    Watch this space for the finished result which I'm confident that I'll be proud of from both an artistic and thrifty perspective.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Days Out in Devon: World War II Reenactment

The Lovelygrey family spent a wonderful day yesterday at this annual event at Castle Drogo, one of my favourite National Trust Properties.  Although this place superficially looks like an 'olden days' castle it is, in fact, a twentieth century home, designed by the famous architect Edwin Lutyens for a property tycoon (Thanks Wiki!).

This living history reenactment had plenty to keep big and small boys entertained, weaponry demonstrations, beautifully restored world war II vehicles and a whole gaggle of US, German and British troops who took part in a very noisy and sometimes hilarious battle reenactment in the afternoon. Niall and his mum, Maire, a food technology teacher, came too. Like me, this domestic goddess was very pleased to find wonderful displays of kitchenalia and war time food, photos of which serve as handy teaching resources for her secondary school pupils. There were even spam fritters for sale on a stall outside the cafe. These are, to me, a bygone of the 1970s school lunch rather than reminiscent of wartime tucker. Fortunately, these was forgone because we had brought a tastier picnic.

An enthusiastic land girl volunteer on the British Legion stall also gave me the opportunity to undertake a piece of one-off work. My intention is to step up my volunteering activity without increasing my regular commitments. So I embraced the opportunity of taking up a two hour slot and somewhere, sometime in the run up to Remembrance Sunday, Lovelygrey and her sidekick Louis will be selling poppies at a place near you - if you live in South Devon!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Walkie-Talkie Risk Taking

Since he turned seven, Mr Lovelygrey and I have been allowing Louis a greater degree of independence. Once boundaries have been established and rules about checking in have been set,   he's now often allowed to roam away from us at daytime events such as festivals and fetes.  He's even sometimes away from our side when it's dark but the rules are much, much tighter. Depending on the circumstances such as size and make up of a crowd we sometimes let him run off with other children to places that are within sight.  However each time he wants to go somewhere different he must again come back and tell us where he is off too.    Just in the last few weeks he's also played on his scooter outside with the other kids on our small estate.  And on our trip to Lidl this week, I let him stay in the car and listen to music whilst I went in for a few bits and bobs leaving him the keys in case he felt unsafe and needed to lock the car.

Do I worry about giving him his new found freedom?  Of course I do!  My normally anxious tendencies, although quashed by Citalopram and a bit of CBT, have risen to the surface.  Believe me, the worst case scenarios that I envisage are very imaginative, although I doubt whether they're any more extreme than those most parents conjure up the  first few time they let their 'baby' off his safety reins.  But I recognise that I have to allow him to take more risk as he gets older as part of the growing up process. Of course  terrible things DO happen but I feel that they need to be kept in perspective otherwise the bad guys have won.

For other parents facing the same decisions may I recommend walkie talkes.  Ours, purchased some time ago from Lidl (not on this weeks excursion) have been a godsend.  They allow Louis a bit of extra freedom whilst allowing us to occasionally check where he is - until he loses the handset or the batteries run out!  So, these do not replace the other precautions we take, but rather are another tool in our risk reduction toolbox.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Midrift Crisis

I found this image when I did a Google search for 'fat belly' and reckon it is so disturbing it could be stuck on the kegerator and added to my weight loss armoury. My entire diet weaponry needs to be put to good use again as my once slightly loose jeans are uncomfortably tight.  I'm confident though that I can lose the stone I want to if I stick to these ten top tips.

  1. I aim to reduce my weight by just a pound a week and realistically I'm happy with a little less (four per month).  There's more chance of sustained success with a realistic target which amounts to cutting or exercising away 3,500 calories weekly.
  2. On workdays I have a lunch of several pieces of fruit (although I allow myself one day off).
  3. Most weekday evenings I have a small meal such as soup or a vegetable dish rather than something that would normally be viewed as a full main course.
  4. I accept that sometimes I will feel hungry and don't see this as a cue to eat.
  5. At the weekend I have a main meal and pudding (yippee!) at lunchtime and skip supper.  After the midday blowout I find that I'm not usually hungry anyway.
  6. I limit alcohol consumption to weekends only (cue fat man picture on the beer fridge!).
  7. I don't cut any food from my diet altogether but curb the amount of the 'naughty' foods that I eat.  This stops me craving for things that I'm absteined from.
  8. I accept that some days are, on paper, going to look disasterous, but see that as part and parcel of a normal pattern of eating over the long term.
  9. I focus on getting exercise some days - for example, extra cycling, walking and swimming
  10. Most importantly I schedule in a really special reward for each half stone that I lose.  These are things that are a real treat that I wouldn't buy normally.  My 'I've lost a stone stone', a beautiful piece of green amber is pictured below.  This time I've already asked for Lizzie Saunder's lovely jellyfish to be set aside as my present to myself for shedding the first seven pounds this time round!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Just finished reading: Green Christmas

Okay I know it's a bit early but I've noticed the bigger shops have already put up their Yuletide displays. But, in my defence, you have to start to prepare early if Christmas isn't going to be the commercialised nasty occasion that the men in dark suits want it to be so that they can line their own pockets. There! that's my daily rant over.

Green Christmasis one of my library finds and I confess it's a book that I've dipped into rather than read from cover to cover. It's written from a very American perspective so some of the writing loses a bit of its relevance for an overseas audience. Additionally the retail websites that are suggested in the book are, in the main, North American. Europeans buying from these can be stung on postage costs and excise duties. There's also the shipping miles to think of too....

This book covers lots of the areas that other 'Green' books do, transport, packaging, ethical spending, growing vegetables and the like. It spreads itself widely and for that reason it just doesn't seem like a very Christmassy read. I would have preferred a focus on the actual holiday itself with lots of original ideas to make this holiday season special.

It did however refer to a number of blogs and websites that have been interesting to visit which have made it to my blog's favourites lists.  These are (in no particular order):

These sites may well offer sources of Christmas inspiration that you're looking for!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Days Out in Devon: Crabbing at Stoke Gabriel

The leaders are excelling themselves at the moment with the activities they've chosen to entertain the excitable group of 6-8 year olds that make up 1st Bovey Tracey Scout Group's  Beaver Colony.  And it brought my attention to a lovely spot that looks like it could be a firm favourite for future family outings.

We parked just by the River Shack in Stoke Gabriel, a cafe that may well be worth a future visit just to try their tasty sounding Brixham Crab Sandwiches.  But we were there to catch our own crabs from the adjoining jetty. Helpfully the cafe provides bait, nets and hook free lines for a small charge.  I see from their website that they even sell 'Champion Crabber' T-shirts.

This was so reminiscent of my childhood days spent by the sea filled paddling pools along the shore at Southend-on-Sea and the neighbouring seaside resorts near my childhood home.  With my superior knowledge  of the 'sport' I became uncharacteristically competitive. Louis, his best mate Henry and I managed to catch seventeen of the brave clawed beasties in an hour.  Sally, Henry's mum, learned the hard way that crabs should not be picked up by holding them from the front.  They're a bit nippy you see.

Luckily these creatures are not the type to end up between two slices of bread.  We let them go to fight another day and end up as part of the tally in someone else's bucket!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Night Walking

My new exercise regime means that I must venture out after dark over the next few months.  The other day I did a trial run with Louis just before his bedtime.  The main purposes of this little trip out was to see the bats which roost in the tree in the lane close to our home.

Our trip was a huge success. These amazing animals swooped around us, sometimes just inches from our heads. Luckily we escaped getting bat poo in our hair but perhaps bats have manners and don't toilet in flight like pesky gulls (answers on a postcard please!). Unfortunately though, despite using my camera phone in overdrive I didn't get a shot of a single, speedy bat but these sunset and night-time shots provide a measure of compensation.

Monday, 20 September 2010

A Free Lunch

When you work near a shopping centre it's easy for all thrifty intentions to go out of the window and spend, spend, spend during lunchtimes.  I'm trying to find things to do during my break that don't cost anything but which give me a well earned rest to freshen me up for an afternoon's hard graft!  Now I have to say I'm luckier than most in the locations where I work.  This is Dartmouth, one of the towns that I cover in my community based role and site of some gorgeous shops that need avoiding.  But those seats would be just the place to sit and read, a lovely alternative to consumerism whilst eating lunch on a sunny day!
The other day though, I spent my lunch break in the Flavel Centre in the town.  This building, as well as housing the library where I picked up three books, also hosts art exhibitions.  When I visited it was hosting an event to publicise Devon Open Studios , an annual event where artists throughout the country  give the general public a glimpse of their work space.  This piece by  Bill Westaway caught my eye.  It's just the inspiration that I needed to use up my own vast collection of sea glass!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Is Bigger Better?

Barbie Nurse came visiting yesterday with her new love interest - a 1980s VW camper! This came complete with its original instruction manual in which a lady with big hair demonstrates the van's delights alongside her moustachied friend who no doubt epitomised masculine good looks during that era. Of course, I showed off my pride and joy, our lovely Knaus motorhome, but the difference in size of these vehicles has lead us to ponder the advantages and disadvantages of owning these different types of vehicle.

Let's start with the upsides of a little campervan.  It's small enough to be used as a second car and probably isn't as thirsty as its bigger brother, the motorhome, so is potentially much more economical to run and a bit nippier as well.  You're far less likely to get groans of disappointment from fellow motorists as you bimble along in front of them in one of these. Travelling down narrow lanes, say to a secluded cove is feasible, whereas even journeys down some of the more minor A roads can seem a bit hazardous in a motorhome.  Also those tricky height restrictions, for example on the entry to car parks, are much less of a problem with a small van whereas even the canopies over filling station forecourts can represent a tight squeeze for a type C van with its bulbous roof canopy.

The comparative luxury of a motorhome comes at a cost, both from a financial and 'freedom to roam' viewpoint.  Of course, what you get is heaps of extra space and in our van there is no need to convert the interior for different purposes at various times in the day.   Beds, tables and seating remains in fixed positions.  One of us doesn't have to head for the hills to cool off  after an argument either.  It's roomy enough to pull a curtain and  hide away until the storm's blown over.  I'm not sure if everyone would survive a blazing row during  a torrential downpour in a campervan!  Of course, there's the tiny matter of privacy and dignity too, an important consideration for those of us who work in the NHS.  We have a toilet cubicle whereas Barbie Nurse's loo is kept in a cupboard under her sink so can only used in the middle of the cab in an emergency.  The sheer horror of imagining  himself in this demeaning scenario, meant that our fastidious work colleague, Mr Metrosexual, was at the point of needing medical attention!

So take your pick, campervan or motorhome.  I can't even bring myself to mention the name of those nasty things that have to be towed.  For a start,  they can't be parked on the French 'Aire de Camping Car', and for that reason alone they can be discounted altogether!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Cheesy Flapjacks

This is an interactive post. I would like you all to shout the B word that signifies the circular things that dangle between our men folk's legs. For this recipe, copied avidly by those who tasted the version made by Michelle in Social Service's office, is described as 'healthy' in spite of containing a  veritable shedload of cheese and butter!  However if you are selective about what you clog your arteries with, this is a good delicious choice.  It could act as a  savoury alternative to energy bars if you genuinely need to pack in the calories during sustained exercise.  Think a day long moorland walk rather than ironing from an overfull laundry basket.The original (healthy) recipe contained even more cheese and butter but this is my version which has worked nicely.

Pre-heat the oven to Gas 4 or 180 degrees C.  Then you will need:
  • 350g of jumbo oats
  • 30g grated parmesan cheese
  • 200g grated strong cheddar
  • 3 large beaten eggs
  • 100g butter
  • A good handful of a strong dried herb such as rosemary or thyme
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A good handful of diced chorizo or pancetta (optional)
Once you've collected everything together, it's just a case of mixing everything together well and spreading the mixture in a greased baking tray. Cook for 35-40 minutes and then allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.Et voila! A lovely treat for the girls when they arrive this morning to participate in high impact, hunger inducing jewellery making!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Memory Cafe Mk 2

I've written about the Kingsbridge Memory Cafe in the past.  And now I'm very excited to say that, conceived and staffed mainly by enthusiastic bands of volunteers, two more cafes, aimed at providing a supportive and enjoyable place for people with dementia and their carers, have sprung up in the area of the South Hams  in which I work as the occupational therapist in a community mental health team.  One of my less onerous tasks (which almost feels like a 'jolly') is representing the team as link worker supporting these ventures.

So, behold the lovely Marilyn from Dartmouth Caring (allegedly a party animal extraordinaire) displaying the first part of a frieze that was made at the well attended  inaugural cafe on Tuesday morning.  She also polled attendees to discover what music they'd like to create ambience at future cafes.   Ideas for activities were generated by the volunteers at a wonderfully fun training session that I lead with the lovely 'La Rooks' from the Alzheimer's Society.
These will be tried out in the craft area, a separate space for those who want a bit more to do than chat and have tea..

Read this article  for more information about memory cafes in general.  And look out for future posts about ideas for activities to try that can be tailored so that people with dementia can take part but that everyone else might find fun too!

PS:  Must remember to write about the new Totnes cafe soon and update about the one in Kingsbridge.

Dartmouth Memory Cafe:  Second Tuesday of the month 10:30-12:30am at Townstall Community Centre Kingsbridge Memory Cafe:  Every other Thursday 2:00-4:00pm at Kingsbridge Methodist Church
Totnes Memory Cafe: Last Friday of the month 2:00-4:00pm at Totnes Methodist Church

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Days Out in Devon: Buckfastleigh Caves

Even though I've lived in the county for nearly thirty years, I've been told that I still do not qualify as a Devonian, however many cream teas that I stuff down my neck.  But my time here does mean that I know a little bit more about things to do than the average Joe Tourist.  So, with my Days Out in Devon posts I've been trying to share some more obscure ideas for places to visit.  Not that there's anything wrong with some of the well known attractions.  Crealy and Woodlands are ace but they are big enough to publicise themselves.

Buckfastleigh Caves is a little known site that just qualifies as a visitor attraction because it's  open very infrequently.   On Wednesdays and Thursdays in August at 11am and 2pm, members of the William Pengelly Trust run guided tours for the public but also allow visits at other time  by arrangement.   I sneaked onto a tour given for Louis' Beaver Colony and was very pleased that I did so.  Although not all the caves in the vicinity of the visitor's centre accessible to the public, the tour, through a quarry to Joint Mitnor Cave, is fascinating for adults and children alike.  We were told about the geology of the site, quarrying in the area and the awesome animals who used to live in the vicinity of the cave - as evidenced by their bony remains! 

One of the caves is the home to the largest colony of Horseshoe Bats in the country. I was disappointed that it wasn't quite dark enough on our early evening visit to see them flying. But I understand that Autumn Watch may be filming soon so I'll make do with watching the televised display and  spotting the smaller varieties of bats that come out at twilight from their roost in the trees close to home!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

End of Summer Clearance

It's felt, over the last couple of weeks, like I've been having a spring clean - except it's not spring and autumn is fast approaching. I got rid of a shedload of old toys and books when I decorated Louis' room and made a conscious effort to reduce my own stash of possessions. My study and work area at the back of the garage have been re-organised. Even my computers at home and work are being cleaned up. Slowly, slowly I'm deleting files I no longer need and organising those that I want to keep.

The end of summer seems the most appropriate time of the year to clear the decks and make a pleasant interior environment. After all, in the colder, darker months I'm likely to spend more time indoors. So I'm looking forward to cosying up in my nice clean tidy home and doing lots of crafts in my newly organised workspaces. And writing this post was a good excuse to use a picture of this hyper tidy cutesy American bird!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Celebrating Small Successes

It's was my day off yesterday and I was going to get so much done. There's a problem with weariness at the moment though which is hindering me. You see, a couple of weeks ago, I visited a very good looking emergency dentist. Not that he would have returned the compliment as I had a smelly abcess in my month, was dribbling and wearing those attractive plastic goggles that they make you wear these days. Not at my best I admit.

Anyway, my painful back tooth has been removed but, until the cavity heals I'm not wearing 'Mandy', my mandibular device. This much loved piece of plastic stops me snoring by holding my jaw forward and guarantees decent quality sleep by giving me a clear airway to breathe through. Without Mandy, I am banished to the spare room because of excessive night time decibel production (think goods train). But another downside is that I feel as if I've flown halfway round the world and am suffering serious jet lag . As least I know that Mandy does something useful as well as making me look like an extra from the Planet of the Apes.

So, for example, the exercise regime has gone out of the window as has making a stash of jewellery to sell and some long planned cheesy flapjacks.  I could beat myself up about this but that would only make me feel an emotional wreck as well as a physical one.  Instead,  I'm going to count my small successes.  So yesterday:

I took my car to have its front tyres replaced.
I started a mosaic for a tabletop.
I helped Louis with a fun survey for his homework.
I tidied the workbench at the back of the garage.
I prepared two posts for my blog.
I attended a jewellery course taster session.  And there's some other bits and pieces too.

So when it's all been written down my achievements for the day don't look too bad.  So, for now, I'll celebrate my small successes and look forward to running on full steam shortly!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Just finished reading: A Year in the Merde

The book stall (pay by donation) at the hospital where I work has yielded a few offerings recently and A Year in the Merde is one of them.  Being a bit of a self confessed book snob I would normally have looked this one over as there were no accolades from quality newspapers on the back cover.  But for only a quid it was worth a risk - which I'm glad I took because this was a very entertaining read.

This book, unsurprisingly about the year in the life of an Englishman based in Paris, reads autobiographically.   So, rather gullibly I read two-thirds before the plot got a little too inplausible for real life and it dawned on me that this was a novel.  The descriptions of women are very obviously from a laddy lad point of view and have to be forgiven. Additionally the French, especially Parisians,  are sometimes cast in a very  bad light indeed but I suspect this is based on the real experiences of the author who seems very well versed in the intricacies of the country's life and culture.

I will be popping back to the book stall to see if the donee finishes any more books by Stephen Clarke, which all seem to have a French theme.  Otherwise I'll make use of the reservations service at the library when I fancy another book with laugh out loud moments.

PS:  I also broke my 'quality newspaper' rule for Sheila O' Flanagan's Perfect Man but after reading three pages it's going straight back for some other sucker to waste their money on!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Days Out in Devon: Ivylive

It's a late posting today as I've been recovering from our second outing to a festival!  Two late nights in a row takes a toll even when the second night's liquid intake was a smoothie and coffee extravaganza.   Our date at Ivylive was supposed to be a family event but Mr Lovelygrey dipped out and caught the bus home on Saturday morning. He's decided that re-living his youth is not his bag.  So I was left to strut my stuff, in sole charge of the van with Louis and the lovely Melanie who secured a place in the bottom bunk.

What a great weekend!  This festival is not advertised as kid-friendly but there was plenty for Louis to do -  which included science workshops, circus skills and a play bus.  He also made friends with the lovely people from Eatmusic who patiently let him and his new buddies hang out in their marquee.  Thanks too, must go to Mad Dog McCrea, one of my all time favourite live acts, who let him come backstage to have his CD signed by 'famous people'!

We all enjoyed our encounter with kanga garra rufa fish who nibbled the dead skin off our feet whilst at the same time secreting a healing enzyme. Not sure if I've achieved any long lasting benefits but it was an interesting one off experience and I can also affirm that, if you slip off the seat into the tank, the fish make a speedy get away and are not squashed. The purported relaxing effects of the therapy was somewhat undermined as throughout my session I had to bat off repeated requests from Louis for £1.20 to buy sweets!

This weekend Louis inadvertently made up a great new word 'noisic',  a highly subjective term for unpleasant music.  My avoidance of music radio stems from an aversion to being exposed to this genre of sound too often.  Unfortunately the downside is that  I don't often hear new artists that I might like.   As a mum who doesn't get out much I'm pleased to have been introduced to some non-noisical acts.   Cosmo Jarvis and Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly have now been added to my playlist to dilute my auditory overdose of Leonard Cohen.

Not content with just trying one new thing, my fishy feeding frenzy,  I was persuaded by Louis to have my face painted in his design of second choice (I refused his hammer horror favourite!).  Here's the result which I think secures my place at a full on festival chick extraordinaire.  Back next year when I shall be festooned with glitter tattoos!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Organised Chaos

Mr Lovelygreyday sees me as the Imelda Marcos of the bag world.  I, quite reasonably, refute this strongly  because:

a) I only own three bags that are in regular use, my rucksack, a purple string bag  and a tiny bag knobbly cotton knit shoulder bag for evening use which was kindly donated to me by M'selle High Seas, my yachtswoman friend when she downshifted and went to live on her boat.

b) I only buy a bag, which costs no more than £30, about once every two years.  Goodness knows how Mr Lovelygrey's mind would work if he were married to Posh Spice.

I've had my sturdy Victorinox rucksack for about two and a half years now and was seriously contemplating replacing it .  It has many pockets which I thought would make me more organised and stop me losing things in its dark, murky depths.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Things are far more easily misplaced when there's about twenty pockets to throw them into. So I was contemplating buying something with just one compartment, a big sack perhaps?

But just before I indulged in yet another act of consumerism it dawned on me that it wasn't the bag that was at fault but the way that I used it. Of course, chucking possessions into compartments willy-nilly isn't going to result in order. So for the last week, I've been focusing on putting mindfulness principles to practical use, assigned a home to each of my possessions and paid attention of how I put things away. Surprise, surprise the bag now works!

Friday, 10 September 2010

101 Unusual Uses for Bananas: No:1

Now there's a title that will have the dirty minded among you exercising their imagination but as my regular readers know, the mind of Lovelygrey is as pure as the driven snow. Consequently it will take me some time to find an additional 100 posts on this subject unless I resort to providing recipes which do not deserve the 'unusual label'.

Today's handy hint is genius because it turns an annoying habit that bananas have into a virtue.  Imagine this scenario.  You come home from a shopping trip and are unloading your basket.  Absentmindedly you place your bananas on top of the other fruit in the bowl and ZAP! within twenty seconds the other stuff has turned to mush and the bananas have gone black.  For this reason there are some gadgets for separate banana storage on the market although personally I find that keeping them away from the fruit bowl works too!

But this characteristic of the banana, which I understand is due to its clever ability to produce ethylene gas during the ripening process, may be used advantageously.  Hence I came home to find  that Mr Lovelygrey had placed a banana on top of a bowl of green tomatoes and it was happily sitting there doing its magic.  A speedy web search has revealed that this technique works with other fruit too including those tricky beasties, 'ripe and ready to eat' avocados.

Off now, to rack my brain to come up with another 100 handy hints involving bananas.  This may researching the uses of ethylene gas in the domestic environment or, if  I'm at a loss,  I might have to bite the bullet and resort to those dodgy magazines!

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Yesterday was momentous!  For the first time I received money in exchange for a piece of jewellery that I made, a copy of the silver  swirly whirly necklace that I've written about previously.  Thanks Lorna and lets hope your daughter likes it!

This introduction into capitalistic venture has forced me to consider the practicalities of selling my work, boring stuff  like packaging.  Luckily I'd kept a beautiful folding box which I recycled to display this first offering to its full advantage.  However I can't go on using my old jewellery boxes for ever.  For a start I don't have that many and even though I like the idea of reusing packaging this is going to be untenable if I want to produce stuff to sell in any volume at all.

And so I'm on the search of my own packaging to 'promote' my brand.  My would-be customers are in two minds.  Some feel that no packaging is necessary if a product is homemade but other people I've spoken to feel that a posh box adds value to the product.  Preliminary searches haven't yielded what I'm looking for but then I don't know what that is yet.  However, I've got in mind something that's reasonably priced which may have a life beyond its original use.  When I come up with my idea I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Veg Box Tales: Spiced Broccoli and Halloumi Couscous

I've reviewed my previous foodie posts and it appears that, seeing as I am an omnivore, it is high time that I wrote about some really meaty food - half a spit roast ox perhaps? Or one of those multi-bird joints where, in true old lady who swallowed a fly style, you start with a boned sparrow and end up by placing a well stuffed flamingo in an ostrich carcass. But I return to writing about vegetables as a delicious meat-free dish has emerged from the kitchen of Mr. Lovelygrey yet again.

This Spiced Broccoli and Halloumi Couscous recipe came in last week's newsletter from the lovely people at Riverford Farm. I don't even have to write out the recipes as, fingers crossed, if you follow the link, it will pop up from their website. Now halloumi is an excellent store cupboard item and tolerates hanging around for ever. Ours had been in the fridge since time immemorial and hadn't even reached its sell by date. The broccoli came from the veg box and the beans were freshly picked from the garden. How right on is that?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Lovelygrey's Liqueur Store

The Lovelygrey boys were doing other things so I decided to wander in the fields near our home with my foraging sack. I don't do girlie bags ever since a colleague told me that I carried them as if I were posing for a knitting pattern. So, I'll never be a WAG with my preference for string bags and rucksacks. Also I'm a little bit podgier than the stick thin women that footballers seem to gravitate towards.

I was on a mission to make blackberry vodka and pick 600g of blackberries to add to a litre of spirit and 300g sugar.  Apparently the brew needs to be shaken daily for a couple of weeks and will be ready in three months - just in time to make Christmas just that bit merrier.

Way back I wrote a post about sloe gin made in 2009 and this has now been bottled ready for drinking  Producing this stuff has become a family tradition and has been so successful I thought I'd additionally try something different this year, hence the blackberry vodka.  So just one kilner jar of the new tipple has been produced as an experiment to see how it turns out.  My crystal ball tells me it will be lovely and I'll be making a bigger batch next year!

Monday, 6 September 2010

New Boots (But no Panties!)

The title today provides the perfect excuse to pop a photo of the late great Ian Dury on my blog.  Many of my musical likes from my teens have been pushed downhill on the sledge of embarrassment (Howard Jones for goodness sake and most of that heavy metal nonsense). But Ian with his Blockheads stays at the top of the slope because of his witty writing, musicianship and originality.

If you read my post a few days ago you may be aware that I bought my winter wardrobe. As I underbudgeted I decided, rather than paying off a bit of the mortgage like a good girl, that I would buy myself some festival wellies. I'd originally planned to buy some flowery ones. However footwear gives me problems. I have Morton's Neurone which  is particularly sensitive to incorrect choices of footwear and standard wellies, however decorative they are, can be problemmatic causing pain between the third and fourth toe of my right foot after about an hours wear. But my lovely ugly shoes, Birkenstocks and Crocs are consistently comfy  because of their shaped footbeds and roomy toe areas. So, I wondered if these manufacturers had a design that would be more likely to give me pain-free welly wearing.

And here they are! Lovely jubbly new Crocs wellies which come in a range of bright colours that could well have suited my funky lusting. But, in the end, I chose plain black. After, all like my Crocs sandals, if they're really comfy they'll get a lot of use, and may even sneak into my everyday wardrobe. And the panties? Well, my budget is almost blown so I'll have to put up with the greying offerings in my undies drawer until the spring!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Days Out in Devon: The Edge

The earliest readers of my blog,  those friends that I bound, gagged and dragged, making muted screaming noises, to my laptop, would have seen the lovely designs that were produced on a weekend mosaic course at High Heathercombe House, way up on Dartmoor.   It was there that I heard about The Edge, an annual sculpture exhibition held on the estate each September.

So, yesterday,  Naomi and Melanie,  my girls from the Mini Church of Craft paid a visit. The lovely Margaret came too.  She dreams of being Naomi's mother-in law in the far off future if her son, Pete, ever gets his skates on! And of course there was Louis, lover of  picnics, whose appreciation of art was heightened by snacking his way along the woodland paths where the fifty one diverse items in the  exhibition were displayed.  It was a minor miracle that he did not come home soaking wet as he also enjoyed bounding across streams that criss-crossed the wood.

Many of the pictures I took today didn't do this exhibition justice.  My poor little camera phone was challenged by the low light conditions in the woods. So I can't show you how we contributed to an installation by writing our hopes and desires on a Rizla paper which we stuffed into a clay egg and then added to those already in a mossy nest. Neither can I show you some of the work by a local Ashburton artist, Tati Dennehy, who had several pieces of work displayed.  Please go to her website to view her work and look at my previous post from the Mythic Gardens where  I suceeded in photographing one of her pieces successfully.  A piece of this woman's work is high on my objects of desire list when I've saved enough money.

After viewing the sculptures and marvelling at Louis' commentary about the aesthetic beauty of the nude form (Oooh! boobies and look Mum that man's got no pants) it was off for a picnic in the orchard, one of the gardens that are open to the public on exhibition days. We avoided scrumping and leaving bare a treeful of delicious looking plums so pudding number two, to supplement the lunch box lemon cupcakes and berries, was a 99 each on the way home from the friendly ice cream lady in the van outside the Dartmoor Parks Information Centre. All in all, a day out that comes highly recommended for both adults and children and we will certainly be returning in years to come! Many thanks to Mel at High Heathercombe and every else involved in organising this lovely event.