Monday, 31 January 2011

Thought for the Day: Now What?

A truly wonderful holiday that took a year of careful planning has come to an end leaving just memories, jetlag and an exercise in totting up the true cost of the trip to complete. Actually that's not all.   In spite of the truly unpleasant tiredness associated with crossing multiple time zones, my mind is clearer than it has been for a long time and I feel set to embark on new projects, finish old ones and pay attention to maintaining the good habits that are so helpful in allowing me to approach each day with a spring in my step.

Last time I went to Yellowstone to celebrate the millenium I mourned its loss after my return and felt deflated.  Each walk that I took seemed boring because  I did not have skis on my feet,  there were no geysers erupting around me or bison to stop me in my tracks.


Perhaps not feeling that way this time is a mark of how I've changed as a person over the last ten years.  Even though our trip away was very special on many levels,  it wasn't the 'be all and end all'.  I've got so many exciting things on the boil to look forward to, things
to make and write, people and places to see and causes to support.  I am also much more aware of the fact that unexpected events can turn any ordinary old day into an adventure.  So let's get out and about and see what this day holds!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kurt, Coffee and King Salmon

This photo of Seattle, lifted from Microsoft Clipart, must have been taken on a rare clear day or else have been heavily doctored.  But even though this city is dank like Devon, it's my favourite in the US, perhaps because it's populated with unbronzed mortals  who are not adverse to walking and wear a lot of cosy clothing.

We only had a day here and stayed with friends who have a six year old daughter.  Our day could not be more different than if we'd had a child free stopover.  In the old days we'd have feasted on the excellent local seafood, took in a band, savoured the ambience of coffee shops and sampled a few of the local microbrewed beers .    There might even have been a sightseeing visit or a peaceful period of browsing in a secondhand bookstore.

But kids change all that.  Louis was not quite 'Sleepless in Seattle' but stayed awake until 10:30pm chatting with his new partner in crime, Ava. There was a trip to the local park where artistic swing shots didn't work out. And although our visit to the mecca of outdoor stores, REI, would definitely have been on the menu in our 18-plus stopover, in the olden days, it would have been for retail therapy rather than to escape the rain and check out the climbing tower, run around the boot testing 'mountain' and use the play area.

The finale to our kid friendly mini city break saw the now firm friends taking in a Dennis the Menace DVD with a TV lunch of  Spongebob Squarepants Mac and Cheese!  No matter, it gave us some quality time with friends who we hadn't seen for eight years and whetted our appetite for another visit shortly.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Just Finished Reading: Bad Science

I am usually a voracious holiday reader but this has been affected by jet lag, socialising and time spent blogging. Yes, dear readers I've sacrificed valuable nose in book time and some raunchy chick lit enjoyment for you!  I've only just completed  Bad Science, one I started before leaving the United Kingdom and have to say it has been a captivating read.

As someone who's just tentatively dipped their toes into academia by submitting an opinion piece for publication in a journal,  I've found this a valuable reminder of how to evaluate scientific evidence that should serve me well if I were to step up the tempo and do a proper piece of research.   I wish it had been around when I was a student embarking on my rather dry evidence based practice  module.   This book is not just targeted at us would-be boffins.  It's a timely and highly readable reminder for a nuch wider audience to examine the claims made by so-called experts in a critical way.

I found the chapters on the placebo effect, the ways in which statistics can be manipulated to serve the purposes of those trying to sell something and why clever people believe stupid things particularly fascinating.  My own susceptibility to the claims of cosmetic companies  when selling eye debagging cream serves as a perfect example!  There's also sections about how specific scientific stories such as the MMR scare were treated in the media.    Ben Goldacre points out that the quality press are quite happy to present other subject matter such as literary criticism and sports reviews in a non dumbed down way.  I found his call to the media to report science stories in a way that assumes their readership is intelligent a particularly poignant part of the book.  We deserve better than to be fed sensationalist stories rather than balanced argument!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Geyser Gazing

This incredible spot is my absolute favourite place in the world.  Totally worth the expense of getting and staying here.  I'm already plotting how the Lovelygrey family can return as soon as possible maybe at a different time of the year when vehicles are allowed into the park and we're able to go further afield under our own steam. 

For the last couple of days I've been 'hanging out' ,as they say here, around the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone with my miniature ski instructor and newly appointed Junior Ranger, whilst Mr Lovelygrey goes further afield and is allowed to fall over in privacy in a brave attempt to improve his cross country technique.  For a reasonable donation of 50c I purchased a map of the geyser basin at the Old Faithful Information Centre.  Here's Louis  planning our route  whilst waiting for the granddaddy of geysers to force many thousands of bath tub loads of water into the air!

Now my favourite geyser of all is Beehive which is situated really close to the boardwalk so the full effect of its eruption can be experienced It sounds like a goods train and water shoots about 60 metres into the air for five minutes.  But, alas, unlike Old Faithful, which is as regular as clockwork in geyser terms,  it is unpredictable and skulking around it for a couple of hours yielded nothing, on this visit, but a few puffs of steam and some splutters of bubbly water.

Here's Plume, a next door neighbour of Beehive, less spectacular but much better behaved, going off every 60-70 minutes of so for our viewing pleasure! But this place does not just provide a visual treat. It's a rich soundscape too. There's hotspots that sound like bacon sizzling. And when they finish their eruptions Lion Geyser 'roars' and Anemone emits a flushing noise, that makes it a suitable candidate for being renamed 'Toilet Geyser'!

Sadly we're heading out of the park today, leaving our friends John and Julie, the bison and other beasties. Our child starved son will be sharing a room with someone of his own age for our final night. Fingers crossed that he'll get some shut eye before our flight home and not end up Sleepless in Seattle!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Recycling par Excellence!


Okay, I have to admit  there's not too many unwanted cross country skis in Lovelygrey Villas.  I don't even have a pair to call my own.  But, if I did have a pile that couldn't be used anymore I'd consider making a natty bench like the one outside Yellowstone's Old Faithful Snow Lodge.

The pictures on my blog have had a white-ish theme recently, a inevitable consequence, I suppose, of hanging around in snowy landscapes.  So, I thought I'd inject some colour today by talking about some of the arty crafty items around the lodge.  For the second time this fortnight, I've fallen in love with a picture that's outside my budget.  This time,a photographic print of an osprey in flight above falls has caught my eye, a snip at $950 when compared to the previous coveted painting at Moonlight Basin,  a funky blue luminous wigwam,with a cool price tag of $70,000!

Moving away from a retail perspective the lodge here has some pretty funky decor.  To the delight of Louis,   carved bears in canoes grace the ceiling of the snack bar and I've taken photographs of many of the light fittings with their snowy animal themes which are potentially design sources for future craft projects. However, I'd be hard pressed to replicate this wonderful candelabra in the Obsidian dining room.

And the gift shop  has been a source of inspiration too.  These pendants and earrings thankfully are not real silver otherwise I might have been tempted to spend, spend, spend.  They've made me realise that I need to add a handy item to my rucksack for use when the mood takes me.   If  I'd packed  Siligum , my handy two part moulding putty  I could easily have taken some  cheeky, sneaky impressions for making my own versions in metal clay!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Solitude

We're literally in one of the tourist hotspots of the world and yet like Devon, you don't have to go too far off the beaten track to avoid the crowds.  The typical behaviour of a visitor here at Yellowstone National Park is to trudge from their snowcoach or snowmobile through the Old Faithful Visitor's Centre, take their picture in front of the world's most famous geyser, buy a souvenir, use the loo and then head on out of the park.  Thankfully, this leaves an awful lot of wide open space for the seemingly few of  us who sometimes relish our peace and quiet.

The Lovelygrey boys and I skied out to the evocatively named Biscuit Basin today.  Not a land of bourbons, jaffa cakes and lemon puffs that I'd hoped for but another thermal feature named after the scone like breakfast fare that is served here.  We were on our own for most of the trip out and  after a party of Korean tourists had left the area we had the place to ourselves whilst we lunched on  traditional hiker food of raw carrots, cashew nuts and power bars with only the frequent eruptions of Jewel Geyser and its companion Shell Spring to break the silence!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Can You Tell What It Is Yet?

This trip has been rich pickings for wildlife spotting although my camera shots are not up to scratch.  So, I'll share what we've been privileged enough to see using some library photos taken with men/women with much bigger lenses and more patience than myself.

Our first sighting shortly after taking a right from the main road onto the route to Moonlight Basin ski resort was a flock of Bighorn Sheep including mamas with their babies - aaaaaah!  These are really wild beasties not like their mostly white cousins that litter the hills near our home.



One of this guy's relatives just has to be my favourite mammal that we've spotted so far on the trip.  An ermine was running around in the snow below the Iron Horse chairlift at Moonlight Basin. He's a stoat whose usual brownish coat has turned almost pure white for the  winter.  Our one had a natty black tip to his long tail!

On our drive down to Yellowstone we saw our first of many elk. This is one large deer! On our last trip here one followed us as we were cross country skied back to our accommodation. This guy is no cute shy retiring Bambi. He's a bruiser whose close presence caused my heart to race more than just a little.



The only dog family creature spotted so far is the coyote, although not in close proximity likes this fine chappie.   I'd love to  see a wolf  but  might have to be as  patient as I've been with the common old garden moose, whose eluded me for the entire fifteen years that we've been visiting the US.

And one bald eagle from Mr Lovelygrey, a man with more sophisticated equipment than my own!  He was spotted on the way into the National Park on our snowcoach ride perched atop a tree next to the Madison River.  Now we definitely don't get these in Devon!

More ornithology!  A belted kingfisher again seen perched by the side of the Madison River.  He's bigger than his English counterpart which is why I didn't have any trouble spotting him.  His European friend is also an animal that been successfully hiding from me for my entire life.

Again one of Mr Lovelygrey's.  These are Trumpeter Swans.  Americans seem to be very excited to see these birds but us Brits in our ignorance can't really see what the fuss is about.  After all, a swan is a swan is a swan.  Isn't it?

These guys are everywhere here, blocking our way on our cross country ski outing so we had to make a detour!  Could this be another photo from a chap with a big lens?  No, this is Louis' shot taken from the snowcoach on his own camera.  We've resisted the expensive children's offerings with their low resolution and instead equipped him with an old mobile phone.  So, David Bailey, eat your heart out!

And finally dig this.  There are flies called ephydrida brucei living in hot water in the geyser basins feeding off the algal blooms.  Nothing special to look at but perhaps the most amazing creatures here.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Upgrade!!


It's been a mixed old day in Yellowstone National Park. Not the seamlessly perfect holiday that I'd envisgaged but things have turned out okay in the end. There was a problem with our room which has resulted in an upgrade to the main lodge, not only for the Lovelygrey family but our friends too. We're so impressed with the way that the Americans handle complaints. After all we're all human and mistakes happen and it's a mark of good service when things are set straight competently.


Then there's been Louis' first ever bash at cross country skkiing, a different kettle of fish from its downhill counterpart that he's mastered so quickly.   After a good hour or so of sulking because he wasn't getting the hang of things easily, suddenly everything clicked.  We've headed out round the geyser basin.  Chinese Spring is one of the places that we visited,  the former site of a laundry where the oriental workman occasionally dropped clothes into a thermal feature. Allegedly these built up a blockage in the crater and then one day there was an explosion of pants, shirts and  knickers!

Now Louis's going great guns, even talking about being a cross country ski instructor when he's grown up.  So,tomorrow we're heading out further afield to help him hone his skills and hopefully we'll see a few of the big geysers strut their funky stuff!.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Back to Basics

We've traded in the luxury of our ski condo for an altogether different holiday experience.  At (High!) Noon we caught his amazing tracked vehicle that transported the Lovelygrey Family, John and Julie and a shedload of luggage into Yellowstone National Park.

The three-ish hour long trip into the park takes in a plethora of wildlife, a beautiful canyon and tantilising glimpses of the thermal features that we're here to see over the next six days.  Whilst I'm unpacking and writing this post, the Lovelygrey boys are off watching Old Faithful strut its funky stuff.

So here's our new home for the next six days, a basic old style cabin like motel room.  Warm and clean with a nice line in polystyrene ceiling tiles and not a hot tub in sight.  Splashing out on more luxurious accommodation whilst we're here would have been one step too far and would have made the bank account squeal with pain.   And it's not going to matter too much.  There's so much here to see and do that we're not planning on spending much time in our cabin!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Guess Where We're Going!

This feels like an appropriate time to replicate one of those very bad  phone-in quizzes on daytime TV where, for a preposterous charge, callers answer a mindblowingly simple multiple choice question.

After ten months of planning, the highlight of the Lovelygrey family's super special holiday  is nigh.  Are we going to:

a) Las Vegas?
b)  Yellowstone  National Park?
c)  Disneyland Florida?

Please take sufficient time, my small but faithful band of trusty blog followers,  to ponder over this tricky question!   I hope to be able to keep you entertained whilst I'm away, courtesy of my friend Julie's miraculous dongle-type device.  However, in case the fairy dust stops working  I've  beavered away and scheduled some reading material to keep you all  entertained in my absence.   Enjoy!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Thought for the Day: Hot Tub Love!!!!

Here's me, Lovelygrey and Louis living the highlife in our own private holiday hot tub with our friend Julie. The dubious looking gent in the hat at the front of the tub is her husband John,  venerable UnoMeister of our nightly card playing competitions.

The Lovelygrey family have fallen in love with this wonderful swirly, super warm invention that has been in regular use through our time at Moonlight Basin.  Just the thing for those aching bodies after a day of skiing and good for a dip first thing in the morning too!  Okay, I question the green credentials of a bath outside in the snow that is constantly heated to 100 degrees fahrenheit  so there's a slight twinge of guilt associated with its use.  We're told that electricity is cheap here in the States but I reckon installing one at our own home, as Louis is suggesting, would be the death of Mr. Lovelygrey.  Watching that meter go round to heat up water in the garden in winter would cause the heart of someone who meticulously researches light bulb efficiency to give up completely! 

I've written about luxury before and questioned how do the rich treat themselves when they have constant access to the best?  It lead me to conclude that being in a position where you are able to afford the occasional indulgence may be more satisfying than having super expensive delights on tap.   On a day to day basis I am content to seek enjoyment in simple pleasures in life, good homecooked food, spending time with friends, family and wonderful colleagues,  experimenting with my craft materials and spotting wildlife.    And when the chance to spoil myself comes along, I reckon that I get more pleasure because of the sense of being treated than I would if I viewed extravagant pampering as a daily right.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Skiing Through the Ages

Ah! There's nothing like waking up to the view of mountains out of the window. Another day in our own near private ski resort built to meet the increased demand for luxury property and glam winter sport in the nineties and noughties. But after the boon came bust and because of its remote location and obscure transport links this place is almost deserted. The longest queue on any lift so far has been one party ahead of us!

The relative solitude is one of the factors giving us the best skiing that we've ever experienced. There's also long easy and intermediate well groomed runs and loads of snow. Our practice with the lovely folk at Plymouth Ski Centre has paid off. My hesitant practice on the carpeted slope has reaped huge rewards and Louis is a skiing superstar!  Attempts to catch him for a photo whilst on the move are fruitless - he just zooms away too fast.  So here's the best that I can do - on the chairlift with Mr. Lovelygrey.

We've not been downhill skiing for over ten years now and advancing age and lack of fitness has posed its own challenges for the adults in our party. No more fights to catch the first lift of the day and then skiing until they're shut. It's a far more sedate affair these days, a couple of hours on the slopes after a leisurely breakfast and then back out after a long lunch and a dip in the jacuzzi to stave off those aching muscles. Falling over is to be avoided. The effort taken by an oldtimer getting back up is colossal and the whole exercsie is frankly quite undignified!

There's challenges associated with skiing with a small child too. It is imperative that we make sure that the activity is enjoyable and Louis will want to come again. The more sedate routine seems to suit him too, giving him plenty of opportunity to recharge his batteries so he doesn't suddenly feel like giving up halfway down a slope. And five solid days of skiing might not be a child's cup of tea so it's important for adults to forego some slope time to schedule in some other activities like sledding and snowman building too!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Jetsetting for the Thrifty!

This holiday is eye wateringly expensive when compared to our usual jaunts to France in the motorhome where our only additional spend over and above normal everyday living costs is the price of the ferry crossing.  There’s been the airfares for both transatlantic and internal flights and accommodation costs in an ski area where quite frankly the property owners have their guests by the short and curlies in terms of the prices that they can command.  Then, there’s skiing itself – not the cheapest sport to participate in.   Even carbon offsetting all our travel comfortably fell into the three figure sum category, food for thought indeed about the impact of our touristic adventures.  And I  haven’t even disclosed what we’re doing in our second week, a holiday highlight indeed, but one which has made the piggy bank squeal!

So here’s how we’re keeping the costs of our travels down  without feeling like we’re scrimping.  After all we aren’t exactly roughing it when we have the luxury of our very own hot tub!

  • Apart from buying ski gear for Louis from Lidl and our french favourite, Decathlon,  we haven’t treated ourselves to pristine new holiday wardrobes.  We’ve made do with what we’ve got, as have our friends.  John is boasting that his ski jacket is about twenty years old and its colour scheme has come back into fashion!
  • We’re self catering and stocked up on food and drinks on our way to the condo before we hit the ski area.  Eating out this week is limited to just one occasion where we’ll be meeting some of John and Julie’s other friends who’re cross country skiing in the same area.  PS:  Food prices in the US are now humungus , for example $10 for arborio rice! We had to modify our menu plan to keep costs affordable and you’ve guessed it there’s now no risotto.
  • Spending on  little trinkets here and there can eat their way through funds nicely.  Instead I’m taking lots of photos that serve as very special mementos of our trip.  So there's no way I'm going to buy this beautiful incandescent picture by Tom Gilleon, on display at the Moonlight Basin lodge with its very cool price tag.
  • I don my cold weather clothing to trudge over to the nearby ski lodge to use the free Wi-Fi there  rather than forking out the $49.99 weekly subscription at our apartment.
  • Shopping around on the Internet prior to going away saved money on ski and boot hire, ski passes (pre-bought on the website Liftopia).  I’ve even managed to hire a car for one day with free fuel for much less than the price of a tank of petrol in the UK.
  • We’re sharing dishes when we eat out.  The portion size is huge here.  Luckily I have a small boy who shares my taste for calamari and was prepared to forego his kid’s meal of burger and fries during our microbrewery lunch.
  • We avoid expensive  pre-booked seats on planes and stick to our luggage allowances.  This does not stop me being highly envious of those wealthy individuals who can afford the luxury of a bed on a plane!
We could have said, blow the expense!  There’s still plenty more in the coffers and now we’re on a roll, why not spend it.  But Mr Lovelygrey and I work hard for our money and like to use it wisely.   And I’m sure our experience will be no less rich because we’re not wearing the latest ski jacket or exceeding our luggage allowance on the way home with impulsively purchased souvenirs.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

All is Well, Mama Lovelygrey!


Sorry Mama Lovelygrey if it felt like you were waiting up for me to come home from clubbing in my teen years yesterday.   I did not write a post to say we’d arrived safely  as planned at our first full blown destination.  After a day of unbelievable  perkiness, and an introduction to the wonder that is the Herschey bar with almonds, Louis finally begged to go to bed at 6pm followed shortly by me and Mr Lovelygrey.   So I was reliant on my pre-prepared posts yesterday.   What an organised person I can be but, as others will attest, I’m also prone to periods of mindnumbingly shocking scattiness, like forgetting to pick up my laptop after clearing airport security!


After arriving at Bozeman Airport (where? – ah Montana!)  late on Saturday night, we were whisked away from the airport by our friends, John and Julie, and taken to a perfectly acceptable mediocre chain hotel where Louis slept until a mind bogglingly late 4:30am.  Thank goodness for the 24 hour swimming pool.

So after a breakfast of cakes and waffles designed to convince a seven year old that he was born in the wrong country, we hit the road and headed for…… a supermarket!  Two more stops at a microbrewery for lunch and a ski hire shop and we’ve reached our home for six days, the romantically named Moonlight Basin in the Big Sky ski area.

No apr├Ęs-ski here in this tiny quiet resort.  Just our family, good friends, our grocery goodies and the hot tub.  Once we’ve been out and about exploring the runs I’ll keep you updated and also try to produce a few more diverse holiday themed posts for those of you who can’t see the point of hurtling down a hill with two planks of wood strapped to the feet! 

Monday, 17 January 2011

Lovelygrey's Guide to Successful Bad Parenting: Volume Two - The Bad Tooth Fairy

The sequel to my first guide to bad parenting has been a long time coming.  Maybe I don't do such a bad job after all.  My son is well fed and watered,  has a stable home life and is above all, the happiest little thing I've ever seen, apart from the times when I insist he get's dressed quickly or cleans his room. However I do fail miserably in my role as the tooth fairy.

Picture the scenario.  I come home from a day at work often having helped people deal with a momentous life event or merely a crisis and find Louis proudly holding one of his milk teeth which he's forcibly ejected from his month by frantic wriggling action.  He hides it under his pillow expecting it to be replaced by a £2 coin in the morning (As an aside I realise that this may seem premium but I was duped into believing that this was the going rate).  The next day it's still there!  Because of her exhaused state the tooth fairy forgets to return after Louis is asleep and  passes him by, sometimes  even two or even three days in a row.
 
Now I get away with this woeful neglect explaining that the  fairy visits on a nightly basis checking for new gaps.  If she sees  a tooth  missing then she can find it even if the child has swallowed it  and leaves a coin in return.  However, if they are asleep with their mouth closed when she's passed she does put any money under the pillow.   Such shameless lying surely  justifies a bad parenting label and  deserves intervention by some higher tooth collectionauthority!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Howdy Pardners!

Just to reassure Mama Lovelygrey we've arrived in the US of A!  All those home haircuts and the like have paid off and we're now spending some of our hard saved cash in a lovely way.   Good vibes are going out to the Seattle Airport Authority who've provided me with free Wi-Fi  access so I can blog to my heart's content whilst we await the flight to our first destination.

It's not a bad place to while away the hours.  There's comfy seats, yummy things to eat and chi-chi boutiques to browse in.   Luckily I seem to have left my covetous head at home in the UK and have merely been taking photgraphs of items that are potential design sources for things to make in the future.

...Like these pierced cardboard  light fittings retailing at a very reasonable $27 although I reckon they could be knocked up for much less at home.   And photos are much easier to carry in the baggage than these star shaped beauties!  The same shop has also provided inspiration for clocks made out of old cutlery, silver pendants and a game to play over a bottle of wine or two with the girls!


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Passport Control

Today the Lovelygrey family are off on a special holiday for two weeks and I'll disclose our destination when we've finally arrived at our first port of call.  But in the meantime, if we're delayed, I've scheduled posts ahead for your literary pleasure!!!

I have owned a much loved document wallet for many years, a free gift from Brittany Ferries, a company that's on my favourites list because of the exceptional and thoughtful service that its staff provide.   But alas, I left it on the aeroplane on my recent girlie weekend away to Edinburgh so needed a replacement pronto.

Back in May, my friend Melanie taught me how to make a reinforced plastic fabric by ironing bubble wrap.  The sheet that I produced has been hanging around in my study cum workshop since then, awaiting a potential use.   I decided to use it to produce a new carrier for all those essential bits of paper that I need for going away.

And here's the less than perfect finished result  made in under an hour which nevertheless will be adequate for purpose over the next fortnight.  I edged it with recycled ribbon from a fudge box in order to produce a totally cost free product which has ended up looking a little bit scrappy.  But no matter, it serves as a prototype and will survive for the duration of our long awaited trip.  When we return  from our travels there is enough of the sheeting to make Mark II where I'll dig out another wider piece of free ribbon.  I guarantee this will give it a more polished finish!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Strong People

A moment of lechery for some of you ladies and gay men out there courtesy of Microsoft Clipart. Not my type but I appreciate well toned pecs when I see them!

...Now where was I?  Ah! yes.  Very often, people that I've met in my role in a mental health team have got hold of a belief which I'd like to point out is erroneous.   The conversation goes along the lines of  'I'm a strong person.  I shouldn't get depressed'.    They might then go on to talk about their valiant, but unsuccessful efforts, to fight off this illness - keeping going, 'forcing' themselves to exercise/eat/work/socialise.  Just the self help advice I'd be giving under usual circumstances and use myself.

Please cast off the idea that depression is a sign of weakness. The powerful, creative, clever and good are not immune - look at this list from Wikipedia if you're in any doubt.  These resilient people are used to winning their personal battles.  They don't give up easily but when, they do, they're often a bit more worse for wear than lesser mortals who throw in the towel at an earlier stage in the fight.

If this is reading true, please seek help.  I'd also ask those who are drug adverse and normally eschew medication, even if a limb is falling off, to consider anti-depressant medication if it is offered.  It can often put the normally challenging busy and fulfilling lives of us strong people back on track.
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Thursday, 13 January 2011

What Were You Thinking Lovelygrey!!

And as a sequel to my confession yesterday of an act of stupidity..

..Yesterday a book had to be returned so I visited the cute-sy tucked away library at Totnes.  This has to rank as one of the hardest to find public buildings in the county even though it's signposted just a gnat's whisker away from its entrance. Maybe, though,  it's my direction finding that's at fault.

I returned my book and didn't stay to loiter for the rest of my lunchbreak.  And therein lies the problem.  Instead I visited four or five of the lovely boutiques in Fore Street perusing the clothes.  For someone who has planned not to buy anything new to wear in the next year (underwear and shoes excepted), this is a dangerous occupation.  I've already fallen hopelessly in love with a Pink Coat and  I'm now engaging in an activity that almost begs temptation to drop into my lap.  Luckily, nothing caught my eye although I'm a sucker for stylish cosiness and the extra fluffy Seasalt sweatshirts came close.  Thinking about it, haven't I got a plethora of similar garments already?

The experience has made me think again about using my lunchbreaks a bit more productively.  But with just half an hour to spare and a need to get away from the computer into the fresh air it's going to take a bit of creativity!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Fool!

No, this is not a cry of abuse to another mortal.   I am referring to myself  because for a few weeks,  I'd let my 'To Do list' slip.

Now I've written in a previous post  about how useful it is for me to itemise my chores on Outlook on my phone and how much pleasure I get from simply ticking a box when I've completed a task.   As I've been ultra-busy lately I'd been omitting the recording part and just doing the crossing off in the misguided belief that the reduced number of items on the list would make me feel better.   Not so, instead I was just confused and panicky because I'd forgotten half of the things that I'd needed to do.

So yesterday I pulled myself together and took a deep breath.  I sat down and quantified everything that I thought should have been included.  Throughout the day I added things that I'd missed the first time around.   And surprise, surprise the tally shot up to an alarming figure  but the funny thing is that now I've got the full picture recorded I'm able to stop worrying and tick them off faster!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Accidental Felt

Here's a rare photo of me, Lovelygrey, giving the supermodels a run for their money in my new homemade cosy cashmere hat which was made from 'accidental felt'. All but the most careful have made this in the past when we've washed knitwear at the wrong temperature.  It causes the fibres to bind closer together and renders a previously well fitting jumper, useless, unless you change shape drastically and lose five stone.

Now, I've learnt my lesson and stopped making this stuff, not by more attentive laundering but by changing my purchases to  the more forgiving cotton blended knitwear.  But I had kept some of my old jumpers after seeing an article in the Guardian about three years ago.  This suggested recycling shrunken knitwear to make felt mittens.

I decided to make a hat instead and used an old one to cut out my felt.  It's one where I think the shape really suits me but it's colour scheme is too garish and possibly outdated.  After all, it's about fifteen years old.  If you look carefully you'll see I folded over the ribbed edge of the jumper before cutting to make a doubled layed hatband.  I've also made light work out of an already existing task by cutting the pattern on the seam of the jumper.   It was then simply a case of whipping out the sewing machine and sewing the seams together.  Then after turning the hat the right way round I top stitched the headband in place.


The result is a superwarm piece of headwear made from something that would have been bin fodder in the past!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Days Out in Devon: Yarner Wood

Now here's two that we don't often see on the feeders at home, a marsh tit and nuthatch at  the observation hut at Yarner Woods near Bovey Tracey.  Not my own shot I'm afraid.  This is one of Mr Lovelygrey's shot with his fancy pants camera.

The nice thing about Devon is that even though it's a tourist hotspot there's plenty of hidden away spots where those in search of solitude can easily  find it.  Yarner is one of these, yet it's a stones throw away from Dartmoor's iconic but busy Haytor with its throngs and ice cream vans.  There's lots of lovely  peaceful walks and plenty of wildlife to watch.  A trail map is available from the website.

Yarner is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.   It's managed by Natural England and I've just noticed from their helpful website that there are a number of events arranged  there including guided walks, nestbox making and survival courses.  The Lovelygrey family will certainly be making use of some of these and I'll report back later in the year on our adventures.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Mini Church of Craft is Back!

The girls that make up the Church of Craft haven't got together for a regular monthly meeting since September.  Dear boy, events have just got in the way.  But 2011 has got off to a good start.  January's meeting took place yesterday and a session at an organised class is planned for February.  For the humble price of £10,  we're going to learn how to make jewellery out of tin cans at Finishing Touches in Totnes!

Melanie wasn't too productive as she was feeling poorly but contributed to the bonhommie by providing gossip and tucking into the bacon sandwiches and cake-y nibbles.  But Naomi was the star of the show showing us how to make this lovely three stranded memory wire bracelet of her own design incorporating herringbone wrapped beads.

I sought inspiration from one of my books, the very useful Encyclopedia of Wire Jewellery by Sara Withers.  This curly chain design into which I'm going to incorporate some labradorite discs will form the basis of a necklace.  I'll use my recently boosted silversmithing skills to solder together the twirly bits of the links.  I still need to plan how the finished piece will look but will show it off in all its glory at a later date.  One for the up and coming Etsy shop methinks.

The downside of getting together with my friends is that they are beadaholics and, as the drug dealers of the jewellery world, are keen to show off all their lovely recent purchases with a view to tempting me to splash the cash.  Not good for someone who's made a semi-serious pledge to restrain from craft-related impulse purchases but luckily I'm resisting their sparkly temptations and using what I already have in store.  However, their devillish temptress tendencies are far outweighed by their encouragement to develop my skills and push the creative boat out!