Thursday, 30 June 2011

Ten Free Days Out in South Devon

Goodness me! Half of 2011 has flown by and the school holidays are now just a whisker away. With more and more Brits choosing to remain on these shores for their family breaks, I reckon that a few of you might be heading down this way.   Of course we have lots of coastline and the moorland, extensive natural resources that have the potential for providing  free easy days out.  But Devon, like many other areas of the country, can be an expensive place to visit if accommodation costs and entrance fees come into the equation.  Never fear, with my local knowledge, I, Lovelygrey, have come to your rescue.  Here are  some top tips for family friendly forays that will allow you plan a holiday in these parts that won't break the bank.

  • Decoy Park and the Den: Great recreational areas in Newton Abbot and Teignmouth.   Both have extensive play areas with free squirty water features.   The Den is near the beach and is worth a visit as part of a traditional day at the seaside.  Decoy Park,  a former clay quarry, has woodland walks, football pitches, BMX tracks and a fitness trail of its own.  There's enough to do here to make it a  day long destination when the sun shines.  
  • Bovey Tracey:  Home  of the House of Marbles.  Okay, I've said in the past that this attraction does not constitute a day out in its own right but it  just one of the free things to do in this town that promotes itself as 'The Gateway to the Moor'.  How about a picnic in Parke, a free National Trust site on the edge of town which incorporates the Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust Centre (open on Sundays),  a wander around the Devon Guild of Craftsmen and then a  play in the  park opposite?  And for those who want to splash out a bit of cash there's the town pool.  This is run by a charity on a non-profit making basis and a family of four can swim there for just over a tenner.
  • Dawlish Warren:  I've picked this traditional seaside spot because it's also home to a National Nature Reserve.  The visitor's centre with its interactive visits has a programme of organised fun, educational activities, listed in a wider guide to Green Events in Teignbridge.  These are often free and their frequency is ramped up in  school holidays.  Be warned though as some need to be booked ahead.
  • Exeter:  Take you pick from  Redcoat Tours, an extensive network of cycle paths and the two hour long Sculpture Trail at the university which includes work by Barbara Hepworth and a few other artists whose names might ring bells.
  • Buckfast Abbey combined with a stroll up to the burnt out Holy Trinity Church
  • Collecting fossils at Lyme Regis, an activity reminiscent of childhood holidays in the area and one that's still on my 'To Do List for Louis'!  What could make a boy happier than playing with a hammer and chisel?
  • The Donkey Sanctuary Sidmouth  Again, not one I've visited for a long time but this attraction, which is reliant on donations rather than entrance fees, runs a series of activities through the summer holidays.
  • For those based in the Torbay area, try Occombe Farm .  This organic farm, along with its shop and cafe has a nature trail and organises plenty of events.  Although these fall slightly out of my free remit they represent good value for money.  Scarecrow making for £2.50 a child can't be bad!
  • Haldon Forest:  So good  that  I've written about it twice!
  • Okay, I've mentioned the seaside so my beloved Dartmoor has to get a look in too!  Don't just sit in the car park near Haytor.  Pop into the visitor's centre for lots of ideas about things to do  Try letterboxing,  scrambling over rocks or investigating some of the extensive archaelogical sites.
So, there you have it. A list of quality activities that'll leave plenty of pennies over for locally made ice cream.  The Orange Elephant, for instance, comes highly recommended!  Please let me know how you get on with my suggestions and I'd be particularly keen to hear about your experiences of other free finds in the area.

Addendum after original post:  Cockington Court in Torquay looks worth a visit, perhaps coupled with a trip to Occombe farm mentioned above !

    Wednesday, 29 June 2011

    Cocoon

    Another womb-ish like shelter today not dissimilar to one I've coveted in a previous post.  This onion-like dome was spotted at the Contemporary Craft Fair and is a product of Judith Needham Designs.  She weaves a nifty castle-like playhouse too and it's yours if you have a cool £2,000 to play with!

    My mind was brought back to these cosy structures after a discussion in a therapy session  with one of my clients yesterday who suffers from depression.  I've been asking them to try to capture their pleasurable moments which are sadly, few and far between.   This is proving to be a tricky task for someone who is so ill but slowly, slowly there are some breakthroughs.  They are not having brief glimpses of times when they feels cocooned.   Such a lovely description of what its like when we feel safe and secure.

    Tuesday, 28 June 2011

    Oh! Molluscs Where Are Thou?

    It's nearly a year since I wrote about my intention to go all Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for my loyal readers and harvest l'escargots. But, alas it hasn't happened yet.  Aside from slugs which abound, my garden appears to be a near mollusc free zone.  Perhaps the hedgehog that I sometimes spot snuffling around at dusk has the monopoly on these beasties.  Or could it be that the snails have got wind of my intentions, disguise themselves as their shell-less cousins and wisely leave their homes outside when entering my patch?

    I don't want to admit defeat yet and resort to the freezer section in the supermarket when I next visit France.  There, these delectable morsels come pre-prepared complete with a knob of herby butter each.  No, I want to experience the satisfaction of gathering, purgining and cooking my own hand gathered harvest.  So, if anyone has got any good ideas about how to attract snails into my garden, please let me know!

    Monday, 27 June 2011

    Bro'

    This is a recent painting by my brother.  I've written about him before and I now have it from the horse's mouth that he currently has a lucky lady in tow.  Let's hope she's the type to forgive his extreme messiness and appreciate his finer points of which there are many.

    Now Paul's not a fluffy kitten or romantic landscape type of artist and I have to admit that I find some of his work uncomfortable.  The subject matter is  often too intense and disturbing for me to want to live with it.  But I do like this painting of a dearly departed cheeky chappy, not because I found it to be tinged with great meaning.  I just enjoy the composition and  have a bit of a thing about reptiles which have often featured in my own past artistic endeavours.  It formed the basis of this recent discussion on Facebook. 

    Me: Like the still life of crocodile shown on your website. As I am a lovely sister I think you should gift it to me!!! x


    Paul: That painting is currently at the Buckenham Gallery in Southwold. I would give it to you but I don't want to. You will have to do with the pleasure of being my sister. Thanks for phoning the other day it is always good to hear from you. Call any time. X


    Me: How about I have the croc picture and relinquish the pleasure of sisterhood. Fair swap? xx


    Paul: You will always be my sister, and I will never believe that that is not a great source of pleasure and pride for you. x (!)

    So, no crocodile painting but I get to keep my brother! It's probably the best option after all.  But.if anyone goes near the Beckenham Gallery and wants to buy me a present ....Surely there's no harm in asking!

    Sunday, 26 June 2011

    One I Made Earlier: Fish Bracelet

    I'm late posting today but my bed as I had a lie in.   This should be the prerogative of every early bird from time to time.   Now, I realise that my creative juices have not been running as freely as I would like at the present.  Although things are in the offing nothing has been completed for a while.  So much for my plan to finish one item a month.  Still, there's still half of 2011 left to play catch up.

    At the beginning of my blogging career I did a series of posts about earlier things I'd made and thought I'd near exhausted the supply of goodies around the home.   But yesterday I came across this fish, my first ever jewellery make.  I have to say I'm rather pleased with it.

    For those of you wealthy readers who fancy playing with some silver but don't know where to start I cannot recommend the courses at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery highly enough.  The tuition in the small classes, run in their beautifully situated and well equipped workshop is excellent.    This piece, produced in a weekend used a variety of basic skills taught over two days; cutting, soldering, bending wire, filing and polishing which gave me the confidence to proceed further in a hobby which is immensely rewarding - when I have the time to do it!

    Saturday, 25 June 2011

    May I Have Three Minutes of Your Time?

    When talking about simple pleasures the other day,  the BBC's Radio 4 deservedly got a look in.  Its programming is such a rich source of information and entertainment that it's almost a constant companion as I wend my way around the Devon lanes - except when I'm in the mood for a bit of a bop and I'm listening to the likes of Leonard Cohen.  By the way, if you're up  for a bit of belly laughing, catch the latest episode of 'Sarah Millican's Support Group'. But be quick, it's only available for another three days. (Sorry if you read this post at a future date and miss out!)

    Amongst this week's other memorable moments was All in the Mind's 'Stress Special' on which I was provided with a timely reminder of a mindfulness technique that I learnt yonks back but had been forgetting to use on a regular basis.  It's a way of stepping out of automatic pilot and bringing attention back to the present moment, particularly useful when feeling overwhelmed.   Click the link to go to the programme's website  (look like this one's available long term) and hear Mark Williams describe how to implement   The Three Minute Breathing Space   in a succinct and  eloquent way.  But... if you haven't the time of inclination to do this here's how this quick stress buster works.

    First...bring your attention to what you are experiencing at this moment in time.  Thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations are all put under the microscope.  Acknowledge your experience even if it is unwanted and unpleasant.
    Next....Direct your attention to your breathing without trying to alter it.  Some people find that they can do this by focusing on the air coming in and out of their nostrils whilst others prefer to focus on the sensations in their tummy or chest.
    Finally...Expand your field of awareness to include your whole body.

    For those sorry souls who really feel that they don't even have time to do this, and at times I count myself amongst you, try it on the loo!

    Friday, 24 June 2011

    Tucking It Away

    Remember my recent camera purchase that went against my best minimalist instincts? Even though it's teeny tiny  I had concerns about whether I'd bother taking another item out on my strolls, as well as my money and phone, thus rendering my nice new toy nigh on useless. 

    But I have a workable solution in my nice new camera bag which has space for both of my essential gadgets.  Carrying money needed a rethink though, as my purse was way too bulky to fit into its compact pockets.  So, after mulling the problem over I made two purchases at a total cost of £7 that have met the need to carry my change, cards and notes.   The change purse with its pop back top was an amazing 99p at Trago Mills.  But I thought I'd  splash out and support a fellow crafter when investing in a card wallet and found this one 'Brighton Blue' by Liv Siminy in her Etsy shop.  It's very gay as my Nana would say, apt in view of the seaside town depicted!

    Thursday, 23 June 2011

    Thought for the Day: Ten Everyday-ish Pleasures

    When I'm depressed, pleasure seeps out of my life and the days are blacker than grey.   Thankfully I'm not in that state of mind at the moment.  How do I know?  Well, there are still times when everything seems to go wrong but when my mood is brighter I can experience momentary uplifts which make me realise that my personal world is a very special place - even on bad hair days!  I've written about the little things in life that bring joy before.   As  it's good to count your blessings, here are ten more.   I hope that these spur you on to finding your own.

    • The morning cuppa, Oh! and all the ones through the day now I mention it.   I love my tea.
    • Crispy clean sheets
    • Glimpses of sunshine appearing through the clouds
    • Moments of silence.
    • A kiss and cuddle from Louis.
    • The views of the beauiful Devon countryside that I see from my car as I drive around
    • Laughing and talking with my friends and family.
    • Butter.  Sod low fat and olive oil this and that.  Give me some good old fashioned hydrogenated fat.  There's nothing better to spread on bread.
    • BBC Radio 4 for the surprising random things that I learn and the chuckles it so often provides
    • 'Discovering' other people's art.  Today's picture shows the work of Ian Rylatt, a brilliant accomplished potter!

    Wednesday, 22 June 2011

    Oh! The Stupid Little Things That I Have Done!

    If Tony the Tiger heard this band he'd say that they are GRRRREAT! Ah!  Mad Dog Mcrea, my  favourite act  haling from these westerly parts. Louis loves their infectious music too and has been  starstruck since wangling a visit backstage and meeting them at Ivylive.

    All songs from their three albums can be listened to on their website by clicking on the link above.  Isn't it great that, with the marvels of modern technology,  we have access to such a rich supply of music and information these days?  Anyway.....I'd urge you to give this lot a go whatever normally takes your fancy.  There's a good chance that their clever, witty and often mischievious lyrics and superb musicianship might appeal.

    A recent favourite  track of my own  is 'Stupid Things' from the newly released 'Whirling Dervish'.  As well as making me laugh and think,  it's prompted me to recall a few of my own personal faux-pas.  Before you reach the wrong conclusion, none of the following were  fuelled by alcohol or other mind altering substances even though they might appear to be acts of someone whose senses had been dulled by something a little stronger than orange juice.

    • I've  fallen flat on my face getting off an exercise bike in a swanky gym because the shoelace on my trainer came undone and I inadvertently tied myself  to the pedal shaft.
    • I've been to the shoe repairers for heel replacements, only to have it pointed out that I was wearing odd shoes.
    • I thought I was being followed  in Exeter City Centre and with increasingly paranoia  walked faster and faster.  Eventually my puffed out pursuer caught me up and presented me with....the chicken that had fallen out of the bottom of my shopping bag.
    • With the cry of  'Cheeky Boy!  Stop reading the paper!'  I accidently whacked a new senior manager's bottom with a rolled up tax return as he was bent over a desk poring over the news.  I'd  mistakened his posterior for that of a  former accountancy colleague with whom I had a rather more relaxed relationship.   It achieved the impossible and rendered me near silent with embarrassment for two whole days.  Poor Nigel refused to enter the lift with me for months until he worked out that I was not  a marauding sex pest.
    • I cut myself whilst demonstrating to Louis how to use a knife safely..
    • ...and sprained my ankle and was off work for a month after demonstrating how to balance along a bench.
    • In my youth, I pulled down a complete stranger's trunks in a swimming pool having mistaken him for my own boyfriend. The cheeky chappy didn't seem to mind too much.  On reflection it seems that  I definitely have a problem recognising people by their rear end.
    • And  of course  the stereotypical embarrassing incident has not passed me by. I have, indeed, left a toilet cubicle with my skirt tucked into my knickers.  Hearty thanks go to the lady in the first seat of the Intercity train carriage who discretely pointed this out and prevented me suffering further indignation and wandering further down the aisle!

    Tuesday, 21 June 2011

    Back to the Fair

    I'm revisiting the Contemporary Craft Fair with this post today to show off some really nifty bucket bags that I discovered there.  They're by Alison Hughes, a textile designer based on the Isle of Wight.  Her company, Dr Bean's Bags,  makes a handy no-nonsense product featuring text on the type of braid that is reminiscent of school uniform name tags.  The price on the website is £39 which, depending on your perspective, may be a steal for a crafted piece or come under the 'Blooming Heck! I could make that for just a few quid' category.

     My favourites featured the Shipping Forecast, that strangely beautiful and reassuring offering broadcast by Radio 4 daily.  The lady on the stall (presumably Alison) told me that a customised bag could be made up featuring an individual's preferred coastal area and perhaps a special date.

    So there you have it. For the flush and lazy out there you might be tempted to buy one of these ready made items that would go really nicely with a Breton top.  Other more frugal and thrifty readers might pooh pooh the suggestion of a purchase but use these bags as inspiration for their own similarly themed crafting.

    Monday, 20 June 2011

    No Excuse!!!

    At last my tiny entrepreneurial plans are coming together.  Two weeks or so back I spent a pleasant couple of hours on the laptop designing my business cards.  Here's the very pretty result. They're from a company called Vistaprint  who provide a myriad of templates to choose from and, I have to say, that their prices ain't half bad.  The only disadvantage is that they employ persistent pests in their marketing department who have bombarded me with emails to such an extent that I've had no choice but to zap them quickly with my delete button. Pow!  Checking out too is a bit of a nightmare as they try to sell you all and sundry before allowing payment to go ahead.

    So I have stock, packaging, a decent camera  and everything else in place to start selling so I'd better get a move on and stock my Etsy shop.  And now I'm all set, I've decided to enforce a strict rule.  With immediate effect, no more spending is allowed unless I've made money from jewellery sales to cover it.  No excuses for breaking this are allowed, none whatsover.   My hobby job must be entirely self funding.   A level 2 class is looming in October/November and it's going to be expensive so I'd best get cracking and  start earning those pennies!

    Sunday, 19 June 2011

    Tighter Than A Gnat's Chuff!

    I hope that I'm generous enough for people to say that the wonderful expression that I've used for the title of today's post does not apply to me.  But there's some things that I can be really stingy about.  The clue's in the picture about my least favourite thing to spend money on.  Yeah, you've got it - I really detest paying for parking and avoid it at all costs even if it means a goodly hike.

    It seems that some highly atruistic individual with the same bugbear  has come up with  a website.  At FreeParkingSpace.co.uk people like us are invited to provide information about where you can leave the car gratis so that we can all save money.  Great idea! Now I'll be able to find a cosy corner for my darling new Fiesta wherever I go.  But contemplating this concept also brings out the dark side of Lovely Grey. What if, as a consequence,  you nick my previously 'secret' spaces in Dartmouth and Salcombe?  Then I'd be mightily peed off!

    Saturday, 18 June 2011

    Alvin Stardust and Uranus

    Louis' unit  had a space themed fancy dress theme yesterday.   Others will recognise the familiar scenario of only finding  out about a school event hours before it's due to take place because the letter has been tucked into an obscure pocket of their little darling's rucksack.  Even so, I felt that the teachers could have given us mere mortals a little more than the week that other grumbling parents advised I would have had if the note had reached me in a timely manner.  It's only the stay at home yummy mummies who can rustle up the required paper mache extravaganzas in such a short time, no doubt between their lunch engagements and gym visits (!)

    'How about I make a hole in your pants and draw a ring?'  I said to Louis. 'Then you could go as Uranus'.  Or I'll cut a bit more of them away, we can paint your bum yellow and you'd could tell your teacher that you're dressed up as the moon!'  My son declined these highly imaginative offers and told me, rather primly, that I was being rude.  Thankfully, he's getting far more coy about showing all and sundry his private parts these days.  But neither was he keen about just wearing his Star Wars helmet as he wanted me to make a bit more effort in the costume production department.

    Now I expect you think that I magicked an amazing home made creation out of thin air in just a few minutes.  Not so - I'm  far too busy at the moment so I stuck to my guns and continued with proferring  my Uranus/Moon/Star Wars choices. Funnily enough,  Louis went off dressed as a modified  Storm Trooper after all.  In case you think I copped out altogether let me draw your attention to his black cloak. It was home made for previous school shenanigans when he played the part of  'Five Gold Rings' in a 'Twelve Days of Christmas' enactment.  His former teacher had a vision of a man in black, complete with gloves and big chunky rings. Surely this twenty something was far too young to remember Alvin Stardust or indeed, Johnny Cash?

    Anyway, back to the cloak which was racked up in half an hour and  has  had a myriad of uses - think vampire costumes, Batman and the like.  It's made out of  two standard pillowcases which I've found particularly useful for making children's fancy dress as they're a convenient tunic length. Just cutting holes in required places and maybe a miniscule amount of sewing is what is normally required to adapt them into all sorts of outfits, especially the nativity themed ones!   In this case, I cut one along its top edge and a side seam, gathered it along the top and then added a hood made from half of the second pillowcase in the pack.  All that was then needed was a button off an old cardigan, a loop fastening and Bob's your uncle!  Well, actually not. Mine happens to be called Stan.

    So, yesterday a happy little Storm Trooper went off to school to learn about planets, comets, rockets and the like.  The fact that I'd let him take both his light sabre and gun contributed enormously to his renewed enthusiasm.  I guessed that his teachers might not have been so thrilled with the  weapon accessories but then the devil in me felt that it was pay back time for being given such short notice!

    Friday, 17 June 2011

    Veg Box Tales: Warm Chorizo and Squash Salad wth Pine Nuts

    Okay,  I realise it looks like I've not done much cooking lately and have been secretly living on ready meals. Thankfully that's not true and my taste buds remain intact. It's just that I haven't been much of a happy snapper in the kitchen.  But, with my new camera...well that might change, especially if I rustle up more delicious offerings like the pasties that I made at the weekend and  this salad, one of my own recipe creations.  Looking back over this post and reviewing it, I'll add that this offering could have come happily  under the category of one of my 'Days out in Devon' posts given the number of different places that I inadvertently travelled to source ingredients.

    Set oven to 200 degrees or gas mark six.  Peel and de-seed  and chop up half a butternut squash.    Okay you can go organic if you like, but mine was picked up from Lidl.  Have I ever said that in reckless moments I impulse purchase vegetables from there?

    Pop chopped squash on baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season and bake for about thirty minutes.  Oh! I also added the remains of a drained  jar of peppers in oil that I cut into slivery slices. Not sure where these came from but they didn't do the recipe any harm.  However, I'd say that they're not entirely necessary if these do not constitute one of the strange bunch of leftovers in your own fridge.
     
    Meanwhile fry half a chopped onion (emergency purchase from Tesco Metro as veg box ones had run out!) a crushed clove of garlic and about one third of a chorizo sausage  (Lidl again!)  peeled and cubed on a gentle heat until the onion is soft but not black and crispy. Tip out from the pan with the juices.

    Take a handful of pine nuts, chuck in dirty  pan and toss around for a minute or so until toasted.  Don't let them burn!  Hint: Smoke detector going off means that you  may have taken things too far.

    Cube a block of feta cheese.  Now I know that some of you frugal and  thrifty afficionados would go for the cheapest but go on! Paying a bit more really is worth it in terms of cost to taste benefit.  Mine was the one from the Truly Irrestible range at the Coop but Tesco do a barrel aged one which comes even more highly recommended.

    Dress a packet of salad leaves.  Hurrah!  At last an ingredient from the veg box.    Here, I feel that I moved to comment on the lemons that I used for the dressing.  They were 25p each  from a local fruit and veg merchant  and were large and knobbly, just like the ones that you find on a continental holiday.  Bliss! 

    Mix everything together and serve four hungry people immediately.  Or do as I did.  Save half the ingredients and make the same salad for two the next day.  I promise that you won't have tired of it!

    Thursday, 16 June 2011

    Small World

    It's an exciting day today because I'm going to give my car a really good clean!  Now, before you think I've taken leave of my senses let me explain why I'm eulogising about, what is after all, right royal chore especially given the mess that a small boy and nesting birds have made to it.  But,  this will be the final time that I give my Skoda a lick and polish because tomorrow I take delivery of my new motor!

    As Louis is getting older and we live in a rural area, the use of Mum's taxi has inevitably increased over the last few years because of his ever more active kiddy social life.  But, I've resisted putting up the private use estimate on my NHS lease car to account for this as I'm still managing to keep my annual mileage at the same level. So, how can this be?

    Well, since moving out of the city nearly five years ago, I've found that my world has contracted.  True, I make the odd long distance journey and even go abroad occasionally, every three months or so!  But on a day to day basis most of my needs are met in the small towns around here.  I'm seldom tempted further afield, like I used to be, for shopping, classes, entertainment or days out because of the diversity of what's on offer locally.  And trips into those heady urban conglomerations of Exeter, Plymouth and Torbay are increasingly rare because I make most of my big purchases online.  These changes, along with my 'Two Birds'  mean that even if I can't make reductions to my overall car use at a time when these costs are rising, I can at least keep the status quo.

    Wednesday, 15 June 2011

    Sweeping Away the Cobwebs

    For some of you, this picture might represent a stage in a graded exposure programme to cure your own arachnophobia so I've been careful with my choice of image.  I'm referring to the  type of treatment where a person is encouraged to slowly confront a particular fear by building up their tolerance to whatever it is they're frightened of.  Now, I personally don't have any problem with spiders, at least not the English type.  Those Antipodean nasties that jump out and bite our Australian cousins whilst they're doing a bit of gardening might cause a bit more alarm, but as I've never been down under to the Southern Hemisphere, this surmising is entirely hypothetical.

    However, the cobwebs that I'm thinking about today aren't those produced by our eight legged friends but are of a virtual nature.  They're all those scraps of useless information stored on a computer that need to be metaphorically brushed away from time to time before they make the place unsightly.  Then,  after a while it becomes more difficult to live with, or in, the mess.   So here are a few examples of what I mean so that you can get started on a cyber spring clean.

    • Superfluous files downloaded to desktop.  Scoop them up and pop them in the Recycle Bin.
    • On the same note, whilst you at it, you might as well clear out other files on the computer and uninstall programmes that you're no longer using.
    • Bits of mail that you've unintentionally subscribed for.  Go to the relevant companies websites and get rid of them.  Think carefully about whether you really need to be notified of all the offers from your favourite shops if you're the type of person that yields to temptation.
    • Things in your Inbox that you no longer need.  I like the idea of keeping this folder in my email account as clear as possible so I can actually see what's come in.  Just hit that 'Delete' key or file things away in folders created for the purpose. And keep an eye on those things that you have stored away and give them a clearout from time to time.
    • Audit bookmarks and toolbars.  Do you really need the ability to readily access information for projects that are done and dusted?
     This way you'll keep the cobwebs on your computer at a manageable level. Think money spider and not tarantula.  Oh! and don't forget to empty the Recycle Bin once you're done!

    Tuesday, 14 June 2011

    Something to Crow About

    I finally won the formidable soldering challenge that I set myself at evening class yesterday and with any luck I'll have a completed brass, silver and copper pendant to show off shortly.  In the meantime let me share some finished shinies. Not my own work I'm afraid although I'd be mighty chuffed if I could produce stuff of this standard.  These pieces come from Becky Crow, a jewellery designer who won the accolade of being my favourite exhibitor at  Bovey Tracey's Contemporary Craft Fair last weekend.   Believe me, if I had a spare £900 I would have snapped up 'Higher, Longer, Wider, Deeper' like a shot.  For the minute, I'll just have to admire my piccies and think about how I can use this talented craftsperson's highly original, techincally stunning and whimsical work as inspiration for my own!

    Monday, 13 June 2011

    Gerard Butler vs. The Hairy

    Now girls,  if you are heterosexual and don't fancy this chap there is something way, way wrong with you.  Gerard Butler, minor-ish film star is just so super lush that I can't see how any female isn't bowled over by his......sheer acting ability.  Now that must be what what I see in him.    After all I'm a deep meaningful bird who wouldn't be taken in just by good looks.

    But I'm also known for my  taste in men that sometimes strays from the norm.  Take Jeremy Paxman for instance.  Not everyone's cup of tea but I'm weirdly attracted by his stern matter of factness.   I like Eddie Izzard for his voice and I know I'm not alone in disregarding his dodgy taste in frocks.   But the strangest of all is Johnny Vegas.  God knows why he appeals but he went up in my lust stakes when I found out when he was on Desert Island Discs that he'd done a ceramics degree.  I'm a sucker for a potter.

    Continuing with the unusual sex symbol theme,  Si King, one half of the Hairy Bikers is a corker even if he, too is on the rotund side.  He's risen even further in my desirable man states, coming mighty close to the gorgeous Gerard.  Any man who is part of a duo that can provide a Cornish Pasty recipe as good as the one I tried out yesterday is just so worth lusting over.  And the fact that these delicious West Country beauties made with reduced price beef skirt and butter pastry worked out at less than 50p each make them attractive in their own right too!

    Sunday, 12 June 2011

    The Talking Sausage

    Two sausages were in a pan.  One said 'It's mighty hot in here'.  The other said, 'Wow! that's amazing! A talking sausage!'

    Q:  What did the zero say to the eight?
    A:  Where did you get your belt?!

    Good eh?  It's the way I tell them.  Normally I get my daily laughs from Tracey's Crafty Scraps , who never fails to raise a smile.  Often, however, her posts are a little too adult and risque to share with Louis.  In the last week though,  I've told him these two jokes sourced elsewhere that made me chortle and appeared to be ever so child friendly.  To my surprise he just didn't get them.  Living proof that the humour gene in children might be very different even though most kids and adults  that I know bond over a good bottom or fart joke.  Toilet humour, in my experience, definitely seems to transcend the generational gap.   As a colleague once said; 'Thank you God for designing the human body in a way that it does things that are just so funny!'

    Saturday, 11 June 2011

    Forgetting

    http://www.copyright-free-photos.org.uk/
    I should be out in the garden playing with the macro function of my camera but dang! Downloading this image  to illustrate today's offering was easier with my Friday night glass of wine in hand.   Thank goodness I post in advance and am not supping as part of an early morning weekend breakfast.

    Today I'm going to share something I tell people that I see who have memory problems, even to the extent where they face the serious diagnosis of dementia which, after all, is a degenerative disease.  Forgetting IS part of normal brain function.  If we remembered everything that's happened or that we've seen or heard in our lives our heads would explode.  And I have to say that this is a medical fact.  Trust me, I'm a therapist!

    When people have an organic probllem with their brain this priceless pearl of wisdom is forgotten and often, every little lapse of memory is attributed to their dementia.  They, and those around them who care, become hyper sensitive to incidences of this occuring.  This causes anxiety and low mood which exacerbates the problem.

    But blow me down, the people that I see are confronted with this ditsy therapist who would forget her own head if it weren't securely fastened down with muscle, cartilage and anything else that might have escaped my mind from my physiology lectures.   Living proof that those of us who are fully compos mentis can have memories like sieves made with particularly big mesh.  So to  those out there with memory issues associated with age I have this message.  Cut yourself some slack. Your problems are, in part, something that is entirely commonplace.

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    Days Out in Devon: The Treehugger Strikes Again

    I had an appointment in Stoke Gabriel yesterday, a beautiful village on the River Dart. You may recall that I wrote about the Beavers annoying crabs there in a post last year.  This time I was on business carrying out an 'Assessment of Motor and Process Skills' with someone who'd recognised they had problems with their memory.  It's an odd test where I watch a person doing a couple of familiar tasks and record the minutiae of what they're doing.  The results then get translated onto a score sheet, fed into a computer and hey presto, a number comes out that gives an indication of the level of care that they need!  Sometimes I wonder if, one day, this will cause offense, and I might maybe justifiably get my lights punched out.

    Anyway whilst I was there I nipped into the churchyard in my quest to spot another record breaking tree to add to Sunday's tallest in England.  This monster, allegedly the oldest in England that's ever so ancient, wasn't hard to find.  A bit of Internet research seems to indicate that there's a dispute about its age.  The estimates vary between 800 and 1300 years, a wide margin if ever there was one!.   It's a yew, a species commonly found in graveyards whose branches are so huge that some of them have to be held up with thick struts.

    Accordingly to Wiki , had I walked around the tree seven times backwards, I would have been granted a wish.  What would it have been?  World peace?  Personal riches?  A super power?  Or perhaps an end to having to do strange assessments in pretty Devon villages and use the time there for something more meaningful instead!

    Thursday, 9 June 2011

    Back Pedalling on Simplicity

    Whether  I took one step back or one step forward yesterday depends on your viewpoint.  After a few months of cogitation I finally took delivery of a camera!  I've  already written about how I've been resisting this purchase for ages as I was happy for a long time with the pictures taken on my mobile phone.  This method of snapping away has served me well but the need now to take photos of jewellery for my new business venture and for coursework and competitions meant that a different degree of sophistication was needed. 

    So I've taken the plunge, joined the professional and bought a Canon.  Not a SLR with a great big dustbin sized lens - that would definitely be overkill.  No I've chosen an Ixus 115 HS,  a teeny tiny dot of a device that fits neatly into my hand and won't need its own suitcase to carry it around.  The great thing about it is that it can focus on small objects really close up hence meets my needs perfectly.

    Tiredness because of driving 107 miles  on the minor roads of Devon between client visits, took its toll yesterday and I went to bed at the heady time of 8:30pm.  That didn't leave me long to have a play once the battery had charged.  However I did manage to snap my souvenir from Volksfest, my lovely new ring brought back in lieu of a Dirty Pirate.  The other picture shows details on a Scandanavian glass bowl that's in our lounge.  I'm well chuffed with my new toy and feel that the compromise on gadget minimalism has been worthwhile.

    Wednesday, 8 June 2011

    The Fabulous Baker Boy

    Louis' says that his best friend is called Henry but I beg to differ.  He spends the largest proportion of his time with Abi, a miniature Zoe Wannamaker lookalike, who lives around the corner to us.   They've been as thick as thieves since they were at nursery together at the age of three.  Perhaps having a best bud who's the opposite sex isn't de-rigueur when you're eight.

    It was a Baker day today.  For my readers outside the United Kingdom this is an extra holiday when kids are out of school so that their teachers can have a study day.  I'd planned to take Abi and Louis out together for the day but Louis decided that first of all, he wanted some 'mummy time' alone.  Aw!

    So, I took him with me whilst I had my eyebrows reshaped at a beauty salon in Bovey Tracey.  Ideal mother-child bonding time?  Well perhaps not.  But then we popped into the Devon Guild of Craftsmen for a mosey around afterwards and they had a competition for kids which really caught both our imaginations. 

    The exhibition there at the moment is by a guy called John Maltby who is an incredible ceramicist.  He doesn't seem to have his own website but just type his name into Google Images to see his work.  The gallery provided craft materials and clay and invited them to produce a creature inspired by a piece in the exhibition.  I encouraged Louis to find something that took his fancy and he procued his own tiger and warrior model based on one of the exhibits.  It really caught the imagination of a child who isn't normally fired up to produce arty works!

    Tuesday, 7 June 2011

    Catching Waves

    I wonder how familiar this scenario is to others.  You get on your computer, say, with the aim of quietly checking your bank balance or emails.  Then whoa!  instead something else far more interesting  takes your fancy and you're off on a virtual surfboard in your own version of Hawaii 5-0.  An online shop, an interesting article in Wiki,  someone else's blog and you're on a journey to wherever the mighty ocean takes you.

    Goodness know which wave sequence took me to the site of Wayne Victor Meeten in my flowery shorts but I'm so, so glad I arrived there.  It beat checking my current account by a longshot.   On the way into my jewellery class last night I was talking to another student about how we could, in theory, replicate many of the pieces that we see for sale with the basic skills that we've acquired. This guy's work does not fit into that category.  I am in awe of anyone who's mastered the complicated  shibori and mokume game techniques that he uses to create such perfect precious metal forms.   Read about these on Wayne's biography and be in awe!

    Monday, 6 June 2011

    Days Out in Somerset:: The Tall Trees Trail

    Often when we stay at Nana Lovelygrey's home in Exmoor National Park Mr Lovelygrey sneaks out for an early morning walk whilst the rest of the household are still snoozing.   Yesterday he returned to say that he had found the tallest tree in Britain on his travels.  As we were heading out that way later in the day en route to a pub lunch we stopped off to take a look.

    The tree, a Douglas fir,  is on the Tall Trees Trail, an accessible route that forms a small part of the network of cycle and walking trails in the Nutcombe Bottom area near Dunster.  I defy you not to think of squirrels' backsides on hearing this name!  It's only about 600m long but has a wealth of information boards and interactive bits and pieces along the way.

    Of course, I'd love to show you a picture of the magnificent beasties itself which would tower above Nelson column but alas, it wasn't a goer.  The proximity of other trees meant that a good shot was logistically impossible.  You'll just have to go and take a peek for yourselves.  However instead I'll show you the clever calligraphy carved onto one of the bridges across the stream that criss-crossed the trail.


     I feel that the pub deserves a mention too.  The Royal Oak at Luxborough  is an absolute cracker, a quintessential country inn with a warm welcome for adults and children and good home cooked, often imaginative food.  It's the only place where I've ever eaten razor clams but  unfortunately  these moreish molluscs weren't on the menu this time.  They're devillishly difficult to forage to perhaps the pub's seafood gatherer had lost their knack.    However, as compensation,  my dessert of pistachio and chocolate creme brulee was genius in a ramekin  and is a twist on an old favourite that is certainly worth trying to replicate at home.

    Sunday, 5 June 2011

    The Mother in Law

    'I can always tell when the mother in law's coming to stay; the mice throw themselves on the traps.'  Thus said the late, questinably great comedian, Les Dawson pictured here on the left in his guise as  Ada Shufflebotham.  Ah! those politically incorrect days of my childhood where no-one batted an eyelid at  the now shocking racism and sexism in programmes like 'On the Buses' and many looked on Alf Garnet as a modern day hero rather than a parody of prejudice.

    This weekend, we're at the home of my mother in law in Somerset  and I am pleased to say that this lovely lady does not live up to her stereotype.  She's kind, generous and comes equal first in the world's best pastry and pudding chef with Mama Lovelygrey, my own mum.  Friday night's chicken and ham pie and fruit crumble were definitely to die for!   Perhaps this problem with family relationships is more of a male thing?

    Nana Lovelygrey has excelled herself this time and in support of my new tiny business venture, has dug out a box of old jewellery bits and pieces. Many are broken  and the beads and findings are stored in an old wedding cake box that goes some way towards providing their 'vintage' provenance.   There are, however, a few pieces that just need a quick touch up including  a funky beaded collar that would make some hippy chick a happy girl.  I just feel that it deserves a classier catch rather than its existing hook and eye.

    One old necklace posed a moral dilemma.  How do I recycle coral, a  material that I'm so uncomfortable with that I've entered into a pact with Red Melanie to stop her using it?  There's often no concrete answer in a grey world but I think I've come up with a solution that won't cause sleepless nights.  I'm going to mend the piece with a lovely silver clasp and then donate it to a Heart Foundation shop as this charity is one that I know Nana Lovelygrey supports.

    Saturday, 4 June 2011

    Back on Track

    This week I've been busy, productive and happy - yay!  My backload of paperwork and household tasks that mounted up when I was feeling oh so overwhelmed has reached manageable proportions and plans for my tiny business are knocking along nicely with jewellery being cleaned and restored, packaging ordered and business cards designed.  My 'Ship Ahoy' bangle has been accepted into the prestigious Contemporary Craft Fair  and I'll be off to a private viewing with champagne cocktails next week as a consequence.  Birdsong wakes me in the morning, the hedgerows are filled abundantly with flowers and there's a new Mad Dog McCrea album in the car's CD player

    Way, way back in my early days of blogging, I wrote about my membership of the Citalopram Fan Club.  Antidepressants are part of the armoury that keeps longstanding depression at bay alongside my own personal management strategies.  At part of taking a particularly difficult bull by the horns a few weeks ago my GP upped my medication dose, a tactic I didn't entirely understand at the time.  After, all my stress was being caused by known external factors wasn't it?

    What I realise now is that my lack of concentration was actually compounding the problem, making it almost impossible to 'plough on'.  Goodness me aren't I mixing my metaphors today!  The extra tablet, that's being taken for the short term, has given me that boost that I needed to get back on track and work on getting well by my own efforts.

    Friday, 3 June 2011

    Thought for the Day: Don't Ask Permission Just Ask Forgiveness

    Now I've been in the same office for over seven years and the shelves on one side of the room, tops of filing cabinets and underneath desks have always been piled high with ever increasing amounts of useless rubbish.  There was even a Stanley Gibbon's guide to stamps for goodness sakes.  What that was doing in the workplace of a mental health team I'll never know.  Even more alarming was an old book describing how to institutionalise patients.    No-one ever has had the nerve to tackle this mess as it would have required too big a general concenus as to what should be thrown away.

    But work is quiet this week - just me, Mr Metrosexual and Mrs Postman Pat, our super efficient support worker.  Mr Metrosexual tentatively started the clear up process by getting rid of a couple of files.  That was just the catalyst I needed to throw myself into one of my favourite tasks,  wholesale decluttering! Twenty bin bags were filled with tons and tons of stuff.  About 90% of old books, papers, cassette tapes, tatty files and other miscellaneous bits and bobs hit the skip.

    Somehow I know that someday, someone will moan that something essential has gone missing, so after the clearout I was feeling a little guilty.  But, then I spoke to a nurse colleague who works at another hospital and told her what I'd done.  She came up with the seemingly old adage that I've used for today's title and told me that this stance can promote bravery.

    It's clear that this approach could be sorely misused by the selfish, thoughtless or rude and shouldn't be adopted as a blanket philosophy on life.  But it's certainly one to consider where there's an impasse, things are deteriorating and nobody is making a move to sort things out.

    Thursday, 2 June 2011

    We Plough the Fields and Scatter

    These once sorry assed pieces of broken jewellery have now been returned to their former glory mainly through a process that I know as harvesting.  Via the mighty medium of Ebay I purchased one lot of broken sparkly jewellery for about a tenner.  Now individual pieces that were part of this reasonably priced haul are being repaired for resale or used to titivate other pieces that, say, have lost a stone or clasp.  The pretty gilt and brown bracelet merely needed a stone glueing back in place and with a bit of spit and polish it's as good as new. I've nicked crystals from a necklace that had seen better days to replace some that were missing from the one coiled in the centre of the picture to create a newly saleable item.

    The heart pendant is a little different,  a much loved possession of a friend. Its thread had snapped, scattering beads afar, some of which were never found and  must have been carried off by the magpies.  I've restrung it securely on beading wire using the existing pretty pale pink freshwater pearls that were salvaged after the accident.  Dainty silver tubes have been replaced by longer chunkier ones and hence  fewer beads are now needed for it to fit round the average adult neck.

    Items that might have otherwise been thrown away are being given a new lease of life to make pretty, glittery accessories that can be worn and treasured once more.  I can see that 'harvesting' bits and pieces from one item might lead to a continuous process of robbing Peter to save Paul where previously discarded objects with missing parts can be made whole again because bits and pieces from freshly acquired broken finds can be used to mend them.  These in turn eventually be repaired or upcycled themselves.  The whole recycling process is immensely satisfying.

    Tiny business plans are progressing as well as may be expected given my partying and full-time working. I've ordered packaging materials to give the pieces that I'm going to sell that extra special finishing touch.  Now I need to think about how I show off my wares to best effect!.......

    Wednesday, 1 June 2011

    Wet, Wet, Wet

    Now today's offering isn't going to be a homage to one of the ultimate boy bands.  If it were my opening picture would have portrayed the  pretty faces of Marty Pellow and his chums rather than this tranquil woodland waterfall.  No, my post is about water usage as  my festival weekend away gave me the nudge that I needed to think about this topic in more depth.

    Firstly, I'm astounded by how little water that Louis, Red Melanie and I used over the course of the weekend despite copious tea making activities.  Okay, hygiene wasn't tip top and there might have been over reliance on wet wipes and Chanel, but it's  amazing just how the effort of obtaining supplies makes conservation much more of an issue.  Turning on a tap at home is so easy compared to lugging a container back across a field from a standpipe.

    Moving on to point number two. I'm going to 'fess up about a bad  habit that I've been aware of over the last few weeks but haven't done anything about.  Often, I turn on the shower before getting undressed and then fanny about for a few minutes before actually getting in.  Point three follows closely on this one's heels.  Red Melanie described how she keeps a large jug next to her sink which she fills when running the tap whilst waiting for hot water.  Simples, as the meerkat would say, but genious!

    It has become glaringly obvious that I can get away with wanton wastage because the Lovelygrey family pay bills based on our property's rateable value  rather than having a metered supply.  Contacting the water company  to have a meter fitted looks like a no-brainer from an environmental and financial perspective. One that a thrifty household should have considered long ago, you'd think?  The thing that's stopped us in the past is  that the occupier is responsible for paying for water use past the property's boundary and a undetected leak can result in a huge bill racking up, as a neighbour once found out.  However, it looks like South West Water waive this charge first time round and other companies across the UK also do the same.  Looks like there's no excuse anymore for not making a change that will prevent us from pouring a valuable resource and money unnecessarily down the sink.