Tuesday, 31 July 2012

That Don't Make It Junk!

I can't bear clumsy attempts to sell me stuff that I don't need or want whether it be over the phone, in person or by post.  Let me use my experience at the entrance to Saltram House on my recent visit as an example.   Really the National Trust, that darling of the charity world,  should know better than resorting to godawful  tactics designed to beat those meeker and milder than myself into submission. My fruitless conversation went something like this.

'One adult ticket please'.
'Do you know that if you join today you'd get admission free of charge'
'Yes I realise that but I don't want to join'
'It'll be worthwhile if you think that you'll be visiting four of our properties in the next year'
'I don't think I will.'
'Well here's your receipt - you can always have your ticket money refunded if you do go ahead and become a member today'.
'I won't be doing that.'
'Let me give you a leaflet about the benefits so you can see if you want to change your mind'.
'Let me return it to you as it's a waste of paper.  I WON'T BE JOINING!'

Occasionally though I'm targeted in a way that makes me feel much more warm and fuzzy about those who are trying to flog me stuff.  I was delighted the other day to receive not one, but three catalogues in the post that might have whetted my appetite for some future spending. Unfortunately for the companies concerned the time when I dig into my wallet may be at least a little way off.

Ehrman's 2012-2013 needlepoint catalogue is a thing of beauty.  I've been hard pressed to find a favourite kit but I think that  this gloriously decadent peacock designed by Alex Beattie might be it.  I'd snap it up tomorrow, along with about twenty of the other designs if I were a shopaholic.  But I'll desist as there's now five unfinished cushion in the house already.  Not only does the brochure contain some examples of wonderful stitchery pokery there's  work in other media by some of their designers.  Check out Margaret Murton's website for her wonderful woodworks and this fish project from a school workshop.

Cookson's, the jewellery supply firm who come wholeheartedly recommended for their excellent quality and range of products and service that is second to none, are trying to inspire me to fork out some dosh as well.  There's some gorgeous decal beads that they'd like me to buy right now but I'm sticking to my guns about not acquiring jewellery supplies at the moment.  Then there's  wonderful articles giving tips on techniques and more dangerously showing highly covetable pieces by very clever craftsmen.  I'm in awe  of  the Hairy Growler Jewellery Company  both for their skill and resourcefulness in using upcycled materials and their audacity in their choice of name for a business.

Finally though those excellent discount sellers, the Book People might actually persuade me to stump up immediately  and start spreading the cost of Louis' Christmas presents for 2012.  What I particularly like   is the sets of books for children offered at prices way below the Recommended Retail Price of the individual volumes.  Louis acquired his 'Wimpy Kid' and Roald Dahl collections for a song this way  Helpfully their  literary selection for kids give the age group that the books might appeal to, decidedly useful for clueless relatives in search of a gift for young Johnny.  And if you spend over £25, postage is free. The perfect excuse to bump up the spending by adding a cookbook or two!

Monday, 30 July 2012

We Will Fleece Them On The Beaches!

School holidays are the time when those greedy blighters in the tourist trade are rubbing their hands with glee.  There's a enormous captive audience who are restricted to going away in the high season and boy, are they going to made to pay for the privilege of being herded together en masse in whichever class of accommodation they've chosen.

Sometimes though there is a sneaky way to avoid paying top notch prices for rooms, self catering apartments and yes, even camping pitches.  Would it surprise you to learn that I've just booked into a five star holiday park in Brittany with a vast swimming pool complex, kid's clubs and a electrical hookup for the van.  There's even free ice cream and drinks for Louis a good part of each day.  The cost of seven days in August?  Just £103! Way less than the price of many a rough site in England with the de rigueur mildewy toilet block.

So how have I bagged this  bargain?  Well it goes without saying that no tour operator was involved.  I've booked directly with the company concerned.   But I'm also aware of the fact that most of the French have their own holidays done and dusted by mid August. After this prices plummet and being out and about in a resort has less of that rugby scrum feel about it as well as being cheaper.  It's not only places abroad where this might apply.  A friend once spent an 'Easter' break in self catering accommodation in Cornwall as our neighbouring country had set different term time dates.

So before you shell out on those expensive family forays in the future, think before you shell out a packet and see if being a little creative with timing can yield huge savings.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Bastard Child of the Chimichanga

Today I feel a cookery lesson for you lot out there coming on.  A swathe of my meals at the moment are paying homage to the Chimichanga, that well known deep fried tortilla wrap.  'Ye gods!' some of you should quite rightfully be saying.  'You're supposed to be watching what you eat, Lovelygrey, so how does cooking something in a vat of oil come into it?'   Let me reassure you right now.  My version wouldn't cause Rosemary Conley, the doyenne of the low-fat diet,  to have the complete heebie jeebies although Mexicans  might winge a bit.  I'm not sure they'd recognise the dish that I'm claiming to recreate as one of their own.  The only thing mine has in common is probably the tortilla wrap and they'd probably even take umbrage at those.  Mine come from Lidl and cost about 67p for six and were lovingly produced in one of those covetable presses.

Anyway let's give going after washing hands, putting on apron and whatever else you need to do from a hygiene perspective.  Look in the fridge and think about what needs using up that might make a nice hot filling.  Chop it up if necessary and shallow fry to soften in the pan.

Here I used butternut  red onion and cubes of potato.  I added a bit of vintage cheddar at the last moment.

This one looks like the fillings made out of onion, peas, pepper chorizo and potato (again!)

Leek, mushroom, bacon and egg.  This was particularly bloody lovely!  There's been other variants with a breakfasty theme and my imagination's going wild with possibilities for future creations. Caramelised apple maybe?  Anyway....

Once's the filling's cooked shove it all onto the middle of a tortilla, make a square parcel by folding up the edges and pop the creation back into the pan you've just used.

Fry on both sides until your creation is this toasty brown colour!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Stitch Here, A Rub There...et Voila!

There been an absence of posts about things I've made recently which must mean that my creative juices have stopped flowing?  Not so.  In the frenzy that has been my life over the last few months I've had little time to sit down for a few hours at a time and go with the flow but I have had three projects on the go which I can work on, even if I've only a few minutes spare.  And one's come to fruition now.

When there's been breaks in the weather, I've been lugging bits of my half restored table and chair set outside and giving them a little rub.  And I've made decent progress with my 'boring' Anchor flowery needlepoint that's more than half completed now, thanks to some frenzied flurries of activity at festivals.  The last three weeks of so has seen me working away at this meditation mat so now I've got no excuse for not breaking into a bit of formal mindfulness practice now and then.

What I found in a charity shop rummage was just the job.  Two oversized, slightly padded pillow cases with pretty embroidery and a velvety trim.  They're more like cot duvets than the traditional article and were secure for the bargain price of £1.99.  Goodness knows where you'd get the oversized pillows to put into them.  Perhaps why that's why they were given away. Because I like my meditation sessions to be comfy, not sitting up on top of a pole dressed in a loin cloth, I looked around for more stuffing.  I'd noticed that, in my loft, there was a lot of old fabric acting as make do insulation.  A good rummage yield a perfect velvet curtain in a nasty colour.  You wouldn't think you could get a horrible green but believe me, you can!  So it's been folded up and sewn into the pocket that I'd made out of the two pillowcases to protect zee old knees.  And there you have it., a zabuton, at a fraction of the price from trendy yoga outlets.   Look out for some meaningful insights or otherwise once I've started using it!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Sleepy Siestas in South Devon

With the little'un away and the hot weather well and truly with us, I'm going with the flow and having a post work siesta. When the house seems almost unbearably hot I've been grabbing a little shut-eye and on waking at about seven-ish, it's cooled down a bit and I'm refreshed enough to keep on going right  past my usual bedtime!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

By Jiminy!

As part of the policy of being nice to myself during this time of transition, my tiny vintage jewellery business has been   put on hold.  However I've  just completed my tax return and, fingers crossed, will receive a repayment in respect of my first year's losses shortly.  I was expecting these results because of the costs of setting up and the initial process of trying out different ways of buying and selling.  Now I think I have a formula that will produce profits in the next year and beyond when I start up again in earnest in September to tempt those early Christmas shoppers.
This little chap is my first purchase of stock this year.   I think he's made of pewter.   Now I love the fact that there's a story attached to old stuff that may never reveal itself.  The markings on the back of this brooch have given me just a glimpse of his story.   I haven't found out who A.E. Forgione but have discovered that Faneuil Hall is in Boston and the self same grasshopper is to be found on a weather vane on its roof, albeit a bigger gilded version. Who knows whether this little souvenir came directly across the Atlantic and has been in a drawer for forty years or has done a world tour over the decades before arriving at Lovelygrey Cottage.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Phone Thrift

Let's reminisce about the good old days when life was simpler.  Or was it?  To make a call once you were out and about  in Britain you had to have the right change and  track down  one of these icons of bygone style.  So far so good?  It sounds okay-ish in practice but then you have to remember that there was nearly always a queue, more often than not they smelt of stale wee and to top it all the ubiquitous  angry bloke was outside  banging on the window and muttering death threats if you hadn't ended your chat in about ten seconds.

So now we've all got mobile phones and a wealth of technology at our chubby little fingers, calls are so much  cheaper than it were thirty or forty years ago.  I'm reliably informed by a website that didn't look too dodgy that  a transatlantic call to the US in 1966 cost a pound a minute. That's equivalent to about £14.50 in today's money.  Today the same call could cost just 1p a minute or maybe even less. But the ease of use of phones means we make far more calls and some people rack up tremendous bills that would have been unheard of in bygone days.  Yet with a little foresight the cost of those calls can come down significantly each month.  Here's a few ideas.

  • Make sure that you're on the right tariff for your needs.  It's all very well having a Pay as You Go contract on a mobile if your usage is light but a contract may save money in the long run.  Sim-only deals can be less than £10 a month and don't necessarily tie you in to a long contracts.  They can be as short as one month.  Think carefully about how the amount that you're going to use your phone and try to get the balance right as regards call and data needs.  Don't pick a tariff giving you allowances that are far more than you're ever going to use.  Conversely talk to your provider and see if you can upgrade your contract if you regularly go over  your limits.
  • Check what you get for free and what you have to pay for.  0800 and 0845 numbers are not free from my mobile so I make sure that I use my BT landline. On the home phone, calls to mobiles incur an additional cost so I have to use the mobile.  Annoyingly I forget and get it wrong sometimes and it feels like juggling with some of the balls going down the drain.  There must be a mixed metaphor  there somewhere!
  • I've written about 1899.com previously and it's saved me a small fortune in the past.  Whilst I've now got an fairly inclusive tariff with BT at the moment I'm not currently using this but wouldn't hesitate to do so if I needed to make overseas calls at any time in the future. Or reverted to a different call plan.
  • I've bought an add-on for additional data use from Three for £5.11 a month and I can now use my mobile as if it were a dongle and connect my laptop to the Internet on the move.  Not sure whether other providers do this and as it's too hot, I can't be arsed to do the research for you.  Go and find out on your own if this floats your boat and you have a contract with a different telecoms company.
  • If you do fancy that retro experience here's a list of the tariffs for cash calls made from payphones if you can still find one.  I've not tried this myself in a while so not sure if you have to endure the nasty niffs anymore.  Take a hankie to cover your nose and there might be some savings to be had.  60p for 30 minutes of calls to a standard UK landline as advertised on the boxes doesn't seem half bad to me.
  • ...and finally calls back to the UK from overseas and data costs whilst on holiday.  I haven't found the failsafe way of reducing my call costs to pennies.  Something always seems to confound my efforts.  I know that I can connect to the Internet free by skulking outside Maccy Dees but do not want to supersize Louis with Happy Meals in the process.   I'll report back on my latest attempt to beat the system when I've been to France next month.  My cunning plan involves acombination of using pigeon French to buy a Mobicarte Sim direct from an Orange store in France and Skyping lots. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Loving the Sunshine But Not So Keen on the Heat

I'm can't be the only one out there who's been yearning for weeks and weeks for the rain to stop.  And now it has, I've turned into a right royal Moaning Minnie.  Others plagued by hayfever will know exactly what I mean.  Breathing difficulties, sneezing, itchy and streaming eyes and skin irritation have taken the edge off those balmy summer days since childhood.  I remember hiding behind coats in the school cloakroom at lunchtimes  to escape being turfed out onto pollen filled playing fields by dour faced 1970s schoolteachers who were oblivious to the fact that I could no longer open my eyes.

But that's not all now.  During my health shenanigans last year an ovary was rescued in the hope that it would stop me going through an early menopause. Nice try but it hasn't worked.  Those hot flushes that were bearable in cooler conditions have been ramping up to nuisance proportions as the temperature climbs.  No, I haven't just had a shower.  I'm just sweating like a great big pig!

It would be lovely to share the larger population's joy when we have a heatwave but I'm not feeling the love.  Perhaps it explains why many of my dream travel destinations are in colder climes. Does anyone else fancy a trip to  Alaska, Antarctica, those outlying islands of Scotland or Harbin Ice City in the next day or two?  The logistics of employment and financial constraints mean that I can't scurry off at whim to somewhere where a nice cosy  fleece is needed.  So please excuse me if I sometimes hole myself up indoors while you lot are enjoying those solar rays.  It may seem like I'm being a misery guts but whilst that pollen count is higher than my trusty Beconase and Optrivine can cope with,  it's sometimes the only solution.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Noxious Niffs

Please do not be alarmed! I have not become a cocaine smuggler.  The white powdery substance in my shoes is merely good old fashioned baking powder.  I'm assured by a myriad of sources on the World Wide Web that an overnight treatment will rid my Croc's Specialist clogs, with an uncharacteristic built in lining, of the highly offensive odour that they acquired after getting a myriad of soakings during the inclement 2012 summer weather.  Mr Metrosexual has not held back in his grumbling about the smell emanating from under our shared workspace and I was getting a little concerned that the all-pervading whiff of feet in the hall at Lovelygrey Cottage wasn't quite creating the homely atmosphere that I desire.

I'd also been a little concerned about the noxious niff in my motorhome that was refusing to go away in spite of  thorough airing and cleaning.  My first thoughts were that decaying smell was originating either from the loo or the grey water system.  Then I started to worry about a phrase that instills fear in the heart of motorhomers the world over, water ingress.  Maybe my van had sprung a leak and it would cost a four figure sum to rectify the problem - again!

Happily though I've found the culprit.  Two months ago an ingredient was  taken on holiday, with the idea that it would be converted into a wonderful homemade coleslaw.  But no! Instead it lay hiding in a washing up bowl in one of the underseat storage areas.  There it quietly  festered away and turned into a sludgy pulp emitting an oh so familiar  smell, the name of which was eluding me.  Yep, it was rotting cabbage!  Now the offending article has been removed my van is sweet smelling again - without the need for the drastic chemical blitz or maintenance check that had been planned!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Home Alone :{

What a totally wonderful weekend I've had with my child at Chagstock!  We've had a brilliant time together imbibing a wonderful family friendly atmosphere and pursuing our own interests in close proximity of each other.

A fortnight ago I walked down a local lane hand in hand with my nine year old and thought how precious those moments were.  The realisation  came to me that my days of doing this are well and truly numbered.  Soon  this type of ultra uncool show of affection just won't be de rigeuer anymore. 

Today was a landmark in my son's development.  I've 'dumped' him at Scout camp, a mobile phone free zone where  he'll remain incommunicado for the rest of the week.  I'm sure he's going to have a great time grubbing around in the dirt, playing with his mates and growing up in the process. But  I've had to hide my feelings so that Louis is not concerned about leaving me 'Home Alone'.  This monumental stage in the  parent-child relationship, leading up to a time when he'll eventually leave the nest altogether has been much harder for me than I've expected.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

In a Field Without Wellies!

This is where I've woken up this morning and it's proof indeed that the early bird doesn't always catchy catchy the big fat worm.  Red Mel, Louis and I arrived at Chagstock 2012  a bit later than most of the other punters and the camper van field was full, stuffed to the gunnalls as we found out later on our trek to the festival field.  So we're in here with a handful of other vans and tents where the ratio of chemical loos to parties is about 1:5.  Let's hope it stays that way!
One of the reasons why our departure was tardy was that we had to wait for tea to cook before leaving.  Five minute prep which involved rolling out a puff pastry sheet, smearing it with tomato puree and adding a combo of sliced cherry and big tommies, a handful of chopped chorizo and crumbling over half a pack of feta resulted in this little beauty after it was cooked for 25 minutes at 200 degrees.  Tempting though those food stalls are in the main arena, succumbing at every meal would definitely put a strain on the purse strings.
So adorned in my much admired festival poncho  we set off for some revelling.  Get this! We were in a field during the most dismal British summer in living memory and there was no need for our rain garb! Red Mel and I chilled out with a pint to a backdrop of music.  Whilst Lou?  Well  I retain parental responsibility of course but there's no need here for him to be right at my side all the time.  After agreeing a half hourly 'checking in' plan   he ran around a field with a gang of newly acquired friends playing in the type of old fashioned way that his grandparents approve of.  Not an electronic device in sight!

Friday, 20 July 2012


Quick one today as very, very busy.  I feel the need to share 'Fifty Shades of Geordie' with you guys as it made me laugh my  socks off.

I knew as soon as I walked through the door from dropping the bairn off at school that I was ganna get some.

I peeped through the fist hole in the living room door and saw the half a roly burning away in the ashtray perched on the arm of me new Brighthouse corner settee. The telly was turned reet doon, ah cudn’t even hear what Lorraine was sayin aboot the new fashions for the summer or nowt. Then a saw him, and me heart skipped skipped a beat (just like that Ollie Murs). He’d obviously had a crisis loan and been owa the metty coz he was wearing a fresh new trakka bottoms and brand new pair of flossies, his rippling white chest peeped out from behind the zip of his supadry coat, that was sexily only zipped halfway up, just enough to cover the tac burns but give me a cheeky glimpse of what was to come.

He pulled me towards him and whispered “Y’all reet pet” before banging thethe lips on me, I trembled under the aroma of lambert n butler and stale fosters. He took me there and then, right on the Argos rug whilst our staffy Tyson looked on.

He left without a word, but he would return soon, with tales of a fight in the Jobcentre queue and his joy at finding a pound coin on the floor of the iceland. I tried to settle myself with a tab and a can but all the while that one question burned in my heart……..

Will he remember my pasty from Greggs?

Let me redress the balance of reinforcing regional stereotypes and direct you to yesterday's Woman's Hour which includes a feature about how a teacher is trying to encourage her female charges to break free from that Essex girl cliche.  Be inspired by a woman who is truly  making a difference!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thought for the Day: You're not Welcome Elton!

I'm part of that sixties and seventies cohort where bigotry was entrenched within  the National Curriculum and was perhaps up there with the three Rs.  One of my vivid memories from junior school was watching our class teacher laying into a child and openly deriding him purely because he came  from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses.  Surely now such an act would lead to instant dismissal?

So it should!   Certainly political correctness does  go mad at times but I wouldn't like to return to the days where the N-word would go unchallenged by dinner ladies in a playground. I'm so happy that my son has tolerance firmly ingrained within his psyche. To think that others view people with a different skin colour or race as inferior is an anathema to him.  At school he knocks around with kids with significant disabilities without resorting to the words 'Flid' or 'Spaz' that were in common parlance way back when.  And he accepts, without question or comment, those fun, friendly and kind people that he regularly meets who just happen to be gay as well.

So it was with surprise that I heard today on the radio that the Boy Scouts of America are maintaining a policy of excluding gay members and leaders which must stem from a belief that there is a greater chance of someone being a paedophile if they have a sexual preference for an adult of the same sex.  There are differing views on this but Harvard University should be a reliable source and their website cites evidence that says that this is not so. Let me applause the fact that the Scout Association in the UK has an equal opportunities policy and welcomes members and leaders in spite of their sexual orientation. As a parent of a Cub Scout, a non uniformed helper and a person who counts members of the gay community amongst my dearest friends , I am more than comfortable with this inclusive stance.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

If You Go Down to the Wood Cafe.....

Right! Here's a post for those Devon bound holidaymakers who are going to arrive in droves in the next week if the Gulf Stream moves back to its proper place as we've been promised.  Some of them will undoubtedly be lured to the shopping mecca on my doorstep that is Trago Mills.  More than a few might wonder why they've visited somewhere that's none too relaxing during high days and holidays. As a regular and canny visitor I pick my moments when I scurry over for a range of diverse bits and pieces that might include say, toothpaste, Fimo, wetsuits and picture hooks. But as I've said before, I wouldn't travel miles for the pleasure of a visit.

There are eateries on site and the ice cream parlour opposite the trampolines comes with a personal commendation.  Great big servings of lush stuff from the Devon Ice Cream Company at very reasonable prices.  But if you're yearning for somewhere away from the masses let me give you a better idea.

At the back of the car park nearest the Animal Park there's a gate for pedestrians.  Go out and whoosh!  You're immediately whisked away from the hustle and bustle of a leisure park/discount shopping centre combo into proper Devonian countryside.  Take a five-ten minute stroll down the ultra-quiet lane until you come upon the Yurt Camp.  Until recently its woodland home was the preserve of glamping holidaymakers 'roughing it' under canvas.  Recently though, to the glee of the mummies at the school, yummy and otherwise,  the Wood Cafe has opened its door to the wider public.  There you can rest awhile taking in the tranquil surroundings whilst the kids scamper around in the adventure playground or the play barn.  Just check  on the website before you pop in for a meal or a coffee at weekends as the cafe becomes a no-go area if some green minded couple are tying the knot in the matrimonial teepee!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Spend-free Swimming!

Picture: Harry Riley from Science Museum Online Collection
Don't you just love these railway posters from the good old days when men were men, children got a sound thrashing for speaking and there was no central heating to warm the tootsies or the cockles of the soul?  This glorious work depicts Tinside Lido in a far more aesthetically pleasing way than I could  ever have achieved with my camera when Louis spied it during the Armed Forces Day National Event a few weeks back.  'Can we go there?' he asked.  And rather than give him a clip round the ear'ole for being heard and not seen I turned round and smiled in what I hoped was a benevolent way, rather than being obsequious and creepy .  'Sure' I replied.

For I like to think that I am a kind person ninety nine percent of the time.  Although I'll sometimes admit my mean and nasty persona pops out - like when I  unfairly divvy up those last remaining dregs in a wine bottle or I see a bargain that someone else is after in a charity shop.  At times like these the devil incarnate emerges with gusto.

What I didn't realise when I agreed to my son's request was that I could get him a free swim.  I've discovered that British Gas are offering every household a free swim in pools nationwide and this wonderful  Art Deco lido, once neglected but now restored to its former glory, is part of the scheme.  You have to book a session and  act pretty quickly as the offer ends before 30th August.  But other than that there doesn't seem to be a catch.  Of course, I'll stand correct if anyone can find one!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lovelygrey's Gym

Drastic times call for drastic measures.  I've already forked out on a new wardrobe to tied me through my fat-assed phase.  Should I bite the bullet and stump up for membership of a fancy leisure club too?  Hell no!  Let's get out in the open instead.

Here's a rundown of my fitness equipment that's going to get me back into tiptop shape.  I'll start with the good old iron horse that's recently been revamped.  It's meant that I've had to relearn to ride a bike which actually has working brakes.  That came as a bit of a shock to come to a halt without pawing at the ground like an angry bull.

Right, what else have we got instead of the rower, weight machines and a cross trainer?  There's my swimming costume, some smelly old running shoes and walking boots.  And this spectacular piece of kit, a snip at £99 from Asda.  I  conned Mama and Papa Lovelygrey into thinking that they were contributing towards a present solely for their beloved grandson when they forked out half of its cost and helped in the assembly process.  How were they to know that I had ulterior motives.  It was always going to be shared with their grown up daughter who's longed for a trampoline of her own since childhood.

So, now I'm scaring the neighbours by indulging in some bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!  But I'm reaping the rewards of looking a more than a little ridiculous.  All that jumping up and down has built up the muscles around my knees and these now compensate for my lack of a cruciate ligament snapped during  my February half term ski holiday .  My orthopaedic consultant has agreed that a  return to the slopes without major surgery is now within my grasp. The money saved by  forgoing the privilege of exercising in air conditioned purgatory will go a long way towards the flights and accommodation for some good outdoor fun in the Pyrenean snow!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

'Co-op Totnes'

This morning, I find myself concurring with fellow blogger, Cro Magnon who has grumbled in a decidedly manly fashion about the inaccuracy of weather forecasts of late.  They really are a travesty and making it very difficult to plan.  We really need some alternative way of trying to fathom out whether it's going to be sunny, rainy or indeed snowy - nothing would surprise me in this damp and dreary July.  Perhaps a lying or standing weather cow on every corner, might give us better insight.

Anyway a day of sunshine has been forecast but looking  west it seems that we're in for anything but. The sky is a bruised colour and it's blowing a hoolie.  In spite of this, the ever optimistic Lovelygrey has hung a shedload of washing out to dry.   Let's hope that gleeful rain gods don't interpret this as an offering!

After a good soaking whilst crossing the car park at work on Friday, I was warming myself with a nice cuppa and looked out of the window.  The torrential rain had turned my view into an impressionistic dreamscape.  Don't you agree that this image, that's turned the very functional Co-op building into something rather more beautiful, might have done Monet proud?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Wrapping and Stretching

The heartiest thanks goes out to Chasing Lightning Bugs for giving me the inspiration to sort out my lardy-arsed wardrobe crisis that I wrote about last week. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that none of my lovely clothes, many of which were made especially for me by Mama Lovelygrey, fitted.    I'll admit now that the daily ritual of rooting around trying to find something that I could just about squeeze into was getting me down big time.  As was being uncomfortable for much of the day in those remaining ill-fitting  things that I eventually chose to wear.  The prospect of feeling like this for another few months whilst I lost weight was too much to bear.

So, Chasing Lightning Bugs, bless her, suggested that I bought some stuff that would still fit when I get back to being svelte and trim.  Genius!  I loved her idea of wrap round dresses and here's one of my purchases from Ebay that will tide me through these desperate times and beyond.  Her other suggestion of wrap skirts though?  Well, they're not really my bag due to a tendency to accidentally expose far too much flabby flesh when I've tried them in the past.  But other solutions came to me.

In a bid to get sorted out pronto and move onto the more important issues in life,  I've uncharacteristically turned away from my traditional secondhand haunts and turned to the High Street proper.   A couple of hundred pounds has been thrown at the problem.  Gulp!  But I think it's worth it.   It's meant that most of my old wardrobe can be been 'mothballed' .  Let's hope that this is an apt term and those nibbly critters don't find my hidden stash and bite holes in everything before I wear it again.  It's all been replaced for the time-being by clothes that are all well fitting, comfy and allow me to feel good about my appearance again.

I've shelled out on, what I think the designers call, a capsule collection, starting with this lovely maxi dress that I found in the Fat Face sale during my lunch break in Totnes.  There was a non frumpy skirt with an elasticated waist too.  After work, I then shot off to Newton Abbot to see what heady delights a middle sized market town could offer to an out of hours shopper on a  desperate mission that turned out, against the odds, to be thoroughly successful.

I've embraced stretchiness and, to cover up those emergent chicken wings, there's some slouchy knitwear to wear over the top of the sleeveless offerings. From the forays into  Asda, Tesco and Next , which I'd hitherto viewed as unpromising hunting grounds, I've come up with a bundle of stuff, mainly in those patriotic hues of  red, white and blue .   This pinky toned jumper from Tesco is an exception but ties in nicely with my nationalistic theme. Amazingly, considering it cost just £14, it was made in  good old Blighty!

My wonderful  wardrobe will see me through the next few months of work, play, holidays and weddings.  It's already boosting my self image at a time that  I'm feeling lumpy and bumpy in all the wrong places. And  all of it,  except those larger sized cheap jeans, will be wearable  when I reach my 'stick thin'  goal of ten stone! 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Now That's Pants!

A recently out, yet unflamboyant,  friend ended up in a  Bristol gay bar on underwear night recently. I've since been told that there used to be a similar event in Peckham!      A big round of applause for anyone else who comes up with names of towns that would also be appropriate to host this type of event.  Half the blokes  remained clothed whilst  others, who were more game, whipped their trousers off and then stood around drinking  pints in their pants.  Needless to say my mate , who has a healthy sense of the ridiculous declined to join in. 'I laughed,' he told me. 'And got told off!.

The idea tickled me  but the more I've thought about it, the more I've realised that this particular theme night should remain the remit of the gay community.  Aside from one lone bloke wearing a leather thong and chaps with a spotty bum  - 'Not a good look!' pronounced my friend - most had made an effort and and had honed bodies and chosen their pristine garments with care.  It just couldn't work in heartily heterosexual environments like our village pub or  working men's clubs as this picture so aptly demonstrates!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

You Don't Get a Dunkin on a Donut!

I've delayed posting about the last event organised by the excellent Ranger Ralph Club on Dartmoor because I was trying to discover the name of the boats that we built on the day.  The ranger hosting the event used a funny foreign word that, for the life of me, I can't find on the Internet.  However when I described what we'd done to a Cub Scout Leader he knew exactly what had been built.  'Ah!, a donut raft!' 'That'll do rather nicely,' I thought.

If you're after a  thoroughly enjoyable low cost  team  building activity in the great outdoors for adults and children alike, I couldn't recommend this more highly.  As Louis demonstrates here, it demands gathering an awful lot of thin branches which are bent and pressed together in between two circles of stakes.  These are then tied together to make a wreath shape.  Just add a woven floor and then fill the with soft vegetation.  Tie the whole thing up in a tarp and there you have it. A thoroughly river worthy craft which will take the weight of at least nine children.  Or seven and one less than svelte ranger!

Now if you follow my pitiful instructions above you'd probably sink and be cursing me forever more.  Here's a link where another blogger describes the whole process far more eloquently than I could ever do.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Blogging for Beginners

With nigh on eight hundred regularly published posts and one academic article in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy under my belt I think I've fulfilled a childhood dream and can just about label myself as a writer.  Not that I've earned any blooming money from it though.  Giving up the day job and being 'discovered' as the Guardian's latest columnist is still eluding me.  At least, I have enjoyable paid employment to keep me going in the meantime.  Suffering for my art in a draughty, damp garret and wondering where my next meal might come from really wouldn't be  my bag.

For those out there who're thinking of kick starting a writing habit but don't know where to begin, I'd urge  you to consider blogging for the freedom that it gives to develop your own unique style.  Sure, there are courses out there and I looked into this route myself.  After looking at syllabuses from various providers I didn't find anything which really suited my needs.  But unlike pursuits that require specialist equipment or complex techniques, you  really don't need to throw any money at this to begin with.  Just look around for inspiration and when you've found it, in the real or virtual world, sign up with a provider that lets you blog for free and get started.  Simples! Your old mate 'Google' will direct you to plenty of pointers if you get stuck at any point in the task whether your problem is about technology, design, promotion, grammar or finding inspiration for content.

We now come to the difficult part.  Unless you really want to be a secret squirrel  you'll need to share your work.  Gulp!  What if my work really is pants?  Here's how you find out.  Bite the bullet, tell your friends and family what you're up to and invite them to read what you've produced.   They'll be your audience and critics until those search engines do their job and start to find you.  Hopefully by then, you'll have honed your 'copy' to a level that really can attract that international audience!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Cutting Costs

Yum! - a homemade loaf from my breadmaker with less effort involved than a hop down to the local shop to buy one.  It's way less expensive too as long as you can eat the entire thing before it develops a coating of green dust.  Often those shop bought ones  are stuffed full of preservatives and that's the reason why they'll stay fresh for what seems like centuries.   'I'd never get through a loaf before it goes off' seems like the perfectly acceptable excuse of a singleton for not buying a breadmaker. After all we want to cut food waste don't we?  I hope that 'Yes!' is the resounding cry!

Today though I have a simple solution.   Perhaps it will persuade a whole army of people to bite the bullet and invest in a machine that produces a product to be proud of.  Far nicer than that pappy tasteless stuff that is the standard fayre in a supermarket.   Go for a budget machine by all means if you wish but when you replace it, heed the advice of those of us who are older and wiser, and fork out for a Panasonic.  Whilst you're in the spending frame of mind, invest in a bread saver at the same time.  Once your inaugural loaf is cooked,  resist the urge to wolf it down as soon as the timer goes beep. It's  a bugger to cut then.  No, let it cool and then chop it down the middle. One half can be for your immediate munching pleasure.  May I suggest doorsteps slathered with a whole load of good old fashioned butter.  Salted, of course.  None of this fancy pants foodie stuff needed here.   Use the handy guide to  cut the other portion into slices, bag up and then pop them in the freezer for use whenever the need for carbs overcomes you.  

Monday, 9 July 2012

Thought for the Day: Miserable Cow?

Although I like you lot out there in the blogosphere to think that my thoughts are brimming forth with love and as pure as the driven snow I'm waaaaay off being beatified after my death.  I, the less than saintly Lovelygrey can be really mean and nasty in my head.  Sometimes that spills over into words and actions too.  (Note to self: must try harder when it comes to virtue).

Take for example when I was on the gate redirecting people to the new venue for the school country fayre.  Many people waved and smiled at the sodden being in a  plastic stacking chair as they drove past.  One girl though, went by in her car two or three time, staring ahead with a face like thunder.  Oops!  One of those less than perfect thoughts slipped out.  'Miserable Cow!' I thought.

There was nothing much to do a lot of the time, whilst getting drenched  except think some more.  Me, I'm a proper little philosopher at times who'd probably knock the spots off Plato and his mates.  It occurred to me that those spot judgements we make about someone's character can be so off the mark.  Just because they cut you up at traffic lights, commit that cardinal British sin of queue jumping, ignore you or look like they've lost a pound and found a penny doesn't mean that they are always miserable or evil through and through!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

When Summer Really Was Summer

Posting later than usual today as I stayed up way past my bedtime yesterday.  I'm wondering about whether that thumping headache is due to the school, our emergency venue for Liverton Country Fayre,  being plagued by sick building syndrome.  It can't be due to the plentiful real ale, imbibed to celebrate the event's success in spite of the weather, can it?

I wore many hats yesterday.  Of course there was lots of lugging stuff around. Then there was the arduous task of getting cuppas for firemen - an unpleasant task but someone's got to interact with those big burly devils.  Oh! and I also took over puzzlingly popular 'Hook a Duck' stall when the fayre was in its last throes.  It's amazing appeal was lost on me but maybe it's a form of gambling addiction for the under tens.  My favourite job though was taking photos of the abandonned field for a photo-montage that  the committee are putting together to celebrate the 2012 event.  I may show these on another occasion but, looking at the BBC website today there's far too many images of a soggy Devon being banded about.  My thoughts are with those poor people whose homes have been flooded.

So instead, I'll harp back to sunnier years and show you this picture of our fayre that I accidentally stumbled across on Google.  I've blown it up really large to show its texture.  It's by Devon artist Richard Teasdale  and I'm really chuffed that I've discovered his work, especially his gorgeous local landscapes that capture scenes of much loved places around here.  I especially love his interpretation of the abandonned pub that I pass on the way to work everyday.   Follow the link and enjoy whilst I get back to nursing that poorly head before tackling the housework.  Life in the day of Lovelygrey can't be all glitz and glamour after all!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Days Out in Devon: Liverton Country Fayre is Still On!

According to the Met Office Vaillance's paddy  field (TQ12 6JB) where our Country Fayre is being held is at the epicentre of sogginess, slap bang in the middle of an area covered by a red alert for rain. Obviously the Cosmic Being was listening to something on his ipod with his ear plugs firmly stuck in his lugholes when I put in my request for a bit of sunshine.  If you've ever wondered why Devon is so green and lush it's because we get a heck of a lot of precipitation, sometimes, like yesterday, bucketfuls at a  time.

But the show will go on!   We are British, a proud nation who won't let a little bit of damp get in the way of having a good time where beer, cakes and a barbie are involved.  After a couple of fortifying cuppas I'll don my wellies and waterproofs and be off to finish the set up.  My inner Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is fully expecting the hoards to come running through the gates at midday.  After all, a bit of mud doesn't put off the revellers at Glastonbury!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Not a Thing to Wear!

The idea for this post came to me whilst driving around yesterday and I relished the thought of finding a picture to head it up.  My!  What an epic journey around cyberspace I've been on in my search.  Finally I've settled on this rather tame image from Wiki depicting a US Marines' recruiting office in 1941.  Now I've had some odd requests at job interviews in my time but being  asked to go through the process butt naked really would take the biscuit.

The reason I'm relatively clothes-less at the moment is that nothing fits thanks to my monumental weight gain over the last year.  Thankfully there's a few garments that are sufficiently roomy to cover my lardy frame.   Debulking is now in progress but what to do in the meantime?  Do I blow the budget and instead of having a weekend away buy some things that will fit in the interim to make me feel good whilst those pounds are shed.?   Or, as I'm inclined to do, shall I just stick it out for the short term and wear those few items in my wardrobe that are more generously sized and comfy?

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Furthering Foraging

Six litres of elderflower cordial are now safely ensconced in my store cupboard. I've abandoned making the delicious champagne this year as my previous efforts have been explosive - literally.   In spite of risking life and limb and gingerly releasing the built up gas from the recycled fizzy drink  bottles on a  regular basis they still exploded spraying a sticky mess all over the garage. With all my general hustle and bustle I've little time for housework so Lovelygrey cottage is untidy enough at the moment without that as well.

Unless you're really keen, I don't think foraging is going to make great inroads into decreasing your overall food budget.  For a foodie though, including those wild ingredients into your cooking and drinks making repertoire can result in some real treats.  You've missed out this year for yummy wild garlic risotto.  Nettles too are past their best but just around the corner sloes, rosehips, blackberries, whortleberries and mushrooms will make rich pickings.

Here's a new one I discovered at the weekend on a Ranger Ralph event that I'll be reporting from soon.  After experiencing mild alarm when I found Louis eating leaves alongside a tub of free Pringles that came with all those freebies scavenged at the National Forces Day event, I discovered that the sorrel, pointed out to him as edible, by another small boy was pretty safe after all. However,  it comes with a Lovelygrey disclaimer.  Like the comfrey I wrote about a few weeks back,  it's reputed to be poisonous in large quantities.   But, no harm came to Louis so I think it's worth taking a chance.  It's so much nicer than anything found in a salad bag and allegedly cooked like spinach or pureed into a soup too.  I'll be looking out for it from now on to pep up my culinary experiments.  And to inspire you all to go out collecting here's some ideas from Hugh!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Oops! Overenthusiastic Advertising for Liverton Country Fayre

What with my non uniformed helper role at Cub and positions on both the Scout group and PTA committees, I feel a bit volunteered out at the moment.  It's because the school fete is upon us and cannot rest for one second of my waking hours.  Now I'm not going all drama queen about this for no reason. A few years ago, rather than sticking to the tried and tested formula of a couple of trestle tables and a hoopla in the school playground, some bright spark decided to make our summer fundraiser into an all-village spectacular complete with vintage rally, show arena, craft fair, bar, bands and all sorts of other attractions that are bound to give whoever was  in charge of drawing up a risk assessment an almighty headache.  Guess who the person with the oversized pack of Neurofen is?  Yep! it's me.

In amongst worrying about what possible harm could come from including a chainsaw sculptor, the motorcycle display team and a climbing tower on the thrills and spills repetoire, our entire 'gang'  were given the job of littering the neighbouring towns and villages with our publicity posters and we took to the task with gusto!  I reckon that subconsciously we're trying to give Uncle Tom Cobley's lot at Widecombe up the road a run for their money.  Anyway, all our advertising ventures have now gone totally pear shaped.  Devon County Council announced a crackdown on unauthorised signage which was publicised in the press about a week ago.  Hey presto! there's a bloke from County Hall who's been on our case and expressed extreme crossness.   So now the committee are busy scurrying about removing the fruits of our enthusiastic endeavours.   Let's hope lots of people saw our 'pretty billboards', or 'eyesores' dependent on viewpoint. before they had to be taken down.

Anyway, according to the bylaws, the ones around the village have been allowed to remain.  Here's Elvis showing interest in both the dog show and the agility events.  After all he's handsome with a fantastic jump, a very waggy tail and a great big canine toothy grin so he's bound to be a winner in some class or other.  If anyone out there wants to come along and share his success you're all very welcome.  Just watch out too for a grey haired maniac frantically ticking boxes and checking everything's shipshape and watertight!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

One for Sorrow?

I wrote a reply to a question in the money section of the Guardian the other day from a married woman who was at a loose end when her husband's hobbies took him away at weekend but had money to throw at the problem.  Whoopee!  The world, as far as I'm concerned, is her oyster and a big fat, juicy one with a pearl in it at that!

Why was she asking the question in the first place?  Well, I can only assume that she's reluctant to get out there and do things without the moral support of a friend or spouse.  I used to be like that but my message today for anyone in the same boat is simple.  Don't be scared!  Feel that fear and laugh in its face to be rewarded with  a wealth of exciting, worthwhile things to do.  You'll meet lovely like minded people to boot and wonder why you didn't adopt this attitude much earlier in your lifetime.

So what have I done where I've embarked out on my tod?  Where do I start?  I've walked and cycled in the wild Devon countryside, meditated on a retreat, made jewellery, learnt to kayak and ventured over to France for an Open University residential course.  And I'm also up for heading off for those traditional nuclear family pursuits, just with a nine year boy old in tow.  That's even when I'm fairly certain that I might be the only lone parent around.  As I was when skiing in February half term and chilling out at Chagstock last year.  As long as you're not hitting on other people's spouses or expecting to make instant best friends and sticking to others like a particularly resilient leech,  I'm 99.9% sure that you'll get plenty of worthwhile human contact.  And you'l also  have the luxury of a bit of that valuable 'me time' stuff to read, write and sew whilst the young 'uns are off playing with the new friends that they've made too.

Please don't let being on your own be a barrier to getting out there and living life to its full potential.  I know, only too well how scary it is to do something out of your current comfort zone.  But, I urge you to take that leap into the unknown.  I think you'll be glad that you did!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Just Finished Reading: Holes

Hey everyone else out there! When you've  finished reading 'that book' here's a suggestion  for something a bit more 'wholesome'.  Geddit?!

At some time I expect I'll get around to reading Fifty Shades of Grey for, at least, the comedic value  that some of the many one star reviews on Amazon are suggesting it has.  At the moment though I'll crack on with the pile of books that I've have been gifted and  accumulated from various secondhand sources. I've not been my usually prolific reading self this year.  There's a book by the perfectly acceptable author, Margaret Atwood that I've had on the go for months but somehow have failed to complete.  So, I've put it on the back burner for the time-being and decided to give this novel, tried and tested by Scary Secretary before me a try.  I hoped that it would kickstart a seemingly latent reading habit.  And it seems  to have worked as I've finished it in just three days.

There's nothing bad to say about Holes.   Firstly it has a lizard on the cover and aside from Komodo dragons, the mere thought of which make my flesh crawl,  I just love those iconic beasties even when they turn out to be poisonous like the ones in this novel.  It's an unusual story about boys digging in a dried up lake at a US young offender's correctional facility in Texas, supposedly to build their character but the warden has a ulterior motive for choosing this particular task.  There are many interwoven themes that include social injustice and love lost and found.    What makes this book  all the more remarkable is that it's aimed at kids aged 11 and upwards, a fact that escaped me until I did a bit of research for this post.  However the brilliantly crafted  writing and the clever circular plot means that it easily crosses those inter-generational boundaries.  So when you're all mummy porned out and yearn for something a little more uplifting, why not give this a go?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Days Out in Devon: Armed Forces Day National Event

We missed out on the Olympic torch relay when it passed through Devon a few weeks ago but maybe we've made up for it now courtesy of the Blind Veteran's Association!  Thanks to those currently serving in the forces, the cadets who may follow in their footsteps and all those veterans who came before,  Louis and I had a brilliant day in Plymouth yesterday.   For this famous, historic military port played host on an untypically sunny summer's day to the National Armed Forces Event on the Hoe.

Our early arrival coincided with that of the impressively noisy, loop the looping Avro Vulcan.  In an attempt to replicate some of the thrill of flying a fighter aircraft ourselves we had a go in a simulator where we experienced a bouncy reenactment of a Red Arrow's display flight.   Lou got his hands on some weaponry and was guided blindfold around a 'mine field' by some enthusiastic army cadets.

There was so much to watch, see and do.  Overhead aircraft weren't the only thing that challenged the auditory sense.   The 21 gun salute from the HMS Argyll on a sail past  in the Sound did exactly what it said on the tin. There was a plethora of musical acts  including some contemporary stuff and those 'Military Wives' who sang their little hearts out forming a soundtrack to our day.  Now I didn't think that I was a fan of military bands and I have to say that their music won't be something that I'll be tapping my feet to at home.  However being close to the Devon Army Cadet Band as they played and experiencing the beat of their drums resonating through my body cavity  made me appreciate why these corps were set up and remain a feature of the Armed Forces today.

What's this rather impressive pile of booty that Louis collected during the day? It includes seven wristbands, two air fresheners,  two sticky creatures a model aeroplane, four balloon, a tube of Pringles, two cardboard hats, a colouring book and crayons, five flags, lots of leaflets and stickers.......the list goes on and on.  All were mainly free or purchased for a few pence through a donation for the  donor charities.   I can't say that this pile of stuff is helpful in getting a 'Reduce Reuse Recycle' message across but all those souvenirs made a brilliant day out for a nine year old even more enjoyable!