Thursday, 28 February 2013

Decluttered Time

Mmmmm......I'm dreaming of a life that's less structured.  An escape from regular 9-5 employment is a dream that I'm beavering away on behind the scenes but actual instigation of my plan may be a little way ahead.  However there's good progress  being made in de-regimenting my leisure life, if that's a real word.   In case it's not, let me explain what I mean by this.

I was finding regular out of work engagements particularly stressful,  a rather stupid state of affairs particularly as loads of these activities were supposed to be enjoyable.   The idea of, say, signing up to a twelve or twenty session weekly class of yoga or a craft activity was exciting and invigorating but the reality was different.  Either I'd be  totally exhausted before the class had even started  or  would find my physical and mental stamina would leave me half way through the session.  It was a situation that wasn't really conducive to productive learning or self actualisation, the loftiest of the needs that Maslow identified.

So now I've largely cleared my calendar of those regular events for both me and Lou.  Cubs on Tuesday  remains but all other activities outside work are random.  A weekend away here, a  day long course there or a bit of one off volunteering.  Lou attends ski club at Plymouth on a Saturday but he doesn't have to sign his life away.  We go when we fancy.  Yesterday I swam after work but  it's unlikely that I'll be doing the same thing at the same time next week.  The light levels are improving so perhaps in seven days there'll be enough minutes after work to fit in a short cycle or a potter in the garden.  Who knows?

The consequence of this  could have been that there's more time available for slobbing around, eating crisps and watching TV.  But not a bit of it.  As a consequence of not having the mental weight of a myriad of commitments bearing down on me the early signs are that I am far more energised and productive.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

2013 The Rules: An Update

Photo: Nike
It's now over two months since I set my spending rules for 2013 and really I'm feeling rather chuffed with myself.  No books, shelf fillers, cards or weird and wonderful kitchen gadgets have caused me to break open break open my purse with a defeated cry of 'Oh sod it!".  I thought that I  would have to break the self imposed law when it came to clothes after I tried on my ski gear.  You see, I'd grown porkier since my last trip.  However I managed to squeeze myself in my jacket and salopettes if I resorted to inhaling really shallow breaths.  For the first few days on the pistes doing up zips was a struggle but after the week went by it did seem to get easier.  Either I'd got slightly trimmer with all that exercise and healthy eating or Gore-Tex stretches with use!

However those that know me will understand that my will isn't completely steadfast.  I succumbed once to a lone Friday night tipple whilst watching a bit of telly.  That darned cooking wine came into my home just a little too early. And I bought lunch on the days that I went to Double Elephant in Exeter for my lino cutting course.  The bacon and egg sandwich from the Gandy Street Kitchen was totally lush and whilst not entirely guilt free I can console myself with the fact that I bought from a local business and not a chain.

Whilst I've mentioned printing I am now going to 'fess up to my biggest transgression to date.  Yesterday a whole load of 'contraband' lino and a cutting board arrived.  This totally contravenes the ban on buying craft materials except to finish existing projects.  I'm hanging my head in shame and will be rushing to a nearby Catholic church to absolve for my sin.  Actually that's a flagrant lie as  I'm over the moon.  Let's get on with cutting that cat picture for my good friend Dr Betty!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What Elephant?

G'day all!  It's a very quick one today.   Even though I haven't made mention of it for a while my 'perfect house' purchase is still going through - yippee!  As such, a swathe of documents have been emailed to me but after a hard day at work I was too knackered to look at them last night.

So instead of a proper post I thought I'd shared this picture that was posted on Facebook before I tackled the admin.  I am a morning person after all.  It doesn't particularly apply to anything in my own life that I can think of at the moment but it made me giggle.  And I thought that it could have relevance for others out there.  Enjoy!

Monday, 25 February 2013

A Game for Men with Odd Shaped Balls

The first forty eight years of my life have been bereft for it has only been this weekend that I have discovered what a joyous sport rugby is.  My Damascus moment came when I visited my friend, the Pirate, an ex-player himself at the beginning of the Six Nations England vs. France game on Saturday.  He explained the rules as we watched the first half and voila! I am totally hooked.

It's the tactical nature of  play coupled with the delight of seeing  a load of blokes throwing themselves around just like in the old days when I used to watch Mick McManus, Big Daddy and Jackie Pallo on Saturday afternoon wresting with Papa Lovelygrey as a kid.   Only these guys are in a different league.  Gorgeous torsos and legs abound;  Even most of the commentators are both literate and hot..  What's there not to like!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Move Over Dan Brown, Margaret Atwood et al.

Here's a little frivolity for all you bloggers and anyone else whose writing takes them in different directions altogether.  Whilst procrastinating instead of hoovering yesterday I Stumbled Upon a website that gave me a good half hour of amusement and an extra few more when I came back to edit this piece.  'I Write Like'  analyses a bit of your own work, say two or three paragraphs that make up a post, and comes up with the famous author whose style matches your own.  Can I really be Dan Brown and Margaret Atwood combined and if so, why am I not making as much money as them?  And bloody hell!  James Joyce came up when I fed in my Spanish Tippling Tips post.  Isn't that just because I mentioned the subject of alcohol and he was partial to more than a shot or two?

I wasn't acquainted with Cory Doctorow, or Anne Rice but I am now.  And as I hadn't heard of them are they copying me rather than it being the other way around? Published authors and should know really know better than that!   I think that my finest accolade is that my work has been compared to  one William Gibson, previously unknown to me, who is described by Wikipedia as the 'noir prophet of the cyberpunk genre'.  That I like - uber cool sounding even if I haven't got a clue what it's supposed to mean.

As a final act of time wasting I've just shoved the two paragraphs above into the site's text box to see what it churns out.  I'm a little perplexed that I'm now being compared with H P Lovecraft and not for the first time.  He's another whose stories have passed me by. Perhaps I've wasn't paying attention somewhere along the line.  This chap is regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century!   Strange really when I consider that the printing workshop that I'd written about was calm, relaxing and not at all scary!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

After Andorra

Back home just past midnight from a really fantastic holiday but strike a light!  Good old Blighty is way colder than the ski resort.  At 2560 metres on top of a mountain  it was warm enough to wear just a T-shirt and waterproof outers whereas here Louis and I huddled together in my bed (altitude approx 160m) with  extra blankets wearing sweatshirts and jogging bottoms.  I couldn't get the central heating on in the wee hours of the morning to take the very marked chill off Lovelygrey Cottage so we had to snuggle.  Happily it's back on now and I've popped out to stock up extra  frugally on groceries and petrol leaving me with about eighty pence until payday!  This jetsetting is an expensive old business.  Still, I collected a batch of new library books while out, there's now six pints of semi skimmed for plentiful tea and I'm experimenting with music I've never listened to on Spotify.  I have to say that I'm as happy as Larry whoever he was.

And so what now?  Against all sensible advice I've been skiing at a low point of fitness but come back perkier than for a long time. That extra sleep and hurtling downhill have been  godsends. And even with the temptations of buffet breakfasts and suppers my diet was healthier than it has been for a while. I didn't overdo it on the pud course and achieving five a day was a breeze.  Now that the days are getting lighter it might be easier to fit in some evening exercise in the form of a stroll or cycle and  the fridge is now stocked up with some life enhancing food rather than the naughty junk that it held before.  It also feels like the right time to recommence my 5:2 fasting.   And my head is buzzing, buzzing with more good ideas than I can shake a stick at.  I've just got to work out how to put them in a sensible order so they can be acted upon.

Wow! All this positivity seems just the right note on which to end a holiday.    Lets see if I remain this chipper after a day at work on Monday!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Just Finished Reading: How to Worry Less About Money

The title of this post just seems to beggar a thrifty tip and here's one from Carolina, my instructor who's the longest serving Brit at the ski school in Soldeu.  She's put in an amazing thirty odd years here and is as fit as a butcher's dog in spite of being of an age where many women would give up hard physical exercise and take up something a little less action packed like flower arranging or bridge.  Maybe she does these activities as well.  I wouldn't put it past her.

The lovely Carolina came up with a cheap and useful tip for Pete in our class whose bony ankles were rubbing against his boots.  She advised him to buy a couple of bath sponges and cut away the middles.  Voila!  Pain free progress down the slopes.  I took inspiration from her hardware store based advice and knocked up a couple of arch supports from a couple of Vileda cloths.  For any amateur  podiatrists out there who want to create something a bit more fancy  just type into 'Homemade Orthotics' into Google for some really imaginative ideas!

Whoah!  I'm way off track from what is supposed to be a book review.   How to Worry Less About Money  
won't give you any nifty ideas like the one above nor will it be of much help for those who have money troubles such as inordinate amounts of debt.  There's other self help material out there covering these themes. The approach of this book is much more philosophical.  Drawing on case studies, the works of great thinkers of the past and case studies  it explores is our relationship to money, with all the emotional baggage that this might entail and the meaning attached to it.   It's good stuff.  Just ignore the fact if you live outside major conurbations that the 'needs'  of inhabitants of the world richer cities seem to be vastly in excess of us straw sucking yokels.  It still contains a lot of food for thought. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Skype is My Friend

Well how the devil is everyone in the big wide world today?  Our day has gone swimmingly except for the fact that I woke up and my left cruciate-less knee was a bit sore.  It may have been that I overdid it on the slopes but throwing myself around the dance floor at the kid's disco in the village  yesterday evening might also have played a part.  As such I wimped out of ski school with the blessing of my teacher, drank hot chocolate and beer, gazed at the beautiful mountain scenery and tackled a very easy run at an extraordinarily leisurely rate.

There was free Wi-Fi in the lift top cafe which I became my base so I made a bit use of it.  However I am not connected  all the time to the Internet nor am I making liberal use of the international phone network.  Maybe it's because Andorra is outside the EU that mobile calls cost a staggering £1.50 a minute.  I dread to think what data charges could amount to, so the roaming function on my phone is firmly in the off mode to avoid ruinous charges when I get my next statement.  Thank goodness for these little pockets of connectivity like the one in the public areas of the hotel and especially for Skype that I'm using when online.  At an amazing 1.5-ish pence a minute I could even afford to surprise Mama and Papa Lovelygrey will a surprise call the other day!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Favourite Holiday Tipple

Now here's a post dedicated to  Nana Lovelygrey for I know that she's more than a little partial to this stuff.  Do you all know that brandy is not just the reserve of our French chums but other countries as far flung as America, Peru and Albania produce it too?  The stuff produced by the Andalucians in the South of Spain is one of my favourite tipples, a by-product of sherry production and quite a lot sweeter and stickier than its counterparts from over the border. For all those non teatotallers out there I urge you to give it a try.   It's yummy and as a bonus it quite a lot cheaper than the Hennessy XO and Remy Martin out there.  I've succombed to buying a bottle for a mere eight Euros in the shop down the road from the hotel and it's becoming more and more available in UK supermarkets.  This special drink with the 'Osborne Bull' is providing me with a rather special post holiday dinner digestif.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Icicles and I-Pads

It’s interesting from a sociological perspective being in a ski resort.  I’m here because of a love of spending time in a snowy mountain  haven  zooming down  wide easy runs.   It's bliss apart from a bit of pain in the tootsies!  Happily, there’s a lot of others with the same mindset.  For the first time in yonks I’m having lessons to rebuild my confidence after last year's spectacular wipeout.  Luckily, I’ve met up with a bunch of  individuals where there’s lots of common ground and I’m having a right old laugh. Good craic as our Irish chums might say.

Skiing has long been seen as a pursuit of the wealthy and there’s more than a few here who aren’t short of a bob or two.   Our ski instructor told us about the Russian family who spent 20,000 Euros each on a shopping spree last week.   No wonder there's salopettes on sale with a cool 400 Euro price tag if people are so ready to stump up their dosh!  Those designer shops wouldn't last a fortnight if everyone were like me.  I’m wearing a North Face jacket  bought in a summer sale way over a decade ago.  Fingers crossed and it could last quite a few more years yet.  It might even fit a bit more comfortably on my next trip if I lose some weight!  Lou’s forty Euro jobbie, that was purchased in Decathlon for our  2011 Yellowstone trip, reaching his knees when we bought it, is in its third season.  However, one of his new mates badgered his father for a perfectly fitting designer jacket even though his brother’s cast off would have done the trick.  It looks like he’ll need new set of outerwear next year as he'll have grown out of it by then. Lou is mixing with a privileged set  in the kid’s club at the hotel and within his ski school class and it’s starting to show in a flurry of uncharacteristic materialism.

‘Mum, I really do need an i-Pad,’ he said in matter of fact tones yesterday in the dinner queue.  A couple nearby, whom I suspect share my own set of priorities and forego material things for the opportunity to travel, snorted loudly and gave me a sympathetic glance.  ‘Well you can have one if we don’t go skiing next year.  I can’t afford everything’ was my retort.  A light  bulb moment followed after which Lou reached,  what was in my eyes, the right decision.  Teenage years are approaching and fads and fashions are becoming more of a priority.  I suspect that this conversation may not be the last of its kind. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

What Makes a Good Lovelygrey Holiday

  • Moderate daily exercise in the open air whether it be swimming, cycling, skiing or walking. 
  • Great scenery.  Mountains or coastline will do nicely.  Give me both and I’m as happy as the biggest piggy in a pile of poo that you’ve ever come across.
  • A big pile of books and plenty of moments to read them.
  • A mixture of quality conversation and activity with the little man with a bit of time to myself.  I achieve this by planning to stop at places where we’re bound to meet other kids.
  • Meeting friendly and interesting people on our travels.  We’re good at this as we both love to chat.
  • Eating good food whether it be perfectly ripened Mediterranean tomatoes, a perfectly cooked fried breakfast egg or those very occasional meals out.  That’ll usually have seafood involved if we’re by the shore.
  • A tipple or two…..oh okay I’ve been caught out.  It’s usually three!
  • A snooze after lunch if I fancy one.   Often this ma be related to the previous item on the list.
  • Somewhere comfy to slouch around for a couple of hours of so in the  day.  A good mattress at night. The hotel I’m staying in is great for this but so is the motorhome.
  • That rare chance  that I don’t have during a normal working week to contemplate my navel.

Note that my list doesn’t include  pampering, a vast new holiday wardrobe or very much shopping at all.  These are components of holidays that many view as totally and utterly essential but I  readily forego.   Nor is there a never ending stream of visits to attractions  that demand an entrance fee.  Skiing is my annual high cost exception and I do stump up to get into places that really take my fancy.  Had we have had more time in Barcelona …….. would have worked its way into this category but I adore the challenge of finding free things to do whether we go.   With this thrifty approach I get to satisfy my  vast wanderlust and head off for pastures both new and  much loved way more often than most others in similar financial circumstances.  

Sunday, 17 February 2013

In Gaudi's Garden and Beyond

Lou and I  had such a lovely day yesterday even though there was  a lot of travelling involved.  But if the bulk of the  journey is through the foothills of the Pyrenees it's ain't half bad.  Here's how we kicked off with breakfast in the hotel.   Who says that cold meats and chocolate doughnut don't make a balanced nutritional buffet meal?

And so on, via train and bus to Parc Guell at the top of a ruddy great hill in the suburbs of Barcelona.  You know when somewhere's a tourist spot of world importance.  Hey presto! the Japanese appear en masse.  This paradise devised by Gaudi is my kind of place.  Mosaics, surprises around each corner and a shedload of street performers....

...including this guy who scared the heebie jeebies out of Lou when he finally moved!

Then things took a surreal turn.  But hey! We are in Catalunya.  Louis decided that he wanted to have his picture taken with as many cops as possible.  So here's some we encountered in Central Barcelona.

 ...and another at Sants railway station......

....and an undercover shot that he took on another platform.

Lou's shots got a bit more traditional on the way to Andorra.  The scenery was the dog's danglies.  But no snow scenes yet.  You'll have to wait until later on in the week for those.  But they will come though.  After all this is a skiing holiday!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Spendiferous Spanish Stew

My 'Pietanic' post is just about to fall off the roll call of a week's worth of blog posts so let's replace it with a proper food post in the form of a recipe.   And it's an entirely appropriate for as you are reading the instructions to make luscious Nigella's Spanish Stew, Lou and I will be in Barcelona.  The strains of Freddie Mercury and Monserrat Caballe are already weaving seductively around the grey matter and I'm dead excited about fitting in a bit of Gaudi before transferring up to our Andorran ski resort. I'm hoping that there will be free Wi-Fi access at the hotel that we arrive at tonight but if not there will be a gap in blogging activity.  Do not worry Mama and Nana Lovelygrey we will not have dropped off the edge of the earth.

Anyway, here's the steps to take to create this luscious potato and chorizo offering that I slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat".  It's dead easy.

  • Pre-heat oven to 200 Degrees Celsius or Gas Mark 6
  • Chop up an onion and fry it in a bit of olive oil gently until softened.
  • Slice 200g of cooking chorizo into quarter inch thick rounds and add to the pan.
  • A couple of minutes later add a clove or two of chopped garlic, about a pound of unpeeled sliced potatoes and a bay leaf.
  • Pour in a wine glass of wine before there's none over from the chef's slurps.
  • Cover and simmer for ten minutes and then season.
  • Shove the whole lot into an oven dish and cook uncovered for 35-40 minutes.  It becomes gooey and unctuous - such a good word!
  • Serve garnished with fresh coriander and some nice bread.

Toodle pip.  I might be back tomorrow with some mosaic-y shots!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Obscura and Obscura

Photo: Abelardo Morell
Remember my encounter with the link to the rather good National Geographic website after an unexpected sojourn in a hospital waiting room last week? Well, I've chanced upon another gem for you, The School of Life, a website from an organisation devoted to the exploration of living wisely and well.  When I peeked today I was rather taken by today's aphorism from Harrison Ford.

'I'm like old shoes.  I've never been hip.  I think the reason I'm still here is that I was never enough in fashion that I had to be replaced by something new'.

As is common I've gone off subject completely.  Back to National Geographic land where I've got rather overexcited by the photography of Abelardo Morell.  He uses a camera obscura, that old pinhole camera from physics lesson of the past, to created some rather stunning images.  Go and have a look.  It's amazing that such masterpieces can be produced from as simple a piece of equipment as a darkened box with a couple of holes in each end.  Okay it's a big box in the case of Morell. He uses a whole room for instance- a bit draughty but one must suffer for one's art!    Me? Well, I'm more of an insulation freak so won't be doing that.  But this wonderful image of Brooklyn Bridge projected onto a tar paper roof in a camera made out of a tent has given me ideas.  I'm wondering about a lino cut print onto wet and dry paper to give a similar effect.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Day 2:Lent

Did you remember that yesterday was  Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent.  Or if you did, has that forbidden chocolate or glass of something a little stronger than you'd intended already slipped down your throat?  Well, never mind about that.  I've a better idea than abstinence pinched in its entirely from the blog of Mortgage Free in Three that you can start a day late if you like.  Hang those rules!  They don't really matter all that much.

This thrifty mum of two has suggested that rather than 'Giving Up Something' for Lent, why not make it a 'Taking Up Something' year instead.  Good one!  At the risk of being seen as an outright copycat I've decided to join her in re-instating daily meditation to kickstart a habit that really is rather beneficial.  Six minutes yesterday fitted in right before bedtime.  Yet another busy, busy day today as  it's the last one before  annual leave,  a  school disco tonight and packing to do.  It'll really be a challenge to find a moment to fit in a moment of contemplation but the challenge is on and I'll do it!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Good Morning, Bad Morning?

This is a record of everything that I did on a particularly productive morning a couple of weeks ago.  It was a day that I rose at 6am, bright and bushy tailed, and then managed to do all this before we calmly left home for work and school at 8:30.  Not bad eh?

In contrast, today is seemingly an absolute disaster.  After a long night of tossing and turning I finally got some shut eye.  I remember waking at  6:20am and then deciding to snooze for another five minutes.   Eeek!  I woke up an hour later.  Productivity is almost a big fat zero after from rushing out into the street like the Wild Woman of Borneo to put the green bins out.  I'm  in bad mother mode to boot.  Louis isn't up yet and I'm not contemplating waking him for another fifteen minutes until there's sufficient caffeine coursing around my veins to cope with an ebullient nine year old.

The original idea for this post was conceived when I was feeling rather proud of myself for having done so much in a short space of time.  My inner smug bitch was going to contrast it with a day like today and give myself a good putting down.  But I've added the question mark to my original title.  For it seems that this morning isn't necessarily bad per se.  Under the circumstances I'm doing exactly what I need to do!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Life is too Short

Photo: Mount Rainier by Craig Tuttle
Yesterday I came home to find freezer door open and the compartment was so iced up that it was refusing to close.  I spent three hours doing a job that was long overdue.  On the other side of the world a man and a little girl had their own more pressing issues.  They'd lost their partner and mum after she'd battled long and hard with Motor Neurone Disease, ALS as it's known in other parts of the world.  My friend Lori Salzarulo who lived in Seattle passed away. She was just fifty three.

I first met Lori when she accompanied John and Julie Eidson, my friends from Seattle to meet us on our first momentous trip to Yellowstone during the millennium celebrations.  Hikes around Mount Rainier and Mont Blanc were followed by a meet up in Corsica.  Lori and her then new partner John walked the whole of the grueling GR 20 in Corsica whilst Mr Lovelygrey and I aborted after the second day and had a more relaxing holiday.  Having the bairn put more adventurous travel on hold for a while.  The last time I saw Lori was after our Yellowstone trip in 2011 when we spent a night at her home before travelling back to England.  Her illness had taken quite a hold by then.  She was in a wheelchair for much of the time, had to rest in bed frequently and her swallowing mechanism was starting to fail.   But we had a fun evening with old, dear friends.  I had hoped that I'd be able to return for a final time to say goodbye but it was not to be.

Lori was a lawyer, a brilliant fun friend, much loved partner of John and latterly Mum to Ava who the couple adopted.    She worked and played super hard.   On our last meeting she could no longer work but was campaigning in the field of ALS research.  She opened my eyes around the ethics of drug development and the reluctance of commercial companies to undertake research for rarer diseases where the market for their products is limited.

My work brings me into contact more than most with people who's lives are ended prematurely by degenerative disease but I'm normally wrapped in a protective bubble against the emotional effects of this.  I need to remain distant to keep going.  But Lori's death has hit me hard.  I found myself weeping last night and my dear boy cuddled me and made hot chocolate.  It's not a bad thing that he knows that grown ups are allowed to be sad sometimes.    Lori was one of the most health conscious individuals that I have ever known but looking after herself was not enough to stave off serious illness.  Yet her shortened life was stuffed full of purpose and meaning.

So what's the moral of this story.  It just has to be about  living a full and meaningful life in the present.   Yes, plan for the future but seize the mettle when you can.  You just don't know  what is round that next corner.

I'm in the Pyrenees next week and will drink a toast of something good and red to my dear departed friend in  the mountains, a landscape where I hold my fondest memories of her.   And in her honour I'll stump up some cash for Motor Neurone Disease research and for those expensive insoles that I've been putting off buying that will sort my feet out.  It's mean that I can return to long distance hiking again, a long neglected activity that ceased due to being too painful.  I think that it's a legacy that she might approve of.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Double Elephant Days

The title today does not refer to me and Red Mel although I have to admit that we had chocolate flapjacks for Sunday breakfast. I don't suppose they did anything towards either of us achieving a svelte waistline.  Meal choices are a little limited at Lovelygrey Cottage at the moment as I'm heading for the mountains on Friday and running down perishable food supplies in preparation; There's no muesli either.  No, the Double Elephant referred to here isn't a beast with one head and two trunks but an imperial paper size, presumably a big sheet.  It kindly lends its name to a printmaking workshop based at the Phoenix Arts Centre in Exeter.

Inspired by works of artists like Angie Lewin and Susan Deakin that I've spotted at the Devon Guild of Craftman's Centre  I been hankering to give printing a go and this year have a planned budget set aside for a couple of courses.  Here's my very first lino cut that I produced this weekend, currently a limited edition of  four.  Forget  Kirstie's assertion that  machine embroidery is the 'crack cocaine of crafts'.  I'm as hooked as a big fat fish discovering a big juicy worm!  It's the combination of cutting, colour play and the extreme analytical thinking involved that's doing  it for me.

Here's my second piece made from a piece of lino I had left over, a two  colour  fish that's supposed to be a mackerel but in this colourway is more like a stickleback.  A reduction technique is used where the first colour is printed and then the plate is chopped about again.  The destruction element appealed to my inner vandal.  I can only ever produce as many prints as the number of pictures I made at the first stage of the process. Luckily I had twelve to play with.

When I return from the snowy peaks, hopefully with my right knee's cruciate ligament intact I'll be buying some lino to play with at home.   Then with the rest of my budget I'll be joining the Double Elephant as an associate member and attending technical sessions to hone my skills and use the 19th century press to make some more of my own prints.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

M is for......

....Mummy, Mosaic, Motorhome, Metaphor, Monster or Music? No, it's none of those.   This M is the mightiest Roman numeral of them all and it's the star of the show today as I've made it to my thousandth blog post.  Who would have thought it and to be honest I'm the person who's most surprised of all.  I think back to a time when I'd written about twenty posts and wondered how the devil the subject matter for more was going to materialise but it just keeps on rolling in.

“The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” 

 I'm living this quote from Zadie Smith.  It's the reason why those sources of inspiration are endless.  For the last three years I truly feel as if I've woken up!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

This Fat Bastard is Eating All the Pies

Ideally I'd love to cook and bake everything that I eat from scratch and have to say that I do a reasonable job.  It might even be entirely possible if I were childless.  Even beyond the rug rat stage Louis  takes up a lot of the time outside my full-time job.  So my super mum skills are flawed a little as I sometimes put ready made food on the table, though I hasten to add that nothing by Findus has crossed the doorstep of Lovelygrey Cottage ever.

I do have a passion for these Pieminster pies though.  The pastry is amazingly light and the fillings are gorgeous.   There's lots of meaty ones and the Heidi, a vegetarian offering filled with cheese, potato, spinach and onion. The Pietanic is my favourite  filled with haddock, salmon, pollock and prawns.  Not a horse in sight!

They're a premium product and as such command a hefty price, just under £3.50 for an individual, albeit greedy person's pie.  I can't justify this cost especially one there's two of us eating so I'm reliant on the fact that rich people haven't completely discovered these delicious delicacies;  Perhaps they're  too busy eating sushi?  Anyway there's a few in the chill cabinet reduced section fairly regularly and  I stock up then.  On a lucky day I can snaffle a pie for £1.20!

To show my appreciation for this prizewinning product,  I've now joined Pieminster's V.I Pie Club.  Fingers crossed  and I might win a pie selection box to satisfy my pastry addiction in one of their draws!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Just Hanging Out

Photo: National  Geographic
What should have been a quick pick up of an ailing day surgery patient turned into a major muddle and I spent five hours waiting around at Derriford Hospital yesterday.  Because of the inordinate amount of time there I've posted this under a 'Days Out in Devon' tag although not one that comes highly recommended!
 It wasn't all bad.  I enjoyed a rare coffee shop visit, an everyday occurence for many in the western world but a rare treat for me and bought myself a rather good americano with milk.   Then I hit the waiting room and discovered a pile of National Geographic magazines with enough material for at least a couple of blog posts.

So, here's the first.  I've written about outdoor living before especially in the context of that snuggly halfway point between extreme home comfort and roughing it, my motorhome.  Then there was the beautiful Opera trailer tent  which I thought represented the ultimate in miniature living.   For sheer minimalism though, this Portaledge pitched in Yosemite park takes the biscuit.  More basic maybe but as the article writer says there's I-phones charged by a solar panel and a French press coffee machine in there.  Of course, the view to die for goes without saying.

What I've subsequently learned is  that you can read rather a lot of the National Geographic's articles online without forking out a fortune for the glossy paper edition.  I'm so impressed that a link has been added to my bookmark's toolbar   All the amazing photos that go with them can be marvelled at too so here's another shortcut to the art store where you can buy prints to hang on the wall to perhaps inspire you to go off and have a few adventures of your own!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lovelygrey: Not Just Arty Farty

Careers education in the 1970s and 80s was laughable - provided at one educational establishment I attended by a smoking lady with a wet smelly dog, more interested in bonios and cigarettes than dispensing advice to mould a youngster's future.  I'm not in the habit of thinking about how things might have been different if I'd taken a different path but if I'd been properly informed I might have done something that harnessed both my artistic and scientific side  at an earlier stage in life.  I might have been an architect, just as happy on site with a hard helmet as at my drawing board.  Or perhaps civil engineering would have caught my fancy and I could have had the pleasure of  marvelling  that latest curvy bridge connecting two pieces of land was one of my own.  I may even have hit on occupational therapy the first time round and not have had to undergo a mid-life career change.

So it is that I still have an interest in technology and find myself marvelling at this tiny motor created by 100 engineers at Dyson to power the company's new water-air tap.  0-100,000 revolutions in 0.7  seconds and a weanie computer chip in there making 6,000 adjustments a second to obtain optimum efficiency.  I am in awe of those clever people who've created this tiny masterpiece that's also heavily appeals to my aesthetic side in cross section too!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Blagging My Books

This is photographic evidence of why books were included among the purchases that I banned for the year when I devised my 2013 rules to govern spending.  This is my stash of unread stuff that's in my bedside storage table.  It has a 20x20x12 inch volume and is in danger of blowing its top.

That's not to say that the number unread is going down.  Red Mel gave me three last week and another friend, the Pirate, gifted  The Snowman by Jo Nesbo.   Now thriller is not usually my genre but it comes so highly recommended by him and my other chum, Salty Dog, that I thought I'd give it a whirl if fancy ever takes me.

There was a savvy lady on Woman's Hour who was never going to buy clothes again.  But can I find her name in the limited time I have before breakfast?  Hell no!  If one of you other bloggers with more time can tell me I'd be very grateful.  Anyway she is even refusing gifts of new garments from kind friends.  Not me though.  I'm even going one step further and dropping ultra heavy lead weight-like hints.  My plea for Wahaca and River Cottage Veg has been fruitful.  Thanks siblings both!  Now does anyone want to buy me 66 North's Thorsmork Parka as I'm not allowed to stump up for it myself.  It's a mere snip at 525 Euros!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Strange Goings on at the Scout Hut?

Thanks to Kerry for snapping this at our Scout hut that's also used by its sister organisation. Like the last bizarre notice that I spotted there (and I seriously urge you to follow the link), it's caused my mind to boggle in overdrive!   

Monday, 4 February 2013

Wheeling Dealing Whizz Kid

The latest exhibition, Get Fresh, at Devon Guild of Crafts in Bovey Tracey is a cracker showcasing work by emerging makers.  Louis, Red Mel and I visited yesterday and I'm pleased to say I have a nascent art appreciator under my wing.  Louis was particularly taken with 'Flow' a piece of kiln fused glass by Paul Stopler.  It's the one on the left.   Even his finely honed negotiating skills weren't enough to knock it down from its asking price of £2,050 to the fiver that he'd had as pocket money the day before.

He had better luck when sweetie buying though.  It's the second time in the space of a month he's  haggled successfully in the context of confectionery.

The first time was in a lovely old fashioned shop in the Midlands where he'd been given a pound for sweets. The ones in the big jar came in at 90p per 100g and after he'd picked and mixed a selection of these, he had 10p over.  Batting his luscious eyelashes he managed to persuade the shop assistant to chucking a fifteen pence lolly in the bag in exchange for his leftover change.

Yesterday he had £1.50 to spend on sugary treats.  His sweet tooth was intent on a bag of rather grown-up Cadbury's Eclairs for a pound and a kind of junky plastic one-eyed bandit containing candy for 99p.  Blow me down if he didn't succeed in reaching a deal there too.  I'm sure he was a Middle Eastern market trader in a past life!

Sunday, 3 February 2013


To counter the yuckiness of today's posts my image depicts my favourite flower, blue, blue  irises.  Useless as a cut bloom but glorious in the open, in spring time swathes.

Now, onto an entirely different matter although.  Mr Metrosexual is a dual registered nurse extraordinaire.  Not only is he is an RMN, he trained  as a general nurse in one of the big London hospitals.  So, he's your man if you need someone to stitch up a big wound and mess with your head at the same time.

Whilst at lunch with me and Red Mel yesterday he bought up the highly appropriate meal time topic of one of his chores on a student obs and gynae-y placement.  Clinical people working in the NHS do this but look away now if you're non medical and squeamish.   I reinforce this warning particularly if you're eating.   One of  Mr M's tasks to enhance his learning experiencee was boxing up the placentas for a well known cosmetic company to collect and use in their face cream.  A quick search on the Internet suggests that, unfortunately,  he was not kidding us for shock effect.  Another nurse who was a student at the time recalled that her hospital got about 50p for a box of ten.  Apparently 'mother essence'  has been used by the wealthy since age immemorial  and may well have been a component of beauty products until just a couple of decades ago.  Mmmmmm!

What people do with their own placenta is their business  (Pate anyone?)   but let's just say that smearing someone else's unsolicited body parts on my face would, in my mind, fly in the face of acceptable behaviour.   More modern products seem to harness the idea of animal afterbirth being an effective skin care ingredient too.  I think I'll be sticking with plant based products even if they leave me less than wrinkle free!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Those Naughty Ehrman People

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The 2013 rules prohibit buying craft stuff except under the extenuating circumstances of needing materials to finish an existing project. So the other day I forked out about £1.29 to buy some not very exciting but necessary grout to complete my mosaic robin.  There should be enough over for his kingfisher chum and a table top that hopefully will be brewing later in the year.

But if I wasn't being a good girl, I'd be sorely tempted to buy this early bird cushion from Ehrman Tapestry.  These naughty temptors mailshot me whenever they've got a sale and there's always something that takes my fancy.

But I'll desist.  Two years in, my flowery Anchor kit is getting closer to   completion  in spite of the delay caused by lack of interest in executing the design and poor light levels hampering winter progress. Then there's another four more interesting needlepoint projects stored away on my shelves.   Plenty to be getting on with methinks!  So for now, I'll just share the fact that there are beautiful reduced priced kits on offer for those of you who haven't got a stash of crafting supplies and really do need something beautifuly to get their teeth stuck into.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Hugh's Stuffed Squash

Do you remember my Riverford squash box that I bought back in October?  Well, these autumnal fruits stored very well and  I only used up the last of these 'proud beauties' on Wednesday.  This  innuendo fuelled expression, a favourite of Nigella, always tickles Mr Metrosexual, whose humour is as 'Carry On' film inspired as it gets!

My latest library jaunt yielded River Cottage Veg Every Day!, a book that I covet hugely but am not allowed to buy because of my 2013 rules.  Never fear, my lovely bro', Paul Bernard Harris  has offered to gift it to me on my birthday.  There's nearly always a way round pesky laws!  If any other family member feels flush around April time and is reading this, here's a heavy hint for  Wahaca - Mexican Food at Home by Thomasina Miers!

To prove that glossy cookbooks don't just decorate the coffee table in this house,  I delved into Hugh's fabulous veggie bible and came up with my own version of his easy-peasy stuffed squash and leeks.  I was going to reproduce the recipe but I've found an online rendition from Channel 4's website to save me the effort.   Instead of the creme fraiche that the original calls for I used up half a tub of cream that I had in the fridge.  Vintage cheddar replaced the Gruyere and naughty, naughty, I add a few cubes of chorizo when frying the leeks.  No-one would guess that I had a meat free diet a few years ago.

Just remember to sharpen your knife before commencing prep.  And don't get carried away and carve a face in the side of your squash.  It's not Halloween and if you do, the filling will spill all over the baking tray!