Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Pierced Minotaur with a Six Pack!

Louis is like a mini arithmetical calculator.  It's lovely to watch him performing complex calculation in his head.  You can almost  see the cogs in this head whizzing around  as his eyes move up and down.  Then plop! Out comes the answer.

He doesn't view himself as an artist though which is a shame as among the detritus that spews forth from his his school bag, there's some good stuff.   I've already showed off  one of his paintings in a previous post. That now has pride of place on the landing.  The end of term booty contained not one, but two treasures that I want to keep in my art collection for ever and ever.  There's a 'gay' collage that needs a frame or something.  I'll wait to show that off when it's been mounted.  My favourite though is this intricate cutout with a gold stud made from a paper fastener.  Given the subject matter maybe he should have used a BULL-dog clip instead!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

No Wasteful Extras

After a night of  self administered TLC there's been a vast improvement in the knee situation. I can hobble around quite respectably if I'm wearing a knee brace and as such driving is not out of the question either.  That exercise regime that I was going to start yesterday has flown way out of the window.  It must have been God's way of telling me not to start it ;)

So let's move onto a thrifty topic for the day shall we?  BT are the provider for my internet, phone and TV service.  I'm generally pleased with them.  The clincher is the unlimited anytime calls, handy for someone who's often home in the day.  There's also Freeview TV and 10Gb of Internet use.  Receiving a message on the 29th of the month  from them stating that I've used over 8Gb of my surfing allowance doesn't perturb me.  In fact I'm giving myself a self-congratulatory pat on the back as I'm making the most out of the deal I've paid for.

There's an extra charge of £5 per 5Gb if I go over my allowance.  I think I've done this once and feel that this is a reasonable charge.  So why are BT encouraging me to buy a monthly package costing at least £16 monthly to increase my broadband limits to way beyond what I've historically used?  It doesn't make good sense to me and served as a useful reminder to tell you lot that if you're buying a product that includes a myriad, check that you're actually going to use what you're paying for!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Bad Night, Bad Day

Regular readers know that I'm an eternal optimist, looking on the bright side even when things really go tits up.  And so, after a truly appalling night's sleep I convinced myself that this wasn't predictive of an terrible day ahead.   Good things were going to happen even though the bags under my eyes are hanging so low that they could make a makeshift bag for a smaller lady.

How wrong can I be?  I've been hit with a plague of minor catastrophes and then two hours ago there was  a big one that rendered me nearly incapacitated.  I did the thing where you miss the last step on the stairs and ended  up in a crippled wailing heap at the bottom.   That cruciate ligament that I used to have would have absorbed the shock. Instead I've got a knee like a balloon and can't face milling around with the crowds of holidaymakers that throng to the local minor injuries units at this time of year.  Louis is at Scout camp so I'm going to have to deal with this alone.   Lets see if I can crawl around and gather together some food, drink, anti-inflammatory medication and yes a pack of frozen peas.  My inner Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is convinced that if  I can keep going until the morning when I'll re-evaluate the situation.  Tomorrow has to be a better day!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

If You Must Tow

Being a motorhome owner I am a sworn enemy of the caravanner!  This is not actually true as I'd prefer to exude love and peace to all mankind rather than taking a dislike to a tribe with particular interests.  I'd not swap my gorgeous Knaus for a great big car and something I'd have to tow behind it for a million pounds.  Well, perhaps I would but then I'd sell them and go and buy a little motor to get me around on a daily basis and a swanky new RV.  As I've mentioned before a Burstner Ixeo IT666 would do rather nicely.

But for those of you who are in the market for a caravan that's a little bit different from the rest of the pack, may I suggest this one, hand painted by folk art  Emma Stubbs-Hunk  that's currently for sale on Ebay. Now you wouldn't lose that one  in a festival field!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Your Royal Jugness

With all the shenanigans going on this week in the House of Windsor I thought that I'd bring you a regal feel!  Behold the latest jug in my collection gifted to me by Papa Lovelygrey, the ideal vessel for a little posy that Louis bought for me from the gate of one of the other houses in our village.  Dont' you think that it's rather nicer than a lot of the tourist tat that you get nowadays?

Friday, 26 July 2013

An Excel-lent To Do!

I heard Alex Salmond being quizzed once, years back on Radio 4's Today programme.  'But I thought that you said that you'd never stand for the leadership of the SNP,' said the interviewer, probably John Humphries.. 'I've changed my mind' said Alex.  'I'm allowed to do so'.    Well said!

Previously I mentioned that I'd banished To Do lists from my repetoire of personal management tools.  Well, guess what?  I've had a change of heart as it is my prerogative.  Yesterday I decided that I needed a list at work that changed responsively to the ever changing priorities that I have working in a mental health team where a crisis can occur at any time during the working day and blow my best laid plans out of the water.  In such circumstances it's easy to forget where you're at with everything. Here's what I set up, and yes I did it in the middle of an emergency just so that I wouldn't forget all the other stuff  that I had to put on hold.

I opened a spreadsheet and named it.

Then  I added in all the things I need to do that are not client related in the order that I want to do them.  It's funny how they always have to take a back seat!

Then I added in the clients that I need to work on, in the order of urgency.  You'll note that there's none of this breaking down tasks into small steps or detailing the job here.  This is a quick and dirty system and anyway  I know what needs doing!

When  something else comes up I can add it to my list by inserting an extra line and giving the job the priority it deserves.

And if a job becomes more urgent I can move it up the queue.

And once a job's done, it just gets deleted and its row is removed. Then it's on to the next thing at the top of the list.

So that's it.  No fancy deadline dates, degrees of priority, breaking things down into inordinate steps etc., etc.  You'll know the score if you've ever used any other system! 

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Gambling with Time

This is the exact model and colour of the Dualit toaster that I won in an online competition back in June along with a matching kettle and £22 worth of vouchers for Burgen bread. A funny number I thought but it must have had something to do with the budget for the prize.   If you read my original post you might remember that I angsted over whether I should keep my booty, seeing that I owned both a toaster or kettle anyway, or whether I should sell it on.

In the spirit of generating good karma I gave away my old kettle and toaster and some of the vouchers and kept the new appliances.  I'm delighted that I did.   The kettle?  Well, its a lovely looking thing but in all honesty I wouldn't buy it especially.   The one stainless steel Sainsbury's one that I had before did the job just as well and cost less than a third of the Dualit's recommended price.  But the toaster is a different kettle of fish altogether.  The knobs turn making a satisfying clicking sound as they do so; the lever to lift the bread is smoothness itself and the toast is produced pronto and is to die for.  I'm converted to this British produced product which could last me a lifetime as all its parts are replaceable.  If anyone out there is in the market for a new toaster I'd urge you to stump up the extra cost.

Since this win though six weeks ago there's been zilch even though I religiously enter competitions on a daily basis with an investment of between thirty to sixty minutes a day.  It's begging a question. Could I be using spending time more productively and using it to generate income that would buy the things I'm trying to win?This has to be an experiment over a given period, say a year, to see if the payout in terms of pleasure and financial reward is worth all those hours spent.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Will Anyone Join Me?

Tradition has it that as autumn approaches I leaf through those adult education guides that can also be found in a library near you.  Not that I was going to commit myself to a long regular class.  I stopped that malarkey a while back so that my time out of work could be more spontaneous.  I am in the market for day long courses though.  What I have noticed is that these are blooming expensive these days if you're paying the full fee.

I wrote last year about a couple of websites offering free courses from rather distinguished universities around the world.   Udacity is still rather science and technology based but Whoaw! the scope of Coursera has widened considerably.  Go and have a look!  I've signed up for two of their classes, a dementia care course provided by John Hopkins University and Pennsylvannia State University's Creativity, Innovation and Change.

The latter starts on 1 September and runs for 6 weeks.  It takes 6-8 hours of time weekly, more than an evening class I'll grant you but studying is much more flexible.  My first piece of homework has been set.  I've been asked to recruit a cohort of individuals to study alongside me and I've been ask to be creative in doing so.  Doesn't getting a random set of bloggers together and seeing how innovative they can be  seem like a good idea.  Is anyone up for it?  If you are sign up and let me know!

PS: Follow this link to hear an excellent Radio 4 programme about Coursera to find out a bit more about the philosophy behind the organisation.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Did Your Nana Have One of These?

As someone with a love of 1950s retro, I've hankered after one of these larder cabinets for years and now this one, with its rare built-in retro clock and lovely speckled glass is mine, all mine!  Not that it's got pride of place in the dining room at the moment as it's in a rather sad state as its Ebay photo attests.  It needs a paint job; I'm thinking high gloss cream and aubergine to match that big open plan kitchen diner at Great Tit's House where it will eventually reside.  There's also a matter of new handles; 95mm D-shaped chrome ones would grace it beautifully.  There's shelves to cover in a ditsy print and intricate hinges to polish. Those are pretty easy jobs but there's also work that's going to extend my restoration skills like a bit of tricky filling and a panel or two to replace where plywood has come apart.  Eeek!

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?  My first thought when it arrived was that I may have done.  But I am crafty,  I have a shedload of tools  and there's always Ehow and YouTube to guide me through the nifty techniques that I haven't tried yet.  Yes, I am ready for this challenge but it will stretch my DIY skills to the max!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Whiter than White!

'Oh, she's forgotten an image today for her post,' some of you might be thinking.  Nope, there is one that's called white.jpg.if anyone wants to pop over to the left of this text and investigate. It'll have to serve as the illustration for today's rather seasonal handy hint from Mama Lovelygrey as I forgot to take before and after shots to demonstrate its effectiveness.

Suppose you're a bit of a klutz like me and stains attracts themself to your clothing as if you were a great big dirt magnet.  Don't reach for those harsh chemical cleaners, just wash the garment in the normal way and then stick it out in the sun.

I've done this with a white T-shirt with a stubborn red wine stain.  Five days later and there's no trace of it. A previously unwearable piece of clothing is now as good as new.  The secret of this nifty trick is that the high energy photons in the u-v band break down the molecules that are the building blocks of colour.  Try it and see.   It's the perfect excuse to crack open a bottle of Cabernet.  Just be careful that you don't use too much for experimental purposes when  splashing it down yourself!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Bob and the Whoopee Cushion

That's Bob Geldof that is!  He was captured on camera last night at Chagstock by Louis who insisted on hanging around  for the main act. Sadly Lou was sound asleep. curled up rather uncomfortably for us both on my lap, by the time the Rats performed 'I Don't Like Mondays', the very reason that he'd wanted to stay up!

Lou yearns to mix with the stars so he thought he could lure Bob into inviting him back stage with an offer of trying out of his newly acquired whoopee cushion.  Sadly security, in their wisdom, decided that superstars are not going to be that impressed by the presence of a small boy with a  fake fart kit.  They asked Lou if he'd go away if they gave him a fistful of glo-sticks. It did the trick!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Swimming Pool in the Sky

Morning all!  I’ve woken up in a field after a stonkingly  good evening’s entertainment at the first night of Chagstock and a peaceful night’s sleep in the motorhome.  These days it really is my preferred place to stay on a holiday – a comfy home from home with everything that we need within arm’s reach.  Much nicer than any hotel especially with children in tow.  There’s even a dedicated toy box in one of the underseat storage areas!

But if I chose to stay in a hotel it might be this one in India with a swimming pool butted onto every room.  ‘How un-eco friendly!’ was my first angelic green thought.  And then the devilish side of my brain kicked in.  ‘Bloody marvellous!  I’d love to stay there!’

Friday, 19 July 2013

Pissaladiere: Nice Stuff From Nice

Festivalling has taken a bit of a back seat this year due to Louis' imminent 11 plus.  He's being tutored and having mock exams pretty much every Saturday so we haven't been able to get away.  At this point,  I just can't resist being a boasty mum.  He got 87% in a maths paper last week!.  Just a couple more percent on his English papers where his dyslexia causes the most difficulty and we're well on the way to getting him an education where his learning differences are taken account of.

Chagstock, our favourite festival takes precedence over all that studying though.  There's just a few bits and pieces to put in the van and we're off this afternoon with Red Mel and Janet.  We don't want to spend shedloads at catering outlets so I was up cooking late yesterday evening.   And yes, I've used up some of the stuff in that overflowing cupboard.  I have to say that it's looking way better already.

This is our tea for tonight when we pitch up on site.  It's a delicacy that I first had from a little stall on the French Riviera and it's lush, the Provencial equivalent of a pizza sans tomato puree and cheese.  The recipe is in a wonderful cookbook Mediterranean Cooking by Carole Handslip, one of those marvellous Sainsbury's cookbooks from the 1990s that I rattled on about before.  Here's my version of it.


300g bread flour
1tsp yeast
1tbsp sugar
6 floz water
A glug of olive oil
Salt and pepper


1kg onions sliced
2 crushed garlic cloves
Another glug of olive oil
A tin of green olives (found at the back of the store cupboard) - black used in the original recipe
A jar of anchovies   (ditto!)
Sea salt and pepper
Chopped rosemary

Mix together the ingredients for the dough.  The instructions of my tin of yeast told me to mix it with water first and make a frothy liquid but I didn't bother with that.  Knead for five minutes like a crazed Paul Hollywood and then shove the dough into a bowl and stick it in the airing cupboard for an hour.

Meanwhile slowly sweat all those onions in a covered pan with the garlic on a low heat for about three quarter of an onion.  You'll be left with a brown mush.

Roll out the dough onto a swiss roll tin.  Top with the onion, olives and anchovies and rosemary.  Bake in the oven for ten minutes at Gas 7 220 degrees C and then reduced the heat to Gas 5 190 degree C for the final fifteen minutes of cooking.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Getting Time to Grow

Today's post  is about cultivating a little bit more of  one of the most precious commodities that we have. Yes, I know that we only have a finite 86,400 seconds  per day and  not one more or less can be added into the sum.  But, if I say so myself, I'm pretty good at packing a  lot into each and every day even though I'm a full-time working single mum.  How I make time for the stuff that has meaning  is by ruthlessly cutting back on the stuff that I view as superfluous.  That list may vary from individual to individual but here's my list of those time wasting activities that I try and keep in check.

  • Preening: Marian Bartoli is my new heroine. There are greater goals than physical beauty although seemingly John Inverdale thinks its more appropriate for a tennis player to focus on her looks rather than winning enough matches to secure a Wimbledon victory. I'm clean,neat and tidy but don't obsess over my appearance.
  • Cleaning:  There's a balance to be had between squalid and pristine which I think I've achieved. Perhaps others should err on the side of slovenly if you don't, like me, have  a small house.  
  • Travelling: I'm not advocating a reduction in those enriching journeys of discover but rather cutting back on the more soul destroying type. Cutting tedious commutes and trips to places where a similar experience can be had much closer to home are both on my radar.  I shop online as much as possible to save fuel and time .  Car journey have more than one purpose if at all possible.
  • Cooking:  I love it but don't want to spend hours every day in the kitchen. Chilled and frozen leftovers feature heavily in my regime so I'm not a slave to the hot stove.
  • Screen Time:   Cut down on TV, phone and laptop use.  Voila! Time for more meaningful stuff.  If I had my way the telly might possibly be hoiked out of the house altogether.  Alas,  goggle-eyed Louis won't allow it.
  • Sleeping:   For some strange reason my need for massive amounts of shut-eye time has diminished and I now have an extra couple of hours a day to do exactly what I want.  Yay!  I didn't make any special effort to do this.  It just happened.   Here's an article that makes a few suggestions for reducing sleep hours if you think that you spend too much time in the Land of Nod. 
  • Meetings:  Yuk!  Avoid! Avoid!  Okay they can't always be shirked but see if you can get other attendees to agree to an agenda and a timescale. Make sure that something concrete comes out of those roundtable discussions as well.
  • Queuing:  Inevitable sometimes but picking ones time and online booking can help.
  • Waiting:  Similar to the point above and sometimes inescapable.  I carry something with me to do to cut down on empty time.
  • Shopping as an activity in its own right:  Aimlessly wandering around shops and acquiring possessions does not make for a fulfilling life.  Go purposefully and get it over with!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Maybe a Lender or Borrower Be? microloans from CARE International - Banner Ad
The online Guardian newspaper is a wealth of information.  Thank's to one of its recent articles about keeping cool during these sultry times my home is a little more bearable since I've started to emanate the Mediterranean folk and leave my windows and curtains closed in the daytime.  I read with interest an article highlighting just how commonplace porn is on the British High Street.  And then of course there's my daily quick crossword. Were you aware of the delightful pallindrome 'Mr. Owl ate my metal worm'?

Yesterday I clicked through to a sponsored feature about these guys,  This organisation vets the ideas of entrepreneurs in the Third World and then seeks financial backers for those ideas that meet funding criteria.  A minimum of £15 is needed to invest in a tiny business that has the potential of helping someone break free from a cycle of poverty.  What's more, unlike a charitable donation, you should get your money back!  The website suggests that you then might like to invest it again to get another scheme off the ground.

So, I've got myself a loan - as a lender of course.  I was moved by the fact that Hannefan Bibi in Pakistan needed just £112.24 to increase her shop's stock to a level where  income from it would increase by nearly 50%.   I'm looking forward to my updates to see if her plan succeeds!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Reporting Back for Re-Inspection Sir!

This is my store cupboard for dry goods and cans. It is, I'll admit, an absolute disgrace.  There's rather too many  opened packets where I've used the ingredient once in a recipe and then the remainder has languished ready for the weevils to take residence. Someone in the depths of this muddle there's also rather a lot of jars of impulsed purchased anchovies (don't ask!).

Seeing that I'd like a bit of cash for, not one but, two holidays in August and September, using some of this stuff up in the meantime and saving on grocery bills might be a jolly good call.   I'll give you a progress report with photographic evidence in a months time!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Beanotown: Just Bring a Box For Gnasher

Now Louis is a massive fan of a good old-fashioned comic.  So, it was with great excitement that he heard that until 8 September Beanotown has pitched up at the Southbank Centre on the bank of the Thames. Normally an event themed around a popular character costs a tidy sum.  Thomas the Tank Engine's appearances at railway stations up and down the country spring to mind.  Consequently I deprived my toddler and he never met his former steamy hero in the flesh.  But Beanotown is free and  I can run to that.
Among the exhibits there's precious artwork from the comics of yesterday. a tin can shooting gallery and of course a shop and cafe.   And yes, the reading room.   Louis would have quite happily have curled up on a beanbag in the reading room poring over the  back issues of the Beano annual that have up to now evaded own rather magnificent collection.  Being honest,  I have to say that, unless you're a ten year old boy with a penchant for Dennis the Menace and Korky the Cat, a tour isn't going to entertain many people for  a whole day.   But the event is part of a bigger Festival of Neighbourhood so there's plenty to see and do in the surrounding area.

The best bit though was that we both took part in a model making workshop with an animator from Aardman.     Luckily there was a few spaces left for the grown ups to take part too.  Yes, a totally free class from a man who's made a few Gromits in his time. That's him, the beardy fellow in the background, a plasticine wielding maestro extra-ordinaire, teaching us how to make our very own Gnasher in easy step by step instructions.

For those that are interested there's a number of differently themed workshops on each weekend that the exhibitioin runs.  I've added the timetable here.   I see that Gnasher modelling will be repeated on the 24/25th August.

Do you want to see my Gnasher?  Now there's an offer that no-one could refuse.  Well here he is, incomplete because there wasn't time to cover him with spikes.  Sadly he didn't survive the train journey home and became siamese-twinned with Louis' model in spongebag.  No matter, I now have the know how to resurrect him from the Newclay modelling material that's made just down the road from here.  It's the stuff that Aardman use.  What's good enough for Shaun the Sheep is good enough for me!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A Car Uncleaned is Better Than A Life Unlived

The title is a bastardisation of a Rebecca West quote about housework that I heard on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour this week.  The unloved Ford Fiesta Econetique is a pit at the moment, a store house of junk,  litter and more than one sticky patch due to spillages of homemade smoothie, sweet and sour sauce and blackcurrant juice.   Maybe a bit of intensive valeting is what really should be going on at Lovelygrey Villas.

But ha! the car is at Newton Abbot station.  If there's any opportunist robbers out there reading this, be my guest!  I'll feedback tomorrow about what Louis and I have been up to but in the meantime here's some more thought provoking quotes about cleaning - or rather not doing it.  I'm sure that they are apply to cars as well as the home.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do I  Anne Gibbons

There is no daily chore so trivial that it cannot be made more important by skipping it two days running.  Robert Brault

Housework is what a woman does that nobody notices unless she hasn't done it. Evan Esar

If your house is really a mess and a stranger comes to the door, greet him with, "Who could have done this? We have no enemies. Phyllis Diller

Housekeeping is like being caught in a revolving door. Marcelene Cox

There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house.  Joe Ryan

And finally, this has to be my favourite one.

Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.  Author Unknown


Saturday, 13 July 2013

If I Plant It,Will it Grow?

Let me share one of my particularly dark secrets today. Unlike it seems, most of the rest of the bloggers in the universe who show off their home grown wares with aplomb, I'm a crap gardener.  Plants don't flourish for me and, I admit,  there's a very easy rationale for that.   As my GCE O-level biology  taught me they need food, water and air to thrive and  dipstick that I am, I forget to give them what they require to thrive.  They don't call me veg murderer for nothing!

But I've had a breakthrough.  As we were leaving the excellent Riverford Field Kitchen after lunch the other day, Papa Lovelygrey spied a suffering tray of herbs which looked like they'd be looked after by a fellow horticultural numpty.  'If you think you can rescue them, take them' said an employee.  And we did.

Guess what?  I haven't killed them off.   An extra special trip to Trago Mills to buy potting compost followed and I've been remembering the H20 to boot. A fortnight has gone by and I've got the beginnings of a pot of mint, all ready add some zing to my cookery.  I'm dead chuffed.

It seems the fridge god has heard of my new green fingered bent for he's also provided  me with something to plant after a particularly long bruschetta free period.  Tere's three quarters of a bag of soil left over  so I'll rise to his challenge.  Do you think that I might be eating home grown garlic in the months ahead?

Friday, 12 July 2013

How's That Diet Going?

Here's me looking lardy whilst modelling my much admired Skipping Girl bag bargain.  Red Mel said that if you have your picture taken side on it makes you look a lot thinner.  God knows how elephantine I'd have looked if I'd faced the camera head on!

Ignore the fat girl in the foreground  for the moment and admire the historic quarter of  Shad Thames in the heart of the capital.  In my youth,  much of the area east of Tower Hill was an eyesore and probably contributed to my idea that London wasn't somewhere that I wanted to spend much time in, especially anywhere South of the river.

All that changed with a visit to the Big Smoke in 2009 to see my beloved Leonard Cohen at the O2.  A rumour propagated by my son is that I can be heard whooping and hollering on the live album of the concert.  As I was near the front of the arena this isn't such a preposterous idea.   Now I'm on good terms with our capital visit again and will be planning a few more visits in the near future.

So why hasn't the weight loss gone to plan?. Darlings,  it's so,so simple:

1.  I love food - a lot!
2. I like a drinkie or two

AND I've been gadding about socialising performing steps 1 and 2 above far more than I should if I am to lose weight.  I'll also let you into a secret.  Sssssh;  Sometimes I'll do them simultaneously!

But here's the thing.  I've been having such a good time the lack of weight loss hasn't been such a big deal. In spite of the extra poundage I'm being told by lots of people that I'm looking really well.  Am I now 'bien dans ma peau' as the french would say?  Well not quite.  But for the moment abstinence can darned well wait!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Dr Betty's Cat

Oi! Salty Dog you might like this post  Once. when I was staying in your house near Mutley Plain after we'd partaken in a bevvy or two (or maybe it might have been a few more than three!), I woke early and took some pictures from the window of your bedroom which you, as a top mate, had kindly given up for me.  I loved the way that the lines of the roof tops on the houses going up the hill overlapped and how these were bisected by the telegraph wires.  Have a look next time you're home.

Now I'm back talking to my entire audience.  Hi guys!  The link that I highlighted above leads back to a progress note of the start of an printing project that, judging by the date of the post, I started months ago.  How time flies!  Eventually I got some proper hessian backed lino and made rather reasonable progress with cutting a cat picture for the lovely clinical psychologist, Dr Betty.

Then I came to a halt and Betty, you'll be pleased to know that I've analysed my own thinking around why this was so.  It was lack of self-confidence in working in a new medium alone.  My only other experience of printing from a linocut was in a studio with lots of specialist equipment and a tutor.  There was a terror of failure around working with just a load of cobbled together  materials that  I'm sure other crafters must know.  It can only be overcome by either returning to a  supportive classroom setting or grasping the mettle and getting on with the job yourself.

As I want to be able to indulge in this hobby in the comfort of my own home rather than driving to Exeter everytime I want to have a go,  I put together a bit of kit.  There's some proper stuff like a rubber roller and  water based printing inks in black, white and the primary colours from Handprinted, a helpful Ebay shop.  Nice knobbly textured artist paper is being sourced, for the timebeing, from Trago Mills until my confidence increases to a point where artisan handmade stuff might be an option.  The rest of the supplies show inventiveness of which Heath Robinson would be proud.

Do you know those chocolates that are like Ferrero Rocher but are white with coconut?  Well, the clear plastic box from some of those is where I roll out my ink.  Instead of using a beautiful century old printing press I've experimented and found that a rolling pin rather well if I roll over the paper in different directions once its on top of the cut lino.   That worked better for me than the wooden spoon suggested by some! Learning Linocut, a book by Susan Yeates has been very useful in lieu of a home tutor to help me get through the glitches like uneven ink distribution.  So now I've achieved the  first home spun lino print that I'm sufficiently  proud of.  Let's hope that Dr Betty likes it!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Plenty of Swims To Be Getting On With

Here's an utterly brilliant resource to be using now that the hot weather is with us. Feeling a bit sweaty after work and wanting to cool off?   Well head on over to Wild Swim, the website of the Outdoor Swimming Society and they'll show you a map giving hundreds, nay thousands,  of places that you can have a  lovely refresing dip  at beaches, rivers, lakes and outdoor pools right across the UK.  I'm hoping that there'll be a great choice in the vicinity of each and every one of my lovely blog readers so plenty of ideas for cheap days out.

Lou and I headed to Spitchwick on Dartmoor on Monday for a quiet evening swim that turned out to be a little more lively than expected.  Many others had the same idea of heading off to this popular River Dart swimming and tomb stoning spot on what was a scorcher of a day.  The peace was wrecked  a little bit  more by the appearance of the Air Ambulance as someone had fallen off a rope swing over the water.  Due warning that many of these places are patrolled by a gang of bronzed and buffed lifeguards so you need to watch out for yourselves and make sure that you not out of your depth - literally and metaphorically.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

In a Flap Flapjacks

It was our school's Summer Fayre on Saturday, a bigger event than most as it doubles as the village show.  In past years I've volunteered my time copiously, helping to prepare the site and pack up plus manning a stall in the interim.  This year though I decided to have a breather and attend the fayre as a visitor with Louis, Nana Lovelygrey and Janet.  Jolly lovely it was too with the weather on our side for a change!

I didn't get out of toiling altogether.  There was the risk assessment to update to reflect the different activities and displays at the fayre.   The Morris Men are, by all accounts that I read whilst doing their research, a rather safe bunch. Tug of war, though is a different kettle of fish.  It's an accident waiting to happen with the potential for slips, trips and rope burns.

The other thing that I did was to contribute an offering for the cake stall.  Had I have not done so Louis would have had to don his school uniform whilst everyone else was in mufti as a reward for their mums' baking efforts.  And that would not do.  Yikes!  Late on Thursday evening I remembered that I was right out of eggs  even though I'd popped into Asda earlier. What's more, on Friday morning I discovered that my sugar supply was depleted.  Yes, a cup of tea with two sugars would have been possible but the amount was insufficient for any cake recipe I'd ever seen.

What to do?  I comtemplated cheesy scones  but in the end settled on the easiest flapjacks ever.  Just follow this recipe here  to rustle up something that can easily been made on a schoolday morning if you too are a crap mother.  Just shove them in the fridge to set after they've cooked.  What made mine extra specially yummy was, that instead of using second rate ingredients that I'll confess I nearly always do when baking for a fete, I used expensive stuff because that's all I had.  Wonderful organic jumbo oats, Tate & Lyle Golden syrup and seasalt and butter that both haled from Cornwall.    I was particularly miffed about the butter as I'd bought it as a special treat so had no qualms in keeping a few of my creations back for elevenses.  They were delicious and I think I might have deserved them!  

Monday, 8 July 2013

Office In A Bag

This working from home lark once or twice a week is going swimmingly.  On the days when Lovelygrey Cottage becomes my NHS base I save at least fifty minutes of travel time and, by my reckoning, about four quid in fuel.  That's not too be sniffed at in these days where frugality has become a necessity rather than a mere lifestyle choice.  And my employer gets a good deal too.  I'm more productive away from the distractions of the office environment and can really focus on what I'm doing. Furthermore I expect this to give me more time for patient contacts on the days I'm not at home.

There's rather a lot of scope  for this type of arrangement to go totally tits up, as they say in polite parlance.  It wouldn't take much of a  lapse in discipline for things that need doing around the house to get in the way of what I'm actually being paid to do.  Conversely it would be ever so easy for work to seep into my own personal time.  And we certainly don't want that either.  After all this measure is meant to improve my work-life balance and not totally balls it up.  That's why the tools of my trade are firmly tucked back in the big black bag when I'm done and dusted for the day.

I'll 'fess up now and say that during the days I'm working from home I'm not necessarily sitting at my computer from 9 to 5 as I would be at work on a  paperwork day.  I like to start earlier and get my seven and a half hours out of the way.  Horror of horrors, there's  even scope to carry on into the evening as I did last Wednesday when it was Louis' sport day.  I didn't like that arrangement much at all but needs must and it was great to have that flexibility.  Either way I make sure that I'm in email and phone contact between standard office hours and am ready to head back to the office or to visit a patient if that's needed.

What's in the bag?.  Well,  not much aside a laptop with all the templates for assessments and suchlike stored there. Patient data is  kept elsewhere and accessed securely by following a number of steps.  Of course, I'd have to shoot you if you found out what these were.  Other than that there's not much else, minimal paperwork, copies of assessments in case I'm called out on a job and a dictaphone.  Gone are the days when we lugged around copious amounts of paper based notes with all the confidentiality issues entailed.   Could this way of working be the singular way forward for community based NHS staff?  I hope not as contact with colleagues on a regular basis is so valuable in terms of learning and support.  The flexibility of a mix of home and office based working really does seem like the best of both worlds.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A Little Corner of Cornwall

I'm always a bit reluctant to show pictures of my kitchen in case some obsessive compulsive cleaner blows up the image to the size of St Paul's Cathedral and then pinpoints any grubbiness!  But ho hum, when you live between black and white, hygiene sometimes goes slightly amiss so I have to cope with the fact that someone out there will no doubt think that I am a dirty mare.

Behold my latest Bernard Moss acquisition that's living with modern day Cornish compatriots from TG Green.  Its been put to good use as a place to store my Options hot chocolate.  No wonder the fish on the jar are happy blighters.

And there's more Mr Moss pottery too boot.  If you follow this link back you'll see what I've written about this talented potter before.  What was great was that his daughter contacted me after reading my posts.  Sadly her father died last year but she was really pleased that his work was still enjoyed.  I was touched.

Anyway, I have a fantasy that doesn't involve Gerard Butler and a vat of tangerine jelly.  Gerard, if you ever read this and would prefer a different flavour I'd be happy to accommodate......Now where was I?

Ah yes, the fantasy involves wandering around charity shops and stumbling on one of Bernard Moss's beautiful blue and white figurines for about 50p.   I came sort of close last week when I found this lovely souvenir dish with the distinctive Moss, Mevagissey mark on sale in Dame Hannah's  wonderfully eclectic shop for a tenner!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

A Message for the Brits

If you're reading this on the day I've posted, shame on you! We spend all  year grumbling about the weather and then when the sun does make a rare appearance we're moaning that it's too blooming hot.  Step away from your laptop or portable advice now and go out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Favourite Muppet

I'm still churning out those competition entries and truly hope that my second win will be around the corner very soon.  Will it be the Xbox 360 and Kinect offered by Tots100 in their competition that closes today?  If you hurry and name your favourite muppet you too could enter and play daft but invigorating games in front of the TV set if you win.

Now muppet favouritism is tricky because all the characters are so lush.  In the end I whittled my choice down to two that I just couldn't chose between.  With my penchant for rough men Animal had to be one of them. He's just so darned fanciable even if he is made out of foam!   And whilst  that reddish moustache puts me off  lusting after the Swedish chef he's the character that makes me laugh the most.  These instructions for donut making rate surely rate an all-time TV classic moment.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Days Out in Devon: Hannah's at Seale Hayne Again!

If you are in Devon this summer please go down to the weird and wonderful space that is  Hannah's at Seale Hayne for their free Summer of Art: Urban Takeover,  It's well worth the trip to see specially commissioned work and pieces of work by street artists, including Banksy, which are on loan from London's V&A .  Should you be feeling just a little bit flush then you could fork out  a fiver.  Then you, like Louis, could be the proud owner of a piece of Lucy Sparrow's  art.

But then again  if soft play weaponry is not your thing how about some cuddly Prozac to take away the blues.  It might even work better than the pharmaceutical version.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ms Fat Arse Strikes Again

One croissant too far on holiday methinks!  There I was lazing in my beloved Lafuma sunlounger and booomf!  I ended up falling through the frame as one of the supporting laces broke under my not inconsiderable weight.  What sacrilege! I nearly spilled my wine to boot.  That will never do.

The majority of people these days would throw the chair away.  A few of you out there would hunt high and low, finding something that would make do to restring the chair.  Cut up nylon stockings maybe?  Inventive yes, but this would not make for an aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture.  With Lafuma, however there is a middle way.  They sell spares for their chairs.  There's touch up paint, spare cushions and yes replacement lacing in three different hues.

To ring the changes and give my chair a bit of a makeover I chose black lacing to give it a blanket stitch effect.  Three cheers for any manufacturer, who in this throw away society make spares easily available so that their products will outlive their competitors.

Since winning the Burgen bread competition,  I've discovered that  replacement elements and timers for my Dualit toaster are  readily available too.  Decathlon, my favourite French sportswear brand often have a little pocket sewn into their clothes containing a piece of material for patching.  And when  Lou's JD Bug scooter was purchased, part of the decision to choose that brand was the availability of  replacement parts.   There are so many factors to take into account when making ethical buying choices.  Perhaps in terms of giving yourself Brownie points this could be one of them.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Connecting 1

It is with some excitement that I'll be heading off to the French town of Condom during this summer's main holiday, a drive between the ferry ports of Santander and Roscoff.  Yes, there is likely to be a post with a photo of me, taken by Louis, grinning inanely by the town sign.  He might even understand the joke as the dreaded primary school sex education lessons are in the offing this half term.   I'm bracing myself for some nubby questions.

Puerile curiosity isn't  the only reason why I'm heading there.   I'm catching up with an old friend who I've reconnected with through blogging.Have you ever searched for yourself on Google?  It's difficult for those of us with common and garden names but for those with more unusual ancestry and parents who were imaginative in their choice of first names,  its a breeze.  And so it was that Claudine Wakeman Reynolds  found herself and her childhood bunk bed on one of my previous blog posts.  She left my secondary school when she was about 13 or 14 and then we met briefly on a course as we ended up working for the same large accountancy firm.  I'm happy to say we've both jacked in that particular soul destroying trade.  I'm trawling the lanes of Devon looking for sick people to heal when I'm not out and about in an ancient motorhome.  She, however, has ended up  near to the South Western French town named after a rubber johnny with her family and a menagerie that includes llamas!

I'm using this story to illustrate 'Connection' one of the 'Five Ways of Wellbeing'. There was going to be just a singular post on this topic but its scope is so vast it could run and run. The booklet I'm referring to suggests that connecting with others can be viewed as cornerstones underpinning our lives and consequently it's worth investing time and energy in building them.  It seems sad that there are s many people in this hyper connected world who are lonely.  The World Wide Web affords us with so many opportunities to rectify this and get involved.  So get out and explore.  Find old acquaintances, catch up with those in your social networks and see if you can engineer some meaningful face to face rendez vus with those who haven't seen for a while!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Nigella's Nutella Cake (Sort of!)

As my family have been visiting this weekend I've steered away from the usual humble fayre and rustled up a belly busting feast.  A huge tray of slow cooked ribs and wings was accompanied by perfect mash and followed by a strawberry pavlova.  Then yesterday we had chicken with roasted vegetables followed by this beauty.  It's one of Nigella's recipes which I've put a link to here.

The thing is that I didn't follow the instructions exactly.  What the hell is Frangelico when it's at home?  It doesn't grace Asda's shelves.   I haven't got time to trudge up to some Italian monastery before I start cooking.  Even a trip to Waitrose in Torquay, where I understand it may be available, is a journey to far.  Let's use the alcohol to hand.  A nice glug of Calvados left over from my Breton holiday.

The bastardisation doesn't stop there.   Why chefs insist on unsalted butter, especially when they've added salt at a different stage of the recipe I'll never know.   An extra egg to make up for the fact that I only had medium ones rather than large. A smaller but deeper sized tin made for a fatter cake with a longer cooking time and meant that I only needed to use 100g of chocolate in the topping.   Ground hazelnuts were replaced by the ground almonds I already had.  And I didn't bother with taking the skin of the decorative hazelnuts on top.  Mine retained their little papery jackets whilst Nigella's nuts are nude!   I've just realised that with all those alterations, I've steered away sufficiently from the recipe for this to be credited as a creation all of my own.  A slice of Lovelygrey's Nutella Cake anyone?