Friday, 19 January 2018

Dog Sled: Bringing New Meaning to the Phrase!

I  realise that people in other parts of the UK might have been experiencing wintery snaps.  We hardly ever get any of the white stuff in Torbay.  Just one flake gets us a little excited and causes traffic chaos!  So it's a snowy themed post today just to remind me what snow looks like.  I hope you enjoy it.  Even if you've seen it before it's worth watching again as it's really rather joyful.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Trump Tales

My friend, The Second Martha Stewart, snapped this at WH Smith on one of the London stations.  Interesting times.  Even though I've reduced my news input these days in favour of directing my focus in a more edifying direction,  what's going on in the big wide world doesn't entirely pass me by.   

Louis seems fascinated by Donald Trump.  It started when he told that sweet 'old lady' on the bus that the then president incumbent wanted to sleep with his daughter.  It's refreshing to realise that a teenager recognises outragoeusly unacceptable behaviour when he sees it.  I must have done something right on my parenting journey.  Last weekend he went to Waterstones to spend the book token that the staff gave him on his recent work placement.  He'd been told to buy one academic book so he got a revision manual for his GCSE English.   He also spied this on the front display counter.

Some way has taken lots of quotes from Donald and rearrange them to create poetry.  I love the Dylan Thomas-esque cover too.  'I've got to have that!' said Louis.  The book's gone off in his school bag and apparently all his friends are having a bit of a laugh too.   Here's one of those 'beautiful poems' that gave me a giggle.  It is quite astonishing that the most powerful man in the world saw fit to let these utterances out of his mouth.  But he did.  Each line in the book is referrenced.
Will Smith did a great job by smacking the guy “reporter” who kissed him 
Together we're going to fix our rigged system

Sarah Jessica Parker voted “unsexiest woman alive” – I agree
We must keep “evil” out of our country
A person who is very flat chested is very hard to be a ten
We're going to make America great again

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Good Old Ebay

Back in 2012 I bought my first Skipping Girl bag from Oxfam, an Australian brand hand woven out of repurposed fishing twine.  And here it is.  I've had a couple more since.  They're really robust apart from the clear plastic that usually covers the twine handles.  Once it splits all sorts of debris gets in and makes for a shabby carry all.  Thank goodness for Ebay.  Here's my replacement that arrived last week.  Just over a tenner and it will keep going for a good year or so.

I'm a bit naughty about buying clothes.  One of the reasons is that I get bored with wearing the same thing.  It's a win-win situation for the charity shops as I donate and I'm a customer as well.

There's two dresses though that I bought from George in Asda about four years ago that I love and have worn and worn.  But they're both on the way out.  However with a complicated search on Ebay I've got  replacements.  Here's the first photographed with my original dress.  I didn't realise quite how much it had faded until the new one arrived.

And here's what the new one looks like on me.  It the type of style that I like with a homage to retro.  It's ever so stretchy and I got away with buying a size 12 for the first time in many years.  The cardigan is a newbie too from a Newton Abbot charity shop on Friday.

The second hasn't arrived yet so you'll have to make do with the picture from the Ebay seller.  My original was a £7 sale bargain which has tided me through many smart and casual occasions. It's been a corker.  I love the pattern on the fabric and the neckline.    Not sure if the material degraded on its own or if it was helped by moths but it's recently developed loads of tiny holes.  It'll be lovely to have a pristine version to compare it too

What I'm now wondering is whether I'll finally be fed up of this stuff when it gets worn out again or whether I'll be back again on good old Ebay hunting out identical items yet again!

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Before Mickey

I came across a beautiful little video the other day.  Pretty please I'd like lots of you to follow this link and watch it as I'm unable to embed it in my own blog post.  You won't be disappointed, I promise.  It tells the story of the German animator Lotte Reiniger whose earliest cartoons pre-date those of Disney and it's called 'The Animation Genius You've (Probably) Never Heard Of'. 

No I hadn't.  But as someone who is a bit of a fan of the art of papercutting I'm glad I came across this wonderful homage that is recreated in Reiniger's own style.  It's tempted me to go in search of the original works.  Here's one exquisite example that came out six years before 'That Mouse' made an appearance on the silver screen.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Brixham Crab and a Record Seal Count

Week two of  a restful Sabbath on a Sunday.   After a little lie in I decided to go for a little morning stroll on my ownsome down the Breakwater.  I paused to take  photos.   Such a different day from a week ago.   It was a calm grey morning and the neutrality of the light seemed to pick out the colours of the fishing boats more than usual.

I saw the most seals I've ever spotted.  Here's five of them on the pontoon and there was another two that kept popping up in the water.

At the end of the Breakwater I took an unpromising picture of the jetty that's out of bounds to regular folk.  Quite by chance  in the afternoon I used a special effect on my phone and it was transformed.  I'm rather pleased with my arty accident.

Back to the house for some printmaking whilst Louis shot things on his Xbox.  I finished piercing a polystyrene pizza plate with a skewer a zillion time and got out the ink to see how Crab Mk II would turn out.  I'm much happier with this week's effort.    The nature of the material used makes it look as if this guy is in a sandy rockpool.  

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pleasant Pheasant

As an omnivore I happen to believe that game is one of the best choices that I can make when it comes to eating meat.  It's reared in the environment organically and even has a bit of a chance of popping its clogs at the end of a long happy life without  the need for human intervention to dispatch it into the afterlife.  So when Jayne, one of our support workers, asked if I'd like some pheasant the other day I jumped at the chance. Her husband is the well loved postie in a rural area and he'd been given a shedload by one of his 'customers'.

Now originally I thought it would arrive complete with feathers, beak and all.  No bad thing I thought.  It would be good for me and Louis to have a sense of where our food came from and pluck the birds.  But in the end I was presented with three prepared breasts in a ziplock bag.  I decided to slow cook it.  'A few chestnuts are nice with it.' suggested Jayne.

And so yesterday Lou and I went on a chestnut hunt.  None in Asda or Morrison's.  Eventually we found some in a very beautiful greengrocers in Totnes at a very beautiful price.  £5.40 for less than a pound in weight.  Bollocks to that!   A 50p can of cannellini beans made a good substitute.  When we arrived home  here's the gist of how quick it was to put together a rather wonderful hearty meal.

In the time it took for us to boil a kettle for a cup of tea and the chicken stock for the casserole I chopped up the pheasant,  six rashers of streaky bacon,  an onion,  a couple of carrots and about four potatoes and popped it all in the pot.  I added the beans and a can of chopped tomatoes, three cloves of  crushed garlic and a good sprinkling of sage.  I topped it up with stock, seasoned it well and popped the cooker on high for an afternoon of cooking.  Done!

About a couple of hours before teatime I made dumplings out of 200g self raising flour, 100g of suet and a good shaking of salt.    I used just enough water to bind the ingredients together by hand and popped dinky little balls of the mixture on top of the bubbling mixture.  The job took all of an extra three minutes.

Twenty minutes before the end of cooking time (about six hours) I removed the stock and boiled it in a saucepan to reduce it.    I added a few peas to the casserole for a contrast in taste but mostly because pretty much any savoury dish looks prettier for a bit of greenery.

No fancy cosmetically enhanced food photos.  Just a picture of a boy enjoying his tucker.  I hope this proves that my quickly prepared winter warmer was entirely successful!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Shiniest of Upcycling

A friend tagged me on Facebook the other day.  She'd attached a video showcasing the work of artist Matt Wilson who recycles cutlery and other bits of metal to make sculptures.  She thought that it would be right up my street.  You can follow the link to watch it here but I've decided to share some still photos so you'll be able to focus more closely on the exquisite ingenuity that goes into the design of each piece.  If I've whetted your appetite go and have a look at the Airtight Artwork for more beautiful work.

Oh my goodness gracious!  I am so pleased that these came under my radar.  It's great how you can identify what bits and pieces went into the making of each sculpture.  I'm particularly taken by this pregnant android.  It seems like she has a measuring spoon or ladle as her tummy.  I'm not sure of the scale.

Here's another of those gorgeous little birds.   I like how the stamped markings on the cutlery has added a certain jauntiness to his plumage.

And I think that this has to be my favourite piece of upcycling ever.  A man who finds a use of redundant shower hoses has to be a genius!

Friday, 12 January 2018


Bookwormery has been a lifelong habit for all but the first two and a half years of my life.  I was still toddling when I first learnt to read and started sharing my stories with the next door neighbour's dog. Precocious, moi?

I remember when my mum took me on my first visit to my infant school.  It was a lovely place , a source of great memories with toys that would set a health and safety inspector's pulse racing in modern times.  Like the sets of wooden blocks  backed with real nails that you hammered into a cork tile or the hand of another kiddie when they were being particularly annoying.   There were also climbing frames constructed over concrete.   It's a wonder that we didn't all come away with head injuries.

'We teach ITA here.' Mrs Cook, the headmistress told my mum.  It was a phonetically based teaching tool with no upper case and weird and wonderful letters that augmented the usual alphabet.  While it was popular for a while in the '60s and '70s it lost favour as loads of people who learnt it struggled to spell properly when they made the switch back to standard English.   Mum told Miss Cook that I could already read.  'Of course she can't dear.' was the answer.  In those days head teachers were held in high regards and had sufficient authority to get away with being patronising.

In order that I could identify where I was supposed to hang my pink coat the peg  had a picture of an umbrella above it.  Of course it was assumed that if the word 'Julie' had been there instead it would have make no sense to me.  I vividly recall the first time that I was called up to the front of the class for my first 1:1 reading session with my teacher.  This book 'paul' , written in the Initial Teaching Alphabet,  was put in front of me.  In spite of some unfamiliar curly characters  I read it from end to end on the first attempt much to the lovely Miss Nightingale's astonishment.  Someone then had a rethink and decided that I could revert to using the proper alphabet.

And so it was that  I was allowed to do my own thing for the first two years of schooling whilst the others in my class caught up.  I became chief errand runner and immersed myself in a sea of Fuzzy Felt and old fashioned standard English books from the library meant for the older kids.   I'm in two minds as to whether leaving a four year old to educate themselves is a good idea.  It made conforming to formal teaching difficult and to this day I find sitting still in a classroom a bit of an ordeal.  But then again maybe a bit of self sufficiency served me well.  I've only just got to appreciate that in later life.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Wednesday: Woohoo!

Hump day is a phrase that I've heard  before, used to describe Wednesday as it's slap bang in the centre of a typical working week.   By its afternoon you're over a metaphorical hill and on the descent towards the next weekend.    As of yesterday it became a special day for me.  I put in extra hours on other weekdays and as a reward get a midweek break from my existing NHS job.  So  my usual working pattern means that I'm never in the office for more than two days in a row.  Even though most people seem to use four day working to take a longer  weekend I personally think that having Wednesday off rocks. Tuesday night suddenly became really rather exciting.

No lie in though.  There's a  still a teenager to get to school .  After dropping Louis off for the  bus I headed back home via Aldi for cheese and tinned tomatoes and ended up semi-impulse purchasing a new roasting tin.    My old one's been a sorry state for a while and I had it in the back of my mind to replace it.  After a quick coffee with  Mr Metrosexual who was still in his pyjamas when I called at his house  I  did some work on my other much more sensible dementia themed blog.   Mr Metrosexual then reappeared at lunchtime.  I can see he might be a distraction.  He gets a bit lonely in retirement and seemed delighted that I'm around to entertain him midweek when nearly everyone else is working.    We went for a stroll along the breakwater and celebrated my new found freedom....with chips!  Such a lovely day with the calmness of the sea in contrast with those crashing waves at the weekend.  Lots of cormorants spotted doing their usual disappearing act.

The planned afternoon return to beavering to kickstart my own business properly went a bit awry.  All those carbohydrates  and the fresh air could have been the reason that I became very sleepy.  Fifteen minutes of meditation practice somehow turned into a full blown siesta!   But all was not lost.   I have compiled a rather lovely 'To Do' list  to steer my venture in the right direction.  Do not beat myself up and  ease in gently are my mantras.  After all when I start to draw in those customers shortly as planned there might little opportunity for  impromptu slacking!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Vegan Landscape?

This photo, downloaded from that very handy Pixabay website where I get my free pictures when I can't be arsed to take my own, depicts the type of Devon countryside that I  drive around  during my typical working week.  Someone's got to do it!  All this beauty is  a bit of an antidote to counter the trauma that I come across as part and parcel of working in a mental health team. 

As I was bimbling around in my little blue number the other day a question popped into my head.  'With the sharp rise in meat free eating patterns how would this landscape be transformed if everyone were vegan?   After all it's been crafted by the farm animals that have populated it over the centuries; pigs, chickens, cows and many sheep that hug those hillsides.   I went on the Internet to do a little bit of casual research  Go and have a look for yourself because I haven't got the time to write an essay.

It' makes quite interesting reading  There seem to be opposing camps who'd lock pretty big horns if they came into close contact.   To my brain that's relatively untutored from an ecological perspective they both seem to have some valid arguments.   But I wasn't really trying to weight them up.  My wondering was just from a pretty neutral aesthetic perspective.  Just what would it look like?

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Baxter and Suitcases

This is my  handsome doggy friend Baxter.  Mr Metrosexual's foot gets a look in too.  They were passing the house on Sunday just before we were about to begin our walk.  'I need a picture of Baxter for a blog post.'  I called out.  They obliged.  He's all muzzled up as the court system has deemed him dangerous due to his breeding.  In reality he's a big softie.  The only potential for harm is when he bounds up to greet you excitedly and nearly knocks you over in the process.   Okay cats might risk life and limb if they approach too close.  He hates them.

In between Christmas and New Year I popped round to see Mr Metrosexual for a cuppa and ended up drinking far too much gin instead.    For after all you only live once.    Mr Metrosexual showed me the present that he'd bought his partner Ruff Stu for Christmas.  It was a rather swanky carry on case.  As it was wheeled into the room Baxter showed signs of distress, a bit of whelping and then he moved away sulkily and then refused to be coaxed back to join us.   'He always gets like that when he sees a suitcase.'  said Mr. Metrosexual.

Baxter understands their meaning  all too well.   He knows that packing heralds a time where he'll be left behind in Blighty.  Even though he normally has a house sitter or goes to stay with 'My Other Boys' who spoil him rotten he is still sad at the thought of being left by his masters.   Is he unique or does  the sight of luggage causes anyone else's pet to have abandonment issues?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Sabbath Number One

So I used the first Sunday in 2018 to kickstart my Sabbath a week plans.  So what did my day of rest entail?  I decided that a  coast path walk would be lovely as the forecast was for sun.   It stayed dry but the wind and sea conditions were livelier than usual.  Here's what I mean.  The black dot at the top of the picture is a seal.  I'd just been wondering if they'd venture into such stormy seas and got my answer!

I walked with my brother who's staying with me at the moment.  We thought about a selfie but it was too nippy to hang around.  Our stroll ended with brunch in the  Wetherspoons at Paignton.  Then we caught the number 12 bus back to Brixham and had another pint in the one there.   Isn't that almost a pub crawl?

Back home for a nap to sleep off the ale and then onto a bit of printmaking.  Here's one I made earlier.  It's a print from my polystyrene pizza plate crab that I made when I was poorly. Hmmm!  No wonder I wasn't in a rush to show it off. It was not how I imagined.  Not enough definition.  So I've started again today.  The background is going to take some work for their to be plenty of contrast so the crab stands out.  I'll be poking around with a skewer for the rest of the week and then getting out the ink next Sunday.    I'm sure that fourth commandment said that crafting was mandatory on the Sabbath.

And so I had a lovely restorative day.  Just the thing before a new regime where I've put aside time to work on kick starting my business alongside full time employment.  I've got a feeling that being stern with myself about setting aside time for enjoyable pursuits is going to be a rather good idea.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Tidying Update

Back in September I completed the not insubstantial task of tidying Louis' room using the principles in Marie Kondo's 'Life Changing Art of Tidying Book'.  Four months on and it's a miracle!  His attic retreat remains in good order.  True I have to pop up and retrieve socks, pants and sweet wrappers from under the bed.  But there's not been a return to the groaning pit of squalour it used to be where I stood in despair and thought  'Where the hell do I start with this lot!'

The landing outside is also ordered.  There's even storage areas that are empty.  And  there's still plenty of shelf top available for Louis to acquire more crap to display.  Of course I meant treasures just then.

The rest of the house remains easy to look after as well now that all that I own has a home.  Yes I've had plenty of people take the piss but let them.  Honestly I feel happier now as my tidying heroine, Marie, promised.  But then I always knew that it would be so.  For I'd worked out the inter-relationship between an uncluttered environment and a calm mind a long time ago. 

Just two problem areas remain.  The sheets on the top shelf of my linen cupboard are messy.  I'm not the best at precision folding yet.   I'm on a mission to work something out.   By the way all my pillowcase are stored vertically in that storage box.  I'm super happy with that arrangement.  Sad isn't it?  No wonder Louis periodically forces me to self test for OCD.

My food cupboard isn't to my liking either.  I'm blaming the Second Martha Stewart.  She sent me away with two big bags of  uneaten food from her holiday home at the end of her stay.  So my larder is a bit crammed.  I'll just have to set about thinking how to use some of the strange goodies I've accumulated and start munching.  Bacon jam on a great big gingerbread man anyone?

This system works.  I'd really recommend it.   The house is easier to clean.  Nothing gets lost because everything has its own home.    Every purchase is made on the basis of whether it brings joy and enhances my life.  Way more stuff still leaves my home than is making its way through the door.  The sense of space is wonderful and still expanding.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Lovely Late Resolutions

Did anyone make any New Year's resolutions on Monday? How are they going?  I bet a few have been broken already.   The man on the till at Asda yesterday told me that his attempt at an alcohol free January had lasted a day!    My lovely boss said that she'd given up making resolutions based around denial in an attempt to lose weight, be healthier or become more organised.  Instead she's committed to giving herself  treats.  Having a regular manicure was one of them.   And maybe she's on the right track.  For if we take action to feel good about ourselves perhaps things like reducing our chocolate and prosecco intake and doing more exercise, will become easier to achieve. 

I didn't actively make any resolutions but perhaps  deciding to give myself a Sabbath each week  fits the bill.   I start tomorrow.   A walk and some crafting is planned.  I've also had an idea for a rolling ongoing resolution to be renewed in years to come.  Each year while I'm still able I'd like to visit a country that I haven't been to before.  Portugal and Ireland are on the list for this year.

So if your resolve has been pants have a rethink and come up with something lovely that you can do for yourself in 2018. 

Friday, 5 January 2018

Hoping for Winnings

In order to give the universe a leg up in helping me manifest wonderful things in my life I'm back spending just a few minutes a day on Prizefinder, a website that lists competitions, sometimes hundreds a day.  Years back I had some sucess in using it.  My  Dualit kettle and toaster were a prize and I also won a year's membership to a swanky gym in Plymouth.

Keep your fingers crossed for me and let's hope that I'll be a winner.  The idea of an exotic holiday that's beyond the budget of a single mum on an NHS salary is really quite appealing!

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Am I Psychic?

I'm been playing with a little app on my phone lately called 'Are You Psychic?'  It prompts you to choose one of the five cards shown above on twenty five occasions.  Laws of chance predict that a score of five or below is unremarkable.  But if you consistently get more  than this on subsequent attempts then something else may be going on.

These are Zener Card, produced by a scientist of the same name in the early 1930s for testing ESP.  'Ah they're the cards in the scene in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray was perving!'  said Barbie Nurse.  There's other sets of cards to choose from in the app but I'm rather partial to these because of their provenance.

So how am I doing?  Well my combined test results are at 23%.   I've scored 12/25 on a couple of occasions and I often get a run of scores over five.  I'm less 'psychic' when I'm a bit stressed or tired.  The lack of consistency means that, in spite of my gypsy ancestry, I won't be opening a booth on Brixham Harbour and inviting people to cross my palm with silver any time soon!

What the process has sparked is a latent interest in probability.   Maybe this is fascinating me more than the hocus pocus.  What I'm trying to work out at the moment is the chance of getting any particular score.   I think I've found the formula but my rusty maths head is struggling to use it.  I'll post the chances of scoring 12/25, which I thought was pretty impressive, when I've worked it out. 

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The Little Book of Gratefulness

Louis struck a deal with me before Christmas.  It involved not buying me a present because he was skint  BUT tapping me for an advance on his pocket money so he could buy something for his dad's girlfriend!  How does that work?    Anyway he must have come into a windfall thanks to Santa.   So on the way back to my house last Wednesday he popped into the posh shopping centre at Dartington and surprised me with this lovely little foiled notebook that snaps shut with a magnet.  He'd chosen it as Hokusai's Great Wave hangs above the fireplace in my bedroom.

I was thinking the other day about how little paper I get through these days.  Sure I still like a proper book but when it comes to anything else my usual preference is for things to be stored in an e-format.  I must have saved a whole forest of trees by now.  I don't even own a printer at home at the current time although may have to relent and get one when the small business gets going.

Recently I've been keeping a list on  a Google Keep post-it note of  things that come to mind to be grateful for.  Like the fantastical silhouettes of bare tree branches against the greyness of the winter mist, finding a parking space at Torbay Hospital and my improving health which means that returning to running seems entirely feasible at the weekend.  All lovely things that happened yesterday.  Oh and Russell Grant started to follow my business Twitter account.  How's that for a sign from the stars?! 
But somehow an electronic record doesn't seem the right format to keep all these treasures.   I've been thinking that pen and ink somehow imbues greater meaning to the process.  This little book came along at the right time and may be just the job.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Rock On!

Good old Colossal alerted me to the fact that, just outside Tokyo, there is a museum, the Chensekikan.  It means the Hall of Curious Rocks and houses the late Shozo Hayama's collection of 1,700 rocks that look like faces.  I'm strangely compelled by it and if ever I get to Japan it might be on my 'must visit' list.

There's even one that looks like Elvis having a bad day! 

Finding funny faces in the stones might give me a new activity to try on lazy days on the beach.  With my minimalist mindset I might not be bringing them all home to display.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A Quiet One!

'What are you doing New Year's Eve?'  I asked Mr  Metrosexual.  'Nothing' he said and we both made bah humbug noises.  To be honest it isn't my favourite night of the year.  'Why don't you and Ruff Stu come round for a roast dinner and then we can all be tucked up in bed safely by midnight?' 'That sounds lovely,' he said.  Except it didn't quite turn out that way.  This first photo?  It's a potato I couldn't bear to turn into a roastie. It's too modern art for that.

The dinner went ahead as planned.  There's rolled belly pork, pigs in blankets, two types of potato, buttered carrots, peas, pureed squash and brussel sprouts cooked with bacon and  cream.  Let nobody say that I can't rustle up a good Sunday dinner when I need to!

We'd popped out shopping for supplies.  Louis persuaded me to buy some 'extras'.  Mr Metrosexual leads a very sheltered life.  He hadn't come across glow sticks before.  Really! I think he's a convert.

And here's the boy all ready for raving.  But remember this is a quiet night in.

Me looking decidedly disco.  At this point my 'Other Boys'  phoned.  I'd invited them over but they'd had other plans.  They'd been stood up at the last minute though.  'Can we come over?' they asked.  'We have gin and champagne and fireworks!'

More explosives from Asda.  We had to be cleared by bomb squad before leaving the store.

And here's my Christmas present.  It's for anthropological study only you understand.  Some of these guys have shaved their armpits.  Unbelievable!

More of Louis' armament stash going up in smoke.  He made the Clementine Cake himself earlier in the day.

The 'Other Boys' got colouring.  Our Brittany frieze might be finished by the end of 2018.  Ah!  This was more like the sedate evening that I had in mind.

But then they set off the weediest fireworks in the world in my backyard.  Good job the display in London was on the telly.  Yes we made it to midnight.

And this is what greeted me on the landing when I woke this morning.  Glow sticks still aglow.  My gin supply seems to have multiplied too and I think I'll be forever picking up those little circles of card on the bottom of party poppers.

From me and my boy, who now towers above me, we send many blessings. May you all have the most fantastic year ever in 2018.  With a little help from friends  mine certainly has got off to a good start!