All the good in the world

This morning we woke to  another tragedy. In all the news stories, however, the statistics are the same – one bad person and hundreds of good people.

Remember that when you are feeling depressed – when there were people in need, despite the danger, dozens and dozens of strangers did not run away, they turned up to help.

I suggest that the appropriate response to any terror attack like the one in Manchester last night is to be kind to as many people as you can. So, go out and smile at a stranger today, or buy someone a coffee, or make a donation to charity, or tell someone you care… let’s make the world a brighter place.

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share some love

Not a trifling amount

I keep seeing stories in the (not-so-mainstream) media about food waste. Apparently 30-40% of all food produced globally is never eaten because it is “spoiled after harvest and during transportation, or thrown away by shops and consumers” (The Guardian, April, 2016). And this is something that individuals are, to a significant extent, responsible for. According to Climate Central “The USDA estimates 35 percent of turkey meat cooked at Thanksgiving gets wasted.” If you want to see some more detailed facts and figures for the US, there’s a fascinating report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that’s well worth a read. There are high production losses worldwide, but consumer waste is significant in North America, Oceania and Europe, as can be seen from this graph form the World Economic Forum:which-regions-waste-the-most-food_1024

Obviously, the less food that is wasted, the more people can be fed, but the issue goes much deeper than this: waste food in landfill releases methane – a greenhouse gas with a much greater impact than carbon dioxide; the land used for agriculture is land not supporting native vegetation, and thus adversely affecting biodiversity; crops require water, so if we are wasting crops we are wasting water. If you want to read more, I recommend the FAO report Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources.

Because food waste is something that we are almost all responsible for to some extent, it’s a problem that we can all do something about. And it’s a win-win situation – save the planet and save money.

So, when I made a disastrous batch of cupcakes last week, rather than compost them, I made a trifle…

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trifle before the whipped cream was added

This also helped to use some of the abundance of eggs that we have. I think Mr Snail is hoping for many more cake failures, since he loves trifle. See, avoiding food waste can be fun!

Ear-ear

Things wear out, It’s only to be expected – our belongings won’t last forever. Many things can be repaired, but sometimes you need a replacement. However, before I reach for my laptop to order an new ‘thingumy’, I try to decide whether we already have an alternative or whether I can make a replacement using something in the house.

IMGP2901So, when the foam covers on Mr Snail’s headphones started to disintegrate, rather than ordering new ones or, even worse, new headphones, I decided to have a go at making some replacements. I have plenty of cotton yarn, even having used loads in my charity blankets, and this seemed like it might be the best fibre to have pressed against ears. It’s easy to make circles in crochet, or even ovals, as I discovered this was the shape of the ear pieces. One side has a wire coming out, so the cover for that need to incorporate a hole for the cable to pass through. In the end, it took me about an hour to fashion these replacement covers.

Unlike commercial foam covers, these are fully biodegradable, so when they wear out, they can just be composted. The verdict so far is that they are comfortable and do not reduce the sound. Well, that’s a result.

Three Things Thursday: 18 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes. Anyway, here are my three things this week…

First, The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook. It has been a great honour to make a contribution to this wonderful project, but today I am bidding farewell to the sketchbook and sending it on its way to The Crafty Creek. If you want to read more about it, check out its very own web site here.

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Second, four eggs in one day. We have four hens – Anna, Tiffany, Mags and Alice. The latter three are regular layers, but Anna (short for Annagramma – the awkward one for those of you in the know) has not laid for eighteen months. Recently, however, there was evidence that she was going to start again. Over the past few weeks, there have been two or three eggs that might have been from her, but we have never been certain… until yesterday, when four eggs were laid. Hens only lay once each day, so four eggs means one from each hen and that means that Anna is doing her thing again. Hurrah!

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Third, fool-proof recipes. Some friends came for lunch on Monday and I decided to try a new recipe – peaches and cream cupcakes. What a disaster – never test out new recipes when you are cooking for guests. Fortunately there was still time before they arrived to make something else, so I fell back on an old favourite, based on the recipe below (much covered in ingredients), which comes from a little book called Country Inns in the White Mountains: Favorite Recipes:IMGP2886

I generally make this with raspberries and white chocolate chips rather than strawberries, but you can use any fruit you fancy. The other good thing about this recipe is that you can use an off-the-shelf gluten-free flour if you need to and it still works well. When I have whey from cheese making, I use that rather than milk and the recipe still works… honestly it’s one of the most reliable recipes that I have and the muffins are always delicious. To give you an idea of how good it is, my guests all wanted this recipe to take away and use at home (and one of them runs her own B&B).

So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

ScrapHappy May

After my foray into sewing in April, this month’s ScrapHappy make takes us back to yarn, cotton yarn to be specific. My bag full of left-over cotton yarn was severely depleted by the stripy corner-to-corner blanket that I mostly made whilst on holiday:

Blanket from big scraps

But there were still piles and piles of partial balls of yarn left over. In my experience, the best way to use up small amounts of yarn is to make little granny squares. The centre can be made from a really short length and adds to the diversity and beauty of the finished creation. So far I’ve made 64 squares, and I’m getting close to the end of the yarn. I’m hoping to manage another eight, to make a 9 × 8 blanket:

I plan to use recycled cotton yarn to join all these little squares together. This represents other peoples scraps, even though it’s new to me. The finished blanket is destined to be donated to charity via Sixty Million Trebles.

I’ve been inspired to write this (and future) ScrapHappy posts by Kate, who provides links to other (mostly sewing) ScrapHappy bloggers at Tall Tales from Chiconia on the fifteenth of every month… do check them out.

 

Peaceful Sunday

I was going to call this “Silent Sunday” and just post some pictures of the garden after a few days of sunshine and rain. However, I went into the fruit cage to take some photos and it was anything but silent, which large numbers of bees (not one of which I was able to photograph) buzzing around the raspberry flowers. So, rather, this Sunday is peaceful and pictureful, both outdoors…

… and indoors…

I hope you too are surrounded by peace and abundance today.

Three Things Thursday: 11 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, tomato futures. The limery provides such great growing conditions that my first tomatoes are appearing already. I see lots of passata in my future!

Heritage tomato: Veepro Paste

Second, potting-up. Every day now I am spending a bit of time potting up plants: lemongrass, peppers, melons and summer purple sprouting broccoli in the past few days. There are also seeds to be planted and surplus plants to be given away.

Third, working from home. Almost all my work these days is done from home. It means there’s no commute and no dress code, but best of all, it means I can intersperse my day with coffee, homemade biscuits and crochet in the limery.

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So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

A Circle of Friends

I missed something from my post about the Sisterhood Sketchbook the other day. I mentioned my mandala inspiration, but I failed to explain the one circle in my creation that is made from a single yarn.

This circle, surrounded by the final words of the little bit of text I wrote, was chosen because of the name of the design. In fact, my piece is only the central part of an original design by Priscilla Hewitt called Circle of Friends Square. I’ve used the design before – indeed it appears twice in my Masterpiece* blanket:

For the Sketchbook it seemed appropriate to incorporate this design (unusual in that it requires you to turn it over and crochet in the reverse direction for several of the rounds). The wool that I selected looks, at first glance, like a rather dull pale brown, but look closer and you will see the diversity in there.

Just like people, there is so much more to this element of my Sketchbook contribution than first appears.

-oOo-

* I realise that many of my newer readers were not part of the story of the Masterpiece… I promise that I will write a post telling you all about it very soon.

Painting with yarn

You may recall that I am taking part in a collaborative art project known as The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook (it has its own blog here). The book arrived with me here in Wales back in March, but I have only just got round to completing my contribution… or actually, as it turned out, contributions.

I knew that I wanted to use mandalas and circles as my theme and I also knew that there was no way that I would be able to draw or sketch anything worthy of inclusion. So, I dug out the finest wool that I had and a 2.25mm crochet hook and set to work painting with yarn. I was rather pleased with my first creation:

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mandala #1

But when I checked, I’d made it too big, so that was rejected. On reflection, I decided that smaller circles might be better, plus that would allow me to incorporate some words. I mounted my crochet by stitching it onto stiff paper, then added some words. And this is what I ended up with…

Encircling the earth: the skill of our hands, the love in our hearts. Brought together by our creativity and kindness, although we are separated by hundreds of miles… …our shared passions bind us together. One sisterhood, representing one world, united in love.

However, being me, I wasn’t able to leave it there. You see, the very fine wool was not British, and I really wanted to contribute something made of local wool. So, using Cambrian Wool, bought from Red Apple Yarn, I made the sketchbook a pouch to protect it on the rest of its journey…

I even made a little pocket inside, so I could include a postcard giving information about the wool:

Now, all that remains is to pack it up and bid the sketchbook a fond farewell as it goes on its way to Yorkshire and The Crafty Creek… its last stop before it returns to Australia.

Coffee break

Over the years I’ve written a lot about tea – mainly about the hidden plastic in tea bags and my quest for plastic-free tea. I don’t often, however, write about coffee. This is, perhaps, because we’ve been buying coffee beans and making coffee in a cone with a washable cotton filter for many years now (long before we gave up tea bags… in fact since before I started blogging I think). However, I’m always looking for good coffee and any changes that can make it a little bit more eco-friendly. Recently we have been buying our coffee in the 1kg wholesale bags the roasted beans arrive in at the shop. This prevents the use of any extra packing, but still there’s a paper/plastic pack involved.

I was interested, therefore, to read about an experiment examining the best way to pack roast coffee. Once roasted, coffee beans release gases and ‘mature’ for a few days, allowing the flavour to develop. If roasted beans are put straight into a bag and sealed, the gasses are trapped and the coffee develops a stale flavour. To address this, many good quality coffee brands are packed in bags with a plastic valve, but these valves are generally not recyclable.

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sustainable production, compostable/recyclable packaging

Interestingly, it turns out, after roasting, placing the beans in paper bags allows them to develop a good flavour. From an environmental perspective, this is good, as paper can be readily recycled or composted. So, this week I ordered coffee from Roasting House, who roast the beans to order and then pack them in paper bags. Of course, they do use a plastic pack to send them through the post, but they use biodegradable and recyclable plastic and I will reuse this anyway (I never buy new postal packaging and always keep a stash for re-use). It’s single material, which is far better than the plastic-bonded-to-paper packaging of the wholesale bags we were getting previously.

The company take their environmental impact seriously, aiming for zero waste to landfill, buying 100% renewable electricity and making local deliveries by bicycle. In addition, they source their coffee from farms that operate under sustainable practices. It’s possible that I am much closer to waste-free coffee now.

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