Three Things Thursday: 23 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – 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 happiness.

First, restoring faith in humanity. I just got back from the post office, where I was served by the lady I made the gloves for. It’s the first time I’ve seen her since I dropped them off and she thanked me very sincerely, saying I had restored her faith in humanity… now that’s not a bad thing to do with your crochet, is it? Anyway, her name is Rachel and I seem to have made her very happy.

Such a simple way to make someone happy

Second, new homes for unwanted items. My rehoming scheme seems to be going well… I’m never going to have a house completely free of clutter, but I am really enjoying seeing things that I have no use for finding their way to new homes. So far this week I’ve rehomed two lots of broderie anglaise and a 1990’s Vogue sewing pattern. Although money is not the main issue for me, charging for an item means that it’s more likely to go to someone who actually wants it and will make use of it.

This pattern has gone to a new home today

Third, a new home for a person. I’m really happy that it looks like my sister’s eldest daughter has found a new home. There’s nothing official yet, but we are all keeping our fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Working Wednesday #9

This is my weekly post as I work through the yarn in my “collection” (not stash – thank you Sue). This week it’s only Sophie:

I have also started to put a bit of my stash into the secret Santa basket… I’m not going to photograph it, because I want it to be a surprise for the recipient. I can say, though, that it’s pure British wool.

So, that’s my progress this week. Have you completed any projects? Are you working on anything interesting?

Going to extremes… or not

I keep coming across articles on the internet about people who have pared their life down to the bare essentials… like Rob Greenfield who only has 111 possessions (you can check them out here). Now I’m all for cutting down on waste and not buying unnecessary ‘stuff’, but I simply wouldn’t be happy with so little. What about creativity? What about owning equipment to make things or repair things? What about tools for cultivating the land? Living a nomadic life with no roots (metaphorically and literally … I love my plants), no money and no ‘safe’ place is just not something that I would want to contemplate seriously. I suspect it isn’t something that would work for many people and, indeed, the earth could support a much smaller population if we all foraged for all our food. I’m not saying that any of those things are ‘bad’, but just unrealistic given our starting point.

So, where do we find a balance? How much stuff should we have? Should we all follow the advice of Marie Kondo and only have possessions that ‘spark joy in our life’? I have to confess that I worry about decluttering simply for the sake of it… particularly where in a fit of enthusiasm for a tidy house, all the unwanted items end up in landfill. My desire for fewer possessions is balanced by my desire to be kind to the planet. An item may not spark joy in me, but if I know that it will be useful in the future, then I’m not going to throw it out.

So, my approach to reducing clutter in out home is currently based around the following:

Not adding to what we already have. This means being a member of the library rather than buying paperback books; not buying more craft supplies when I have plenty to keep me amused; making use of existing electronics (mobile phone, e-reader, pc etc) rather than being seduced into buying the latest model.


it looked like this in 2012…it’s still working but more repaired!

Repairing. Making use of the materials/equipment that we have to repair things that wear out or break. Mr Snail’s collection of electronic components comes in very handy for repairing… this doesn’t reduce what we have much, but it justifies keeping some ‘stuff’ around. I refer you to the much repaired radio.


Being generous. When a friend mentions that they need something that I own but don’t really have a use for or a particular reason to keep, I give it to them. I’ve even started giving away things simply because a friend likes them.


refreshed and ready to be sold

Finding new homes. This is slightly different to the last one because the driving force is that I no longer want an item rather than someone else expressing a desire for it. I feel guilty about sending anything to landfill, but selling something on, donating something to charity or offering an item for free (e.g. via Freecycle) feels like a positive action.


Composting. I have discovered the joys of converting unwanted paper into compost. This means that piles of old lecture notes, financial statements, old magazines and official letters are now part of the foundation for our vegetable crops! Composting also extends to natural fabrics that have reached the end of the useful/repairable life, along with worn out wooden items (bamboo toothbrushes, wood and bristle scrubbing brushes, broken wooden skewers etc), although sometimes we burn wooden items (for fuel, not simply to dispose of them).

and as a last resort…

Recycling. But it’s much better to find ways to repair/reuse/repurpose/rehome before you get to this stage.

And more than anything else, not to be seduced into thinking that buying new ‘stuff’ will make me happy.

So I’m slowly clearing and sorting and selling and sharing… I’m never going to be down to 111 possessions, but I am going to have found new homes or new uses for lots of the ‘stuff’ in my house, and I’m going to love making and repairing and creating with what I do have.

Three Things Thursday: 16 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – 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 happiness.

First, secret stitching gifts. I mentioned before that, despite my usual rejection of all things Christmas, I decided to participate in Sewchet’s festive gift exchange. It’s nice to have an excuse to put together some yarny things that I know will be appreciated… and also to pass on some of my surplus. I made a start this week with my making, creating this little work basket; after all, you can never have too many receptacles for all those “works in progress”:


work basket from Berber carpet wool


Making it was tough on the fingers because the thick carpet wool is quite rough, but it holds its shape well and it should be very robust. In fact this probably counts as a double smile, because I’ve had that particular wool sitting in my collection for several years, so it’s been good to find an appropriate use for it.

Second, food with friends. Some friends came round for dinner on Tuesday evening – I cooked roast pork and heaps of vegetables, followed by apple pie and cream. The food wasn’t fancy, but it was delicious… all the more for sharing it with dear friends. We probably don’t do this often enough.

Third, sleepy dogs. I’m always amused how tired the dogs are after we’ve had people visiting. I smiled a lot at Sam being so crashed out yesterday; she was even too tired for a walk. Oh and for those of you who have asked – Max is still hanging in there . He’s rather frail, but he’s enjoying his low fat, high carb food and a tiny walk on dry days… not a bad life for an old dog.


Sam in recovery yesterday


So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

ScrapHappy November

I haven’t been making things with scraps this month, in fact almost all my creative time is currently being taken up with Sophie who, although not scrappy, I must show off as a Wednesday WIP (no Working Wednesday post this week, maybe it will be worth doing one next week):


this is Sophie


However, there has been a lot of activity with scraps in the past month or two Chez Snail… starching, pressing, photographing, listing, selling, packing and sending off round the world. I have a large collection of vintage broderie anglaise and lace, all reclaimed from garments or left over from past projects. Most of it was given to me by my mum, who received it years ago from an elderly friend. Much of it is (or was) filthy, having sat around in a box for decades. I have slowly been soaking it and washing it to restore it to something like its former glory. Now fancy trimmings are not really my ‘thing’ so I have been selling it in my etsy shop. It’s not a particularly lucrative business as the preparation to make it saleable takes a long time, not to mention the photographing and listing. However, I love the fact that people actually want to buy and use these scraps… that they are going to new homes around the world to be loved and treasured and turned into new items, and that makes it worthwhile.

Although not scraps, I’ve also got lovingly restored vintage handkerchiefs along with old sewing patterns in my shop – all part of making sure that unwanted sewing and craft supplies find new homes where they will be used and valued.

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.


Good food for everyone


Such diversity – of people and produce

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last week I made one of my occasional visits to the Friday morning fruit and veg market stall in Newcastle Emlyn. It’s always good to get there early for the biggest choice, so I was home by ten past eight (although it did mean I missed my early morning swim). It’s a great way to buy cheap fresh veg, especially in an area like this where we don’t have the sort of permanent, diverse market that I knew when I was growing up in Leeds. There, Kirkgate Market  is an amazing place to buy all sorts of food, from game and meat to fish and fruit, not forgetting all the range of vegetables and pretty much anything else you might want to own. The place was characterised by the cries of the stallholders and I can’t hear a yell of ‘getcher caulis ‘ere’ without being transported back to the sights and smells of the market. If you want to get a feel for the place, the reviews posted here give a good flavour. I have clear memories of my mother shopping there regularly – the open air greengrocers’ stalls were right at the bottom by the bus station, so we bought fruit and veg last on any shopping trip to minimise the distance it had to be carried (these were the days when families had no more than one car and women went shopping on the bus).

Although the Friday stall is not easy to access by public transport, it’s still well used. There are people buying their weekly greengroceries, people shopping for catering supplies, people buying in bulk for preservation (like me). It doesn’t seem to attract a particular sort of clientele. Everyone in the town knows it and it’s always busy… even at 7:30am when they still haven’t finished pricing everything up! And people like me are happy to drive there from the surrounding area.


we should all have access to this

Recently, in contrast, I read a post by Steven Croft about the exclusivity of farmers’ markets. He cited Jessica Paddock’s research which found that “predominantly working class people consider themselves to be out of place and possibly not welcome at farmers’ markets”. It saddens me that something which should connect producers directly with consumers has become divisive and too expensive (or at least perceived as such) for everyone to benefit from. “Normal” markets seem to be thought of differently. The Friday stall is not run by a producer, but by a greengrocer, and the customers do not seem to fit into any particular category… other than that they’ve all got up early!

I wonder how we best connect growers with consumers and make that connection seem normal. Neither consumers nor producers seem to benefit much from supermarkets other than in terms of convenience. All the packaging and hidden processing associated with supermarket produce cannot be a good thing for either people or the planet. Buying direct would certainly address this issue and others, but the mechanisms are challenging and the logistics within both rural and urban areas are problematic. So, all I can say is support your growers whenever you can and don’t be intimidated by farmers’ markets – they are not entirely full of hipsters seeking out venison and cranberry sausages and locally grown quinoa (pronounced keen-wah, you know!).

If you are interested in equity, ethics and sustainability with respect to production and access to food, there are some interesting articles on the Sustainable Food Trust’s web site.

A souper weekend

Over the summer we often have eggs at lunchtime, but as laying declines in the autumn and the weather turns colder I start to crave warming soups. I years long distant, I might have opened a tin, but my tastes have changed and now I just want home-made soups. Whilst I sometimes use meat stocks, most of my soups are vegetable-based. So, on Friday I went and bought in bulk from the regular stall in Newcastle Emlyn:


my ‘haul’

I’ve spent much of the weekend in the kitchen. I started off with spicy parsnip soup – a Jane Grigson recipe. She is one of my favourite cookery writers and her ‘Vegetables’ book is pure inspiration. Second, I made spicy roasted pepper soup using a recipe from Riverford, but with a few modifications, including using yellow and orange peppers rather than red ones. Third, I made leek and potato soup – no specific recipe for this one, just leeks, onions, potatoes, chicken stock and water. Fourth, I made sweet potato and roasted pepper soup – inspired by, but not exactly the same as a recipe from a Women’s Institute cookbook. After this I’d still got ingredients left, so I made more spicy parsnip and more roasted pepper. I still have plenty more veg and I also have a freezer drawer full of portions of soup for two.

Buying in bulk means that the ingredients are very cheap and having room for storage means that I can take advantage of this; but also knowing what to do with all these raw ingredients is important. I worry that people who don’t know how to prepare fresh foods are stuck in a trap of being forced to rely on processed and pre-prepared meals. A friend mentioned the other day that at school in ‘cookery’ classes, all her son learned was how to put toppings on a pizza base and all about the dangers of cooking food for himself (hygiene issues, food poisoning etc). She said that he was so frightened by the horror stories of what could go wrong when preparing food, that he daren’t cook for himself any more. I could weep, but instead I will continue to share recipes and inspiration, to share home cooked food with my family and friends and to encourage everyone to cook their own food whenever possible.


many lunches to look forward to

Three Things Thursday: 9 November 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – 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 happiness.

First, things arriving in the post. I love to receive letters and cards and parcels, especially when they have been sent by friends. The post this week has yielded two of these things – a card from Cathy and a parcel from Ann. Both made me smile a lot.


lovely arrivals


I think I can spare some!

Second, sending things in the post. Although I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, I decided this year to participate in Sewchet’s Crafty Secret Santa event… Stitching Santa. Basically, you are allocated a person to send a little gift parcel to and you receive one from someone else; there’s a budget but you can add extra bits and bobs that you have from your stash. I’m taking part in the knitting/crochet version, but there’s a sewing version too. I’m having fun reading my recipient’s blog and trying to decide what to include in her parcel. I really think I must send some Cambrian Mountains wool and some vintage buttons and some of my spare stitch markers, plus I’d like to make something… I have so many ideas! The suggestion is that everyone opens their parcel on Christmas day, but I may keep mine until my birthday a week later since I rarely receive presents because everyone is so busy with Christmas/New Year that they either forget or just don’t bother. I’m sure my gifter won’t mind a little delay in getting thanks. Oh and I have a parcel to pack up and send to the Beasties too.

Third, 100 swims. Yes, that’s right; so far in 2017 I have been swimming 100 times. That must be a cause for celebration, and must mean that I’m getting fitter.

So, that’s some of what’s making me happy this week. How about you?


Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Working Wednesday #8

This is my weekly post as I work through the yarn in my “collection” (not stash – thank you Sue). In fact this week it mostly isn’t ‘stash’ because nearly all the wool that I worked with was bought relatively recently and for specific projects. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see wool from my store (however long it’s been there) becoming “things”.

I completed Mr Snail’s wellie socks and they have been inspected and approved by Sam. There’s enough yarn left over to make a matching hat, which I’ll get round to in due course…

I also make a quick pair of fingerless mittens (mentioned in last week’s Three Things Thursday), which I still haven’t delivered to the intended recipient.IMGP4505 (2)I shared much of the work on “Sophie” on Sunday, but I have done more since then, when she was a circle. The corner flowers turned out to be rather complicated, with the work layered so that sometimes you work in front of previous stitches and sometimes behind. As a result, progress has been quite slow. The back (first and third pictures) is quite tidy, but gives an idea of the complexity.

It’s entirely possible that the whole month of November is going to be about Sophie, but I do have another knitted breast prosthesis to make and a pair of socks to finish, so there may be a little variety.

So, that’s my progress this week… and there was no blue in it! Have you completed any projects? Are you working on anything interesting?


I had plans for this weekend – some clearing up in the garden, cleaning the interior of the limery and general outdoor sorting out. However, Saturday morning dawned with my nose running like a small stream and frequent fits of sneezing. Plus, outdoors it was raining.

So Mr Snail lit the fire and made me frequent cups of tea and I snuggled up on the sofa with a crochet hook, a box of wool and a pattern. You may remember some months ago I mentioned my plans to make a Sophie’s Universe blanket out of 100% British wool. At the time, I shared this preliminary picture:


all set to go

I had made a little start on the project on Friday night, so I began with this on Saturday morning:


part 1

By Saturday afternoon, I’d drunk a lot of tea and got this far…

IMGP4494 (2)


It was too dark to photograph my work when I went to bed, but before the light fades today, this is the current state of play:

IMGP4496 (2)

part 3 completed

So, the garden may still be awaiting my attention, but I’m not so sneezy and I have had a very creative weekend.


The wool is a combination of Cambrian Mountains Wool, WoolyKnit Blue faced Leicester and West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester (yes Woolyknit write it as two words and WYS as one).

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