Soiled

Yes, I know there’s all sorts of huge things going on it the political world today (we had a general election here in the UK yesterday, in case you didn’t know), but I’m going to distract you with my first bash at a soil-themed inky doodle. It came out more blue than I expected and the addition of silver did not really work, but this is what I created to begin with, just using drops of alcohol ink on yupo paper:

not sure it looks as much like soil particles as I had hoped

And then I started drawing bugs… completely randomly and just to play around with. I got a bit over excited and didn’t allow the ink to dry completely, so some of them are smudgy, however, this is starting to resemble what I had in mind.

My next attempt may involve a base wash and a felt applicator…. and allowing the inks to dry overnight before I doodle. Eventually these are going to be used to make cards, I hope.

And before I go, just a quick reminder about the give-away. If you want a chance of winning the ‘ditch the plastic bag’ bag that I made for the Manchester craftivism exhibition, check out the post here.

Three Things Thursday: 8 June 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, letter-writing. I mentioned in my  recent post Small Calm Things, that I had made a start on some letter-writing and over the past few days I’ve written quite a few. Sitting in the limery as the rain hammers down in our British summer, it’s rather nice to put pen to paper and know that I will be raising some smiles as a result of my efforts.

Second, new inks. I have a project in mind that involves alcohol inks in muted colours. Until now I only had bright colours, but this morning’s post brought me the earth tones I need, so I’m now all set for getting arty.

a new art project is on the horizon

Third, pitchers. The pitcher plants and the monkey cup in the limery are growing like mad and it does make me very happy to see them doing their job and looking so fabulous.

And if you want to see lovely pictures of some of these plants in their native habitat, check out this post from Nerd in the Brain, who recently went to visit the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.

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

Bag a bag

In the spirit of my last post, I’ve decided to spread a little more happiness by having a give-away. I’m offering you the opportunity to be the proud owner of one of the items that I made for our craftivism exhibition. The embroidery is for sale in my etsy shop, but I’ve decided to give away the “Ditch the plastic bag” bag:

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the bag on display

 

It is made from a repurposed t-shirt, with the message appliqued in felt. Bags like this are, unsurprisingly, quite stretchy, so are not ideal for lugging pounds of spuds home from the greengrocers, but are great for lighter items, such as yarn, tea and biscuits!

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it could be yours

 

I am happy to send this anywhere in the world. If you would like to be entered into the draw to win it, simply comment below, or in the post on the Snail of Happiness Facebook page, or on Twitter (@thesnailofhappy), and tell me what you’d like to put in the bag if you win it. I will include any comments left before midnight on Tuesday 13 June (BST) in the draw.

Good luck!

Small calm things

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I came across this quote a while ago and saved it, thinking that I might use it in a post sometime. And, today, whilst looking at some old drafts I came across it, and thought that the time had come to share it.

After a number of recent ‘big mean things’ happening across the world, this feels like a very good time for ‘small calm things’. A few days ago I finished the cotton blanket I have been making for 60 Million Trebles (who have got two thirds of the way to their goal, reaching 40 million trebles last week), I’ve now returned to the wool and squares sent to me by Wild Daffodil earlier this year… it’s very fine yarn, so this blanket could take a while, but I am regarding every blanket that gets sent out as representing a hug to someone in need.

I’m also thinking that over the next month I will try to focus on some random (and not so random) crafts/acts of kindness. I have one gift completed to send off to a friend who is not at all well at the moment (no picture, as I want it to be a surprise), I have a partially made blanket that I want to send to a bereaved friend (again no picture to maintain the surprise), and I’ve made a start on some letter- and postcard-writing that’s long overdue.

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so many letters!

 

I like random acts of kindness directed at strangers who I will never meet, but it’s also uplifting to do something for someone I know, allowing me to witness the positive effect of my action.

Taking the biscuit

As you may know, I have been trying to cut palm oil out of my life. Palm oil has certain properties that make it a great ingredient for manufacturers and it can be tricky to avoid unless you cook everything from scratch, particularly since it isn’t always listed as ‘palm oil’ in ingredients lists. Anyway, I discovered a few months ago that it’s in most commercially-produced biscuits (including my beloved digestives). The answer, however, was provided by two friends: Sue sent me three recipes and Kate sent me one. Since January, therefore, I have not bought any biscuits and I have made all the ones we have eaten at home. This not only avoids palm oil, but also greatly reduces plastic packaging since most of the ingredients (including the butter) come in paper or glass.

The key to a good biscuit (rather than a cookie), according to Sue, is to use a hard fat. The choice comes down to butter or hard white vegetable fat. However, it turns out that the latter (e.g. Trex) is made from palm oil. So, I’m sorry vegans, but all the successful biscuits I have made have contained butter.

I’m going to share the four recipes here, for those of you who also want to make your own. The measures are in the original units in which each recipe was written, so there is a mix of ounces and grams.

Ginger nuts

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ginger nuts

 

8oz SR flour
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
4oz sugar (white or golden granulated)
3oz butter
4oz golden syrup
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients, melt the butter and syrup, mix everything together. Shape teaspoonfuls into rough balls and press down a little, then arrange on greased baking trays with plenty of room to spread. Bake at 150C for 15 mins or until golden and becoming crisp. Cool on a rack and put in tin as soon as cold.

Shortbread Biscuits (Mr Snail’s favourite, especially dipped in chocolate)

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We love shortbread biscuits

200g butter (soft)
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour
50g ground rice

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla, work in the flour and rice. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, cut into rounds (or hearts) and bake at 160C for 15-20 mins.

Granny Boyd’s biscuits

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lovely and chocolatey

 

250g butter
125g caster sugar
300g SR flour
30 g cocoa powder

Cream together butter and sugar. Sift cocoa and flour together and work into mixture. Form into walnut sized balls and arrange on trays. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork. Bake at 170C for 5 mins then turn the oven down to 150C for another 10-15 mins. The top should be firm and the inside slightly squidgy – they firm as they cool.

Digestive biscuits from a Victorian recipe

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digestives

 

4oz fine oatmeal
2oz wholemeal flour
2oz white plain flour
2oz soft brown sugar
Quarter of a teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
3oz butter
1 egg

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the egg. Mix well. Roll out to about 0.25-0.5 cm, cut into rounds and place on a baking tray. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes. Allow them to cool and if they aren’t crispy enough I put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

I would add another recipe to my collection of favourite biscuits and that’s Delia Smith’s chocolate chip ginger nuts, the recipe for which is here. These are very rich and very delicious:

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chocolate ginger nuts with chocolate chips

So, do you have a favourite biscuit recipe to share?

 

 

17 for 2017 – May Update

May turned out to see lots of action with respect to 17 for 2017, including another two sets of goals achieved. So, this is progress to date:

17 RCKs 5

A gift vaark

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I could claim that this goal has been completed, having put dozens and dozens of hearts in the community garden in Chorlton last Saturday, but I’m only counting this as one ‘act’. I also made a little vaark which was sent as a surprise to one of the administrators for the 60 Million Trebles project. Thus, the total so far is six.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Three lots in May means I’m just a single batch away from my goal.

Fifteen… cheeses.  I made two lots of Bel Paese-style cheese – it’s really simple, is ready after just six weeks and it’s great for cooking. Th total now is nine

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six.

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Mended with a swirl or two of Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Leggings, pyjamas and two different sets of headphones this month means that I’ve reached my target for the year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I’ve added just one item this month, the “Start a Revolution, Plant a Garden” embroidery that appeared in the craftivism display. This takes the total to eight.

10 plants rehomed 9

Lemongrass, grown from seed, off to a new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Although I only gave the first plants away last month, I’ve already reached my target, with summer purple sprouting broccoli, lemongrass and chillies accounting for most of the plants that have gone off to new homes in May.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although there have been several meals that came close.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. My visit to Manchester took my total to six.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. None this month, so still only one made

Five… book chapters written. None yet.

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The squares for blanket six of four

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I finished another this month and I’ve nearly finished one more.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None yet.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January.

 One… gardening apron. I made this last month.
I’m feeling rather pleased with my achievements this month – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Three Things Thursday: 1 June 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, although I’ve written lots about going to Manchester already (here, here and here), I have to include it as one of the things that made me happy this week.

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me at the decorated community garden

Second, a souvenir. The plan with the kindness tree was that people would both put something on it and take something away. I chose a little button heart to bring home, and imagine my delight when Danielle said “oh, I made that”.

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a button heart made by Danielle

 

Third, this book, which arrived in the post today:

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Maya

In fact, this is a double smile – the book itself and knowing that it’s also going to bring a smile to the face of Laurie.

 

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

The Art of Manchester

Originally, my reason for going to Manchester this past weekend was to take part in Chorlton Arts Festival. Our Kindness Tree event, which sort of morphed into a Hearts for Manchester event was part of the festival, but our biggest contribution was the display in the window of The Make It Shop. Many, many thanks to those of you who contributed – the window looked fabulous, although trying to photograph it effectively proved beyond my limited skills with a camera; all I could manage was a flavour of it:

Danielle, however, managed a much better shot:

window

Craft+Activism=Craftivism (c) Danielle Lowy

Many thanks to those who contributed – I hope you can spot your creations (they are all in there), which will now be going off to new homes.

Although the emphasis was heavily on the performing arts this year, the Chorlton Arts Festival did include several other visual art exhibitions and we managed to visit two.

First, opening its gate for the tenth and final year, Bob Nancollis’ Smallest Sculpture Park in the World:

And second, Creative Recycling, where they make art from all sorts of materials, including the glass off-cuts from their picture-framing:

Do you notice, that as well as the art, they also have a little free library out the front of the shop?

So, life goes on in the city of Manchester, if with a heavy heart. I do hope that everyone out and about over the weekend had their lives brightened a little by the creativity that was on display, whether tattoos, beauty from recycled materials, craftivism, sculpture, our decorated community garden, or the lovely bees sent by Helen of Crawcraft’s Beasties, long before we realised how significant they were going to be.

A bee for Manchester

 

A tattoo too

When great tragedy happens, there is often an outpouring of compassion. This has certainly been the case in Manchester over the past week, with many anonymous acts of kindness and generosity. But, in addition, many people want to make a statement, to give a signal that they are part of the wounded community, indeed simply to be part of that community.

And thus, when Samantha Barber, a Manchester tattoo artist, had the idea of offering bee tattoos in support of the bombing victims (the worker bee is the symbol of Manchester), the idea took off (pun intended).  Many tattoo parlours decided to take part, donating all the proceeds to the fund supporting the victims. It seemed likely that there would be many takers, but who would have thought that up to 900 people would queue up at a single parlour in the hope of handing over £50 each for their bee? That, however, is exactly what happened at Sacred Art in Chorlton. They drafted in the help of their friends and they opened up at 10am on Sunday morning – by which time, some people had been waiting for nearly six hours.

We walked past around 1pm. Those in the queue were happy and chatty, being entertained with music and provided with food and drink by various businesses, as well as the residents of many of the houses in the streets along which the queue extended. The tattoo artists worked all day and into the night free of charge. They only stopped, at 11.15 pm because they ran out of supplies. Indeed, they said that, had this not have been the case, they would have worked until they had inked everyone in the queue.

I’ve seen various negative things written about the pointlessness of getting a Manchester bee tattoo, but being there on Sunday, and feeling the sense of belonging and the importance for all those people of simply showing their solidarity for the city in which they live brought home to me the value of this sort of act. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere, but this quote from the Sacred Art Facebook page gives a little flavour of it:

I want everyone to know that from the bottom of our humble hearts, everyone here at Sacred Art salutes you. Your mad enthusiasm, patience, empathy and unwavering support has been second to none. It’s truly testament to the heart of our city. Without it, this event simply wouldn’t have happened. By success, I don’t just mean the money we all raised (which was a staggering £18,204.70 ). The success of seeing our friends, families and neighbours all coming together to convey a message of only love. Irrespective of geography, gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, we all did this together, celebrating the soul of our city and cementing it with the Mancunian worker bee. It was heartwarming to see our community sharing their grief whilst celebrating their unity.

I hope that the city can continue to draw on this feeling of love and community in the coming weeks as it starts to heal from the terrible harm that has been done to it.

…and now, just for your entertainment, here’s where the title of this post comes from…

The Heart of Manchester

“Are you still going to Manchester?” I was asked several times last week. The answer, of course, was “yes”. Our Crafting a Kinder World event had been arranged months ago, but its timing, following the bombing earlier on in the week made it particularly appropriate and especially important for me to be there.

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Ready to craft

So, on Saturday, The Make It Shop opened to welcome anyone who wanted to join us for a spot of crafting. Originally we had intended to make random gifts to hang in the community garden, round the corner from the shop and next to Chorlton library, for anyone to take. But in the end we decided to do our little bit to fill Manchester with love and so we made hearts – lots of hearts – fabric hearts, paper hearts, crochet hearts, knitted hearts, foam hearts, felt hearts, cardboard hearts, sparkly hearts. We’d also received a parcel of hearts from Solidarity in Crafting  of Leicester and these were added to our collection. Still, the intention was that they would be taken from the garden by anyone who wanted one… spreading the love even further.

We had a stream of lovely people during the day; all of them made at least one heart and some of them came with us to the garden to help with the decorating.

To begin with, there were just a few garlands on the railings:

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The start of the day

But by the end of Saturday, we had a community garden filled with all sorts of hearts and flowers, just ready for anyone in need of some love to take away:

Not only that, but we also had our Kindness Tree in the shop, covered with little gifts:

So, if you are in Manchester, nip over to Chorlton and take a heart or a flower or another little gift, with love from us.

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