Festively sociable

Because we don’t ‘do’ Christmas as regards presents and rushing round to visit every single relative, this time of year is wonderfully relaxing and we get a bit of time just to be sociable.

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a possible source of future milk

From the solstice to my birthday I do try to do some special cooking as I have a bit more time than usual and, as I mentioned in an earlier post, this year the plan was to have beef on the solstice. Events transpired against us, and we ended up going to the farm to collect the beef yesterday. However, it on the plus side this gave us plenty of opportunity to meet one of the dairy cows on the farm and have a long chat with Sam the farmer about their plans. There’s a possibility of some raw milk from them next year for cheese-making, but they don’t have spare capacity at the moment, but it was a good connection made and we’ve supported a local business.

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a fruity thank-you

In the evening one of our neighbours called round, bearing a beautiful box of fruit. They order a lot of things online and we act as their drop-off point since they both work full time. By way of thanks, therefore, they gave us this lovely gift… I keep telling them it’s not necessary, but it’s good to receive graciously, which we did. I forecast Poire Belle Helene in the future, amongst other fruity things.

Today we went off to do some last minute shopping… two Danish pastries, a pot of cream, a newspaper, some T-pins for blocking Sophie and a pair of fair-trade rubber gloves (isn’t this the list everyone has just before Christmas?). Actually we mainly went out to wish various friends who have shops the joys of the season and to catch up on news of a very poorly friend (sadly no better). There was a great deal of chatting and little shopping… now that’s the spirit of the season for me.

 

Five fings Friday

So, after yesterday’s post turned into a bit of a wallow on my part, I thought I would pick myself up and list  not three, but five fings things that are making me smile today (or made me smile yesterday).

First,  you lot. Your kind messages and comments yesterday went a long way to cheering me up. Although I’m still smarting from the rejection, it was lovely to be showered with so many positive messages. I’ve picked myself up and I’m moving on.

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it’s years since I’ve had Christmas presents!

Second,  secret Santa. Under normal circumstances I don’t do Christmas gifts, but I did decide to join in with Sewchet’s Stitching Santa this year. And yesterday I was very excited when my present arrived. It’s secret so I don’t know who it’s from until I open it, but it’s a lovely box filled with things yarn-related, so it’s bound to be a joy to open. I still haven’t decided whether to keep it an extra week until my birthday, but I may not be able to resist it for that long.

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chocolatey

Third, chocolate. Yesterday afternoon I cheered myself up with some cooking. In the absence of the beef, we decided to have fish pie (made using sustainably caught fish from Cornwall), followed by dark chocolate tart with a white chocolate sauce and raspberries (grown by me). The tart had chocolate pastry and a baked mousse-like filling. The sauce was simply a small amount of white chocolate melted in hot cream and then a teaspoon of liqueur added – it worked very well to contrast with the dark chocolate and the raspberries, although it would have been very sickly on its own.

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just the thing to make Sophie look extra-beautiful

Fourth, the end is in sight. I now only have two rows of Sophie remaining, so she will be finished tonight. I was delighted, therefore, that my new blocking mats arrived yesterday. Sophie is too big to block on my usual cork board, so I have bought some interlocking children’s play mats for the purpose. Each one measures 30cm × 30cm, so it’s possible to construct the size and shape of mat I need very easily. I did try to find some secondhand mats, but in the end I had to buy new; however, I think they are going to get lots of use in the future.

Fifth, a lot of swimming. Today is the final day in 2017 that our local swimming pool is open. I won’t be able to go and swim there again until 8 January 2018. So I’ve totted up my tally for this year and I discover that I have been swimming 112 times. I’m very proud of myself… especially considering that most of those swims have been at 7am.

So there we are, lots to make me smile today. How about you? I really hope good things are happening in your life and, for those of you who find this time of year difficult, I send a big hug and remind you that the media’s representation of Christmas is nonsense and that there are lots of lovely people out there who want to support you and make you happy, like the café owner in this story from our local newspaper.

Thanks once again for the lovely comments on yesterdays post – you are all amazing.

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”:

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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.

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Sam in recovery yesterday

 

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

-oOo-

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

Three Things Thursday: 14 September 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.

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Roo will be featuring in Sue’s blog

First, new blogs. Two dear friends – both of whom I originally met on-line, but both of whom I now know ‘in the flesh’ – have recently launched blogs. Sue, is writing at Going Batty in Wales about her life, land and dogs Roo and Orchid. She has a very slow internet connection, but fingers crossed she will manage to post despite this challenge. Kt (who guest blogged here a while ago about her Creative Dying project) is charting her achievements following a recent diagnosis of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) at Today I Can Blog. She is living with severe health challenges, so fingers crossed she will be able to write about her achievements and find support online in our lovely blogging community. Both of them are new WordPress bloggers and I’m looking forward to reading their posts.

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an unlikely place to find an old friend

Second, an old friend. In the box of old photos I wrote about the other day, I came across a picture of a friend who I hadn’t seen for many years. We each had a little flat in a house on the seafront in Aberystwyth when we were studying for our PhDs – there we drank gallons of tea and talked for hours. When we were done, we went our separate ways – she to work in the BBC archives in Reading and me to work for the local wildlife trust here in west Wales. We kept in touch, but somehow it slipped and finally we lost contact. And then I saw the picture and decided to try again… and there she was on Twitter! A quick message and we are back in touch. I got a long email from her this morning and feel incredibly emotional reading it – it brought back so many great memories.

2017-09-14Third, anticipation. This Saturday is the grand, final get-together of the Sixty Million Trebles project. On Saturday, in Birmingham, a large number of the ladies who have contributed to the project will be meeting for the first and last time (at least as a group). The final number of trebles created will be announced (will we have reached the magic figure of 60,000,000?), there will be representatives of Hand in Hand for Syria present and we will celebrate what we have, collectively, achieved. I’m so looking forward to the event. I’m going tomorrow (Friday) and staying overnight with a few others, so we’ll also have a sociable evening in advance. I’m sure I’m going to be telling you all about it next week…

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

-oOo-

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

Three Things Thursday: 7 September 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, visiting a friend. On Tuesday I went to visit Sue, who lives about an hour away and who I met as a result of blogging. We had a lovely day, chatting and setting up her new blog (more on this when she’s properly up and running). She has these words of inspiration in her kitchen:IMGP4028 (2)

Second, the harvest. The garden and limery continue to yield their bounty. And, after a few days of rain, the courgettes were huge!

Third, still alive. We have had a poorly dog over the past month, but I’m happy to say that after a couple of weeks of antibiotics, liver support tablets, multi-vitamins and a change to a low fat diet, Max seems to be somewhat better. He’s an old boy, so he won’t be with us for too much longer, but at least he’s eating well and happy now… even though he is doing a very good Eeyore impersonation in the photos.

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

-oOo-

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

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:

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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.

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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.

17 for 2017 – April Update

This month has involved a holiday and a lot of work, distracting me from ticking things off the list; however, here is the April update for 17 for 2017. This is where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I crocheted a little collection of flowers and hearts for the craftivism display at The Make It Shop, to be given away at the end of May. Although there were seven of them, I’m just counting this as one ‘make’ on my list. Most unusually, I completely forgot to photograph them, but I will do so once they are in the display. This takes me to a total of four for this target.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Just one batch in April takes the annual total to 12. We took this batch on holiday with us!

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April’s cheese in the mould

Fifteen… cheeses.  I experimented with making a new sort of cheese this month, using a thermophilic bacterial starter. It is smelling very good, so I hope that April’s solitary cheese will be a success. The total has now increased to seven.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six. I have decided I need to tweak the pattern a little as I have lost a bit of weight!

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Bucket reinforced using Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Two mends this month – both involved using Sugru to rescue damaged plastic items, namely a bucket and a coat hanger. This takes me to nine different mends so far this year.

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

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I haven’t added anything this month, The current total is still seven, but I’ve got some new ideas.

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Here they were, ready to go to their new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Finally kicking off this aim, I gave away two tomato plants this month to the friend who looks after our hens when we are on holiday.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we took the Scrabble set on holiday, but somehow it never got used.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although plants are flourishing in the limery now, so the future looks bright.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One lovely visit to see Karen of the blog Sweet Baby Veg – more about this in a later post. My total is now five.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. I planned to knit a pair of socks whilst on holiday, but I could not find the right needles before I went, and so I didn’t manage even to start a pair. Of course the needles turned up as soon as I got home, so maybe I’ll do better this month. The total is still just one pair.

Five… book chapters written. None yet – I’m still not feeling inspired!

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A bonus blanket in progress (the fifth of four!)

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I have another one underway at the moment – it’s the project I took on holiday in the absence of sock needles!

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None, but now the weather is warming up, the prospect of this happening is increasing.

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

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It’s a bit grubbier than this now!

One… gardening apron. Yay – this one is done, and it’s getting lots of use.

Progress has been a bit slow this month, but I’m still moving forward – 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 December 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Ms Emily’s Home for Full-Grown Nerds (and others) for Three Things Thursday. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, the lovely blanket that I knitted earlier in the year has been coming into its own now we’re having some cold weather. It is just the right size for snuggling under whilst I work

Second, making plans. Over the past couple of weeks I have been busy making arrangements for some trips in 2017: taking my mum to London for a few days so we can go to the ‘Undressed’ exhibition at the V&A; another holiday to Cornwall, because we had such a great time this year; a weekend of permaculture in Birmingham; and a trip to Manchester to spend a day crocheting in public at The Make It Shop to promote the Sixty Million Trebles project. I had to buy a diary so that I could write everything down!

Third, presents through the year. As you may know, here at Chez Snail, we don’t do Christmas. We don’t give gifts and we ask people not to give them to us,  and we don’t send cards any more. It’s not that we are mean, we’re just not into all the waste and overindulgence. Instead, we give gifts randomly at other times of the year and so I’ve just sent a hat to one friend and I’m currently making a little toy for another friend who tends to feel blue in the winter. I can’t share a picture of the latter as it’s gong to be a surprise, but here is a picture of some baby hedgies that went as a surprise to some friends earlier on in the year:

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hoglets

Finally, if you are waiting to hear the results of last week’s give away, you’ll have to hang on for a bit as I haven’t had time to do the draw yet… soon, I promise!

So, those are three things making me smile this week – what about you?

Three Things Thursday: 11 August 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, meeting blogging friends in person. This week has been an especially good week for this since I spent Monday afternoon with Katy the Night Owl, drinking vast quantities of tea and setting the world to rights. And then today we had lunch with Sue, a blog reader who lives in the next county to us, but whom we’ve never met before. It won’t be the last time – again there was lots of tea, plus pies and cakes.

Second, pollinators. Our garden has been full of bees this year – especially little bumblebees. We see hardly any honeybees, although I noticed loads of these on my recent visit to London – clearly city bee-keeping is thriving. The limery, however, seems to be a magnet for hoverflies, which avoid the insectivorous plants and head straight for the flowers:

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hoverfly on a melon flower

Third, a trio of eggs. For the first time in many months, today I have collected three eggs. This means that the lovely young Mags (Light Sussex) has started laying – yay! Now if Anna could just get back to it, we’d be swamped!

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today’s eggs from (l-r) Mags, Tiffany and Aliss

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

Off on holiday… the people

Travelling around the UK on our holiday presented us with the opportunity  to visit people as well as places. West Wales is relatively inaccessible so it takes a bit of an effort to go anywhere and folks are rarely ‘in the neighbourhood’ so we don’t often get passing visitors. Because of this it’s very easy to remain safely at home and never get to meet friends face-to-face, We decided, however, that we would make specific arrangements to visit a couple of people on our latest jaunt – one a very old friend and one a blog friend who I’d never met in person before.

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A little jolly chunky bag for Karen

The first stop on our tour of people was in Devon – for afternoon tea with Karen of Sweet Baby Veg. My friendship with Karen started a few years ago when she posted a little piece on her blog about an incident that had really upset her. In my quest to spread happiness, I decided to cheer her up by making her a gift. I set to with my crochet hook and, using some lovely yarn I had left over from another project, I made her a bag. In the post it went and was duly delivered… and thus a friendship was born. I have been itching to meet Karen and see her garden ever since then and the fact that we would be passing within a few miles of her front door was an opportunity not to be missed.

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Take-away

Arrangements were made and we turned up on her doorstep on a glorious afternoon. Her garden did not disappoint – she apologised for the state of it, but to me it was just delightful (and so much tidier than mine!). We sat outside and chatted. Then we sat outside some more, but this time with tea and cake, and chatted some more, and laughed and talked and laughed. If you’d been watching us, you would never have guessed that we’d never met before. In fact, I’m sorry to say, that we got so carried away with chatting, that I completely forgot to take any photos! So, if you want to see Karen’s garden, you’ll just have to visit her blog. I also want to give special mention to the Ombre Cake that she made and served. In fact, it was so good that she gave us the remainder to take away with us… we ate it with Cornish clotted cream and strawberries. Please excuse the poor photo, but we were in a hurry to have another slice!

A Zwartbles Ewe – Credit: By Earthernware (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

An afternoon really wasn’t enough time, but eventually we had to progress on and so we left Karen and made our way down to our base in Cornwall for the week. As the days went by and we visited Heligan and Eden, I posted some pictures on Facebook and as a result, got another invitation. When you meet people via social networking it’s easy to forget their ‘real’ geographical location, so when I got a couple of comments from people to the effect ‘you are in our neck of the woods’ the opportunity to see one of them for tea and (more) cake was too good to pass up. I met Val as a result of doing my diploma in applied permaculture design and most of our interaction has been via Facebook, although we have met a couple of times at permaculture events. Val is my go-to-person for advice on livestock in general and yarn production (from the sheep to the shop) in particular. After a few years without sheep, she’s now keeping Zwartbles and so we had the fun of meeting her two bottle-fed boys. The were excessively friendly, allowing us to have a good look at their beautiful fleeces in situ, so to speak. I’ve never worked with it, but on the basis of this meeting I’m already a fan of the wool. Val has promised me some yarn when she’s got that far and I’m really looking forward to working with it. Again I was rubbish and didn’t take any photos… again too busy talking!

Stream below Garrow Tor. in a SSSI on Bodmin Moor- Credit: Sheila Russell [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

And finally, on our way home we visited friends we hadn’t seen for about 18 years and who live on the edge of Bodmin Moor. They have a small holding; again they keep livestock and again we were too busy talking for me to remember to take any photos, although to be fair it was wet and misty by this time. This was a more poignant meeting than the other two, with lots of catching up on our respective families, sharing memories of folks who had died and hearing what mutual friends have been up to. It was lovely to have a real chat and see how their place has changed since our last visit. We certainly agreed that we will not leave it so long next time.

Then we headed home, with friendships renewed and revitalised. Social media is a wonderful way to keep in touch and to meet new people, but personal contact adds new depth to friendships. So, now we’ve managed the logistics of a trip like this once (and it did take some organising), we must do it again… perhaps heading north next time…

 

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