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.

ombre

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…

 

Finding happiness

What makes you  happy? Buying a new pair of shoes? Going to a restaurant? Walking the dog? Spending the day with friends?

And then how long does that happiness last? Will the shoes bring you happiness for longer than the transient experience of time spent with friends? Well apparently not. According to recent research (Gilovich & Kumar, 2015), the problem with physical objects is that you get used to them. After a while, your shoes become commonplace (however expensive they were) so you don’t continue to derive happiness from them and you have to go out and buy more stuff to top up your happiness. Of course if you didn’t own a pair of shoes in the first place, being able to buy some will increase your happiness, but once your needs are fulfilled the situation changes.

Experiences make you happy

It’s what you do not what you own

A day spent with friends is rather different – although you don’t end up with a physical object at the end of it, you do end up being a different person – a person with memories, shared experiences and stories to tell. Because we are the sum of all our experiences, happy days add to us, to our whole being. And, interestingly, the actual experience does not necessarily have to have been good for it to add to our happiness in the log run. Shared adversity, in retrospect, can be seen in a very positive light and can bring you so much closer to the people with whom you experienced it. One of my most stressful holidays is now regarded with great affection by those of us who were there – it makes us laugh to talk about some of the situations we found ourselves in, we enjoy reminiscing, looking at the photographs and laughing again at some of the jokes we shared. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but overall, it has turned out to be an experience that makes me happy.

So, next time you receive a bonus from work or have a little bit of money that you want to use for a treat, go and do something that will create memories… they will be with you and a part of you and make you smile long after your Jimmy Choos have been relegated to the back of the cupboard.

How does this sextant work?

Shared experiences make us who we are

Gilovich, T., & Kumar, A. (2015). We’ll always have Paris: The Hedonic Payoff from Experiential and Material Investments. In M.P. Zanna and J.M. Olson (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 51, (pps. 147-187), AESP, UK: Academic Press.

Happy Birthday – Three Today!

fizz

Fizz and kitchen chaos!

I’ve just discovered that this is my third blogiversary… if I’d realised I would have made a cake. Sadly I’ve got no one to share a cake with as Mr Snail has just driven off into the drizzle for his latest week working away in England. Actually, we did open a bottle of fizz last night, for no other reason than because we felt like a celebration, so perhaps we had a premonition. Mr Snail even photographed it on his tablet (hence the poor quality or the picture). We enjoyed it with local smoked trout, potato wedges tossed in paprika and a green salad partially out of the garden, accompanied by homemade mayonnaise – a delicious and very simple meal mostly made with very local ingredients.

Over the past three years I have made some lovely friends here in blogland. I’ve been sad to see bloggers disappear, and delighted when they sometimes return. I’ve written over 500 posts (probably a couple of novels-worth) and chalked up more than 6000 comments! My word, we really do have a dialogue.

Some of the highlights of my time writing this blog have been through different sorts of contact – Skyping with Kate, letters from Karen, seeds from Patrick, swapping a picture for a dragon (he’s on his way) with Pauline, being gifted snowflake bunting from Dani, antique crochet from Kerry and a sketchbook from Anne… to name but a few. I’ve also enjoyed sending gifts of fabric and handmade items, although I seem to have rather lost track of exactly what has gone where!

Of course, the big project that many of you contributed to was my masterpiece… I’m snuggled into it as I write (yes, that’s British spring weather for you). In fact, I’m hoping to have some little gifts to share with those of you who sent a square (or two) very soon… I won’t tell you what yet, but if I don’t have your address, I may be in touch in the next week or so…

Anyway, I really just wanted to say thank you for reading and making this blog such a lovely place to spend my time. And here’s to many more years

CHEERS!

People time

I love sharing food… and yesterday we had a marvellous get-together that resulted in this lovely ‘pot luck’ spread:

A fine spread

A fine spread

We had an abundance of cheese (including my homemade ricotta and curds), lots of fresh bread and wonderful cooked dishes… quiche, vegetable bake, tortilla…. all delicious and shared with lovely people. Three years ago I co-taught a full permaculture design course here in west Wales, and yesterday about 2/3 of the original participants met up for lunch. Some people I haven’t seen for three years and some I bump into occasionally, but what a great time we had, all lubricated with masses or tea and coffee and accompanied by two dogs.

And despite having not been together as a group since 2012, everyone found lots to chat about. The Masterpiece also made an appearance (by special request) and was much admired (it wasn’t even an idea three years ago, and I was only just registering to do my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, which inspired it).

Even the dogs admired the Masterpiece

Even the dogs admired the Masterpiece

You don’t need to meet up with true friends often, but it is really important to take the opportunity to see them when you get the chance. Here’s to many more shared meals and social gatherings… and outings for the Masterpiece!

 

Rays of sunshine

This week has been very grey. Despite temperatures around 17ºC, we’ve hardly seen the sun. That combined with the hour changing and thus it being dark so early in the evenings has made me rather gloomy. It’s great, therefore, that I have such lovely friends to bring some metaphorical sunshine into my life.

Beauty from New Zealand

Beauty from New Zealand

First, I received the first contribution to the ‘lap blanket of late-comers‘. All the way from New Zealand (my most distant square ever) from Mrs P, the Contented Crafter, came this lovely square. And not just a square, but some of her beautiful cards… which I think I’m going to put in a frame… possibly with a crochet border. If you like her cards (and really my photo does not do them justice), do check out her etsy shop.

An abundance of friendship!

An abundance of friendship!

Now that was something to make me smile straight away, but on the same morning I also received a parcel of knitted squares from a dear friend in Yorkshire. These are squares that she had intended to make into a blanket for herself, but she’s got distracted by quilting and decided to contribute them to the friendship blankets that we are making to support Denmark Farm, the conservation charity I am a trustee for. I may be naughty and divert one of these squares (and perhaps one of the ones below) to my lap blanket, even though this will mean that Nia has contributed to both that and the Masterpiece.

And another lot

And another lot

But that was not the end. Yesterday I went to my regular learning guild meeting and was presented with yet more squares for the Denmark Farm friendship blankets. Again, another friend who was planning to make use of these squares for herself, but decided that she had enough projects and that we could give them a better home. In fact Ann has made the most wonderful bedspread out of squares in some of those rich colours that you can see… I must get a photograph of it sometime, I’m sure you’d be impressed. The squares were not her only gift, though. She also presented me with something for the chickens. Originally grown for popping, this colourful corn just didn’t want to cooperate, so it has been consigned to being chicken feed. I tried it out on the girls this morning and they weren’t sure whilst it was in the tin, but soon tucked in once I’d scattered some on the ground:

So, even though the sun hardly showed its face this week, there were many bright moments. Many thanks to everyone who acted as a sunbeam!

PS You may notice that Esme is looking rather the worse for wear… on Monday about half her feathers fell out, but the reason is now clear… she had a whole batch of new ones just ready to burst forth! I have never understood why chickens moult in the autumn, but this year she’s certainly not getting chilled!

Circle of friends

Received this morning!

Received this morning!

My masterpiece is reminding me of the variety of good friends I have. Two squares arrived today – one from Mrs Robinson, who has been my friend since 1985 and one from Snuffkin, who I first met face-to-face less than a year ago. Both squares had lovely pieces of writing to go with them too. So far, all the squares are from the UK, but I’m very excited that some will be coming from overseas… it just goes to show how the internet really does turn us into one big community.

My most recent creations... and one WIP

My most recent creations… and one WIP

One of the nicest things about this project  is that, unlike interaction via the internet, I have something tangible. I am able to touch something that my friend touched – that they worked to create. When I hold one of the squares in my hand, I feel a physical connection to the person who made it. I particularly like the fact that, the yarn is linked to the maker too – left over form another project or, like Snuffkin’s cream-coloured square, created from the wool of sheep nurtured by the person who sent it… that’s just magic! I also like the personal touches – a little patch of darning, or the use of my favourite colour (purple).

So, a big thank-you to all of you who have decided to contribute… no rush, I’m planning to construct the blanket in April. And if you want to make your own blogging blanket, I’d be happy to reciprocate. This is craftivism in action – bringing us together as a community through creativity. And if you don’t knit or crochet, what about sharing seeds, or fabric, or books as well as words?

A time and a place

Brooklyn Blackout Cake - too fiddly to make every day!

Cake – an important element of lunch on the last Thursday of each month

On the last Thursday every month I go out for lunch… it’s nothing fancy, just meeting up at a friend’s house with a few other folks, sharing  food that each of us has brought. These days I usually take cake – it was generally agreed that these sessions are best with cake – otherwise, we never plan what we are taking along; I think it’s what’s known as a ‘pot-luck’ in the US. We could end up with four pans of soup or three loaves of bread and a jelly, you just never know. In fact, even though there are usually only four of us at most, we generally manage a very acceptable meal.

Anyway, the point is not the food – although that is good – the point is that we take a few hours out of our lives to inspire and encourage each other. We are, in fact, meeting as a ‘learning guild’ – the result of all of us being registered for the diploma in applied permaculture design. However, since we started getting together in 2012, we have got to know each other and become friends. We share our ideas about living more sustainably – through our gardens, families, work and hobbies – and encourage each other to take projects forward. It’s lovely to have like-minded friends to bounce ideas off and who will talk sense to you when you are going a little off the rails.

Similarly, Mr Snail-of-happiness has just gone off to meet with some other people in the area who are doing NaNoWriMo. They are going to meet up every Sunday through November to share their highs and lows of writing nearly 1700 words a day and hopefully give each other encouragement if anyone is finding it hard. Unlike my group, though, they are meeting in a pub! Who knows, perhaps they will continue to support each other once the month is over.

It may seem like an extravagance to take time out of your life to share a meal and chat, but it almost certainly isn’t. I come away from my gatherings feeling enthused and energised… not to mention happy, and that certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as a successful outcome!

More glut busting

Last night we were visited my friends – both old and new – for dinner. My aim was to feed them on produce from the garden, with any additional ingredients sourced locally. It’s such an abundant time of year that this turned out to be relatively easy (until I got to wanting ice cream).

Our main course consisted of:

  • Yum!

    Yum!

    Frittata, which is a sort of vegetable quiche without the pastry. Ours contained eggs, potatoes, courgette and peppers from the garden, plus onion and tomatoes from a local organic farm.

  • Glamorgan sausages, which are a vegetarian dish made from wholemeal breadcrumbs (flour from the local water mill), cheese (Snowdonia Black Bomber – a Welsh Cheddar) and sage (out of the garden) bound together with beaten egg (home-produced) and shallow fried.
  • Cherry tomatoes (from the garden)
  • Lettuce (from the garden)
  • Boiled potatoes (from the garden)
  • Monkey bread (flour from the local water mill, herbs straight out of the garden)
  • Couscous (haven’t found a local source of this yet!) with home grown pepper, coriander, courgette and tomato

For dessert we had:

  • Strawberries (from a local organic farm) and blackberries (picked in the afternoon from a local hedgerow)
  • Meringues (home-produced egg whites, but bought sugar)
  • Whipped cream (bought)
  • Homemade chocolate ice cream (home-produced egg yolks, but all the other ingredients bought)

You may be wondering why I bother to make ice cream at home when we live near The Hive on the Quay – a great source of locally produced honey ice cream. Well, the issue is that being lactose intolerant, I can’t eat it… so I make my own lactose-free ice cream and it helps to use up the egg glut when there is one (like now).

So, there you have it… a diversity of food, with very few miles on the clock… and now I have a few less courgettes to think what to do with too!

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