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…

 

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!

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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!

 

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