Monday, 18 February 2019

You Don't Often See Heffalumps In February

One day, when Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet were all talking together, Christopher Robin finished the mouthful he was eating and said carelessly: "I saw a Heffalump to-day, Piglet." 
"What was it doing?" asked Piglet. 
"Just lumping along," said Christopher Robin. "I don't think it saw me."
What is it about elephants? They are such great, majestic creatures, swaying through the forest - their powerful feet trampling everything underfoot, their stentorious trumpeting alerting everyone to their arrival. And yet - the pictures of the little cubs scampering along under their mothers' protection, and the scenes of them playing in the water, squirting with their trunks - they are also such fun. Might, majesty, motherly love, and merriment - with what wonderful qualities the Creator has endowed them. I'm not surprised that children love them so much - and they occur so often in children's literature. It took me a very short time to remember half a dozen family favourites without including Pooh [pub. 1926] 

Wonderful patchwork Elmer [1968], Horton from Dr Seuss[1940], Babar [1931] Jill Murphy's Large family with the hassled Mum [1986] Rosie may be a little young for Kipling's Just So Stories [1902] and Morpurgo's wartime adventure [2011] just yet. But these tales span more than a century and show the enduring fascination these beasts continue to have for youngsters, and adults too.
On Saturday, as I was sneezing and snuffling with a cold, and feeling sorry for myself, the post came came. A batik of an elephant! A gift from my friend Bless
This elephant has travelled to Dorset from Sri Lanka via California!
Bless tells me it was made by her friend, and depicts the Kandy Esala Perahera. This is the great Buddhist Festival held every year on the Island, and features a perahera [procession] of wonderfully dressed elephants. I am in awe of the art of batik- the skill with which the crafters use wax and dye to produce such stunningly detailed  pictures. This photo isn't quite true to colour- but the background is deep red, matching our dining room curtains at Cornerstones. So it will be framed and hung there, to be admired by dinner guests!
Having opened my post, I started humming 'Nellie the Elephant' to myself. I taught this song to Rosie last year and she enjoys it [this maybe because the word Trump makes her giggle] Then my phone pinged- Jon sent us a photo of their Saturday morning walk. Rosie's grabbed Liz's binoculars, and is clearly looking for something in the distance. Is she too on a Heffalump Hunt?
"I saw one once," said Piglet. "At least, I think I did," he said. "Only perhaps it wasn't."
"So did I," said Pooh, wondering what a Heffalump was like.
"You don't often see them," said Christopher Robin carelessly.
"Not now," said Piglet.
"Not at this time of year," said Pooh.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Deeds, Not Words

It is just a year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida. Seventeen students and teachers died, and another seventeen were injured. 
2018 was the worst year ever for school shootings in the USA - according to CNN, there's been a school shooting on average every twelve days. 
After Parkland, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, an American screenwriter and Methodist Pastor, was moved to write a biblically based response to politicians who, after every gun massacre, do nothing but send best wishes and empty piety to survivors.
She believes there is no contradiction between the sanctuary and the street when it comes to changing social policies that go against Gospel values. "If we don't follow through on what we say we believe, it's just talk," she said. This past week, Bob and I have been at the annual conference for Baptist pastors and spouses in our area. At the final session, we shared communion, and we closed with Carolyn's hymn. I found the words very challenging
If we just talk of thoughts and prayers
And don't live out a faith that dares,
And don't take on the ways of death,
Our thoughts and prayers are fleeting breath.

If we just dream of what could be
And do not build community,
And do not seek to change our ways,
Our dreams of change are false displays.

If we just sing of doing good
And don't walk through our neighbourhood
To learn its hope, to ease its pain,
Our talk of good is simply vain.

God, may our prayers and dreams and songs
Lead to a faith that takes on wrongs —
That works for peace and justice, too.
Then will our prayers bring joy to you.

This is set to the English Folk tune Waly,Waly - and Carolyn says of her hymn "I give permission for its free use. I only ask that you share it with others."

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Token Of Appreciation

For three years we took our summer holidays on the motorbike, travelling to France, Belgium and Eire . Bob bought me a proper Moleskine Notebook, so I could record our adventures en route. I'm afraid my literary output didn't match that of other Moleskine users such as Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway 
[you can read about our French trip if you want, it's now an e-book]
I picked up my notebook last weekend, and suddenly realised there was something in the envelope pocket inside the cover. A Boots Voucher - inside a cardboard folder, labelled £50. Where had this come from? Neither of us could remember. How old was it?Was it still valid? And had it been used at all? 
I took it into Boots, and the lady checked it and it was worth £39.64. - so I decided to spend it all, right there on the spot.
But what should one buy with such a windfall? Perfume for me, aftershave for him, some crazy red nail varnish, a fancy new hairbrush?No. None of these things. Because they were on offer [buy one, get one half price] I bought four month's supply of these...
Because of his sleep problems, Bob finds these strips extremely useful. And I benefit too, as my sleep is less disturbed. I felt guilty about having been careless with this generous gift - but now it has been spent on something which we'll both appreciate, for 120 days [and nights] Thank you, whoever you were, for giving the token in the first place.
I also discovered, tucked on the same bookshelf, the last two of the Leon Breakfast Vouchers which I won three years ago. They have two branches in Manchester now, so perhaps I can use them there.

This sorting of the bookshelves is yielding many unexpected benefits.

Friday, 15 February 2019

My Gorgeous Girl Is Growing Fast!

Three years ago I was eagerly anticipating the birth of my first grandchild. I was keeping myself busy with knitting from this bookI did the fish jumper, the cable jumper, the striped cardi, a hat and bootees [they were in pink and went to a friend's newborn daughter]  The book cost about £7, and I felt at the time it was good value because I would use it again.
The patterns go up to 8 years in size.
Liz mentioned that Rosie could do with a cardigan in a neutral shade. 
My friend passed on some Patons washable wool blend aran, in the hopes that I could find a use for it. Thank you Beryl. 
So I've cast on and started knitting design K. That's middle row, bottom picture [shown in navy on the cover but cream inside] 

It's a straightforward double moss pattern. I thought I'd knit it quite quickly but I seem to be on a Go Slow right now, everything is taking longer. Good thing I'm doing the age 3-4 size. It makes a pleasant change from knitting angels. 
Rosie's 3 at the end of the Month. I doubt I'll be done by then. Still in two minds about the contrast blanket stitch edging. Will decide when I've finished it. What do you think? I've got some pretty buttons in my stash I may use instead of plain ones. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Thai For Two

Bob and I had a special treat last week- we were given the opportunity to dine at the "Koh Thai" restaurant in Bournemouth. 
After an unexpected week apart, followed by a busy weekend, it was lovely to have such a treat. 
I don't recall ever eating in a Thai restaurant before!
The decor was amazing - we sat at a table by the wall [just to the left of that yellow logo in the picture - which comes from their website
The waiting service was excellent - rather than a 'dedicated' waitress, any member of staff passing the table would ask if you needed anything.
I'm no good at selfies, but here's us!
Bob enjoyed Massaman Lamb, with noodles, and I had Tamarind Duck with Jasmine Rice.
The food was delicious. The atmosphere was pleasant, and we found the waitresses very helpful.
Would I go again? Not sure- whilst I enjoyed the experience, and found the flavours were good, I thought the price did not reflect the size of the portions*. Bob's massaman curry was served in a small cereal bowl and cost £11.50 - the small amount of noodles were a further £4. The picture of tamarind duck on the menu was a little misleading  - there was nothing like as much meat on my plate under those crispy noodles as there was on the menu photograph.
We wondered how big the tapas plates were!

But it was lovely to have an evening out together. We dined quite early, and when we came to leave, the place was comfortably full - couples, families, and larger groups.
It's clearly very popular with many Bournemouth diners. 
[*I suspect my daughters will tell me I have unrealistic expectations about restaurant prices. They're probably right!]

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Soap Opera

I had a little box containing odds and ends of soap. The sort you get when you stop in hotels or conference centres. A few were unopened, but most had been used a couple of times whilst I was away, then brought home in my sponge bag and put into a soap dish. But they get too thin to be of any use.
I looked up ideas on the internet, and decided to grate, melt and pour into moulds. I had some small silicone pudding basins which I planned to use. I broke the bars into chunks then grated them in my processor [I did try to use the cheese grater but was afraid I'd grate my fingers!] It reduced the soap to mostly powder with a few pea sized lumps.
As per instructions I added 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp water to 250gm of soap, put it in a Pyrex bowl and balanced over a pan of boiling water. I stirred diligently with a spatula. At first nothing seemed to happen, then suddenly I had a large lump of 'mashed potato'
Using my ice cream scoop I weighed out around 60gm into each mould. The soap cools very quickly so was easily to handle. But the moulds were too wobbly. I tipped out each lump onto a strip of parchment paper, then pushed it into my biscuit cutter instead.
I ended up with four reasonable sized round cakes of soap. The average 'hotel bar' weighs between 15 and 25gm - so these are 3 times that size. Currently they are in the airing cupboard drying out. 
top tips
  • check out recipes on the net 
  • only add a little water and oil- don't soak the slivers
  • don't bother with the 'add water and do it in the microwave [I did that once before- it's messy and unpredictable and doesn't really save time]
  • weigh out your lumps so they are approx. the same size. you can use immediately, but they will benefit from drying out
  • don't make them too thick, the centre will not harden properly 
  • ignore 'add food colouring' - it may look pretty, but might stain your fingers [which defeats the object of handwashing!] 
  • ditto 'add perfume'- these just smell of 'soap'

Wash utensils thoroughly afterwards, so you don't find your next batch of baked beans tastes of soap. It took less than 20 minutes to make these. Most hotels throw away leftover toiletries, this is making good use of them [mottainai again]