Wednesday 29 November 2023

Marvellous Mini Makes

It is nearly twenty years since I began knitting mini Christmas jumpers to decorate the tree, and ten since I posted the pattern on the blog. But this trio is made in 4ply yarn, and the three cable columns require a fair bit of concentration.
I've written a much simpler pattern which I'm using to make jumpers for my 31:13 shop. Here's a stack of seven jumpers which I knitted while I was down in London. When we got home, I pressed them and stitched the side seams. 
Then I added contrast stitching and Swiss Darning, and added a few beads and sequins. Simple motifs work best - snowflakes, trees, wreaths, reindeer, and just rows of stitching.
Here's the pattern. You need a pair of 3.25mm[UK #10] needles and about 5gm double knit yarn.
Cast on 13sts.
Work two rows in K1, P1 rib
Work 12rows in stocking stitch
Cast on 8sts and beg of next row. [21 sts]
P2 K19
Cast on 8sts at beg of next row [29 sts] 
P 29sts
P2, K25,P2
P2, K10, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K10, P2
P12, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P12
P2, K10, cast off 5, K10, P2
P12, cast on 5, P12
P2, K10, P1, K1, P1, K1, P1, K10, P2
P12, K1, P1, K1, P1, K1, P12
P2, K25, P2
Cast off 8, K to end
Cast off 8 P to end [13sts]
Work 12 rows in st st
Work 2 rows in K1, P1 rib. 
Cast off. 
Fold in half, press, sew up side and sleeve seams
Decorate as required [I use 6 strands of regular embroidery floss for stitches, 2strands to stitch on beads] 
That's it! 

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Laughter, The Best Medicine*

Doing a word puzzle recently I discovered that Roger is American slang for vomit [is that true? Friends in USA please confirm or deny!] I thought about this at 1:30am in Liz's bathroom on Sunday. I blame the sausages I'd had for Saturday tea [fortunately I was the only one to eat them, nobody else was poorly] I'm fine now. But I wasn't going to let being unwell in the night ruin my day. I deliberately looked for things to make me smile. 
On our way to the bus stop we pass a lovely florists. Rosie always calls it the Nuthead Gardener. 
This week they were selling Christmas trees, and the pair of us couldn't help giggling at the tree funnels. Have you seen them? They seem to be everywhere this year. They are like giant sausage machines. 
They wrap each tree in a nylon net to make it easy to carry home. For some reason Rosie and I thought the gadget was really funny
In Sainsbury's we watched a woman buying a "Christmas Decoration" for £2. Three twigs wrapped in cellophane! Good grief, how crazy. I know we were in London, but surely there was somewhere nearby to forage a twig?  Some people have money to burn. 
In John Lewis I looked [briefly] in the haberdashery section. They had Christmas "fat quarter" packs. But clearly nobody spell-checked the labels - I was amused that the festive foliage fabric was labelled "holy selection" 
Less amusing was the John Lewis "Santa's Grotto". It cost £20 per child plus £2 for each accompanying adult.
"Each child has their photo taken, and receives a plush toy worth £10" But you had to pay extra for the photo - and accompanying adults were not allowed to take their own pictures. My SIL bought an elf like that for just £5 on Friday - Waitrose are currently selling them half price. 

I felt it was wrong to charge for the adult. No way would I let my two precious children go unaccompanied to meet a hairy old stranger on the other side of the curtain! I'm not saying I suspect the guy of nefarious behaviour, but it goes against all the safeguarding principles. Parents ought to be allowed in free of charge. Rosie thought it was very expensive too and pointed out it would cost us £44. I admired her maths and bought her a little felt elf for the tree. As her Dad said "the real Santa would never charge that much" 
*This comes originally from Proverbs 17 :22 "a merry heart is good medicine". Happy to report that I've quickly recovered from the Roger-interlude. 
How much would you pay for a child to see Santa? 
Should the carer have to pay extra? 

Monday 27 November 2023

My Little Chatterbox

 Like her Mum, and her big sister, Jess has developed a good vocabulary already, at 2½ years old. We've been in London looking after the girls while Liz and Jon were away. It's been exhausting but fun. Arriving Thursday afternoon, I went on the bus to collect Jess from Nursery. It was already dark. I said to her that we would see lots of pretty lights on the way home. First time the bus stops, she says “Grandma, lights! Orange and red and green". I hadn't been thinking about traffic lights - but they are pretty colours.
The Novello Theatre is where Mamma Mia the Musical is on. But Jess looked at the turquoise sparkling lights and told me it was "Elsa's Frozen Castle" 
She is obviously well up on this particular Disney offering. She looked at some snowflake lights hanging along a hedge, and declared "Let-It-Go-Flakes"

Jess began to sing Let It Go (I didn't join in) and the other bus passengers smiled happily.
The first evening, Jess missed her Mum and Dad, and didn't settle very well in her cot. Rosie came down and said she was crying a lot. I went into the room. A little voice, sobbing, said "I'm in a mess, Grandma" 
She had pulled a lift-the-flap book through the bars of the cot, and ripped two pages. And absolutely shredded the flap that was a garden gate. How many children have I known who have been really upset about something and torn a page or two? I gathered the shreds and put it all to one side "It's OK, Grandma will fix it" 
Then Jess and I cuddled in the big bed and I told her Mummy loved her and she would be home soon. We talked about all the people we loved. "I love Grandad so much, because he cooks me sausages" she declared
After that she was OK - and Rosie was a brilliant Big Sister. I stuck the book back together [recreating the gate with a rectangle cut from cereal packet] And I will post photos of some of the things we saw later. Jon and Liz got back safely last night and today we go home visiting another relation en route. 
What a privilege to spend time with the children. But I shall be glad to be back in a bungalow - stairs are exhausting [especially when carrying buggies up and down] 

Sunday 26 November 2023

Old Tune, New Words

I am fond of an old Welsh hymn which begins "Here is love, vast as the ocean" - it has a  Welsh tune. 

Last week we sung this hymn in church with different, modern words. I found them very challenging.

Show me how to stand for justice:
how to work for what is right,
how to challenge false assumptions,
how to walk within the light.
May I learn to share more freely
in a world so full of greed,
showing your immense compassion
by the life I choose to lead.

Teach my heart to treasure mercy,
whether given or received –
for my need has not diminished
since the day I first believed:
let me seek no satisfaction
boasting of what I have done,
but rejoice that I am pardoned
and accepted in your Son.

Gladly I embrace a lifestyle
modelled on your living word,
in humility submitting
to the truth which I have heard.
Make me conscious of your presence
every day, in all I do:
by your Spirit’s gracious prompting
may I learn to walk with you.



Saturday 25 November 2023

A Place of Peace And Blessing

This week I went to the Hospice with Bob. He was doing his volunteer work with the chaplaincy, and I was visiting a friend there. There is a new plaque in the entrance.

Opposite the one marking the fact that the Bishop blessed the work at the start of the building, there is now one commemorating the King's visit a week ago. I think the calligraphy is very attractive.
I did not take many pictures - but the new building is lovely, with comfortable, well designed rooms for the patients, as well as quiet rooms and a lounge for families to relax.  Next to the chaplaincy is the chapel. It is designed as a multi-faith area, to provide a worship space for all to use. The stained glass window is beautiful. There are peace lilies on the tables - and a memory tree.
On a practical note, the coffee shop provides good refreshments at a reasonable price, and there is a small gift shop.
The atmosphere is one of peace and calmness. The staff have time for everyone - patients and visitors alike. My friend's wife said "I go home in the evening, knowing he is so well cared for and comfortable here. Nothing is too much trouble" 
I am so grateful for the vision of Dame Cicely Saunders, who began the modern day Hospice movement, and for the commitment of all the staff - paid, and volunteers, who work so hard to help families through the hardest times.

Friday 24 November 2023

Pondering On Pastry [And Pies]

The older readers among you may remember a strange character called Mr Pastry [Played by Richard Hearne, born in Norwich in 1908] A slapstick comedian, he started his career working as an acrobat in the circus, and had 39 different ways of falling over. He was also a good friend of his contemporary, the suave Cary Grant. They had much in common. Grant, born Archibald Leach, first auditioned as a knockabout acrobat in a circus in Norwich.
I saw Mr Pastry when I was about 7, he did a show in Bishop's Stortford. Someone bought a pair of tickets for Mum and myself. I didn't think he was very funny. Perhaps I had already realised that old people getting lost and confused and falling over was not something to laugh about.
I fell down this rabbit hole of reminiscence because I had a roll of puff pastry in the fridge. I'm, not sure why it hadn't been put in the freezer [it was meant to be part of my Christmas supplies] but it needed to be used up pronto. The oven was on for something else, so I used the bottom shelf to cook two pies and four turnovers.
In the rectangular pies I put some of my own spinach from the freezer, and crumbled feta to make a sort of spanakopita.

The four triangular turnovers contain fruit. A diced eating apple, along with 4 chopped dried apricots. I cooked these briefly in the microwave and stirred in 1 tsp jam. Everything was brushed with beaten egg and cooked. These are in the freezer now. 
Bob kindly drove me to the dentist last week, as my arm was aching post covid jab.On the way back he asked if I wanted to stop for a bite to eat. "I really fancy a slice of pork pie and some pickle" I said. So we stopped at "Pickle And Pie" The food was OK, but they only serve pork pie with pickles during the summer months "Nobody eats it in the winter" she said. I settled for a toasted teacake. 
Bob reminded me that he had once gone into The Sticky Bun in Dereham and asked for tea and a sticky bun, and the waitress said "We don't serve sticky buns". Oh the disappointment!
Are you old enough to remember Mr Pastry?
If you found a pack of pastry which needed to be used up, what would you make with it?

Thursday 23 November 2023

Shop Talk

My online shop 31:13 has been 'live' for three weeks now. I have been pleased with the way things are ticking over.

Thankyou to everybody who reads this blog, who have sent good wishes, or sent in orders. There has been a steady trickle...and Steffi at the Post Office is getting used to me turning up on my bike with a parcel or two.
It has been interesting to see that I have had orders for all the different items in store - and I couldn't say which is most popular.
I am glad I had a good amount of stock prepared before the launch. I have spent a few evenings stitching birds, but not had to do a lot of 'replenishing' of my supplies.

Publicity is something I am still working on.I put an ad in all the Facebook groups to which I belong, and I must thank Kezzie for her lovely blogpost. 

I had a set of business cards from Vistaprint, with the logo, and once or twice recently when people have asked for my details in other contexts I've been able to pass these to them. I'm not sure if the Methodist Ladies who want me to go and speak at their church will end up buying juggling bags though...

Bizarrely, out of the blue, somebody messaged me on Sunday "Angela, many years ago at a conference, you taught us to make paper flowers. I made a lot at the time, but now I've forgotten how to do it. Could you send me a video or something, please" I replied that had she been in Norfolk she could have come to my workshop - but I sent her a copy of the basic instructions, and a link to the shop suggesting she could buy a starter pack. No sign of an order yet! 
On Sunday at church, my friend's niece was visiting. She too is a fanatical crafter and has a shop - we had a good chat -  when she gets home she is sending me details of her online presence. 
Despite saying "I'm not going to do any Christmas Craft Fairs" I have booked a table at the Residential Home next to the Surgery. It is just round the corner, and I can get there easily - and it will be warm and comfortable [not a draughty school hall] and my SumUp card reader should work with their WiFi. They asked what I was selling, and said that low priced items are always popular. That's on Saturday 9th. 
So I am very happy - it is fun, and not proving onerous. And I feel I am making good use of my creative skills.
But for the next few days we will be very busy with other things. More details to follow...