Monday 31 March 2014

It’s A Good Thing!

52 projects

Martha Stewart often shares an organising tip and declares "It’s a good thing”. Well one of the items on my 52 Projects list was “Organise Martha Stewart Magazines”


I started collecting these in 1999, and continued for ten years. I didn’t every issue, and especially after her jailterm, when the monthly magazine was much thinner – fewer articles, and less advertising.

Whilst I liked the crafts and homekeeping tips, I felt that at times she was not always kind in the way she wrote about other people. It doesn’t matter how perfectly you fold the napkins if you are then going to write about the ‘careless guest who broke an ornament’, or belittle someone else’s attempts at decorations [and name them!] Martha, the bottom line is this; people and relationships are more important that impeccable housekeeping.

I had nearly 100 issues of MSL, in file boxes on the shelf in the bedroom. But having purchased her two craft books with a book token, and realising that almost all the recipes are on her website, there wasn’t much point in hanging on to the magazines. I advertised some on eBay, and they are on their way to someone in Gloucester who is trying to complete her set. Some of the remainder are going to another Martha fan up in Yorkshire and I shall probably Freecycle the rest. I am not attempting to make any money – just pass them on to people who will enjoy them. It feels very satisfying to have cleared these out. The books weighed 100lb – which is what I weighed on my 18th birthday. And now they are gone…IMG_1745

The files are empty…


Now I must decide what to do with the Real Simple magazines. Eagle-eyed readers will notice I file these by month not year. It makes sense – in springtime I can pull out and re-read all the ones with seasonal recipes and Easter crafts, and in the winter, find the Christmas stuff. But I suspect that they too will soon face a cullingIMG_1747

Dealing with Martha Stewart…it’s a good thing!

Sunday 30 March 2014

Pause In Lent #4

A Pause in Lent Floss

As winter passes and spring arrives, Bob has been doing a few odd jobs in the garden – including repainting the sundial.

It is an ‘armillary sundial’ – we gave it to his father many years ago – and then we inherited it and it usually stands in the corner of the garden on a square plinth.


As the sun journeys across the sky each day, shadows mark its movements on the earth. Sundials date back to prehistoric times.

The word "armillary" derives from the Latin "armilla," meaning bracelet or ring.

The arrow across the centre is the gnomon, whose shadow falls on the copper band and indicates the hour.

As I was standing in the garden taking the picture, I found myself humming a favourite old hymn

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

I started thinking about ‘no shadow of turning’ – it is a quote from James 1;17. I wondered what James had been thinking about as he wrote it [was he looking at a Greek or Roman sundial?] James would have believed that as the sun moves across the sky, so the shadow turns – but God is constant, he does not change, there is no ‘shadow of turning’ with him.

And that’s all lovely and comforting and I could my Lent Pause there.

But I can’t. Because I know that since Galileo realised that it is not the sun moving round the earth, but the earth moving round the sun which causes the change in shadows, there is something more to say. God is constant, his light is unchanging – so if I feel there is a shadow, maybe that means that I have moved in relation to Him. 

I suspect that many of us can identify with that comment “If God seems distant, who has moved?” But I am heartened by the number of bloggers who not only share their difficult moments – but also speak of the way that God has been with them even through the shadows, until they can walk in the light again. Floss has spoken movingly in her Lent Pauses about her spiritual struggles over the past year or so – and of how she has found many reasons to hold on to her faith. Similarly, Gaz has shared his experience of depression – and how God has helped him deal with it.

And I look at the sundial again, and remember a favourite carol -and the verse from the prophet Malachi which inspired it

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace, hail, the Sun of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His Wings.
Mild He lays His Glory by, born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
    Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the New-born king!"

But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

May you be blessed today, as you walk in the light – and frolic in the Son-shine!

Saturday 29 March 2014

Our Church Is Full Of Fleas!

I knew the ukulele came from Hawaii – but I didn’t know what its name meant till this week - [C19: from Hawaiian, literally: jumping flea, from `uku flea + lele jumping]


Jo Stevenson, of Go Ukulele Crazy, brought her band of enthusiastic amateur musicians to entertain us last night. This was a fund-raiser for our Church Project – and I am thrilled to say it was a sellout- every ticket went! We began with a splendid supper, prepared by Janet G and her team.

IMG_1757Here’s Graham enjoying his apple crumble and cream! We had jacket potatoes, various quiches and salads, then crumble or trifle – followed by tea and coffee.


The band played for almost two hours. Jo invited any member of the audience who played to join in – and three people did! Jo is a very animated conductor [like a jumping flea!] and all my shots were out of focus, I shall ask my mate Peter for one of his pictures [Peter’s wife Janet S is one of our deacons, and in the band. This brilliant evening was her idea] So no picture of Jo here, but one of me with new haircut and my new ‘'Pulitzer’ top


Latest Update from Janet S – over £400 raised!

Thankyou, everyone who supported this event

Update #2 - Here’s Jo, explaining the actions to one of the songs, and requesting audience participation. Thanks Peter for the photograph

Borrowing, Browsing – But Not Buying [Yet]

A quick review of two books I borrowed from the library a week or two ago, and which I have enjoyed looking through. They are published by Octopus, in the “Easy Knitting” series – consultant editor, Nikki Trench. NT is one of my favourite craft writers, explaining things well, and producing good designs, so I saw her name on the title page, and grabbed them without even flicking through them until I got home.

easy knitting cosyeasy knitting country

“Cosy” and “Country” each contain 30 relatively simple projects. These include homewares like bags, tea cosies, throws, and cushions, as well as clothing including socks, jumpers, scarves and hats.

I liked the books because they are clearly set out – each pattern begins with a box telling you not only what yarn and needles you require- but also the skill set involved for each pattern [e.g. work K1P1 rib, pick up stitches round neckline,sew in zip, sew seam with mattress stitch…] Also there is great variation in yarns – from budget King Cole via mid-range Sirdar and Debbie Bliss to pricey Rowan wools. Thicknesses from 4ply to chunky. Also there are plenty of pictures- jumpers are photographed flat on the table [to give you an idea of their shape] and then at least two different shots on a model, showing how they fit.

If you like leafing through pattern books, just for the fun of it, looking for inspiration for projects, then I would recommend either of these two. I shall be checking out the library catalogue to see if I can find other books from the ‘easy knitting’ or ‘easy crochet’ series. With knitting patterns costing around £3 now, these £9.99 books would be good value if you found just 4 patterns out of the 30 which you would be likely to make up. But for now, I am not buying, just borrowing and browsing!

Friday 28 March 2014

I Should Have Just Asked Her…

…yesterday was a good day doing agency supply in Foundation Stage in a school not too far away. But one thing is still confusing me, and I know I should have had the confidence to ask my colleague at the outset. But I didn’t, and then it was too late…

teacher tiara

I’ve been in a number of schools where the teacher, or assistant, will don a fairy tiara at some point . This is a signal to the pupils that they must work independently and not disturb her. I know about the fairy tiara thing.

But yesterday, when I arrived, my assistant [who was extremely competent, and really clued up, and an absolute delight to work with] said “Would you like me to take the register? I know the children, and some are very anxious about new people” I assured her that would be fine, and I was grateful for her support. She knew the school, the routines, and how things were meant to work – and I was perfectly OK taking my lead from her.

She seemed quite relieved by that, and said that some Supply Teachers come in and want everything done Their Way – and they are The Teacher, the rest are Just Assistants. I said that I didn’t see it like that, and hoped we could work together. She smiled, and walked to the door to let the children in, muttering cheerfully “Oh that’s wonderful. I shall be The Elf in the classroom today then!”

elf teacher

There was an inrush of happy pupils, and no immediate opportunity to ask “What did you say? What does that mean?” and I am still wondering about it. Is it “Elf” or “E.L.F”

Is the main teacher the Elf, and the assistant in the tiara the Fairy? or is it some sort of acronym ? [like Education Leader in Foundation] I never saw a tiara whilst I was there – and I never found the right moment to ask for an explanation. What does it mean to be The Elf In The Classroom? [I have been known to appear as an elf myself, remember!]

Please – is there anyone out there who can explain this term to me?

Thursday 27 March 2014

Three Minutes On Thursday #8–It’s A Wrap!

3-minutes [3]

I was utterly overwhelmed when I got home from school the other afternoon, and Bob said “There’s a present for you, from me, on the coffee table” – ten red roses! He rarely buys me flowers, so when he does, I am always totally overwhelmed!


Bob had even put them in water till I got home. Now they’re in a simple glass vase on the window sill. But as I looked at them, I realised there was a three-minute tip to pass on… I store my collection of jugs and flower vases on the top of the cupboard over the cooker. They are out of the way there, and unlikely to get knocked or chipped. But they do get incredibly dirty, with all the dust and grease that settles up there. So I wrap each one in clingfilm. If I need a container, I can unwrap the dusty, greasy film to reveal the pristine clean jug or sparkling glass vase underneath.


It takes less than a minute to wrap, and even quicker to unwrap – but saves a lot of time [and detergent]

Thankyou Bob, for the wonderfully unexpected romantic gesture!

Wednesday 26 March 2014

No, It’s NOT A Bowler Hat, Bob!

this is not a hat

I have never actually read  “The Man who mistook his Wife for a Hat”, but I may have to write a sequel entitled “The Man who mistook his Wife’s latest Craft Project for a Hat”

I saw an idea in a craft magazine for an unusual greetings card, and as there are some significant events coming up soon which require cards, I thought I would have a go at making one.

These cards are known as four-section-circular-stand-ups! But I am unwilling to risk my Stash Of Crafting Stuff on prototypes, so began by making a trial model with an old calendar. You start by cutting out four circles [I drew round a tea plate] Take on and fold it into quarters, then cut out a one eighth segment. Stick the remaining eighth flap behind, to give a ‘corner’ shape with three curved edges.



You need to crease everything really firmly, and then fold the shape in half,pushing the bottom face up inside.This gives you a crease along the middle.


Then you stick those four pieces together, along just three faces. Use plenty of Pritt stick and match your folds and curved edges carefully

Here’s a shot from underneath which I hope makes it clearer.


Now I have flattened it and just temporarily joined the last two faces together using a paperclip.

Turn it over – and voila, a four-section-circular-stand-up card. I can see why Bob thought it was like a bowler hat though.


I have since made my ‘proper’ greetings card … but I am not posting pictures till after the intended recipient has received it!

I have just found a good online tutorial here, and below, a picture of another card I found online.


This one is quite spectacular – I think there were pre-printed quadrants used on the pages.

Now I have to make an envelope to fit [it will be hand delivered- I am not paying the new postal charges]

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Goodbye Hayley!


On Sunday we said ‘goodbye’ to Hayley, our brilliant Youth Worker, who is getting married in two weeks, and will be disappearing off to Manchester with her new husband Joe. There was much giggling during the service, Bob had the pair of them ‘jumping the broomstick’ and Joe had to smash a glass [two wedding customs from other traditions]


Rachel grabbed my camera, to take a photograph of me, on my knees clearing up the debris whilst the Offering was being collected [it was a small plastic ‘glass’ not the real thing, so no danger]

After church we went downstairs for usual post church coffee, followed by a great lunch. My camera was acting strangely . I took one shot, but as Bob looked too serious, I asked him to smile. He went from this…to this!



The young people will really miss Hayley. Here is Joe looking on as they swamp her with a Group Hug. Everyone signed a card, and we gave her a bouquet of flowers, and gifts. Also we made a tiny scrapbook of greetings – this was done over the lunch, and everyone present signed it.


I had prepared the covers beforehand, and on the tables were boxes with pens and pre-cut hearts. That was it was quick and easy to assemble the finished book. It’s a Muji notebook, and as the black ribbon ties didn’t look particularly bridal I threaded on some lilac and pink beads to go with the lilac and pink on the front.

hayleys farewell


We are really grateful for all the hard work Hayley has put in, to building up the work with the young people in our church and our community. She is leaving us for the happiest of reasons and Joe is a lovely guy.

May God bless them both, as they start their new life together.

Monday 24 March 2014

What Shall I Do With My Other Half?

bob blog pic

Not, not Bob – the other half of the tablecloth I used a couple of weeks ago to recover my ironing board. I realised my other board needs a new cover.

This one is much smaller, a tabletop  one I use upstairs when doing crafty projects. It didn’t take long to make this – but I still had quite a bit of fabric left. I decided to tackle another of my 52 Projects


IMG_1684There was an idea in Prima magazine recently for making shoelaces from pretty fabric, to brighten your summer plimsolls.

52 projects






biasbinding1I cut out two long strips, and using my Bias Maker, pressed under the edges, then folded the strips in half and machined them. The magazine gave no instructions at all about the ends – and they are carefully hidden in the photograph. I spoke to my Other Half and asked him for some of the Heat Shrink Tubing he uses when he’s doing electrical work


Along with the tubing came the Heat Gun which shrinks the plastic to fit. I couldn’t decide between white, lemon, blue, or pink – so each lace has different coloured ends!


The original white laces have gone into the shoelace box and my old canvas shoes are ready for a summer outing! Very grateful to my Other Half for having the materials I needed to hand. As I said to him

“It’s not every girl who can shrink her own aglets!”

Sunday 23 March 2014

Pause In Lent #3

A Pause in Lent Floss

The ‘Churches Together’ in our village are doing the same housegroup studies during Lent. We are using the book “Season Of Renewal” from ReSource. We had our first meeting last Sunday evening. The session seemed to go well, and people participated in the discussion. We learned that

lent booklet

Lent is a particular season

Lent is a limited period

Lent is for all

Lent is a gift

Beforehand, I needed to prepare a display representing the four seasons. I used four tea plates and arranged them in a circle. It was a challenge to come up with the right items!

Among the objects I chose were miniature daffs, a doll’s sunhat, cocktail umbrellas, a sample bottle of sun cream [the ‘sand’ is polenta] some silk leaves I bought for 1€ in Brussels, years ago, and some cake decorating bits nestling in ‘magic’ fake snow.lent 2014

As part of the session, we were invited to listen to some music for 10 minutes or so, and perhaps write a prayer or poem about the way in which the seasons are reflected in our spiritual life. This is the poem Bob wrote

I fear the return of arid days

Dry, draining, thirsty days.

I am wary of winter’s death

Frozen, lifeless.

Yet without drought no life springs

Without death no seed grows

Move me from now to next;

Lead me into drought or death

That life and harvest may come.

Renew, refresh and change me

That in renewal, resurrection may be seen

And in dying, hope may be born.

©Bob Almond 2014

Saturday 22 March 2014

Post Haste

Billie Tickle was born in 1898 and lived in Tottenham, North London. By 1911 he was already claiming to be five years older than he really was. He carried on exaggerating his age and enlisted in the 9th Battalion of the Essex Regiment in September 1914, arriving in France just 11 days after his 17th birthday. After almost a year in France, he took part in an advance in the early hours of the morning of 3 July 1916, and was killed.

ww1 tickleHe has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. His mother Eliza sent his photo to Imperial War Museum, describing him as One of the very best’. And now he is to be commemorated in one of the special WW1 centenary stamps.

Two others feature Binyon’s ‘Lines for the Fallen’ and a poppy

ww1 binyonww1 poppy

I like the way these stamps are mostly black and grey in colour – with the Queen’s Head in poppy red [or is it perhaps blood red?]

These stamps will be issued in July. But don’t forget, British Postage Stamps will go up in price on March 31st. If you use lots of stamps, you should go and stock up on some now!