Thursday 30 November 2017

Bits And Pieces

Sometimes there are follow-up comments which I mean to add to a blogpost and forget, and they are just too short to merit a whole post. Currently I have a number of such items, and decided to put them all in together.
After the recent post about ice sculptures, Mags asked about my blue drinks. I make a variation of the Swedish Martini, called Blue Moon. 
The colouring is blue curaçao syrup, which is basically colour, sugar and orange flavouring. I buy the Syrup de Monin brand [you often see their syrups in coffee shops, for people who like an added shot of hazelnut flavour or whatever] I get mine from Makro, or Beers of Europe. 

Expect to pay £5-£6 for a 70cl bottle. It lasts absolutely ages, and will colour around 60litres of drink. Ingredients for Blue Moon - combine curaçao;lime cordial; tonic water 
in the ratio 1; 8 ; 16

Next up - Pause in Advent - thank you to everyone who has signed up already, there's still time to join in

Following the recent post on collective nouns, Barbara Anne kindly emailed me from Virginia, to say that her favourite one is "an exaltation of hummingbirds" Isn't that charming?
I know that some of you have trouble posting comments- and it is kind of you to bother to email me. 
Next - this was a tweet from daughter Liz . Our granddaughter Rosie was born in St Thomas' Hospital, London, and we have much for which to be grateful to the staff there. They have just put out this appeal for 'bonding squares'

If you do feel able to knit a couple of squares and pop them in an envelope, I know they would be so grateful.
If you do not have a pattern, then you can use the one which we have been using here for our Tree Project- just keep on knitting till the side of the square is 5" not 4". Thank you [Pattern here]
In case you are wondering about the Tree Festival, it happens next week. Here is a teaser photo- Bob kneeling on the front drive cutting up a large piece of chicken wire. More will be revealed later!

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Get In The Picture 2017

I first did GITP in Kirby Muxloe back in 2010 [here and here] and it was a remarkably popular event in the village [although some years it was perishingly cold!] We set up in the pub car park, and had background music, and a team of photographers. People came, dressed up, had their photos taken, and then received details of the website where they could download the pictures.
This has to be one of my favourite pictures, from 2011. Bob, being very pastoral, with Helen who spent much of her life working on farms, tending for the animals. 

It was Helen who received the Royal Maundy from the Queen at Easter this year, and who died only a few months later. How she loved being part of this event. 
It was a great chance to share the true meaning of Christmas in our Village, and we were so glad to work alongside friends at St Bartholomew's, the Parish Church there.
These three Wise Men are Tom the Rector, Alan the Curate and Bob the Pastor.
Here in Ferndown, we have just done GITP for the first time. Slightly different now...
We were still working with the Parish Church [St Mary's] - Tracey their Administrator, and Patches Chabala, the Team Vicar were there to help set up. But instead of a stand alone event, we had a pitch as part of the Ferndown Christmas Lights Switch On last Saturday.
Bob had been asked by the organisers [Rotary Club] if he would provide the PA. Here he is , setting up his kit. And for that, we got two pitches right alongside him, in a prime location outside the Post Office!  One gazebo housed the St M's crew, who were giving out goodie bags [story books, chocolates, details of all our services] and providing free children's crafts. Alongside, we had our gazebo where one side housed a clothes rail, the other side, hay bales and a manger.
Changes from the KM days
1- part of a community activity
2- instead of taking photos on our camera and uploading, we invited people to use their own phones - that way they had the pictures immediately and had full ownership. We did offer to take the picture for them if all their group wanted to Get In The Picture though.
3 - we publicized it on Social Media [7 yars ago, I was not into Facebook etc!]
All that made such a difference
Here's Tracey, Patches and his wife and another friend at the beginning, before things got busy.
And here's three people from the stand opposite ours [The Ferndown Lions] who came over.

The UCF folk were incredible - Steve was there soon after 9 to set up, and Pam at the very end as we finally loaded our cars at 6 - and in between, loads of help, with dressing, and arranging, and chatting, and giving out bags etc. Thanks,Team!!
We calculated that over 300 people had been to have their picture taken. Some had even arranged meet-ups having seen it advertised on Facebook. One lady thanked me, and said she remembered the church stand at the Summer Fete, and how her children loved the stories. Another asked for details of our Youth Activities. Lots of families said they might come along to a Carol Service. And there have been positive comments on Facebook since the event too.
It was incredibly hard work - and we are both still feeling the after effects of a busy weekend. Bob's cough hasn't gone yet. But it was so worth it. 
Whenever my feet felt cold, or my back ached, or my throat felt sore, I just kept remembering that elderly lady I met in Albania.  She told how she could recall a time there when owning a little cross, or speaking about Jesus could get you thrown into prison. She said she was grateful that God had let her live to see the day when she and her fellow Albanians were free to speak openly about their faith."Do not stop doing it - you never know when you might once again lose the opportunity" she said to us. So while I can, with God's help, I will keep sharing the good news.
Thank you to all who took part- and to Chris Duffett for his original inspiration for GITP.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Deeply Dippy

Dippy: silly, especially in a pleasant or funny way, odd, eccentric, or crazy {yep, that probably applies to me]

Well firstly, there's Dippy The Diplodocus, about to start his tour of the UK, having left his spot in the National History Museum, where he has been since 1905...
He begins in Dorset Museum [February to May 2018] and ends in Norwich Cathedral [July -October 2020] so I hope to catch him at one location or the other.
Then there's Deeply Dippy, the Right Said Fred song [now 25 years old]
But I am thinking about Dippy Eggs.
Bob was a bit under the weather on Monday, having had a long and exceptionally busy weekend, and he'd got a bit of a cough - so I decided some TLC was in order, and cooked him a special breakfast of two boiled eggs.
Don't you just love my egg cosies?
My friend Pam knitted them as a gift for me, five years ago. I had lent her my excellent Debbie Bliss "Knitter's Year" book, and she'd done this pattern from it as a thankyou.
But as well as the two eggs, I prepared a whole heap of 'soldiers' for him to dip in.
There are various suggestions about the name
- some say it is because when cut from a slice of toast, they look like serried ranks of soldiers. [serried comes from the French serré meaning close together]
- others say that when dipped in the egg, they look like a soldier with a big helmet on
- others say that in some places [especially Canada] these are called Humpty Dumpty Eggs, and these represent 'all the Kings Men' unable to put things together again.
Some people call them not soldiers, but 'Ladies' Fingers' [Which I thought was either a term for okra, or an alternative name for boudoir/sponge finger biscuits]
The oddest thing I discovered was in Wikipedia, which says the first evidence of this term in print was 1966, although Tony Hancock referred to 'soldiers' for his egg in a commercial of 1965.
So what I would like to know, from you erudite readers, are these things...
What do your family called soft boiled eggs?
Have you come across the term 'Humpty Dumpty Eggs'  in Canada in anywhere else?
If you call them 'soldiers', WHEN did you start using the term?
I only ask because it was my Grandad [who died in 1962] who told me they were soldiers when I was very young. And he muttered about the evils of WW1.  I do not like soft boiled eggs - but would occasionally pinch someone else's dipped soldier and bite its head off.  So Wikipedia must have something wrong somewhere.
Meanwhile, Bob is soldiering on bravely...

Monday 27 November 2017


A while back, I treated myself to a box of sewing machine accessories from the Internet
This box of 32 generic feet cost the same price as one pukka Janome foot. But sadly, I haven't really had time to try them all out.
Then I spotted this book in the library - and thought it might spur me on to having a go.
Divided into six sections - it's ideal for novice and advanced machinist.
Chapter 1 Essential Kit
Chapter 2 Basic Feet
Chapter 3 Speciality Fabric and Techniques
Chapter 4 Pretty Edges
Chapter 5 Fancy Stitching
Chapter 6 Buyer’s Guide
There are clear diagrams showing how to use the different feet [including the different style of foot designed for the same task]
As well as the basic how-to, there are useful ideas for alternative stitching you could do with some of the feet.
The 'rolled hem' foot can also be used to apply a line of couched embroidery thread.
For the first time ever, I have got the hang of piping [that is the machinists's piping, not cake decorator's, musician's or plumber's piping!]
The 'blind hemming' stitch suddenly makes sense.
I have made some notes to remind myself of useful tips.
For instance, when you are couching cord round a corner, turning when the needle is in the leftmost position will give you a 'softly rounded' effect - in the rightmost, you'll get a 'crisp angle'...who knew?
A thirty minute session just experimenting produced some satisfying results.
Important note - not all the feet work with my machine- some are slightly out of kilter, and the needle hits the foot, and doesn't go through [so I've broken a few en route] But if just 2 of the feet are successful, I am still quids in. I am pleased with my results, but know I need more practice.

I'd certainly recommend this book if you are interested in developing with more complex stitching skills. The machine was out because a friend asked me to turn a piece of stitchery into a cushion cover.

His late wife made this, many years ago, but never finished it off. It was just a piece of fabric with stitching on it.

A niece [who is very fond of cats] is getting married shortly, and he wanted to give her something which would remind her of her much loved auntie. 
What a lovely thought!

Sunday 26 November 2017

Get Off The Roller Coaster...

It feels as if we are hurtling towards Christmas at breakneck speed, with sudden twists and turns along the way, like a crazy roller coaster ride. The physicists, and those designing these rides, called it "jerk and jounce"
If you think you would like to step off the ride for a while, why not join some of us for our annual tradition of "A Pause in Advent"? Every Sunday, starting next week, until Christmas Eve, some of us will be posting something quieter, thoughtful, more reflective...not necessarily a deeply spiritual sermon, or a theological treatise - it may not even have a "Christian" or "Faith" label. Just a moment to pause, and think...
You can just read other people's posts, or read and then add a comment - or perhaps write a few posts yourself. Signing up does not commit you to producing 4 posts, published regularly at 9am on Sunday mornings - do it as and when you feel able!
But if you would like to write posts please can you comment below on THIS post, so I can add your name to the blogroll in my sidebar. Thanks!

Saturday 25 November 2017

Wisdom Of Wombats

I know next to nothing about wombats- but I remember Fatso The Wombat from Country Practice, the Soap from Oz, that I watched in the 1980s when I was feeding my babies! He was singular- but I recently learned that the collective noun for a group is a wisdom of wombats. A recent crossword in the Guardian featured collective nouns as its theme, and this sent me off into a bit of research. The original name was terms of venery, and it referred to animals [venery is an old word for hunting] I recognised many of these words as still in general use; a herd of cows, a swarm of bees, a flock of sheep, a pride of lions, a pod of whales, a shoal/school of fish
Others are less common, but you still hear them from time to time; a colony of beavers, a murder of crows, a gaggle of geese [on land] but a skein [in flight], a litter of kittens/puppies, a barrel of monkeys, a knot of toads, a parliament of owls, 
But some were new to me. I love these ones
  • a prettying of doves
  • a busyness of ferrets
  • a charm of goldfinch
  • a deceit of lapwings
  • a congregation of plovers
  • a nursery of raccoons
  • an unkindness of ravens
  • a tok of capercaillie
  • a kettle of vultures
  • a fluther of jellyfish
You can find comprehensive lists here, here and here - and some modern jokey ones here, here and here
Do you have any favourites - traditional, or modern - and has your family made up any of their own? 
How about a blethering of bloggers?
[blether defined here]

Friday 24 November 2017

One For The Road

Being breathalyzed the other week was completely new [and unexpected] experience for me. I very rarely drink alcohol - but at our Ferndown Fete last summer, a member of the Dorset Police was handing out little cards from the Morning After organisation. I tucked it behind the clock when I got home - and it resurfaced last week when I was moving stuff for the floor fitting. It was quite interesting to read, and I was surprised about how long alcohol takes to pass through the system [and therefore cease to affect one's driving]
For instance, it asks this simple question -
After drinking, when will you be safe to drive?
1 Bottle of wine 13 hrs [after 1pm if you are drinking till midnight]
2 Pints of strong lager 7 hrs
3 Double Gins 9 hrs
4 Pints of bitter 11 hrs
5 Pints of cider 14 hrs

It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to be properly processed by the body. On average it takes around one hour per unit of alcohol, though this can vary depending on a number of factors. In the past I have been to school staff Christmas parties, where colleagues have certainly drunk that much, and then driven in to work the next morning! [I'm not sure some of them were fit to be in the classroom, let alone get behind the steering wheel]
The‘Morning After’ app can help you check when you’ll be safe to drive after a night out - it’s free to download from Google Play and the App Store. @morningafter

The card says that 2 alcopops, or 250ml glass of 15% wine, or 1½ pints of beer, or a can of 7.5% lager, or 3 single gin shots - any of these can take up to 4 hours to pass through your body - and before that, you are not legally safe to drive again. I think I shall stick to tea, coffee and my alco-free cocktails! Wherever you are celebrating this Christmas, do enjoy yourself, but please be careful - and for your own safety, and that of others, please don't drink and drive.

Thursday 23 November 2017

My First Christmas Card Of 2017

This is the week of our WWDP Residential Meeting, when we plan for the day of prayer in 16 month's time. As usual we all take one Christmas card, and then exchange them. I have made a double sided cross stitch Christmas tree ornament, and suspended it inside a card. The hanging loop goes over a button. The design on one side is our WWDP logo - four women kneeling in prayer, facing north, south, east and west. On the other side, I modified the female figure to represent Mary kneeling before the manger.
I no longer make [or send] many cards each year, so I always put more thought and time into this one. Do you make your own cards? And how many do you send? Has email and Facebook and the cost of stamps altered your habits? 
This year the Royal Mail have brought out a mixed set of sacred and secular stamps. I've bought a few 2nd Class Madonna [that sounds a bit daft] 

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ice, Ice, Baby!

I cannot believe that it's nine years since I went with Liz to the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland . I was interested to read a few days ago about this years WW, and the Ice Sculptures there. It is an amazing craft - these people produce stunning works of art, in subzero temperatures, which will last for a few weeks- and then it all melts away ....
Watch this brief video about the London Display
And another, by the same company, which is currently on display up in Edinburgh.
I have the greatest admiration for these craftspeople [their company, Hamilton, is based in Wimbledon - check out their website for examples of their other work] 
It seems sad that their work can only be enjoyed for a short time, when you consider the hours put into the creation. I suppose it's the same for people who ice wedding cakes, or arrange flower festivals.
Image result for ikea ice cube fishImage result for ikea ice cube fish
The nearest I get to ice sculpture is my IKEA fish ice tray!!

Tuesday 21 November 2017


For reasons which will be explained later, I realised on Saturday afternoon that I needed some Playdough. I didn't want to go and buy some - firstly because I'm mean and didn't want to spend money, secondly I figured the shops would be quite busy.
So I made some. This recipe is really easy, relatively inexpensive, and uses stuff you've probably got in the cupboard already. I needed to make an assortment of colours to make model food. I decided green, red, orange and yellow would be good. I'd got green and red colouring left over from Christmas, but no yellow. I improvised with some turmeric, and I am very pleased with the results. I diluted the turmeric in a little water, and stirred it into the mix. 
There was a time when I seemed to be making Playdough every other week, it's reassuring to know I haven't lost the knack! 

Monday 20 November 2017

Bowled Over

I caught up with the recent Rick Stein cookery programmes last week - I had some knitting to do, and I could kill two birds with one stone that way. He's travelling to Mexico and reliving his youth.
One of the things he tasted was chowder in a bread bowl.
I looked up his recipe online - and was extremely disappointed to find that he suggested buying the rolls and hollowing them out.
You need fair sized crusty rolls [around 4½"-5" across] and they don't sell any that big round here. So I checked out the recipe I used a few years back-  we had enjoyed soup in bread bowls when we were in Boston on our Silver Wedding Trip [13 years ago] My recipe is still pretty good - I cannot recall where online I originally found it. Last time, I made the dough in my breadmaker. This time I kneaded it in my big Kenwood. I made 4 good sized rolls.
My soup was "Fridge Scrape" - using lots of leftovers- some onions and other leftover veg bitsfrom the fridge, 2 pots of frozen stock, plus two small portions of beef and veg casserole from the freezer [defrosted and blitzed in the liquidiser] I put in a generous spoonful of tamarind paste, to give some umami savouriness- then left it "blippin away" in the slow cooker all day. Once it was all cooked, I liquidised it again - served some in my breadbowls, and froze the rest [plus the 2 remaining bowls] A 5" bowl holds around half a pint of thick soup. I love the way that once the soup s all gone, the crusty shell is soft and chewable. Delicious!
Very satisfying on a cold November evening. Rick's programme is interesting from a 'travel' point of view - but I was a little disappointed when one recipe was for basic salad dressing. Come on Rick, give us something a little more exotic than that, please!
On the subject of current TV Cookshows, have you watched Nigella's latest?
Much fuss has been made about the fact that she cooks in her dressing gown.
In case you want to buy a similar gown for yourself or a loved one, it is from Maude and Tommy. It is called the One Hundred Stars Venice Map gown, costing £65. It is hand wash only - and sorry, but it is out of stock right now [the 'Nigella Effect' they tell me]
I frequently wear my dressing gown when working in the kitchen - particularly Sunday mornings. I have long since discovered that even with an apron, I can splash my Sunday best as I prepare lunch before dashing off to church. My dressing gown [ancient, £20 from Cotton Traders] is a much safer garment - and I can sling it in the washing machine whenever it gets dirty.

Sunday 19 November 2017

The Bottom Line

A short video, worth watching to introduce the Toilet Twinning Charity, because today is World Toilet Day.

And here is a link to a BBC story about a creative way of solving the problem of sanitation in India, organised by SHRI [Sanitation and Health Rights India]
Finally, another charity concerned about people's basic needs, and the needs of the environment.
I know that it's Sunday, and usually on a Sunday I post about something connected with my faith - an old hymn, or a Bible passage, or a story about someone who has done a good deed which has challenged me. 
I make no apologies for posting about this topic today. 
If we got up this morning, and used a clean, flushing loo, and were able to wash our hands afterwards in a pleasant bathroom - with privacy and decent loo paper, then it is a good thing for us to be reminded of the millions throughout the world who are denied this basic human right. James 1:27 says
This is what God the Father wants. It is clean and right. Go and help those who have no father and mother. Go and help widow women whose husbands are dead. These people have troubles. And keep yourself clean from the wrong things in the world.
So go and spend a penny or two, in support of the organisations that make decent sanitation possible for the people who have troubles.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Are You Listening?

I am really dense sometimes - there I was looking at the 'Christmas Shop' section of John Lewis, and at the end of one display unit I saw these...I thought they were some sort of ecclesiastical themed Christmas pillar candles
But on closer inspection, I discovered they are bluetooth speakers.
I presume the design I took to be a cross is actually +- and refers to the volume control?
They are called Ultimate Ears, and that Alexa woman is hiding inside them! She was inspired by the conversational computer system used in Star Trek, and named after the ancient library at Alexandria. 
There are many models in the UE series- collectively called the Ultimate Family. That just reminded me of the importance of my own ecclesiastical church family, and the need to be listening carefully, and responding thoughtfully, whenever I am spoken to.

Friday 17 November 2017

Tickled Pink - A Carnation Tutorial

I am always amused by the derivation of the work pink.  Originally it meant to cut a zig-zag edge, and goes right back to the 1500s. There's a similar German word pinken.

I am very fond of my pinking shears - and when Nadia asked to borrow them for her craft last week, she was surprised when I asked "For paper or fabric?" - they are impossible to sharpen, so when I inherited my Mum's I immediately designated their specific use.
The colour pink is believed to have got its name from the dianthus flowers, aka pinks- which have pinked edges
I needed my [paper] pinking shears this week to make some carnations [red ones]

  • These are really quick to put together, and look surprisingly effective. 
  • One 33cm 2-ply napkin makes 2 blooms.
  • You don't have to bind the stalks with stem tape - especially if you are putting them into an arrangement, but it does give a neater finish. 
  • Green garden wire will work, at a pinch, or a pipecleaner
  • And if you haven't got pinking shears, you can still make the flowers with 'clean cut' edges. But they won't be 'proper' pinks
  • for larger blooms, you can use the same method, but firmer paper like tissue or crepe will work better.

I've put a photo tutorial together - click on it to enlarge

Thursday 16 November 2017

Yule Never Believe It!

That was the title of the event last Saturday Night- it was our Girls' Night In
 We decorated the church hall in festive fashion, and set out coffee, cakes and cocktails.

The various Christmas themed crafts proved very popular - Nadia's table worked hard to produce felt gingerbread men and figgy puddings

On other tables, people made bags, and decorated fir cones, created tiny twiggy tree decorations, and folded pyramid table favours. As well as this hive of industry, there was plenty of time to chat with friends new and old.

Over thirty chatty females turned up, which was lovely. You never know, the first time that you try something, what the attendance will be. Thank you to everyone who provided cakes and crafts, and all those who came along.

We did have some cake left over to serve with Sunday's After-Church Coffee though!
LanniesMum commented on the blog last week that she is looking forward to seeing what I'm doing and making in the Christmas Run Up- well this was the first Christmas Event of the year.
I provided the cocktails again - check out my lovely new stand for the drinks dispensers. Bob made this for me a couple of months ago - it is so useful. My contribution to the crafts was the pyramid table favours. I shall post a proper tutorial for these soon. I notice there is something similar in last week's Waitrose Weekend newspaper. Mine don't need you to glue fiddly flaps though.