Monday 28 February 2022

Kept In The Loop

In the summer of 2020, I bought a pack of cheap hair loops. I had two reasons for this. 

First - my hair was getting long and I wanted to tie it back. I was in Norfolk with Rosie- my hair ties were in Dorset with Bob [not that he needed them!]

Second, I'd seen a hack online about making easy masks.The mask idea didn't work for me - I could not keep the loops over my ears. My hair shorter now, but I have found lots of alternative uses for the loops.

When travelling, they keep the lids on small bottles
I've not done this myself - but it is a quick way to turn a regular bra into a 'racerback' should you need to. Just pull the straps together and tie up.

If your jeans are too tight, you can gain a bit of breathing space by looping the band through the buttonhole and round the button [yes I did do that once, before the diet!]

Wearing an elastic band on your wrist and snapping it when stressed is said to be an anxiety reliever [Nadiya Hussein uses this technique] Hair loops are more comfortable to wear than regular elastic bands, and less prone to breaking.

For tying up bags for long term storage [eg bags of spare curtains, soft toys etc which you want to put up in the loft] a hair loop is much better than a rubber band which will degrade, and go brittle.
And this week I came up with my own hack - the elastic loop on my turbie towel had lost all elasticity and was useless. I simply unpicked it and replaced it with a new stretchy hairloop. 

I am sure these little loops have got lots more uses - I have around a dozen left in the pack! Do share any good tips you may have for them

Sunday 27 February 2022

A Post From 2019


Originally entitled "Such Happy Girls" 

Last Sunday, our church hosted a visit by the Zozulenka Choir from Ukraine. Nine delightful teenage students, who are touring the UK, singing and dancing, to raise money for Hope Now.
This charity supports their school and other projects in their country. They sang in Ukrainian and English. Their handmade costumes were amazing--such stunning embroidery. 
This old peasant woman with her huge papier-mache head was great fun! 

They spoke of their homes, their school - and the fighting. But their bright smiles, and strong faith shone through every word spoken, every note sung. Before their "Benediction Hymn" they sang "Bless the Lord, O My Soul" [very popular at UCF] and we all joined in. 
Their 2019 tour is almost over, but they promised to return in 2020. Do look out for them. Their music, poetry and dancing is SO professional, their story is moving, and the whole evening was an utter joy. 
The Pandemic meant that they did not come back in 2020. I wonder where they are now? God knows - and I pray that he will keep them safe and keep their faith strong. Lord, bring peace in our world. 

WDP UPDATE : if you are involved in organising a WDP service this Friday, please be aware that there is now an extra prayer about the Ukraine to be included in the service. (find it HERE

Saturday 26 February 2022

Inch By Inch, Row By Row

I have been taking advantage of the improved weather conditions to do a bit of gardening. A few seeds in pots inside the house, and my chitted potatoes out in the raised bed. I have removed the cardboard and replaced the string which delineated the sections of the bed. My 'biodegradable cotton twine' had disintegrated, so it is now replaced with some nylon cord which Bob had in the workshop. Bob reminded me of this lovely old Pete Seeger song

Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow.
Gonna mulch it deep and low,
Gonna make it fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow.
Please keep them safe below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down.
Pullin' weeds and pickin' stones,
We are made of dreams and bones
Need spot to call my own
Cause the time is close at hand.
Grain for grain, sun and rain
I'll find my way in nature's chain
Tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.
Plant your rows straight and long,
Season them with a prayer and song
Mother earth will keep you strong
If you give her love and care.
Old crow watching from a tree
Has his hungry eyes on me
In my garden I'm as free
As that feathered thief up there.

Inch by inch, row by row,
Gonna make this garden grow.
Gonna mulch it deep and low,
Gonna make it fertile ground.
Inch by inch, row by row,
Please bless these seeds I sow.
Please keep them safe below
'Til the rain comes tumbling down.

Friday 25 February 2022

Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

Bob has applied to be a volunteer at our local Hospice. We both believe passionately in the work of the Hospice Movement. Dame Cicely Saunders gave an inspiring address at his college 40 years ago - and we have subsequently been involved with a number of these wonderful places. Part of Bob's training for Pastoral Ministry involved a placement at the hospice in Clapham - and various friends and family members have spent their final days being supported by hospices across the country. Some had help at home, others were given residential hospice places. Most recently, my cousin Gillian was in the St Francis Hospice, Romford.

I was very challenged by an article in the Guardian last Sunday. You probably know that currently, hospice care is free - paid for by "a combination of NHS funding and public donation" [that quote from the NHS website] But more than two thirds of the finance is from donations, the NHS share is around 30%. Furthermore, it is something of a postcode lottery. If you live in a wealthy area, there is likely to be more provision for hospice care. And individual hospices have to negotiate for their share. It is estimated that over 65% of those in need of such support and care fail to receive it due to lack of funding.

There is currently a Health and Care Bill going through Parliament - one which will shape the future of the NHS for the foreseeable future. Baroness Finlay [a crossbench peer, and palliative care specialist] has proposed an amendment to it. She says 

“The government could improve care without increasing overall cost, by explicitly requiring commissioning of specialist palliative services. The bill will launch 42 integrated care systems in England, new geographically defined health and social care partnerships, yet doesn’t mention palliative care.”

Her amendment, due to be debated in March, is that all areas must have multi-professional specialist palliative care services, specified and funded, determined by population needs. It is accompanied by criteria defining what this service does, and that it must be available wherever people are, from their homes to the streets, prisons to hospices, all day, every day. It is supported by many charities for people living with terminal illness including Marie Curie, Sue Ryder, and Hospice UK.

Please read the information on the Marie Curie Website, and if you feel able, sign their petition which asks that provision of end of life care should be fair and accessible to all.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Six [Going on Sixteen, Sometimes]

What a Fabulous Five year old you have been- we have so enjoyed watching you learn and grow. You are the most loving, thoughtful big sister to Jess. 
You bring us so much joy and laughter - and you help us to learn too [now all  the family know interesting facts about cheetahs, and jokes about chickens] Thank you!
And now I'm sure you are going to be a Splendid Six Year Old. 
Happy Birthday Rosie!
God bless you today and always
PS thank you for the message you left on my fridge when you went back to London on Sunday

Wednesday 23 February 2022

Just Teabags? No, More Than That

It's Fairtrade Fortnight. What's that all about? 

In 1979, Traidcraft began, working with farmers in Bangladesh to ensure they received a fair reward for their labour. That Christmas we bought some of their cute jute angels for our Christmas tree. Then in 1992, Traidcraft joined with Cafod, Oxfam, the WI and others to form the Fairtrade Foundation. 

They've worked tirelessly to support workers across the world. Not just producers of tea, coffee, bananas [and little jute angels] but much, much more. [check here

This year, the emphasis of Fairtrade Fortnight is on sustainability - building on the ideas of support for societies, the environment and the economy. 

Justice for the poor is an important biblical principle. 

Putting that into practice, it matters to me that I buy goods traded in a just and fair way. But caring for creation, and enabling others to live is also important too - much more than buying just teabags!


Tuesday 22 February 2022

Walk Like An Egyptian...

It was definitely "fine weather for ducks" on Saturday. We all went over to Swaffham, and splashed along in the rain. There were ducks everywhere- waddling up the road, looking around the carpark, and sitting on the damp leaves in the marketplace. 

Rosie and I dived out of the weather into King Tut's Emporium [which Bob and I visited last summer] I knew she was interested in the Ancient Egyptians

I thought she would enjoy this eccentric bar-bistro-gallery] The owner was so kind and chatted to this enthusiastic little girl, and said we could take photos. 

After that we went and had lunch at Margaret's Tea Rooms on the opposite side of the marketplace.
This venue has an excellent indoor play area, where children can enjoy themselves in sight of the adults and families can have meals together,

Do check their website

Monday 21 February 2022

The Postcard Project

After my review of the Textile Treasures last month, Kirsten commented that she would love to be in a project which 'switched stitchers'. So I tentatively suggested we might collaborate on something, and she agreed. That was thrilling! We both felt we needed two pieces [so at the end, there is one each] but not too big [partly so we are not overwhelmed by the size, partly because I am running out of wall space to display things]

I had 4 linen napkins, 30cm square, printed with transfers for embroidery [mismatched] But with the transfers washed out, and sewn down the centre, we had two rectangles which could be regarded as 'postcards'. We would take it in turns to embroider each piece and then exchange...
First exchange; I sent K her 'postcard' and she sent me a couple of notebooks. We are going to keep meticulous notes, explaining what we stitch and why. I have chosen the 'moth' one to accompany my card. I could not find my hoops- so bought a new DMC one in Cromer woolshop- and 5 minutes later, found a big blue one in the Sue Ryder shop.

 I did find my hands-free magnifier in the loft. That will be really useful. We want to be as creative as we can, using beading and appliquΓ© as well as different stitching techniques. There are just a few guidelines we have agreed on
  • Every few weeks, the pieces will be exchanged via the post
  • Words and phrases allowed, but must not dominate. 
  • No restriction on choice of colours. 
  • To be worked on a linen ‘postcard’ 
  • Each piece will travel with its notebook, in which we detail what we have added, and the reasoning behind it. 
  • Any appliquΓ©d pieces must stay within the borders of the rectangle. 
  • Aim to finish by Christmas 2022
Our first task is to stitch the name and address on each card - I'm doing one to K, and she's stitching mine. We've opted for full name, blog name, town, and county. That is challenging enough [I suggested name and address changes, to reduce the task. I could be Ang, Blog 1, Ugley Essex, and she could be Kate, Blog 2, Rye, Kent!] 
But when you knit a jumper, the pattern usually gets you to do the back first as that is the largest part - so perhaps getting the address out of the way at the start is good - and gives a clearer idea of what space we will have round it.
Kirsten helpfully worked out a font and layout so these will match, even if things go in different directions later. She also provided two 'Graze' snack boxes which will hold our work in transit, and count as Large Letter post.
I am using a frixion pen to mark stitching lines, which disappears when ironed. I find this method suits me. 

I think we are both rather excited by all this - but also slightly nervous. K has a great eye for colour and has posted lovely pictures of her projects on her blog. But I think we have already developed a good communication system via WhatsApp, and I think it will all come together well in the end.

Have you ever done any collaborative creative projects?

UPDATE If anyone else is interested in such a project, email me, and I will link you up with Jane from Dorset [see below]

Sunday 20 February 2022

Look Again At Lent

Just a quick heads up about a future blog-event. For the six Sundays of Lent [starting March 6th] I'm planning some 'pauses' as in previous years. I didn't do it in in 2021 - the Pandemic threw everything into disarray for most of us, plus I was concentrating on moving into a new stage of life. 

But this year, inspired by my #word365, I want to look again at what Lent means for me. 

If you'd like to participate, there's an explanation here from 2020. Do add a comment below. You can be a writer or a reader, and there's no obligation to post every week - just as and when. And feel free to use the graphic as a header for your posts.

Saturday 19 February 2022

Didn't It Rain?

In view of the weather extremes experienced recently, I wanted to share this fabulous little story which Bob came across on the Internet this week...

Less than half a mile from Steph's house in Manchester, there used to be a railway station, called "Alexandra Park" when it opened in 1892, then renamed "Wilbraham Road" in 1923. By 1958, passenger trains no longer stopped there.

In 1964, the Granada TV Company decided to transform the disused station buildings, to make a set for a programme called "Blues and Gospel Train". The stars of the concert were two great jazz musicians - Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. They were on their second European tour - and Manchester was the place for jazz and R'n'B in the UK. Back home in the States, the Civil Rights Act had yet to be passed, there was still segregation.  The Manchester Station recreated as "Chorltonville". Seats were free - many ordinary fans turned up and a minibus even came from London carrying Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Jeff Beck. This was to prove a seminal moment in British music history - Mick Jagger and others speak of the influence the TV programme had on them at the time. The audience were seated one side of the line, the performers on the opposite platform. And then the heavy, heavy rain started [well, it was in Manchester] so Sister Rosetta changed her playlist, and began with the old spiritual about Noah's Flood "Didn't it rain?"

I think this is a fabulous clip - and next time I'm with Steph I may walk up the road and have a look - they say that some of the brickwork from the original station platform is still there!

Friday 18 February 2022

It's What We Do...

That's the motto of the Co-operative Group - since 1844, this company has tried to provide good quality food, in a fair way, at a fair price, distributing profits to loyal customers [in the old days, you got your "divi" - dividend, but now it comes as loyalty points on your card. for every £1 spent, I get 2p back] 
The Co-op has expanded its range, now providing funeral services, pharmacies, in branch Post Offices, insurance, travel agencies, education services, and much more. I like the Co-op, not least because they work to strong ethical principals - FairTrade goods, supporting minority groups across the globe [eg they boycotted South African produce in the days of the anti-apartheid campaigns] they have good facilities for recycling...

Dereham has a useful branch, in the Market Place, next to the Congregational Chapel. I popped in for a few bits yesterday. Firstly some crumpets. These are primarily for Jess, who is happily weaning, and loves holding a finger of toasted crumpet, and gradually eating 50% of it [the rest ends up all over her person and the floor]
These were £1 for NINE - right next to packets of SIX which cost £1.20. "Do many people buy the smaller packet?" I asked the assistant who was stocking the shelf. "It's a temporary offer" she said. I resisted the urge to buy two more packets for the freezer! That was my first bargain.
The second was a bag of mixed roasting veg, reduced from £1.50 to £1.07. It held carrots, an onion,  a swede, and a parsnip. As the only parsnip eater in the house, this was a treat for me! Sue has been doing diligent price comparisons recently. So when I got home, I weighed out the veg individually
Total weight was 1kg. You cannot buy these goods loose, but taking the cost per kilo, and using their "Honest Value" Range, I calculated that my bag was worth £1.09. I had saved just TUPPENCE!!
But it makes it so apparent that if shopping for a single-person household, the odds really are stacked against you. These are root veg, and will keep a while in the fridge, and the crumpets can be kept in the freezer - but other products have a much shorter shelf life. Buying a large bag of spinach or punnet of soft fruit is only cost effective if it can be eaten in time. 
When I began teaching, I lived alone in a small flat, with no fridge [just a cool food cupboard]. I had guests for lunch one Sunday, and I made two desserts - apple pie and trifle. They just ate all the pie, and I had to eat trifle for supper, breakfast, and Monday night's meal, because it wouldn't keep and I couldn't bear to waste it.

The smallest carrot and onion from my bag yesterday went into a warming impromptu lunchtime soup for a cold day. 
Quick Minestrone
Drain one can butterbeans and put into saucepan with one carton of passata/chopped tomatoes and 150 ml water or stock. Bring to boil. Add 1 tsp mixed herbs. and half a pack of Maggi instant noodles. Reduce heat to simmer.
Meanwhile chop small onion and fry off in a little oil. Add to saucepan
Dice carrot and cook in microwave for 3 mins in 1tbsp water. Add to pan
Stir, simmer soup for at least 5 mins, then serve. 
[this will serve 4 medium portions]
I hope it is not too cold and windy wherever you are. 

Thursday 17 February 2022

Made With Love

Monday was very cold and wet. Rosie came for the day, and spent the morning with the Sylvanian stuff - in the afternoon she made Valentine Cards with me. It is great to see how she has matured in the 18 months since we had Grandma's Nursery every day. She came up with her own messages to write to family members, and was very specific about the colours to use. We enjoyed using the punches to produce hearts, butterflies, stars and borders- and the different stamps too. Rosie remembered that we could use hearts as petals to make flowers, and then she spotted that a green heart cut in half makes two leaf shapes, We had such fun!

My butterfly punch is ancient- it cost me £9.99 which seemed extravagant at the time - but I have used it so much. In 2017 I produced over 500 for WWDP training sessions. I think in total it has been used over 1000 times- so cost per butterfly is now <1p. The wingspan of the butterfly is about 5cm. At the moment it seems to be out of stock  - but if you are into papercraft or cardmaking, I am sure you'd find one of these useful.
After Rosie left, I did a bit of crafting by myself. The Travelling Bookbinder had a easy tutorial on her blog for an origami heart ring. She suggested making it larger as a napkin ring. I used two pages trimmed from a National Trust magazine to make these [they were 19cm square]  - Kezzie I think you'd enjoy this idea!
Once the soft toys and Sylvanian Family had been put away, Bob and I enjoyed a romantic candlelit supper together 


Wednesday 16 February 2022

Thinking About Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Random Acts of Kindness Day [details and good ideas here
I know you good people are always doing kind things but I just thought my random act for today should be to remind you about tomorrow!
I will think again about the different things I can do to show kindness to people. Smiles are hard when we are still in masks a lot, and hugging is still out. 

But really, we should not just have one day for RAK - these should be the norm

Please share your good ideas!

Tuesday 15 February 2022

Pullovers, Potatoes And A Poem


I weighed out the wool in my stash, and calculated that if I did a different stripe pattern on the sleeves, I would be able to make George a Robot Jumper, like the one produced in 1986. It has knitted up really quickly, and has been sent off to Manchester for him.
I'm sure Steph will send a picture of him in it. 
Three pictures
Steph 1988, Liz 1986, and the new jumper 2022

These colours are much closer to the ones on the original pattern. 

Some of you may remember that in Jan/Feb 1976 [ten years before I knitted the first robot jumper] there was a shortage of potatoes, and the price rocketed. One MP made a speech in parliament about it, saying
"In recent weeks, potato prices have gone sky-high. The price of potatoes is now three or four times what it was this time last year, and there is still no sign of any stability in the market. Even before the latest escalation of prices, potatoes largely contributed to the 23 per cent. increase in the cost of food last summer. The quarterly return, July, August, September, from the Ministry of Agriculture showed that the amount spent each week on potatoes doubled from 7.9p to 16.15p, despite a 14 per cent. drop in sales. The overall food increase, including beef and milk along with potatoes, meant that the food bill for a family of four went up by £2.88 a week in that quarter."
That year, the local paper had a competition for Valentine poems, and I wrote one [it was utter doggerel and I didn't win!] I was sorting out some old greetings cards at the weekend, and I came across a letter from my old University landlady sent in1981. Mrs Lawrence included a copy of my poem which she had found in a drawer, saying "I'm sure your Bob would love this" As the diet means we are not eating many potatoes at the moment I thought I'd share it here. Pam Ayres, eat your heart out!

To My Valentine
I felt my loving declaration
Must suit this time of great inflation
Our love can conquer any crisis
Ill love you forever whatever the price is
Darling I love you, I'm not afraid to say so
I love you more than my favourite potato
If I had you I'd be happier than words can tell
[As long as I had some spuds as well]
No words can express the way I feel
You are better than spuds, you have more ap-peel
I love your face, your hair, your lips
I love you more than ten portions of chips
Oh how I love spuds, especially roast
But my darling, I love you the most
Potatoes may change, chip 'em, boil 'em, mash 'em
But for you I have an unchanging passion
I liked potato crisps when younger
Now you can be my Golden Wonder
Oh Valentine, be min - tis true
I don't need King Edwards if I can have you!

Monday 14 February 2022



Whoever, wherever you are, 

may your day be filled with love

if  your heart aches, for a lost love

may you be comforted by good memories

if you are self-isolating, and feel alone

know that there are friends out there who care

one day we will get to meet up and hug again

be a friend

smile [with your eyes, if you have a mask on!]

make someone laugh

say something kind to a stranger

Sunday 13 February 2022

It's Nearly March...

...and the first Friday in March is always the [Women's] World Day of Prayer. After all the work I put in last year to produce a YouTube video,[which had over 1400 views!] I said that this year I might attend a service, but I was definitely not going to get involved in the planning. Then my friend at church told me that she was the church rep on the committee, but following a bereavement, she didn't feel she could do it this year. And furthermore, our little chapel is due to be hosting the local service. So please, could I help out?
The service has been planned by the women of England, Wales and Northern Ireland [EWNI] and the them is "I know the plans I have for you" based on the text in Jeremiah 29. Here's my WDP mug with artist Hannah Dunnett's interpretation of that.So I had to look again at my decision, and I duly went off to the meeting, and came back with stuff to sort out [Bob has already volunteered his services with PA if needed. A true saint]
Here's the 2022 WDP artwork [done by another Angela from Norfolk] representing justice, freedom, forgiveness and peace. 

More details here

My friend Louise Bowes, editor of the WDP magazine has written this interpretation of the verse from Jeremiah ...

I know the plans I have for you
Plans which you do not yet know
Plans to prosper you, not to harm you
So whatever you are going through right now
Be assured that I am with you
And that Rainbow days will be ahead
My child
Hold on to these promises in your heart
And know, as your Father God, I love you

Saturday 12 February 2022

Book At Bedtime

I often have a couple of books 'on the go' - fiction, and nonfiction depending on how tired I am. If I'm really dozy, I like to thumb through something with pictures - but if I'm not at all sleepy, I go for something with words and a plot. Here's a quick rundown of some of the books I have read this year thus far...

Having read "Crisis" by Felix Francis before Christmas, I grabbed three more of his in January - "Guilty Not Guilty", "Triple Crown" and finally "Pulse"  The first two follow the usual Francis pattern [single bloke, mid thirties, plot involving horse-racing, all sorted out in the end, everyone happy ever after except the bad guys] I'd score them both *** for sheer predictability, and sending me to sleep as desired. However Pulse does not fit the pattern - except for some horses. I won't say anymore for fear of spoilers. I felt FF wanted to write about a particular subject [possibly because it had affected his own family?] Maybe he wanted to help other people understand but I don't think it worked. If you like the Dick&Felix books, then by all means give it a try - but don't expect it to be anything like all the others! Instead of a soporific, it was an annoyance. I kept muttering "No, I don't think that's how it is!" "I think he has that bit wrong!" under the duvet, and disturbing Bob's reading.  Therefore I rate it just **

fiction - following my visit to Textile Treasures, I borrowed "500 Simply Charming Designs for Embroidery - easy to stitch monograms and motifs" This one lived up to its title. In 6 parts - Home and Hobby, Nature's Living Things, Special Occasions, Tasty Things To Eat, Letters and Numbers, Borders and Lines.[and each part had 4 or 5 subsections] Each design was shown finished, and with a clear diagram of the stitches used. There were suggestions for how to use the designs-on cards, on homewares and clothing etc. 

My favourite idea was the row of wash care symbols on the back of a shirt. 
A good resource. 
I'd rate this *****
"An Encyclopedia of Stitches" covers twenty two different types of embroidery -from 17th century Stumpwork, and ancient Indian Shisha mirror work, through to Tudor blackwork and Norwegian Hardanger stitching, via simple cross stitch, smocking and 16 more techniques. A wonderfully comprehensive volume, written by 8 different experts.

For every category there is an introduction with notes on history and development. Then notes on materials needed, and clear instructions on basic stitches. Finally a project piece demonstrating the work.
This was a beautiful and inspiring read. 
I was introduced to shisha work in the 60s by my art teacher, and came across it a lot when I worked in Leicester. Now I understand how it is done!
But I really got this book out because in the index I spotted the words "Norwich Stitch" 
I learned about this stitch in the Textile Treasures Webinar. I've yet to go and see the sampler piece in the Museum of Norwich. Nobody knows where the name comes from [some people call it Waffle stitch, although there are other stitches in embroidery, crochet and knitting with that name] Norwich stitch is complicated but I like it, and hope to include this 'local' one in my next embroidery project. Watch this space...
I'd definitely rate this book a full ***** for the breadth of information, clear instructions and doable projects. 500 motifs is a good resource- but this encyclopedia has a wider range, and if I were actually buying a book, I'd go for this one!