Thursday 30 November 2023

On My Christmas Shelf

We fetched down all the Christmas stuff from the loft - including the "late bag". That's the carrier which holds all the random things you find in January which somehow got overlooked when you cleared everything up last year [a festive tablecloth awaiting ironing, a decoration on a forgotten hook etc] And I found these characters - which went into the bag in late February...
Freezy George McBreezy, Snowy Jacob McMerryMittens and Frosty Arthur McIcyPants
This year such elves cost between £3.50 and £6 in various outlets. This trio were in a bargain basket for 50p each in a Garden Centre during the February Half-Term. There were very few girl elves, no Jess or Rosie. But these will go to the boys in Manchester and my great-nephew in Norfolk.
My John Lewis Xmas mugs collection started about 15 years ago with the red reindeer one at the top. I kept adding mugs, till JL changed the shape, then I looked out for them in CS. I wanted to have a set of eight.I got up to 7, and then someone gave me a green one, almost identical [Was it cousin Gill?]
Sadly my penguin one got chipped. I keep it as a 'non-drinks' item to hold teaspoons etc. 

The Peas Mug is the same shape and size but the handle is curved differently. 
But look at this! For £1.50 on Friday, this was in a CS in Greenwich! New style handle, same old shape and size. The regular everyday mugs will go away for a month, and these will be the matching mugs for visitors.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Do you have any decorations up yet?

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...


Wednesday 22 November 2023

‘Salus Populi Suprema Est Lex’ **

I have listened, in amazement, to the news reports of the Covid Inquiry. I'm appalled that the people in power could have been so callous, and careless, about the health of the nation. I admire the skills of the Government appointed scientists and epidemiologists - but I am horrified that the "Eat Out To Help Out" scheme was launched without consulting them. And that contributed to the spread of the virus, but did very little to help the hospitality industry. 

I do not expect everybody to understand the science - but if the man in Number 10 was "bamboozled" by it, why did he not admit that, and allow the ones who did know what they were talking about to make the decisions? All this rubbish about hairdryers up the nose killing the virus. Boasting about shaking hands with everybody And as for the rest of us social distancing, whilst others were partying, and canoodling in cupboards, words fail me. 

In 1937, the Borough of Southwark opened a public clinic in Walworth. It is really to close to Rosie's home, so I see it whenever I make a London Trip. This was the first London Borough to have the whole of its health services in one, easily accessible building. The buses still stop right outside.  And on the front is a plaque, bearing the English translation of **Cicero's Latin statement made 2000 years ago.

On the roof of the building is a fantastic art deco statue representing Public Health. [picture below, details here] In the first half of the twentieth century, following WW1, Parliament became more active in promoting Public Health. The good works of Victorian philanthropists were built upon, and things got much better, culminating in the Beveridge Report of 1942, and the founding of the NHS in 1948. Healthcare free for all at the point of need.

And now look at us, seventy five years later. Crumbling hospitals, medical staff working impossibly long hours, a shortage of midwives, and ambulances queuing for hours in hospital carparks. 

I accept that a new government cannot instantly repair all the damage - like turning round an oceanliner, it will be a slow process - but surely we can do better than this?

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Wreathed In Smiles


Here are my friends at the fortnightly Craft Group. We had a wreath making session yesterday. Janet brought pre-prepared willow hoops for us all, and we made a diverse selection of decorations. Everyone contributed something - red dogwood, different evergreens, pearlescent honesty [mine] berries, cones, conkers, allium heads, ribbons... And clever Viv had made a needle felted robin for everybody. A real collaborative effort

It was a lovely morning and everyone was happy with their achievements. It was a real tweet!
Do you make a wreath? Or buy one

Here's mine!

Monday 20 November 2023

Wet, Windy Weekend

Tom had to abandon work early due to the weather [you can't fit large fence panels in high winds] but he came back on Saturday morning to finish the work. Tom & team have also relaid the wonky paths round the property, and there has been much mud trodden inside. My friend lent me a Vax. So I spent a lot of Saturday dealing with floor cleaning. Then I got some fabric from the loft to iron in readiness for a sewing project
But life is never straightforward...
The carpets were vacuumed, the Vax loaded and switched on The motor whirred. But it would not work - neither spraying out detergent or sucking up dirty water. After dismantling, I found the outlet jets blocked with limescale, and the inlet nozzle totally clogged with dried mud. Bob and I cleared and cleaned it all and reassembled the machine. Then the carpet and rug cleaned up beautifully. When I took the Vax back, I said "have you used this recently?" It turns out my friend only bought it from a CS recently and hadn't tried it out herself. "But it had a PAT test sticker so I assumed it works OK". Well it does now! [why would anyone donate a non working gadget to a CS?]
The ironing was going fine - until what I thought was heavy green cotton fabric turned out to be polyester - and melted all over the sole plate. Much cleaning before I could continue. 
But the rest of the weekend chores went OK, and Sunday morning at church was brilliant. 
Over the weekend we relaxed by watching "All the light we cannot see" on Netflix. We really enjoyed it - good story, great acting, and beautifully made. Hugh Laurie was superb [forget him as comedic Wooster, and supercilious House - this time he got to play a man of integrity] as was Mark Ruffalo. And the two younger leads were charming. No spoilers - but I give it *****.  Watch it if you can
Have you watched this film? 
Will you be watching The Crown? 

Sunday 19 November 2023


With thanks to my friend Meg for sharing this graphic


Saturday 18 November 2023

Festive Foodies

I grabbed a couple of books from the Christmas display in the library last week. Donna Hay is the Australian equivalent of Martha Stewart - cooking plus lifestyle. And Brontë Aurell is the lovely woman who runs ScandiKitchen in London
DH had loads of recipes for main courses - interesting to read, but not much that I'd want to prepare for our Yuletide feasts. And quantities were for larger numbers, as you'd expect. Not much use to the two of us. However, in her dessert section, there were some ideas I liked. Four which used crushed up candy canes. 
Candy canes are pink and sweet and often greatly reduced straight after Christmas. Donna crushes them and uses them almost like a substitute for praline. 
Crushed canes, bourbon biscuits, and cream make truffles, coated in chocolate. 
Canes, crumbled brownie and ice cream make a loaf to slice for a fancy pudding. 
Canes, white chocolate, butter and shortbread melt together for chocolate bars. 
Canes with milk, cream and melted ice cream becomes a festive milk shake
The other ideas involve ice cream, pandoro and pannetone loaves. She hollows out the loaves and fills the inside with ice cream. One she covers with meringue like a Baked Alaska. The hollowed out "innards" become a trifle. And gingerbread men sandwich a slice of ice cream to make a fun ice cream sandwich [an idea for the grandchildren] 
Brontë's book has lots more recipes which I could see myself making. Scandinavian bread recipes, small cakes and biscuits. She also has an excellent section explaining popular Scandi ingredients [eg lingonberries, cardamom, buttermilk] and giving tips for substitutes
And I learned another word... Kringle.. I'd heard Americans referring to Santa as Kris Kringle, but I didn't realise that Kringle is a Scandi word for pretzel. And this dessert is a sweet flaky pastry filled with dried fruit, marzipan and nuts. 
Brontë also has lots of information about Scandi Christmas traditions. 
Both books were an easy read, with clear illustrations, and well written recipes. I liked the way that both books offered some fresh ideas for salads and side dishes. And good ideas for turning store cupboard ingredients into something more interesting. I'd expected a bit more "lifestyle" stuff from DH - if you have Disney+ you can watch her Xmas shows which do give tips for presentation and table setting. But I suppose she is in Oz, where they have sunshine not snow at Yuletide. 
But I need to stop reading and get on with Christmas tasks! 

Friday 17 November 2023

In The Bag

When I was at school in the 1960s, we did lots of needlework. Aged 5 I learned to stitch on Binca, running stitch and cross stitch. At 7 in a different primary school, we did stitching on gingham and made "tidy bags" for our books. At home my grandmother taught me to make doll's clothes. When I was 9 I made a pink felt elephant decorated with stitching, beads and sequins. I even had a child's sewing machine. 
At 19, Mum got a Singer electric machine, and I started using that. She gave away my little hand cranked machine to another child!!

At 11 I learned "magic chain" at school, and made an embroidered apron. Mum kept those school  projects for years [where did they go?] Then I went to the High School. We made little samples of stitching and stuck them in our books...
A piece of machined work, demonstrating different seams, a piece of smocking, and some regular embroidery.
Finally some stitching on Aida - we chose which stitches to use.. Then we had to put those stitches on a long strip of evenweave fabric which was folded into a bag. Cross stitch, herringbone, running, backstitch, greek key, chain...I still have the bag, more than half a century later.
For my most recent contribution to the Cross Country Collaboration I reproduced some of those stitches. In 1966 I used every colour I could find in the teacher's box. In 2023 I just used thread in shades of blue. Stitched first as a girl and 57 years later as a gran.

I am pleased to report that this time, the parcel has arrived safely with Kirsten. Only three sections left to go on this project. What fun it is!

Thursday 16 November 2023

New Things, New Words

They do say that it is good to try new experiences throughout one's life. I am I no rush to go bungee jumping, cold water swimming, or spelunking just yet. But yesterday I did my first dog-sitting. My friend had to go to an appointment and would be out from 8.45  till 2.30. Her elderly dog has been poorly, and she was reluctant to leave her for so long. "Would it help if I came round?" I said. I cycled straight round after breakfast, and was given my instructions. "she will make it clear if she needs to go outside for a wee" 
99‰ of the day was delightful.  I had a knitting project to work on, and R. had left fresh scones for me to enjoy. I switched on the radio and settled down to knit. Pippi curled up on her cushion in front of the woodburner, and dozed. 
It was all delightfully cosy. R messaged me at 12 to check things were OK. 
Fine! I said. 
I stopped to eat my lunchtime snack, and checked out the workshop feedback on the craft café Facebook page. [OK] 
Pippi dozed. 

I was very involved in a radio programme and counting my stitches when she suddenly got up and walked unsteadily to the door. I dropped my wool and went ahead of her to open the door out into the garden. She trotted to the far end, where I couldn't see her, behind the apple tree. Well, I'm a relative stranger after all, and a girl likes a bit of privacy in the loo... 
Back she came, pausing on the way to eat some grass. 
Through the door, across the tiled kitchen and laminate floored hall. Into the lounge, across the rug, and back into her cushion. Then she stood up again, walked over the rug to the beige carpet, where she produced a lot of green, grassy vomit. Then she went back to her fireside cushion and dozed again. 
I'd just finished cleaning up when her mistress returned. 
Poor little Pippi. "She's peelie wally" said her owner. I was baffled - but learned this is a Scottish term meaning "off colour". Well if I have a bad reaction to my covid jab this morning, I shall just have to tell people I'm feeling peelie wally too. 

Wednesday 15 November 2023

Craft, Coffee, Conversation

Thank you all for your encouragement yesterday. I got to the café early, and found Nina, the owner had set out the tables. I set out the resources. One person had rung to say they couldn't come. That meant eleven expected for a 10.30 start. People turned up from 10 onwards and ordered their drinks, and we chatted generally. All there by 10.30 - I introduced myself properly and explained the story behind the flowers. Everyone made one large "practice" petal to keep in front of them as a reference. The atmosphere was good, people got on well.
Here they are as we began, folding their petals. Everybody had a tray containing their papers, clips and glue - and a jar for finished blooms. 
I was glad to see people helping each other, and there was much laughter. There were a number of customers in the other half of the café. One gentleman came over and asked what we were doing. Passers-by also stopped and watched through the window. 
By midday, most people had completed half their blooms. By 12.30 when we were scheduled to finish, most had 6 flowers completed. I had zip lock bags for people to take home remaining flowers to finish later. 

People were really appreciative in their comments as they left - one bought a second pack to take home. Another asked for details of the Men's Shed for her husband! There was a lot of interest in the blog, and 31:13.
Nina has booked me to do a repeat session on December 1st.
So all is good. And back home, our fencers Athos and Porthos  Tom and Will, continued their hard work too. 

Tuesday 14 November 2023

Fully Booked!

Today I am going to be at the new Flow Craft Café running a workshop to make Japanese flowers.  I am really quite excited about this

It is 'fully booked' in two senses - one, that every space is taken , and two, that these flowers are made from pages of old discarded books.
As well as preparing the materials for each participant to make their own bouquet of six blooms, I have also been putting together packs for my 31:13 shop..
These flowers are very simple to make, and so effective. Once you have the basic technique, you can create flowers in different papers, and decorate them in all sorts of ways.

The packs from 31:13 contain everything except the stems and the glue - which are easy to source locally. They will make great gifts for crafty friends too as they are easy to post.
I will let you know how the workshop goes.