Sunday 31 December 2023

Happiness, Health, Hope

My best friend Christine gave me a new Painted Bear calendar for Christmas. She knows how much I enjoy them [thanks, C!] Here is the final page of the 2023 one, about to be replaced. It is very appropriate as we enter the new year. Wherever you are, my friends, may 2024 hold happiness, health and above all, hope. In these troubled times, I do believe that faith is an anchor which secures us, when things seem to be spinning out of control. The assurance that God knows what is ahead, and nothing can separate us from His love. The old hymn, written in 1823, speaks of "Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow". May that be your experience too. 

Saturday 30 December 2023

Just Lion Around...

A few years ago, my friend Carolyn asked if I had an easy knitting pattern, as she wanted to make something for the new grandchild  they were expecting. Now she has become a very accomplished knitter. In August she sent me a picture of her grandson in her latest creation. And kindly passed the pattern on to me. "it took me about three weeks" she said.
C said she'd omitted the animals on the sleeves and kept them plain. I sent off for some yarn. And carefully upscaled the pattern to make a larger size - for my three youngest grandchildren aged 1½, 2½ and 3½ [sorry Rosie] I began knitting at the end of September, but life has been rather busy. I finished them on December 27th. 
I am so pleased with them. So are the children. [I don't have pictures of them being worn yet] Thank you Carolyn! UPDATE

Friday 29 December 2023

You Gotta Pack A Pucket Or Two...

No, not a typo! Pucket describes itself as a frantic dexterity game, full of finger-flicking-fun. 
It also claims to be "The World's No. 1 Elasticated Table Game"
I cannot quite work out if that means a table game involving elastic, or a game involving an elasticated table. Or both. Anyhow, it is enormous fu - Steph and Gaz gave this to Liz and Jon last Christmas. 
But as with many such games, the heavy wooden board is much more durable than the corrugated cardboard box in which it is packaged.
And the table is beautifully made- with a wooden surround and green baize base, plus wooden pucks. The two elastic straps are fixed to strong wooden pins on either side. Liz and Jon requested a bag in which to store the table, plus the small bag containing the pucks and the instructions.
I had some Liberty print fabric in my stash and also a long strip of fleecy woollen curtain interlining. The print was given to me by someone in Dorset - the lining was in the 'free' box outside a posh curtain shop in Aylsham. I went in and checked it was free "Yes, it is too narrow to be useful" they said.

I made a really simple bag, with two carry handles, and put a double layer of lining fabric to cushion the table [4 layers on the base bto cushion those big knobbly pins] On the outside I added a pocket with a velcro closure to hold the bag of accessories.
A late Christmas gift, but one I hope the family will find useful. 
You can watch the Pucket video here. I love the fact that this is a Fairtrade product from the Asha workshop. I have some wooden angels on my Christmas tree which came from there in 1978!
And does anybody know what is the world's No. 2 elasticated table game might be? Is there a second one?

Thursday 28 December 2023

A Message For The Grandmothers

Elisabeth has been my friend for over 40 years. We met as young Mums and now we are grandmothers. She has the strongest social conscience of anybody I know, and is up there with Kezzie when it comes to both cycling and recycling. She sent me this, by the Puerto Rican poet Aurora Levins Morales. A good reminder that some of us may be retired, and unlikely to be around in a few decades time. But we have a responsibility to future generations.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Vacuum Cleaner Tales 1 & 2

Take #1 The carpet really needed to be vacuumed. Bob got out our trusty Sebo - purchased in 1997 and it was not working properly. The motor sounded quite ill.We have a 'spare' Sebo [£5 from Scouts Jumble Sale in Kirby Muxloe] and Bob said that after Christmas he would see if he could produce a decent working model using components from both. But we also have our original Cornerstones Vacuum Cleaner [a panasonic] which was relegated to the Lathe Palace when we retired here in 2021. So that has been in use for the past week or so. It is nowhere near as good as the Sebo. But it does the job.  What I want to know is - how many other people have multiple vacuum cleaners? My Mum had a 'downstairs' one, and the older one became the 'upstairs' model - because she couldn't carry a vacuum cleaner upstairs. And I know a number of people who put the old vac. in the  garage/workshop when thy get a new one for the house. In Leicester at the council tip, they used to sort the discarded vacuums and line them up by brand. We observed that the Dyson line was by far the longest. There was no Sebo line.
Tale #2  Have you heard of Vacuum Cleaner Cakes? They come from Sweden, where their name is Dammsugare. They're traditionally made with all the crumbs leftover in the bakery. I have seen them in the IKEA food section - then found the recipe in my Bronte Aurell book. I loved the name and decided to make some for the family. Three problems ensued - firstly I popped a tiny bit of the soft truffle-y mixture in my mouth, and my filling promptly came out. Secondly, my book said the quantity of ingredients would make 60 cakes. I was sure that must be a mistake, as it would mean each cake weighed less than 10g. I did my best - but mine came out much smaller, and nothing like as neat and uniform as BAs [I could never go on GBBO] Finally, I couldn't get my marzipan that vivid green colour. Maybe if I'd started with white 'natural' marzipan it might have worked - but this was leftover golden stuff from my Christmas Cake. But they do taste good, and being smaller it is easier to ration myself. Here's a picture of my little bites next to the recipe book. 
I found a link to the recipe online [see above] and it is identical to my cookbook except it says "makes 20" so I think my book has a misprint!

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Colourful Christmastime

On Saturday Liz and I made a quick trip into Dereham for essentials [bread, nappies and library books] and remarked to each other that the sunset was lovely. "Like the Pantone blue and pink of a few years back" I said. "Not fuzzy peach, then" she replied. Then she showed me this spoof alternative colour for Pantone 2024. 

"Colour specialist Pantone has announced Italian Beef as its 2024 colour of the year, a tender brown hue that was chosen to express a yearning for community and cosiness during uncertain times."

Clearly, I am not alone in feeling this stuff is a load of pretentious twaddle. Now switch off your PC and go and have a good Boxing Day!
Thank you Bushlady for sending me a link to an interesting article about the popularity of red and green at Christmastime. [Here] The Norfolk church mentioned is just a few miles from here. 

Monday 25 December 2023

O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light...
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight
The Lutheran Pastor in Bethlehem has set up this Nativity Scene outside his church this year. A reminder that Jesus was born into a broken, hurting world - and he is with us in the rubble, bringing hope and salvation.
Wherever you are today, may you know the love and peace of the Christ child in your hearts, and may He bring you joy, and hope for the days ahead.
From Bob and myself - Happy Christmas to you and yours.

Sunday 24 December 2023

Advent Sunday 4

The fourth candle is the candle of love.

As our journey through Advent reaches Christmas Eve, stories from Gaza, Ukraine and many less-noticed parts of the world sadden and disturb us. People remain the victims of war, conflict and oppression. 

Attitudes of hatred and division give way to persecution, causing many to flee to places of safety, bringing with them stories of indescribable cruelty and abuse.  

Yet all too often they are met with attitudes of indifference. Perceived as a threat, their plight fuels demands for more controlled borders to stem their migrant flow. 

Individuals turn on those around them in unexpected acts of violence, bringing pain and bereavement in an instant, where there had been festive celebrations only moments before - we pray especially this weekend for the people of Prague

But those who seek the light of Christ in the midst of this darkness, remember and declare that love will always overcome evil and that when these things are passed, love will remain. 

Saturday 23 December 2023

Almost Ready...

Things are looking more festive - the tree twinkling away, and my little Ferndown Fabricland Elf sits underneath it. 
Viv from the Craft Group popped round to see if I was over my cold, and bring me a gorgeous little mouse [thank you!] I am beginning to relax now my cold has gone...
Friday morning I got out my megasize slocooker, and made a huge batch of Ragu - using up the leftover veg in the fridge and a big bag of mince. I 'stretched' it with some red lentils, and thickened it with some oats, and added fresh herbs from the garden. Now it is in my IKEA containers- one holding 8 portions, and 2 with 4 portions. 
They are in the freezer and will be useful for family meals with pasta, or under a mashed potato hat. 
I have declared that Christmas Food can now be eaten - Bob has opened the box of cheese biscuits, and we had a couple of mini stollen bites with our tea.
I cut out some more of the felt pieces for the Advent stitching - and was able to stitch whilst watching the Only Connect and University Challenge Christmas Specials. I am just half a day behind now. This is progress!
Liz and co have arrived safely from London and they are at their cottage - we will meet up tomorrow.  
I confess to wasting a bit of time today playing with an Elf Name Generator. programme. 

Apparently my elf name is FizzWizz JollyBum!

Friday 22 December 2023

A Stitch [Not Quite] In Time

You remember the lovely Advent Stitching Project Liz gave me? Well her3e we are on December 22nd, and I am 3 days behind schedule. Last Thursday,  I was eight days behind. I got a bit upset, and Bob said, wisely, it was more important to stitch when I could, and enjoy it, rather than stress, and rush to complete by Christmas. So that is what I have done. I had a big catch up session last Friday, and tdone some each day since. Here are some pictures of my progress thus far
At the top, hills and trees and cottages
Further down, lanterns are strung across between the trees, and there are a number of animals round the edges.
Bottom left, a bright owl on a branch, a squirrel playing a cello, and a brown bear carrying a lantern. And a cheerful looking deer.

Bottom right, a rabbit playing a yellow drum, two little dickey-birds in a nest, a stripy cat watching the scene, perched on a log, and a badger dozing, with her back against the trunk of another tree,
Because you never know what is coming next, it is essential you stitch things in exactly the right place.
Unfortunately the diagram for the large central tree, with tinsel chains, was printed in reverse - so I put it on the right of centre not the left. It took an hour to unpick and restitch! [My mistake for not reading carefully - in the text, it did specify left hand side]
The metallic thread is really hard toi stitch with, it is springy and difficult to sew neatly. The lanterns should have had metal hanging loops - but I cheated and used white thread instead.
I have also realised it is easier to do the decorative stitching on the felt pieces before you assemble the animals, rather than sewing on after applying them to the background.
The stitch patterns [chain, feather, blanket etc] are clearly illustrated on the back of the book - and I have been very good and not looked ahead. I am guessing the final few creatures will go in that blank space below the centre. Doesn't my magnetic needle catcher look good up there? a big star beside the moon. [Thanks Kirsten] I am especially pleased with the bark on the log and the bear's tummy.
In other crafting news, I am busy with a knitted Christmas gift - it is going to be a midnight oil job I think. Bob shared this cartoon [I really hate picking up stitches round necklines!]

How are your Christmas craft projects coming along -
are they all done, wrapped and ready for Monday?

Thursday 21 December 2023

RIP Jason

Back in June, I blogged about my young friend Hannah and her Prom dress. It was a special evening for her. Her best friend's Dad was a helicopter pilot. He flew three girls, and their Mums to the event. And as an added surprise, he flew her Dad, Jason, and sister, Katie back to the airport. Her Mum Amanda sent me loads of pictures and said it was an amazing evening all round.
At the time, Jason was undergoing treatment for cancer. Sadly, he died two weeks ago in the Hospice. Bob had been with him earlier in the day.
Yesterday our little chapel was packed for his funeral - all the seats downstairs were taken [some folk were standing] and the gallery upstairs was very full too.
This picture was on the back of the order of service. He had run his own business, offering home and gardening services, for a number of years.

A competent carpenter and builder, Jason was reliable, hardworking, and he got on with the job and did it properly. And he was never short of work. He laid our gravel path along the side of the Lathe Palace - and was due to fix the fence this autumn. 
When he was first diagnosed, he sent letters to all the clients who had signed up for building work, explaining he was not sure when the treatment would finish, and when he would be able to fulfil the contracts. He offered to repay deposits in full, so that people could find alternative tradesmen.
It is a great testimony to the man that NOT ONE of his clients asked for their deposits back, and EVERY one said "Keep it, we will wait for you to be fit again" Sadly after the summer, we all received cheques in the post, with an apology that he could not fulfil the tasks. 
As I said. the chapel was packed - people from all over the county, who counted Jason a friend, who spoke of the work he had done to make their homes and gardens beautiful.  He was, as my friend Charlie said "A very cool guy" - his daughters adored him, and were so proud of him. Jason was proud of them too - one training to teach, the other to nurse. He was so courageous as he went through treatments - and careful to do all he could to provide for his wife and girls. He planned his own funeral too - asking for Bob to conduct it.
He spent his last few weeks in the new Hospice - and so Bob was able to spend time with him. They were good friends, and Bob said it was a privilege to share those moments. 
Funerals in Christmas week are particularly hard - the chapel was filled with Christmas trees, and afterwards at the wake people were chatting about their plans for the coming weekend. 
And I was so conscious that in one home, a family will missing a special person, and Christmases will never be the same again for them.

Jason, you were a good man, you were much loved, and will be greatly missed. But we thank God for the life you lived, the example you showed of commitment and care. And we ask God to give your family strength and courage for the days ahead. 

Years ago, back in Leicester, the head of a school where I had done a lot of supply work, rang and asked if Bob could do their end of term assembly. The school had been through a very difficult time and none of the staff felt very festive, the atmosphere was grim.
Bob talked to the children about that first Christmas, and how difficult it was for Mary and Joseph - a long journey, nowhere to stay, giving birth in a stable - then the King demanding babies in Bethlehem be killed, so they fled, as refugees to Egypt, with their precious child. Bob reminded the children in the school that Christmas isn't a happy, merry time for everyone, and we need to recognise that - and to care for those who are sad, or sick, or struggling. To care for refugees and homeless and poor people. 

Lord help us to recognise those for whom Christmas is a struggle, full of bittersweet memories. Help us to show love, and compassion. Help us to share the blessings you have showered on us with those in need in this season.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Fairytale Of New York, Via Faversham

Thanks for all the kind words yesterday. The cold is getting better. Joshan, my lovely dentist, has fixed the tooth temporarily, so I should be ok over Christmas. He will reassess in three weeks. It has been refilled multiple times, I suspect extraction may be the way forward next year.
The tree in his waiting room was decorated with teeth!

My Manchester friend Rev Catriona, posted the video below on her blog. The Marches may not have the musical brilliance of the Kanneh Masons, or the cuteness of the young Von Trapps - but since lockdown this family from Kent have come up with some clever, contemporary takes on old songs 
Shane McGowan's widow wants Fairytale of New York to be the #1 Christmas single as a tribute to him. I'm a grumpy gran sometimes - maybe if she'd suggested the royalties would all go to charity I'd feel differently, but as I believe she will inherit his estate, doesn't this mean she has a vested interest here?

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Creased Up

 Well Monday didn't go as planned - after the Carol Service, I collected some shortbread form my friend. She had made it for the craft group [and frozen it] earlier in the week - then gone down with Covid - please could I deliver it on Monday. Fine! I said - only I woke on Monday with sneezes and sniffles and generally under par. I couldn't go and cough all over my friends...
I went round to the venue half an hour early, and delivered our foodstuffs and Janet gave me my 3d Xmas card to hang in my tree. It has jelly beans inside. We were supposed to take a craft idea, and Bob had suggested I demonstrated an Oppenheimer Box, on the grounds that it is such a useful thing and I am always making them out of bits of paper.
This seemed a good idea. I thought I would show three models - none of which is classic origami, because they need rectangles not squares.
These three items are so easy to do - and over Christmas will keep the children occupied. Rosie has been asking about Waterloo recently - it is an odd name for a station after all! Liz has explained about Napoleon and Wellington, so we can make hats for dress up
Jess loves having a bowl of water and blowing paper boats round [haven't tried that with George yet] The little boxes are great for holding small toys, sweets, etc.
You can recycle all sorts of paper for these models [newspapers make great hats for generals]  

Kirsten gave a tutorial for a flexagon last week, so here are my instructions for these three little models, shamelessly borrowed from the net. 
The finished Oppenheimer box has a base exactly ¼ the size of the original sheet. An A6 size piece of paper makes a hat the right size for Barbie.  Waitrose magazines are a lovely source of coloured pages. How you decorate your models is up to you - feathers or rosettes in the hats - anchors, flags. skull and crossbones on the boats. A staple or piece of sellotape will hold models together for a little longer. 

If it is good enough for Margot Leadbetter...

Atishoo!! Today has an unplanned emergency dental visit - my filling dropped out at lunchtime yesterday . I am definitely falling to bits.

Monday 18 December 2023

Round And About At Christmas

An early start Saturday - first some essential post, and paying in a cheque at the PO. How rarely do we have cheques now, and often Bob pays them in online with his phone. This one was too scribbled to be legible so had to be done 'properly'. My paying in book was started in 2014 and is nowhere near finished. 
Then on to nearby Bawdeswell for a Wreath Fair.  I'd not come across this  idea before. Villagers make and display wreaths, and you can buy them for your home
 - a fundraiser for the church. There were lovely floral arrangements decorating the building too. as well as round wreaths
This guy in the splendid Xmas jumper, told me all about the building - not at all like most other Norfolk parish churches. It deserves a whole post on its own. Like our chapel in Kirby Muxloe, it is a replacement for an older place of worship destroyed in WW2.
But back to the Wreaths - they were various prices from £15 - £45 I think. Also on sale were craft items, cakes and chutneys. And, rather unexpectedly, a lot of Emma Bridgewater merchandise [mugs, plates, cork coasters etc] at very reduced prices. [EB has lived in Norfolk for some years] 
I did enjoy talking to the lady with embroidery, and Nessa with her needlefelting, and walking round the craft stalls
I forgot to take a picture of the knitwear ladies. I was tooo busy writing down some info for them. They has some BSJ [baby surprise jackets] on sale. "I've knitted these" I said. And they said they wished they had a larger pattern for children and adults. I asked what pattern they used - it appears to be a bootleg photocopy from somebody's knitting group. I said that they could buy the pukka pattern from I-Knit London  . It is not cheap - but does have baby, child and adults sizes plus an optional hood. They were genuinely interested, and fascinated by the story of Elizabeth Zimmerman, and her alleged fondness for knitting whilst riding pillion! Here is Nessa needlefelting

The next few hours were spent at our chapel, while Bob wrestled with the computer system - he felt as if he was going round in circles, and unfortunately some issues with Zoom currently remain unresolved.
I had a sore throat Sunday and stayed home. 
Continuing the round theme, I've made some Cranberry Swirls [thank you Bless] to take to my Craft Group Xmas Get Together today. So incredibly easy - and I had some IKEA cake cases, and pink glacĂ© icing to make them even more festive


Sunday 17 December 2023

Advent Sunday 3

JOY. I found a poem, written by Maya Angelou, specifically for this third Sunday of Advent. I had never thought of connecting Job and Joy before...


My Lord, My Lord,
Long have I cried out to Thee
In the heat of the sun,
The cool of the moon
My screams searched the heavens for Thee.
My God,
When my blanket was nothing but dew.
Rags and bones were all I owned.
I chanted Your name, just like Job.

Father, Father,
My life give I gladly to Thee
Deep rivers ahead
High mountains above
My soul wants only Your love
But fears gather round like wolves in the dark
Have You forgotten my name?
Oh, Lord, come to Your child.
Oh, Lord, forget me not.

You said to lean on Your arm - and I’m leaning
You said to trust in Your love - and I’m trusting
You said to call on Your name - and I’m calling
I’m stepping out on Your word.

You said You’d be my protection,
My only and glorious saviour
My beautiful Rose of Sharon,
And I’m stepping out on Your word 
Joy, joy -Your word.
Joy, joy - the wonderful word of the Son of God.

You said that You would take me to glory
To sit down at the welcome table
Rejoice with my mother in heaven
And I’m stepping out on Your word.

Into the alleys
Into the byways
Into the streets
And the roads
And the highways
Past rumour mongers
And midnight ramblers
Past the liars and the cheaters and the gamblers
On Your word, on your word.
On the wonderful word of the Son of God.
I’m stepping out on Your word.

Saturday 16 December 2023

Living in CHAOS

Marla Cilley, aka FLYLady, the organising guru writes about those people who are Living in CHAOS,  where that is an acronym for "Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome" - but this year, in this house, I think it stands for Christmas Has Approached On Skates!
There are less than ten days to go
I have never been this ill-prepared for the festive season. I am struggling to work out why. I think that somewhere along the line I decided I was retired and not so busy. There was no rush...So I did not need to make lists and check things off as I did in previous years
This was clearly a mistake. I have been busy but in different ways - and also I do not have quite as much energy as I used to, so I have to accept that I cannot cram the days quite as full as I did when I was 35.
The spare bed is covered with stuff - paper flowers and equipment from last week's workshop; unsold stock from the Christmas Fair; wrapping paper leftover from the Pass the Parcels; gifts waiting to be wrapped. I think that there were so many things needing to be done in the past fortnight that I just got through each day, but never cleared-up-and-put-away properly. That will get done this afternoon.
For years I sat down every January, and recycled my old Christmas cards into new ones for the next year. 
And we sent out 100+ [about half hand delivered locally , half posted] For a few years now we have not done this. I've posted cards to elderly friends and relations, hand delivered to all my neighbours here in the close, and sent a blanket greeting on social media to everyone else - and the money saved has gone to charity. This year  it has been the Guardian Refugee Appeal
But my old box from the loft, in use for over 20 years, still had a couple of dozen handmade cards in it. Enough for this year. Top Tip if you are using an assortment of cards, begin by matching every one to its envelope before you write anything! They shuffle themselves in the box and if you are not careful you end up trimming the side of the last stable scene to fit the only envelope vaguely big enough!
I am being diligent about reusing wrapping materials I needed cardboard envelopes for some packages. I dismantled cereal packets, turned them inside out, and stuck them together again, blank side out. Kezzie was very impressed! There are folk who buy new Jiffy Bags, but I am not one of them. Kirsten is the Queen of recycled Graze Boxes [which fit through the Large Letter Slot, so cost less to post]
Although I pack things carefully at the end of the season, and all decorations go into labelled boxes into the loft, some things eventually wear out. 
My jaunty reindeer antlers can now do the splits in true Angela Rippon style. 
Sadly they cannot stand up again. This rather disappointed Rosie last weekend. I will see if they can be stitched back up - but if not, they'll be leaving with the bin men on Tuesday.
It is not all gloom and doom. The cake is made and ready to be marzipanned. I did an Iceland shop [10% OAP discount] with Bob on Tuesday morning and got quite a few bits and pieces for the forthcoming family visits. Fresh stuff will be purchased late next week.
The Nativity Scene outside is there to remind us all of the true Reason for the Season. 
I do hope your Christmas Preparations are not too fraught.

Friday 15 December 2023

Honk If You Love A Gonk!!

 I was looking at my SILs Christmas Tree. "Do you like Arthur's Gonk?" she said. "Where?" I said and she pointed out the little chap at the front. "I wouldn'tcall him a gonk" I said. There followed a family discussion about the term "gonk".
I first heard the term in the 1960s when a guy called Robert Benson started selling these plump little toys with 'Beatle haircuts'. Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney both possessed them and in 1965 there was even a Gonk Musical/film [Gonks Go Beat]
Gonks popped up everywhere back then - when Playschool started on BBC, there was a toy called Humpty, and he was officially declared to be a gonk. The Simplicity Pattern company brought out a sewing pattern, and one Christmas, cousin Gill and I each received one, made by our Auntie Edie in velvet [hers green, mine red]
They were cuddly, 10" in circumference - great for throwing around.
I have no idea where mine went. After my chat with Marion I decided to research the whole world of Gonks. It seems that by the 1980s, those little pompom bugs used for marketing were often called gonks
They have much in common with the larger soft toys. So how did this term get to be used for a gnome like creature?
About twenty years ago, I knitted a load of little Christmas ornaments from a pattern which I found in a magazine. They were called Korknisse. The article explained that Nisse were Norwegian gnomes.
Very cute little characters, each one was just a wine cork in a jumper and hat. I sold them off at 50p each at a charity fundraiser I was involved with.
Meanwhile, every Christmas, IKEA bring us Swedish decorations, and hygge, and describe their brand of gnomes as tomte. When did these chaps get to be rebranded as gonks? 
The Range are selling craft paper this week  called Gonk Christmas. It does seem to be the new name for the gnomes

But why?  
What was wrong with gnomes, or the Scandi translations nisse, and tomte?
Why didn't Mr Benson copyright his gonk name? 
What do you call them?