Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It's snowing! And a trip to see my sister

The two Glo Worm Snugbugs arrived from America, they only took one week in the post, which I thought was pretty quick.  I was really pleased with the one that was still in its original unopened packaging.  I opened it straight away!  It's so cute and it comes with a little pink sleeping bag.  It was one of my favourite toys when I was a child.

I also ordered Chris a birthday present off eBay.  I got him an 8mm silent comedy film for his 8mm projector as part of his birthday present.  It only cost £1 plus P&P.

I spent the weekend away at my sister's.  We didn't go out anywhere, but I spend lots of time with my 2 nieces, playing games, reading books and making lots and lots of pom poms.  My sister is a brilliant cook and she made a delicious macaroni cheese, chicken casserole, roast chicken, and Nigella's chocolate salted peanut bar.  We also put the girls' Christmas tree up in their playroom. 

It snowed whilst I was there and I was worried I might not be able to get home on the train because of the bad weather.  It was a rubbish train journey back as all my trains were delayed and the trains that did come were really busy, so I was relieved when I finally got home.  Steve French must have missed me whilst I was away, he followed my around all night, bless him.  I missed him too.

I got some glittery bird decorations from Paperchase, and a cute penguin from Marks and Spencers.

The temperatures have plummeted, and it also snowed at home over the weekend and last night, and my car wouldn't start this morning.  We tried to push it out of the car park but that didn't work.  I think the engine had seized up because I hadn't used it for 4 days.  The temperature has been as low as -6 degrees centigrade, and it's still November. I eventually got the engine going when I tried it a second time, but it stalled on my way into work and I panicked that I was going to break down.  Luckily I was OK. 

I've been worrying about the birds finding food in this cold weather.  I'm hoping to buy some bird food in bulk then bag it down and sell it in the shop.

Chris made sure all the birds at the allotment and at home were fed whilst I was away.  He's made a box in the kitchen for us to store our bird food and food scraps.

I've been enjoying Shaun Ryder in 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here', but I think the programme is cruel to animals.  I don't know how they get away with it really.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Bruichladdich and the good life

I bought a bottle of Bruichladdich on Saturday and came home and had a wee dram.  It certainly warmed the cockles.

Then my friends Caroline and Dave visited our allotment to do some filming for a video they're making to promote community veg growing.  Whilst I was there I spotted that a bird had got stuck in the netting over the brassica patch.  It had died.  I felt awful and I don't want to use netting anymore.  I'd rather lose some cabbages than lose a bird.

Down on the flea market on Sunday morning I got all these tree decorations for only £1.  What a bargain.

In the afternoon I went to the allotment and dug over the bean patch.

Chris planted the overwintering onions in one of the raised beds.

He picked the last of the beetroot and spring onions to make way for the Japanese onions.

It's a far cry from what it looked like in summer, but there's still quite a bit growing.

Chris put the bird pictures up in the shed.

When I got home I tidied the back garden.  Here it is before.

Look at the rotten pumpkin and marrow.

The nasturtium was still going strong.

And here's the garden after I'd tidied up.

I've left a lot of the dead foliage in place, as it will give wildlife somewhere to shelter over winter.  Chris has seen the blackbird perching on the dead sunflower head, waiting for its moment to pounce on the some food.  I guess it gives animals somewhere to hide from the bad weather, and it gives them cover from predators when looking for food.

I spotted a little bird, a dunnock I think, hopping around in the back garden.

On Monday I went to the Christmas markets in Manchester with my Mum.  We had a look around all the stalls but I didn't buy much.  The lovely crystal jewellery stall was there.  I got a rainbow moonstone pendant there a couple of years back.  My Mum got me a silver feather ring with a moonstone in it, and a moonstone pendant.  They've been wrapped up for Christmas.  We had lunch in the brasserie at Harvey Nichols and we had a hot mulled wine when we were on the markets.  But again, I left the city feeling disillusioned.  Everything is so expensive.  I don't know where people get their money from.  I mean, I have a resonably well paid job but I can't afford many of the things on sale.  Are people buying things on credit?  I don't get it.  Half of it's over priced rubbish anyway, shops buy in stuff made by cheap labour then stick a huge price tag on it.  I'd rather make stuff myself.

The shop had it's official launch on Monday.  I missed out because I didn't want to cancel the day out with my Mum.

The shop is stocking Rocks organic spiced fruit punch cordial.  It's so nice hot!  I'm already on my second bottle of the stuff.

Look at Covent Garden's cool soup of the month - I love the little sweet potato steel drummer on the front.

Last night I watched the final episode of 'Giles and Sue Live the Good Life'.  I've already praised their other TV series 'The Supersizers Go...' in this blog, so I was really looking forward to watching this programme.  But it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.  A - because they didn't live the good life full time, they went home to their normal lives after filming, which seemed like a real cop out.   Could the BBC not find 2 people willing to try the good life full time?  And B, fair play to Sue she seemed to try her best, but what a wash out Giles was.  I'd thought he'd have got stuck into the tasks, and wasn't willing to get his hands dirty.   He treated it all like a big joke.  He was pathetic!  Watching him aimlessly throw potatoes into the patch was a particular low point.  I bet he's never done a hard day's work in his life.  Surely he was embarrassed when he watched it?  Doesn't he realise the human race had to fend for itself at one point?  And that luxuries haven't always been handed to people on a plate, and our ancestors had to work to eat?  Is it really that crazy an idea?  I mean, what would happen if there was a global crisis and people had to fend for themselves again?  Some people would be screwed, and Giles would be one of them.  Please could they redo this programme properly and show that the living the 'good life' isn't such a crazy idea?  The crazy idea is this throwaway, over consuming, wasteful, lazy, meaningless lifestyle that we currently live.  Giles, you have officially shown yourself up as a stupid, overindulged toff.  Sorry.  Rant over, but I'm glad the world isn't full of silly little rich kids like Giles, or else there'd be no hope for us. 

I'm off to my sister's this weekend.  I'm going to help my nieces put their Christmas tree up.  I've knitted the girls a mini Christmas stocking each, personalised with their initials.

The weather has turned very cold, and parts of the country have got snow.  There hasn't been any snow here yet, but I'm already wishing I'd knitted myself a hat and gloves.  Poor Chris is working outside in it.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Addicted to knitting

I volunteered at the shop Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon.  We did the Created gift order, we drafted a press release and I drafted a communications plan for the shop launch and publicity.

One of the group members sent me a very rude email in response to an idea about shelf labels for the shop, in which I was pretty much compared to Ronald McDonald!  To say I wasn't impressed is an understatement. 

On Sunday morning we went to the flea market and the only thing I bought was a robin for 20p.

You win some, you lose some!  But I made up for it when I got home because I spotted a mint on the card Glo Friends Snugbug for only £12 plus postage from America.  This is the exact Glo Friend I used to have when I was little.  So I splashed out and ordered it.  At least it won't be scratched seeing as it's never been opened. 

Chris made a wood picture out of an old jenga game.

The first of the paperwhite narcissus have flowered - they were meant to be for Christmas!

I went to visit my Grandma with my Mum in the afternoon.

I saw a great 'folly' on Alan Titchmarsh's Garden Secrets TV programme - it was real wooden bed with wildflowers growing next to it.  It was at Ryewater Nurseries and it took me ages to find a photo!

I really don't like whiskey.  My Dad was a big fan of it, and I guess I put myself off it as a teenager, when I would steal bits of whiskey from my Dad's bottle and top it up with a bit of water so he wouldn't notice (sorry Dad).  The taste of it literally makes me wretch.  However, last New Year, at a friend's house I tried a Scotch whiskey called Bruichladdich from the Isle of Islay.  It tasted lovely, a really complex and different taste, and I'd like to buy some for Christmas, but it's £35 a bottle.  We've ordered in some whiskey toddy muslin bags at the shop.

Why am I so addicted to knitting?  When I'm at work I just wish I was at home knitting.  Ideally this would be next to an open fire, with a lovely casserole and dumplings cooking slowly in the oven and filling the house with a delicious smell.  I wonder if I'm genetically programmed to knit?  I guess my ancestors would have done it.  I found a lovely pattern for Scandinavian fishermans mittens on Ravelry.  I really fancy making them.  Knitting and the seaside seem to make sense to me.  I read that even when wool is wet it still keeps you warm, which explains why fishermen use wool mittens.  I'm not a big fan of synthetic yarns, such as nylon, but natural fibres like wool are soooo warm.  I do have concerns about animal welfare when obtaining the fleeces, which is why I prefer eco friendly wool.  I've just finished knitting the brown eco wool armwarmers for Leah's Christmas present. Chris wants me to make him a strip Freddy Kruger hat.  The only wool I could find in those colours was Debbie Bliss Fez, which is a mix of alpaca and camel, and it's apparently very warm.  I also ordered some of Freedom yarn's eco wool.

Monday, 8 November 2010

It's Bonfire night - time to eat parkin cake and treacle toffee

I made a start on my Christmas shopping this week, before all the cheap, good stuff sells out.  I ordered lots of cool things from the Artbox website.  I got loads of stuff for only £20, so that's already a few people's pressies crossed off the list.

I got myself a cool sticker, and the picture changes depending on which angle you look at it from.

I've made Venetia and Matilda a wooly hat each for Christmas and I had lot and lots of fun making pom poms to sew onto the hats!  I absolutely love making pom poms, and my cat Steve loves them too.  He already loves watching me knit, and he loves the smell of real wool, but the pom poms fascinate him.  I think I'll make him a special big one for Christmas.

I ordered Chris Andy Goldsworthy's 'Wood' book off the Amazon Marketplace as part of his birthday present.  It costs £50 new, so I got a 'like new' copy for only £10, bargain.

I ordered an 'Eye clock' for my friend Andrea's birthday but I think I want to keep it for myself.

I ordered Matilda and Venetia a 'Hot dog' each, which are soft toys/pillows with microwaveable wheat bags inside which heat up.  I think they'll like them.

For myself I ordered a Canadian cookbook called 'Looneyspoons' off Amazon, I tried to get the book with the Rockin Morrocan Stew in (Crazy Plates) but I couldn't get hold if it, so I ordered book 1 in the series instead.

On Friday afternoon I baked 2 batches of parkin cake to take to my friend Leah's bonfire party.  I made one batch with flour and one with gluten free flour, for my friend Caroline who doesn't eat wheat.

I also made a double batch of treacle toffee which I left to set, then chopped into pieces.  Unfortunately when I checked the toffee on Saturday it had melted back into one large piece again!  So I had to chop it up again, but this time I wrapped each piece in greaseproof paper.  It tasted delicious.

Those are Chris's hands not mine (in case anyone thought I'd got very masculine looking hands!)

I got both recipes from the Coronation Street cookbook - Deirdre and Tracey's bonfire night spread. It's actually a pretty decent cookbook - lots of Lancashire recipes!

It was Bonfire Night on Friday, but Leah rescheduled her party til Sunday because of the wet weather.

I volunteered at the shop all day on Saturday.  It was quite busy with customers but we still managed to do the Traidcraft, Natural Collection and Created Christmas gift orders.  We've ordered lots of lovely items for the shop.

On Sunday we went to the flea market and I bought some more retro Christmas gift tags.

I got a toy that brings back happy memories from my childhood called a glo worm for only 20p.  The glo worm glows up in the dark.  I decided I want to get my nieces a glo worm as part of their Christmas pressies.  I loved mine as a child and even had a glo friends bed tent that I won in a competion in the News
 of the World Sunday magazine, it glowed up and completely covered my bed.  It was soooo cool!  I think my nieces will like the glo worms too, especially as you can't buy them in the shops anymore (they originally came out in 1986, but you can buy used ones on eBay).

I also got a nice gingerbread man for the Christmas tree.

In the afternoon we went to the allotment and refilled the bird feeders.  The sky looks very moody on this photo.

We took down the bean canes.  I'll dig it over next week.

We saw a stripy caterpillar on the shed.

Keith has finally knocked his old dilapidated shed down.

There are lots of berries on the trees at the top of the allotment.

The sprouts and cabbage are coming along nicely.

I took a photo of the allotment path covered in autumn leaves.

It's quite a contrast to how it looked back in May when the trees were covered in pink cherry blossom petals.

Then it was time to set off for Leah's bonfire party with the treacle toffee and parkin.  She'd built a huge fire.

My friends had made black peas, pumpkin soup (using one of my pumpkins) and more toffee.

Caroline's Dave and Dave's sister carved the pumpkin.

Then we had a fireworks display and had fun playing with some sparklers, and took it in turns to make wishes upon the rockets!

It was a lovely calm evening, and it was so warm next to the fire.  Who'd have thought a few hours later the wind would be blowing a gale and it would be pouring down?  I think winter might finally be here.