Monday 25 April 2016

Memorandum Monday

As a lady of a certain age, the recent programme on the BBC, 'How to Stay Young', was naturally of more than passing interest. The presenter of it was Angela Rippon, a spritely 71 year old.  It was quite interesting to see the various tests and research that was going on to see whether the physical age of your body matches the number of candles on your birthday cake.  And you know what they say, the more candles, the bigger the cake - which can only be a good thing.  

One thing that came across from it was that it isn't necessarily things like crosswords and Sudoku that keep your brain active, although they are good to keep it stimulated, it's learning new things.  Like a language or trying hard to find something new to write about for Sian's Memorandum Monday meme.  OK, so Angela didn't mention Sian by name but as I heard her talk about learning new things, it was pretty obvious to me that was what she meant!  

So, we hosted a Curry Night for some friends on Saturday and after we'd eaten we were sitting in the lounge where the men were smugly saying how their weekly badminton games were keeping them youthful and active (in the interests of full disclosure, I need to add that immediately after coming home from badminton and having a shower they meet up again in the pub thus undoing all the good work they'd done in the previous hour).  I mentioned a 'sit and rise' test that I had seen on the programme which showed how fit your leg muscles are.

Before I explain the presence of the Ibuprofen gel in the photo, I should explain that after a couple of gin and tonics and a glass of wine, having a go at doing the Sit and Rise experiment seemed like a good idea.  Find a clear space in the lounge, stand with one leg crossed in front of the other one (so far so good) and lower yourself into a sitting position on the floor without holding onto anything.  Angela makes it look easy peasy lemon squeezy.  Just watch her showing off here.  (NO I'm not bitter that a 71 year old can do it effortlessly when I, a mere 58, fell over twice. I blame the gin)  Third time lucky, I managed to get sitting down (rather inelegantly, thank goodness I was wearing trousers) but as my bottom hit the floor, I felt a tweak in my knee.  As I was the only one who managed to even get that far, I was too smug to admit that I may have done some damage!  But this morning when I got out of bed, my first thought was 'Where's that pain killer gel?'  I think I probably should have read the small print before I had a go:

Clearly a controlled environment isn't 11.30pm in the middle of the lounge.  Have you had a go yet?  Come on girls, we can't be beaten by Angela Rippon!

Monday 18 April 2016

A Mini Memorandum Monday

It won't be my first mini, or even my second, but my third.  The first one I kept for nearly 12 years, then I traded it in for the one I have now and recently I received a letter to say that the three years since I bought it are nearly up and it's time to trade it in for another.  I know that I love my Mini and have no hesitation for getting another one, so that's not what I learnt this week.  No, the thing that I learnt is ...

that ...

new cars don't have CD players any more.  Speaking as someone who doesn't download music onto her phone/ipad and enjoys playing her 'old' music CDs and singing along in the privacy of the car - this is a big thing! But I guess it's not that long ago that I was bemoaning the fact that I wouldn't be able to play my cassettes so I'm sure I'll cope. 

You don't even have to put a key anywhere near an ignition any more, just so long as it is in the car somewhere.  What is the world coming too?  I remember learning to drive and having to use the 'choke' control when you first turned on the engine (am I showing my age now?).

The salesman told us an amusing story about an ex-employee who had been driving up North to a sales convention.  In a company car (which doesn't require the key to be attached into any part of the dashboard) he stopped en route for a hamburger from a well known burger chain.  Here starts the story of his misdemeanour. For we all know that you are not supposed to eat while driving are you?  Anyway, he finishes his burger, opens his window and throws the rubbish out of the window.  Again, something that is not allowed at all, and something that really annoys me if I see it happening.  However, what he didn't realise was that he had inadvertently picked up the key in amongst the rubbish and that went out the window too.  The car, sensing that the key was no longer in situ, slowed down and stopped.  The rubbish (and the key) is by now, a far distance back, somewhere in a motorway hedgerow.  Explain that one to the police and breakdown company!  

So as I browse through paint charts and interior options, I shall be giving a big wave to Sian and the rest of the Mondayers whilst reminiscing about my first car: a little Triumph Herald, PUC 762F - I even remember the number plate.  £450 she cost me - yes of course she was a 'she', she even had a name, Bessie.  Oh the memories! 

Friday 15 April 2016

Liberate Your Art 2016

I'm not sure what gave me the courage to put my name down to join in with the Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap project.  But in true Deb tradition, the minute I'd entered my details I had a 'what on earth was I thinking?' moment. The final blog post from Kat Sloma about the swap can be seen here. Just check out some of the amazing postcards that people sent around the world.

But that's the end of the project, let's rewind and remember the beginning - I read and re read the instructions and with the thought that art can take many forms, not just paints and canvases I went ahead and had some postcards made with a few images of quilting that I had done and photos I had taken.  They were written on, packaged up and sent on their way to Kat to be forwarded on to other participants.
The date for the exchange came and I impatiently waited for the cards that would be sent to me from 5 other artists.  Look at the lovely cards I received:
from Krisha in Southern California.  This is a page from one of her art journals, and created with just a pallet knife.  Isn't she clever?  The writing says 'She sent her heart afloat before it could be broken'.

From Janice Darby in California.  'Until you spread your wings you will have no idea how far you can fly' is the quote on the front.  Such beautiful details in her artwork, my photo does not do it justice!

'Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul' - John Muir.  This is the quote Sarah Calhoun in Georgia added to the reverse of her card.  This photo was taken in Cloudland Canyon State Park and is quite amazing.  I would never have guessed it was a photo, the techniques she has used are brilliant.
This rather regal lady is the artwork of Janet Reid.  She has added the quote 'Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life' - Pablo Picasso.  I tried to find something with similar colours to add as a 'prop' to my photo and liked the way the colour of the Chambord matched the majestic purple and the crown on the label echoes that in the picture.

Now, art can take many forms and Dona Hyll is a member of a band called Vatra Ziva from Columbus, Ohio.  She added the quote 'A painter paints pictures on canvas, but musicians paint their pictures on silence' - Leopold Stokowski.

I just have one more that I am waiting for, the one from Kat herself. 

It's been such a lovely project to be part of, and I apologise now to the recipients of my cards for they have no clever or thought provoking quote included on them.  I just added a short personal message but I will know better for next time.  For there will be a next time - I have really enjoyed waiting to see what beauties will be waiting for me on my door mat when I get home from work.  Happy mail really is the best!  Technology is great and it is such a quick and easy way to communicate but there is something about receiving something in the post that you can touch, look at and admire.
Huge thanks go out to Kat for organising this; I can't begin to imagine the logistics of how she does it, for although all the cards I received were from USA participants, people took part from all over the world.  175 people took part from 12 different countries!  Kat made it so easy to join in, even from overseas, and the instructions were clear and easy to follow.  Did you take part this year?  I think that every one of the people who comment on my blog are artists in so many different ways whether it be scrapbooking, card making, painting, sewing, knitting, crocheting ... the list of ways you can create art is long.  I've really enjoyed checking out the blogs and etsy shops of those people who sent me their details and it's been fun spreading my wings and finding new blogs to check out.  Come and join me next year - I'll let you know when the sign up begins!


Monday 11 April 2016

Memorandum Monday

The one in which I bond with a cat

I have a bit of a chequered history as far as cats are concerned.  I'd like to like them, but they don't always seem to like me.  So when my neighbour approached me to ask if I could look after their cat for a few days as her husband was going into hospital and she needed to stay there whilst he was in the high dependency unit, I was a little apprehensive, but given the circumstances - how could I say no?  My first experience of cat sitting was many years ago when we were first married and some friends of Paul's who lived just along from us asked us to feed their cats while they went away on holiday.  Now, this wasn't just one cat, this was three cats.  Three rather expensive Siamese cats.  Giselle, Elvis and Blue.  Now, I have since learnt that Siamese cats aren't the most affectionate of cats and have quite a mind of their own.  So the instructions of 'just call them in first thing in the morning for their breakfast, then let them out for the day and call them back in the evening for them to stay indoors' sounded, to a cat novice, fairly straightforward.  But oh no, Giselle, Elvis and Blue had not listened to their instructions and were not keen on coming home when called.  Oh the embarrassment of standing in a garden calling for Elvis!  They would congregate in their own sweet time, at the bottom of the garden but no way were they coming in while they could see me.  Paul hit on a solution, we would open the patio doors, put the cat food bowls inside the house then we would run upstairs to the bedroom above, open the window, and once all three had slinked inside the door, would close the patio doors from above by dangling a broom out the window.  So why on earth, when the owners returned and asked how things had gone, did I say 'no problems at all, they we absolutely fine'?
My reservations about cats were further entrenched when I once arrived home from dropping my daughter at school to find a strange cat on my doorstep.  'Shoo' I said in what I hoped was a confident tone.  The cat did not budge. 'Go on, go home' I said as I stepped forward to put my key in the door.  Next thing I knew, the moth-eaten moggy had thrown itself at my leg and had sunk its teeth into my calf.  With blood pouring out of the wound, I took myself off to the hospital where they told me it had punctured my calf muscle and as it was a bit of a flea bitten scruffy old cat who did not belong to any of my neighbours, it was probably best that I had a tetanus injection.
However, I may now, for the first time, have bonded with a little ball of fluff that waits for me in her garden, comes in and is pleased to see me, eats her dinner and then demands a bit of TLC before trotting outside on her best behaviour.  She is a cutie, although Coco does not like me coming home smelling of cat!  And I'm slightly concerned about the responsibility of looking after her as her owner casually dropped into the conversation that she is 15 which sounds pretty old in cat years! 

So what else have I done for the first time this weekend?  Well, this is a hint I saw on the internet, and was something I never knew so let me share  ...
... the easy way to crumble an OXO cube without ending up with beef smelling, brown crumbs all over your fingers.  Turns out you do not just unwrap the cube and crumble it between your fingers - no, you carefully prise open the bonded edges ... gently squish the package between your fingers (still in the foil) and it will turn into a soft little parcel of stock cube which you can easily open and sprinkle into a jug of boiling water.  Who knew?  Please don't tell me I'm the only person who's been doing it wrong for years!

It's the first day back at work after the Easter holidays for me so I really do have that Monday morning feeling.  Linking in with Sian and the rest of the Mondayers, all sharing something new!

Monday 4 April 2016

Memorandum Monday

The one in which I seriously consider checking out the price of flights to Northern Ireland

I was literally going round and round in circles this weekend.  Or trying to.

It was a weekend of emotions ranging from excitement at starting a new project to frustration, anger and finally contentment.  The things I do just to join in with Sian's rather brilliant idea to see if we can all learn something new at the weekend.   Having been moderately successful with my first effort at sock making (positive side - I ended up with a wearable pair of socks, negative side - stitch tension was variable to say the least) I was eager to get going on a second pair.  Sian makes amazing footwear using a circular needle and it seemed to me that if I too had a circular needle, all my tension issues would be resolved.  New wool and a circular needle arrived in the post on Friday and at the beginning of Saturday afternoon I couldn't have been more wrong.   Never mind the tension on the needles, the tension inside of me was at breaking point!  It looks relatively straightforward on a YouTube video; cast on here, slip stitches there, start knitting.  But there was something I was missing.  Some vital clue on why I could not see how on earth 64 stitches in a straight line were going to end up in a tubular shape. I watched clip after clip of various video lessons until I realised that the clips I saw went from
  1. Cast on stitches - to -
  2. Knit in the round

No one mentioned the fact that there was a '1 ½' stage where you slid the stitches down onto the flexible bit and pulled the loop through so you could then divide the stitches onto both needle ends.  Once that penny had dropped I sank back in my chair with relief and got to grips with it.  But, just be aware of what a lucky escape you had Sian, I was definitely thinking that the only way to sort it out would be to get on a Ryanair plane and head off to the Emerald Isle to sit round your table and have a cup of coffee and some one to one tuition.  I would even have picked up one of those airport sized giant toblerones at Stansted to bring as a thank you.  Hey, actually that doesn't sound such a bad idea!
Practice makes perfect

It's mid way through the Easter Holidays for me, and I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes.  We have friends coming over for dinner in a couple of weeks time and I wanted to try something new for dessert.  My mum used to make the most amazing meringues, and although I've got her old recipe, mine never taste the same as hers did.  Looking through my new cookery book I came across these little beauties.  Tiny meringues sandwiched together with crème fraiche, lemon curd and crushed raspberries.  So having learnt my lesson on Saturday about concentrating properly, and looking at instructions from start to finish rather than skim reading over the bits I think I know, I decided to give them a whirl.  This was so much easier than starting a new sock - I think I've found a new favourite dessert!

Quick off the mark

The weather was so glorious on Saturday that we decided the time had come to uncover the summer patio furniture which had been carefully packed away at the end of last year.  We wiped it down, brought out the cushions, put a throw over the seats, went indoors to make a coffee to bring out and enjoy it sitting in the garden, (another first for this year) however, look who got there first ...

Friday 1 April 2016

My March in Numbers

Joining in with Julie's idea of sharing the contents of the last month, I have to tell you that I ended the month much older than I started it.  A whole year.  That's what happens when you have a birthday in the middle of the month.  You can't possibly expect me to share the actual number though, can you?  Just because the meme is called My Month in Numbers?  OK, if I must share, it was 58.
It was actually a month of eating and drinking - a lot.  What with Mother's Day, Birthday and Easter I think it's fair to say that I may have eaten my own bodyweight in chocolate in the last month.  Plus I may have been in danger of over indulging in my favourite foods (if you're planning a dinner party and you are thinking of inviting me, a good menu would be a main course of anything involving lamb and a nice lemon dessert). 
We have a tradition at work where every half term, the people who have had a birthday in those 3 weeks all get together and bake cakes for everyone else in the office.  It kind of takes the pressure off having to individually cater for about 16 people - plus all those teachers who just 'happen to be passing through the office' as soon as a cake tin opens.  So the early Marchers chose a date  and I spent part of my day off on the day before cooking a lemon drizzle cake and some double chocolate chip cookies.  I took them into work the next day, only to realise that I'd got the date wrong and had baked a week early.  Surprisingly, the ladies in the office selflessly offered to eat what I'd taken in, just so I didn't have to bother taking it home again, you understand, they're so kind!
It was the month we bought a Aeroccino milk frother to go with our Nespresso coffee maker.  We ummed and aahed a lot before buying this.  Was it a bit of an extravagance?  Would we use it much?  What difference would it make to heating up a bit of milk in the microwave?  And the answers are Possibly.  Yes. and Lots.  Let's just say if my school secretary gig comes to an end I reckon that I could update my CV to include Barista and apply to join the local coffee shop.  This little piece of kit is amazing.  It heats the milk to the perfect temperature and froths it like any self respecting Italian coffee expert would do.  My cappuccinos are the talk of the town now.  Well, the talk of inside our house is probably more accurate.  If you like cappuccinos and you don't like giving your hard earned money to overpriced coffee shops - this piece of kitchen gorgeousness is well worth considering.  In fact, if you need convincing, next time you're in my area, pop in and try it for yourself!
Liberating Art
I signed up to join in the Liberate Your Art project, where you print off some postcards of your art and send 5 to Kat of Kats Eye Studio along with some stamps.  She then sends yours to 5 people elsewhere in the world and you, in turn, receive 5 back from other people taking part in the swap.  I've received four postcards, and now wish that I could ask for mine back so that I could tweak them and improve on them to get them up to the standard of those I've been sent!  There's such a variety of 'art' being shared, from photos to pictures of mixed media projects.  One of those I've received is a photo of the sender in her band, saying that her 'art' is music.  A clever twist!  I love joining in with anything like this, and think that I'm starting to show my age, because there really is something special in receiving something in the post that isn't a catalogue, a bank statement or junk mail.  (Since reaching my advanced age, there seems to be rather too much coming my way that refers to stair lifts and Saga cruises.)
Being a bit of a knit
One of my more 'are you sure that's what you want?' birthday presents this year was a ball of wool and some double pointed knitting needles.  Having seen Sian's amazing socks I knew this was something I had to try (who knows, she may one day organise a sock swap project and I need to get a bit of practice in) I love learning new crafts and although knitting wasn't new to me, juggling 4 needles and going round and round in circles was a novel experience.  As soon as I had casted off the final stitch, I knew that I wanted to make another pair; this was just a prototype, a practice session to see where I could improve, and I also needed to have a go at ditching the 4 little needles for one long circular one.  I was soon browsing the Wool Warehouse website and am now the proud owner of some rather gorgeous wool and a shiny new circular needle.  I would put money on the fact that by the time I go to bed tonight, there will be stitches on that needle!
Food glorious food

As for meals out, that happened 3 times.  The best one was a Puddings and Pies evening at a local restaurant.  It was exactly what the title of the menu suggested, every item on the menu was either a pudding or a pie.  This is my husband's idea of heaven.  We don't often have pies at home, due to my messiness is the pastry department.  Even if I don't make it myself and use ready made, my kitchen always looks like an explosion has happened in a flour factory. 

Mum's the word

The biggest number to share this month is 17.  The number of weeks into her pregnancy that my daughter has reached.  You can see the picture of Junior's scan in the photo collage above.  If you look carefully, you may be able to guess what she is having!
So that was March; I think the saying is 'In like a lion and out like a lamb' and weather wise it certainly lived up to that expression.  At the time of typing this, the sun is out, the dog is sunbathing, the husband is doing something that involves building a 'raised vegetable bed' in the garden and it's clearly time for another cappuccino!