... because life's too short to do anything ALL the time . Creativity and positivity are my "hiraeth"

Thursday, 30 December 2010

I LOVE RADIO 4 (and the Western Mail)


Thank you Western Mail. They paid attention to my mutterings last year and they've done me proud this year too. I really appreciate it.

So, I suppose I should be confirming my next year/ongoing manifesto, but first, let me tell you this story.

I was listening to my beloved Radio 4 last night in between calls, I was out working, and there was a lovely piece on there by a man who had been shown an incredible act of kindness and generosity by a British Rail guard many years ago when he was trying to get home to his Mum for her final hours. My heart was warmed by it, I defy anyone to not be, it was an amazing story, but I was most moved by the part when the recipient tried to thank the guard. The guard told him in response that his thanks was accepted but unnecessary and if he felt the need to repay the kindness the recipient should fulfil and act of random kindness to a total stranger, that would be repayment a thousand times over.

Yes, I guess it is similar to the "pay it forward" movement.

I went out today to Ebbw Vale, I was heading that way anyway and there is a fabulous haberdashers there, I wanted to procure some felt and net for some party favours I'm about to make (more on those later). I chose what I wanted, 9 pieces of felt, two metres of net, then, to my horror, just BEFORE the shop lady cut the net, I realised I'd failed to put my purse in my handbag.

Aghast, I explained what had happened. I was confused when the lady asked me what the felt and net was for, I explained that they were party favours as I'm cooking a family dinner to celebrate my Grandmother's birthday tomorrow.

The lady measured and cut the net, put it into a bag with the felt (despite my protestations) and told me to drop the money into her another time. Next week would be fine!

Now, I know it's not exactly the same as the gent on R4 last night, but I was still moved by the kindness and generosity. She didn't HAVE to do that, I'm not sure I would have, if I'm honest.

Looks like I'll be making an extra party favour! Random act of kindness anyone?! I think SO!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

And So ..... The End is Near

But I'm keeping on keeping on.

I don't know exactly what doing, it won't be another year of not buying ANYTHING. And I certainly will be doing lots of making and money saving.

Had another article published in the South Wales Argus this week

and I am in need of a bit of a rest. I have a family birthday party to cater for on Friday so I don't have all that much time to make anything, however, I bought a bloomin' book about sewing on paper which has opened up a whole new art form to master so I'm trying NOT to start that or the birthday party will have to send out for fish and chips on Friday.

Now there's an idea! Supporting the local economy, sustainable fish (hake) and having a rest, hmmmmmm ethical speedy cuisine - I like it!

Friday, 24 December 2010


It's that time of year for indulging, enjoying and hopefully relaxing, but it is also a time for giving thanks. No matter what, if any religion you are.

It's time to give thanks that there are people in the world who are prepared and driven enough to make wonderful things happen. Like the people that run the Samburu Orphans Support project in Kenya.

These photos belong to my good friend Asher who has recently taken his first trip out to lend practical and physical support, and accidentally found himself and his raison d'etre at the same time.

I don't really think that there's a lot that needs saying about these moving photos.
I think we'd all do well to remember that this is the season for GIVING.

Merry Christmas xxx

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Who You Gonna Call? "Gut-Busters"

What would we do without the old Christmas Cracker wrapping trick?
Another shot of my Martha Stewart inspired fruit display. I quite like it. I like it so much I intended to use this shot for next years' cards, but then I thought, "what am I going to do with the cards from this year?!" They need to be recycled more than I need to make new ones.
And these are the invitations for the annual "Mrs Miggins Pie Shop Congregation" I really enjoyed making these, I must be honest.

Christmas may now arrive. Just about. And I don't mind telling you I've busted a gut.

Yes, it has been wonderful, being so creative, but it's been really hard work. I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again, I thought I was being organised, starting in July, but that was no where near organised enough. I'm currently trying not to think about next Christmas yet. I think I need a little bit of a rest.

So, as you can see, my "Mr" and "Mrs cushions are done, my niece's Christmas sack that I had forgotten about, is done, and cleverly wrapped using the old Christmas cracker trick.

I originally thought I'd need to make about 20 Christmas tree decorations. I've made at least double that. I finished last night. Of course it would have been sooner if I hadn't got quite so creative towards the end!

And this is MY hamper. I stole it. I liked them too much to give all of them away. Doing laundry has never been so pretty!

Oh and I've just sorted out Mother's Day AND Easter. I'm not getting caught out again!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Snow is Falling, All Around You, Children Playing, Having Fun

I just wish they'd do it somewhere else. And quietly.

In case you hadn't noticed I'm INCREDIBLY grumpy today. I have no idea why but I think an afternoon in the sack (alone) with Radio 4 should re-charge the old batteries.

So in an attempt to make myself a bit happier - I decided to make something, taking inspiration from Martha Stewart. I'm rather pleased with it, have given some surplus fruit a purpose in life that they previously didn't have.

I love it, but I'm still grumpy!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Like a Blunt Pencil - Pointless.

And shameless.

There is no "consumerism" message or reference here, I just wanted to share a few snaps of my handsome sunbathing men in my life, well, two of the four, and a half!

They are mega-gorgeous, I think you'll find. Fact.

Exactly how did we manage without cameras on our phones?

Christmas Spiwit - Gin anyone?

These are all your Christmas presents. Where shall I send them?! Shameless excuse to use one of my lovely Prima photos really!

So it's the festive season. And the only shop I've been in other than my local hardware store and butchers is Hobbycraft. I don't even usually go there, but I was passing, in need of felt, and sometimes needs must.

This Christmas, because I've not done ANY Christmas shopping (two presents were purchased with actual money some time ago for my better half and daughter - I can't crochet new walking boots to replace the old ones what have died) I feel decidedly smug. And relaxed.

Alright, I have been up until 04.30 the last three nights on the trot making things last minute, but that's my own silly fault for not being as organised as I could be and for taking on a pair of additional projects as requested by my lovely sister at this time of year. I could and should've said "certainly, it'll be in the new year though" but as usual I totally underestimated the amount of time everything else would take. I learned a lesson off of Kevin McLoud (Grand Designs), he said that when building a house or undertaking massive renovations, set your realistic budget, then double it. Then set a realistic TIME budget, and treble it. You're more likely to be only slightly over budget then. I'm starting to realise that all these things I make, do and mend are mini house renovations in their own rights.

But it really is a total revelation. I've been no where near a town centre, out of town shopping centre or any other dreadful haven of unnecessary and thoughtless present acquiring, and it's totally changed my attitude to the festivities. I used to love Christmas, you see, but the last probably even as many as ten years, I've grown more and more disillusioned by it and more and more like my Father - the ultimate in "bah humbug". But this year, I'm loving driving around doing my job in the nights, in the frost and snow, looking at everyone's pretty lights and enjoying the real Christmas spirit.

What I don't love is that D(readful) F(urniture) S(uppliers) and other such horrendous poor quality sofas designed for disposability and with no regard for environmental impact (don't get me started!) have taken OFF the Christmas adverts that they've been running since October instead advertising their "Pre Christmas January sale". For goodness sake, trying to catch a programme or two and getting assaulted by the advertising people at every turn.

After my weekend working last week and numerous complaints (granted mostly from me) about the strong but low winter sun blinding the family in our south facing living room, and taking inspiration from the lovely Danielle Proud's book "House Proud", I decided to make a lovely blind for my living room. I cunningly uses one of my good friend Marie's old bed sheets again, well two actually, one for the main body, and one for the lining, a piece of left over faux suede from my re-upholstering of my sofa bed, and some gorgeous peacock feathers bought for me a while ago by my Step-Mum. I adore peacock feathers, I have a little sort of flower display of them, so I pinched three and turned them into a blind.

It took me a day, but I'm thrilled with the result, and it's beautifully finished (if I do say so myself), highly functional and really, really pretty.

Well, I didn't think today's blog would turn into a rant, but hey, it's been a while!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Who Made YOUR Pants?

Everyone should look at this website - the ultimate in ethical sustainability. I know who'll be making MY pants from now on - bye bye M&S!

Awards, Wreaths, and Tins

Well, I must say, Christmas without shopping is so definitely the way forward. I feel nothing but smug when I think of all those people going through retail hell to satisfy their junk buying cravings.

I popped down to our local villagey-town thing on Saturday before I went to work. I needed some supplies from the general store there. It's marvellous. Not a very big shop but it sells everything you could possibly need. It's owned and run by some local people, they aren't part of a chain or any of that nonsense, and everything in there is very cheap. One of the things I went in to get was some more cup hooks for my cup shelf in the kitchen where I'm building up my collection of mostly bonkers and second hand cups and mugs. In Focus, our closest DIY shop, a pack of 6 mug hooks is £2.69 there or there abouts, in my local hardware/houseware/general stuff shop - 10p each.

How can that be?

I don't think I announced properly that my fruit and veg co-op won first prize in the award we were nominated for. It is a GAVO (Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations) award for the category of "Practical Service Volunteers". As I was at a wedding instead of the award ceremony, this was the first time I got to see the award, now proudly displayed in the trophy cabinet at the community centre. Quite nice, isn't it?!

And just a few other things I've made recently.

I just LOVE the timeless beauty of tins, particularly golden syrup ones. I have loads, thanks to the toffee apples, so I drilled some holes and turned it into a hanging lantern. Doesn't give off much light but when it's twinned with one of the Mitcheldean Soap Co.'s www.morethanbubbles.co.uk gorgeous festive candles, the sniff is to actually die for.

And my Christmas wreath. Soon to be featured in the South Wales Argus (or the Brunell Times as my friends call it!). I bought 2 rattan wreaths after Christmas last year in B&Q for about 50p. One, I wrapped a set of spare Christmas tree lights around and I've hung it in my front window, the other one, I've covered with bits and bobs of gorgeousness, as you can see. String, ribbon, pipe cleaners,anything I had hanging about. Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

There's A Goat in my Kitchen, What Am I Gonna Do

So much has been done, I'mm in a creative frenzy at the moment! Hence the lack of blogging - not enough hours in the day!

So last week, Monday I think, I decided to throw a surprise birthday party for my Meg. I spent the week trying to organise everyone and everything so that we could keep it as much a surprise as possible. It was a bit hairy with the weather being so bad, and I had everything crossed that the weather wouldn't stop anyone from making it. It didn't, and it was fantastic, if exhausting. 3am I finished icing the cake, 8am i was up making further fairy cakes and the only time I sat down until 1.30am Sunday was when I was in the car! We somehow managed to keep the secret going, and it was all a total surprise to her, and we had a lovely time.

And I finished the marmalade. It took three days off and on, one full day of cooking. It actually is the very loveliest thing I've ever tasted, and was a thoroughly organic and holistic process making it. I don't mean "organic" as in the Soil Association, but organic as in complimentary, feel good and respectful. I thoroughly enjoyed it,but would recommend it's made in the summer when you can have the back door wide open as I have condensation marks all down my kitchen walls! Oh well, never mind - battle scars! That's what they are! It was a bit of a battle making it, but a good and positive one.

And I finished Josie's blanket, thank the lord. It was a massive project, I think the biggest I've done so far. I'm ever so pleased with it and I can't wait for her to have it. Of course, when a project is finally finished, that's when I go into creative overdrive trying to decide what to do next! The trouble at the moment is that I'm battling what I SHOULD be doing with what I WANT to be doing ... for the next fortnight I guess I'm going to have to give in to the SHOULD by promising myself that after the festive season is gone, I can spend some time on the WANTs.

Oh and Goaty - he was freezing. It was -8 out there, so we brought him in for a warm while we waited for his heat lamp to turn up. He quite likes being in the kitchen. Steve often brings him in for a cup of tea and a biscuit (him, not the goat! Well, Goaty does get a biscuit!). He didn't come for the party!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Mammoth Proportions

Well I had an eventful day yesterday.

My Sister and her Hubby moved house the day before and I heard from my Step Mum that my Sis was incredibly stressed. There's only one thing worse than moving hose, and that's moving house in the snow. There's only one thing worse than that and that's doing it all yourself because your Hubby's in work (I am familiar with that task). There's only one thing worse than that and that's doing it 3 weeks before Christmas. And just when it can't get any worse, doing it with a curious 4 year old just takes the biscuit.

So, with it being my day off yesterday, I asked if I could help, and my Sis asked me to look after "the big C" for a couple of hours to give her chance to make some headway in the new house. Not being used to little ones, I was a little daunted, but I've been looking forward to being able to have her so, of course I jumped at the chance.

I enrolled the Hubby and off we went for a walk with the hounds in the snow, followed by a bit of scran in the cafe. It was lush, so very enjoyable, and we were so pleased she felt comfortable to nod off in the car on the way home. Exactly HOW CUTE IS SHE?!?!

So, after that loveliness, I enjoyed my evening sat on my sofa making my dried orange and cinnamon stick Christmas decorations. I really like them a lot, very rustic and a lovely process also, if slightly irritating now that most people don't have airing cupboards. Even the "s" setting on the oven is too hot and the oranges burn in their own juice. A lot of trial and error. My Spaniels and Labrador really enjoy eating the dried oranges, though so I'll have to keep an eye on them!

And then I went on to the Marmalade. Oh the joy of Marmalade!

Having decided on the recipe to use, I decided that it would be a good idea to bang out the first bit of the process last night so I could do the second bit today. This involved simmering my fruit in several pints of water for three hours, so I put it on, and nodded off under a blanket on the sofa.

I awoke, bizarrely, 2 minutes before the timer on the cooker went off, so when it did, a lot higher and louder than usual, I shot down the kitchen stairs to turn it off. The dogs were going bonkers as it was that high pitched that you couldn't really tell if it was deafening or not. Could I turn it off?! Could I heck as like.

So I wrestled with the panel, in the near dark as it's such an easy thing to turn off (under normal circumstances) while the thing screamed for attention at the top of it's voice - at this point it's 02:50, and I'm starting to flap! It wouldn't go off!

As I cannot reach the plug for the cooker easily, I couldn't just knock it off, so I contemplated knocking the mains off to re set it and hopefully not wake the street any further, so imagine my horror when the bloomin' thing starts sparking and smoking, electrical circuits bursting into little flames so I'm thinking what the hell do I do?! Watch it to see if it gets any worse, run up and knock the power off, get the fire extinguisher or shout for my Hubby and then the smoke starts pouring out so I'm faced with the reality of setting off the smoke alarms at 3am on top of the still screaming cooker timer ....so I ran off and knocked the power off.

Slightly relieved, I waited a few seconds then knocked it back on, hoping it'd have re set the bloomin' thing, it had not, so I observed the last few circuits burning out. Slighlty shaky, I don't mind telling you.

So I knocked the light on in the kitchen to inspect the damage and get my breath back, and the bloomin' halogen bulb exploded nearly shooting me out of my fleece leopard print dressing gown, and blew all the lights in the house. You couldn't make it up!

So I went off to bed and was trying to calm myself down and contemplate the best thing to do when my previously oblivious hubby woke up. I told him what had happened and that we might freeze to death overnight because without the power we have no heating, and he kindly got up and located the cooker plug. We could then put the power back on, but the teenager had to have a shower in the dark this morning - just the light from a small lamp! She was thrilled!

.....oh, I can laugh now!