Sunday, 27 February 2011

Happy 75th Anniversary!

Belmont is my mother's cousin.  He calls my Grandmother 'Auntie' (as in On-tee).  He and Mona were married on this day in 1936, when they were 20 and 18 years old.  They are some of the nicest people you'd ever want to meet, and good company as well.  I'm wishing them a wonderful day today, with much love!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Sunshine & Substance

It's funny to think that before I retired I'd never read a blog in my life, though they'd been around for almost ten years by then.  I'd no idea about all the tricks of the trade:  giveaways, links, Search Engine Optimisation, memes and awards, all geared towards increasing traffic on one's blog.  I do link to other blogs, but only because I like them enough to share them with you.  I comment on other blogs because it's an opportunity to air my opinions!  As for giveaways, I have enough stuff, thank you.  I only vaguely understand the principles of SEO, and I enjoy playing around with my blog titles such that they amuse me but often give no clue as to the content of the post.  Memes and awards, if you like them, are a form of playing 'tag, you're it'; if you don't like them, they are akin to the infamous chain letter. I think it's the latter connotation that has made me keep my blog awards a secret.  Until now.

I've been honoured with two awards:  the Sunshine Award, from A Femme d'Un Certain Age (Tish), and A Blog of Substance Award, from (Jg).   I've given you the links so you can check that I've not made this up!  Strictly speaking, I've not followed the rules as I've not passed these on, though I thought about it quite a bit.  Most of the blogs I read don't seem to fit neatly into any category, being either too serious to be called 'sunshine' or too frivolous to be 'substance', too big to care they got any awards, too personal to be bothered with playing tag...  I finally took the decision that in the same way that I don't do chain letters/emails, I could take the same stance with awards, except for different reasons.  On the other hand, I'm not insulted when I get the things - chain emails - it means someone thought of me, which is better than being completely ignored, you know.  And in the case of the awards, someone thought well of me, which is even better.

Tish was just saying thank you for my comments and encouragement during the early days of her increasingly successful blog.  Jg's more recent award still has me a bit bewildered, but polishing my nails on my lapel and admiring the shine.  Here's a man who takes his writing seriously and labels his comments as pithy (there is a story I have attached to that word, but that's another post).  I'm still beyond flattered that he shows up here regularly...

Anyhow, I decided that the combination of these two awards stacked up to about the nicest compliment I could ever hope to achieve and I wanted to say 'Thank you.'

Also, they call to mind two things said to me by people who have passed on.  Though they relate to appearance, I think my own form of sunshine is more about attitude, and that I learned from my Mom:

"You look like your Mom, but you think and talk like your Dad."

 "It's important to be useful as well as decorative."

So, soon as I figure out how to pin them on my blog, it will wear these awards with both pleasure!  Thanks again, Tish & Jg!!!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Helen Broderick

Early on in watching the Fred Astaire films I decided that my favourite character wasn't Fred or Ginger, but Helen.  Not only is she the funniest of the lot, with all her wisecracking, but she is 20 years older than Ginger and so closer to my age. 


Also, where Ginger wears impossibly frou-frou gowns, Helen wears clothes I could imagine myself wearing.  Well, maybe without some of the hats.  I looked up Helen on Wikipedia ages ago and half remembered she had a famous son.  


Bill didn't think she was old enough, but I went back and checked:  Helen's son is Broderick Crawford.

I think it's a bit sad, given the substantial presence that she added to the feathers and fluff of her era's films, that she's not that well remembered.  So I thought I'd bring her to your attention. 

Are you a fan of someone whose not as famous as they perhaps deserve?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Brain Food

Some time ago the blogging world directed my attention to the Royal Society for...Art (and for some other stuff) and more specifically to some of their animated lectures.  I thought I would share these with you in turn.

The graphic illustrations are fascinating to watch, though I've not decided whether they make the lectures any easier to follow; they may in fact be a slight distraction.  What I really like most about these videos is that they present ideas I've not yet met and the speakers race along, so my brain has to work to keep up with the speed of their discourse.   I really like that.  I think it means I miss being in school.

There is one about whether being Protestant or Catholic influences one's propensity towards ant vs. grasshopper habits, referring to the parable of course, except that it concludes proximity to the equator is a better predictor.  Others discuss politics, education, human behaviour.  I loved the classes in social psychology in college.   Have a look and see if any of the topics interest you, or just enjoy watching the artist sketching all those images!

Do you ever feel like your mind would benefit from a bit more rigor and discipline?

Wednesday, 23 February 2011


Our running club is organising a race for the summer and part of that involved developing a flyer to invite runners to participate.  We submitted the drafted document to the relevant authority and were told we needed to replace the term 'lady' with 'woman'.  To my surprise, it was one of the younger committee members, a 30-something, who mildly objected, saying 'lady' sounded more polite.

It would appear that one should chose one's words carefully over here.  I remember one of the sewing ladies (see?) being quite huffy because her doctor had written a letter that referred to her as a 'woman'.  I associate the term 'lady' with my Mom, who was one, along with the rules she listed for suitable behaviour.  The sorority she insisted I join added a few more rules that I took home and had the fun of discussing, eg it's permissible to smoke (this was 1972) but a lady doesn't walk across the room holding a cigarette and of course one doesn't ever hold it in one's mouth and speak.  Obvious, when you think about it, really. 

Early on at the bookbinding group at the tea break, the instructor was laughing with others at a story and commented, possibly as a way of including me in the conversation, that I should be warned I might hear the odd swear word, though they tried to keep it down as ladies were present.  I smiled and said that was OK, I'd pretend I didn't know what the words meant.  The librarian, who was training up in bookbinding and who expresses her personal style by wearing stuffed animals at the end of her pigtail and striped satin trousers tucked into buccaneer boots, sniffed and said, "A lady wouldn't need to pretend."  That was me put into my place; being a new kid on the block, I just agreed with her.  She's not that bad, really, once you get to talking with her.

So, being the type of person who likes to read encyclopedias and dictionaries, I looked up the words, lady and woman in my Dad's etymological dictionary (aren't you excited?).

Lady.  See loaf, para 4.  Loaf, plural loaves; lord (noun, hence verb), whence lordly, compare lordship; laird, whence lairdly; lady (noun, hence adjective), whence ladylike; lady bird; Lammas, whence Lammastide (compare tide, originally season, time).  [NB:  There's a post for 1 August...or not.  Didn't you always dream of writing a post using the word 'whence'?]  
Paragraph 4 doesn't really stand alone, though.  

Paragraph 1 talks about loaf, as in bread in general, from Middle English lof or laf, which came from Old English hlāf.  It also mentions the Latin libum, a sacrificial cake, though there are other root words for a sacrificial cake.

Moving on to para 2, we come to the o.o.o. (of obscure origin), loaf, to idle, whence loafer, might come from the generic notion of 'bread the staff of life' and the particular notion of 'a loaf of bread, a flask of wine, and though beside me in the wilderness - and wilderness was paradise enow'.  [Recognise our old friends?]  More probably, however, EW (?another etymologist?) is right in deriving this original American world from German dialect lofen, German laufen, to run, as in Landlaufer, landloper, vagabond.  (So we aren't a bunch of runners, we're a bunch of loafers...or vagabonds.  Right).

Paragraph 3 says that the Old English hlāf occurs in three compounds important to English, the first being hlāfmaesse, loaf Mass - the feast of the First Fruits - August 1: whence Lammas.

Para 4 (finally!):  The second is hlāfdige, loaf-kneader, compare (for the 2nd element) DIARY [which comes from a Middle English word, deie or daie, meaning a maid; or from Old English daege, kneader of Old English dah (see dough - but we won't; back to loaf -] Middle English lafdi, later lavede, latest ladi, English: lady.  A ladybird is a Lady bird, a 'bird' of Our Lady - an example of religous folklore.

I wish I could say, hand on heart, I followed all that.  I think it says 'lady' comes from words for bread produced by a diary maid for the purposes of a religious feast, but I could be wrong.  

Just in case you are interested, the third important compound is hlāfweard, loaf-ward or -guardian, soon contracted to hlāford; Middle English laverd,or loverd, latest lord, English lord.  Old English has the derivative hlāfordscipe, whence English lordship, originally the state or rank of a lord.  So all those nobles just started out as bread-minders?

Personally, I found woman to be a far more interesting word; but - you'll be pleased to know - that's a different post.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Best Beans

You know me, I love playing with data:  collecting it, analysing it, displaying it.  Weird hobby, I know, but there it is; I once had a job that paid me to do this and that's when I discovered how much fun it was.

I've kept a price book off and on since Sept 1995 when I first came to England.  How else was I going to know whether I was paying a reasonable price?  It was also instrumental in selling me on the advantages over metric.  Once you get used to just moving the decimal point over, you'll never again want to divide by 16 or whatever.  That said, I still know that a pound is about 454 grams and an ounce is about 30 millilitres but after that I'm pretty lost without a calculator or, better yet, the internet.

You may also remember I'm quite interested in nutrition; in food, really, but also in good-for-you food.  I'm not going to live on seaweed or anything, but I will eat the occasional vegetable that isn't my favourite.

I was wondering how to combine these two interests to make sure we got the best nutrition for the money spent.  Have you met  Well, if not, consider this an introduction.  There are loads of wonderful tools and articles there, and it's easy to look things up.  You don't have to register and login unless you want to.

One thing they've done is to rate foods by two criteria:  how full they make one feel (FF, for fullness factor) and how nutritionally dense (ND) they are.  The put everything on a graphic called the Nutritional Target Map (look on the 'Tools' menu on the grey bar).  The idea is that for the best in fullness and nutrition, stick to foods in the upper right quadrant:  fruit, veg and lean meats.  

Candy, cakes and cooking oils give you neither nutrition nor satisfaction.  Enriched cereals, nuts and seeds provide nutrition, but not fullness.  Coffee, tea and the like may fill you up a bit but they have no nutritional value. Just out of curiosity I looked for the highest rated food and found that the leafy tips of cowpeas (AKA black eyed peas) rate 4.6 (of 5) on fullness and 5.0 on nutrition density.  Guess I need to figure out how to grow black eyed peas, cause I've sure never seen these in any store.  Have you?

Anyhow, I took my price book and looked at all the legumes we bought in 2010.  We like our legumes in this house.  If I just looked at price per kilogram (that's 2.2 pounds), dry weight, they would rank:
  1. Blackeyed peas & kidney beans (£1.63)
  2. Red lentils (£1.78)
  3. Chickpeas (£2.14)
  4. Broad beans (£2.90)
  5. Butter beans  (£3.09)
The serving size provided by for these foods varies between 164 and 198 g (maybe about a cup).  Given that dried beans nearly double in size (I'm guessing, I've not measured), the price per serving changes the order a bit:

  1. Blackeyed peas (13 pence)
  2. Kidney (14 p)
  3. Chickpeas (18 p)
  4. Broad beans (25 p)
  5. Butter beans (26 p)
  6. Red lentils (35 p)
So, what about nutrition?  With regard to fullness factor, they all have a value of 2.something (out of 5).  For nutrition they are all champions rated between 3.8 and 4.9 (out of 5).  For my purposes I added the two together and came up with these scores (out of a possible 10 - or more likely 9.6)
  1. Blackeyed peas :  7.4
  2. Butter beans:  7.0
  3. Red lentils:  7.0
  4. Kidney beans:  6.8
  5. Broad beans:  6.5
  6. Chickpeas:  6.3
When I divide the nutritional score by the cost per serving, I get:
  1. Blackeyed peas - 55.2
  2. Kidney beans - 47.3
  3. Chickpeas - 35.9
  4. Butter beans - 26.7
  5. Broad beans - 26.4
  6. Red lentils - 19.9
What does this tell me?  That they are all pretty good deals, but that my Mom was really smart in liking her blackeyed peas.  Red lentils are brilliant for throwing into soups, but I'm going to make sure we always have blackeyed peas on hand.

What does this tell you?  That I have too much leisure and should spend more of it on housework or exercise.  Or maybe I'll go soak some beans and do some measuring...

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Leeks and Lobelia

I had a few minutes spare today between having lunch with Hazel and getting ready for the running club.  So I got on with planting February seeds for the garden.  The first step was to push the January seedlings, well the leeks anyhow, out onto the potting bench in the garage (perhaps we should refer to that as the 'potting shed', eh?).  The lobelia didn't look very hardy yet, so I left it indoors.

I also made a wish list of veg and flowers to grow so that we can look for seeds we don't already have.  Grainger Market in Newcastle is an easily accessible place for Bill to shop for these.  Come to think of it, one could pretty much live out of Grainger Market, almost like we did for a while out of Tynemouth Fleamarket.

I noticed The Oregon Cottage invited people to link if they had garden organising ideas to share.  I got interested in her blog remembering that I turned down a job in Portland to come to England and also thinking that Oregon's weather might be similar to here.  Turns out Washington's weather is possibly more similar, but I've not found a Washington garden blog yet.  Anyhow, I could have shown her my Excel spreadsheets with notes from various gardening books and columns for month to sow indoors, outdoors, or harvest.  I could have shown her the coloured-in chart where a square represented another square (a la Square Foot Gardening).  I could even have shown the re-cycled Christmas card envelopes, labelled by month with packets of seeds filed by when to sow.  But did I?  No.  So far, the latter idea is the only one I'm actually using this year.  Paper and pen is often more practicable than computers, strangely enough.

Anyhow, the nasturtium, alyssium, delphinium, the marigold, lavender and stock seeds have all been sown.  For food, the only seeds I had on hand for February were Brussels sprouts, dwarf beans and cucumbers.  I can't remember ever growing or harvesting cucumbers before.

We watch a TV programme the other night about the history of Britain's parks.  This was Bill's idea and whilst it was pleasant enough I wouldn't call it an exactly riveting show.  I did appreciate the little tidbit about the Victory Gardens at one of the London parks - can't remember if it was Hyde or Regents.  You probably know that during WWII food shortages in Britain were desperate (people were the healthiest weight ever, actually) and the government encouraged people to grow food in Victory Gardens.  Anyhow, one end of this London park was turned into thousands of plots, quite large ones, where foods were grown.  Apparently growing asparagus and cucumbers was banned.  The first because it took too much space and time to produce, the second because it provided no nutrition.

That's what I like about cucumbers, actually.  Something crunchy with no calories to speak of.  Have you got any gardening projects? 

Friday, 18 February 2011

Separated at Birth?

We've been watching Fred Astaire movies lately.  I'm always surprised at what amuses or bores Bill.  He's not a fan of the acting or the supposed plots, but he does love the music and the dancing.  Fine by me; I like fluffy stuff a lot!
Bill did remark on how much Astaire resembled these other two men.  Not sure I've found the best pictures to demonstrate, but I thought I'd have a go.  Not sure 'separated at birth' works, given the dates, maybe 'distantly related'?  (How's that for being pedantic?)

Fred Astaire (1899-1987)

Stan Laurel (1890-1965)

Hugh Laurie (1959- )

What do you think?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Electrons and Morons

Bill uses Facebook far more than I do; my email and this blog keep me well occupied.  Bill went through a period when he reported to me what Rick - the same Rick that comments here - had posted and how he had replied.  It was a source of considerable amusement for Bill and several others, I gather.

Rick would pose a question each day, daft things like

If corn oil is made from corn, what is baby oil made from?

One of the first questions he provided was

If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

Now, I know it's just a game, but being interested in etymology, this bothered me a bit, so I got out my Dad's old (1983) book and looked it up.

If I've made my way correctly through the labyrinth of abbreviations, electron comes from the Greek adjective ḗlektros which was an adjective meaning 'gleaming, shining, brilliant' and reaches back to denoting the sun (the 'shiner').  Electricity does come from the word electron, of course.

Moron (whence moronic; oxymoron; sophomore, whence sophomoric) is from the Greek mōros meaning stupid, akin to Sanskrit mūra.

Whereas, moral, comes from the Latin mōres, which is used learnedly for ethical folkways and is the plural of the Latin word, mōs, from the oblique stem (got that?) mōr:  a way of carrying oneself, hence especially of behaving; a custom as determined by usage, not by law.   The Latin adjective is mōralis, whence via Old French-French, moral.   From mōralis, you also get your Late Latin derivative mōrālitās, also from the not exactly straight source of mōrālitāt, and from there you get your English morality.

Right, I feel much better now, don't you?

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Becoming a Spice Girl

Although I'm quite happy to cook most of the time without a recipe, I'm useless with herbs and spices.  I sometimes put a tiny bit of chili powder into something or a sprinkle of whatever green stuff (herb) is at hand, but I don't really know what goes with what.  I usually forget all about it unless it's garlic, which goes in with the onions and olive oil, the starting steps for most things I seem to cook these days.  Bill is far more adventurous in his use of spices.

As we have a cupboard full of the stuff, I figure I may as well use it.  Also, some spices have some health benefits.  According to Runners World magazine, chilies increase your metabolism and turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.

In the back of one of my older cookbooks is a chart, but it names dishes I don't normally make (and they don't seem to know beans exist).  However, I used it to start a chart of my own, which fits in better with how I cook.  Actually, I made an index card for each type of food, to make it simpler for me to chose a spice or herb.

Funny enough, in Britain, they pronounce the h - as in Herb and they think it's amusing that Americans say 'erb.  Language is a funny thing, eh?  Anyhow, see if this list does anything for you:

Beans:  bay leaves, cumin, chili, cayenne, garlic, parsley

Poultry:  basil, bay leaves, celery seeds, cumin, dill, ginger, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon

Fish:   bay leaves, caraway seeds, cayenne, curry, mace, marjoram, paprika, parsley, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme

Cheese:  basil, caraway seed, celery seed, mace, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, sage, savory, thyme
   Cream cheese:  caraway seed, cayenne, curry, dill, marjoram, paprika, thyme
   Cottage cheese:  anise, caraway seed, cumin, chives, dill sage

Eggs:  basil, celery seed, chili, cumin, curry, mace, marjoram, mustard, paprika, rosemary, savory, thyme

Vegetables:  allspice, basil, bay leaves, caraway seed, celery seed, chili powder, chives, cloves, curry, dill, ginger, mace, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, poppy seed, rosemary, sage, savory, sesame seed, tarragon, thyme

Winter veg, (ie sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin):  allspice, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg.  I'm very interested in this, as I'm not fond of the veg, though they are very good for you.

Rice:  cumin, curry powder, parsley, saffron

Pasta:  chives, Parmesan (yes, I know that's a cheese, but this is in the cookbook chart)

Potatoes:  paprika, cayenne, chili, garlic, parsley

Fruit:  allspice, aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mace, mint, nutmeg, rosemary.  

When we visited Slovakia, ages ago now, we were introduced to a professor at the university who was fond of making small trinkets from wood; he gave us several pens on which he'd burned 'Greetings from Slovakia'.  In return, Bill gave him a new English word:  treen.   Having that new word for his hobby pleased the professor no end and I was proud of Bill for being able to give it to him.  The professor gave us coffee and mentioned that he loved putting cardamom seeds in his coffee, but they were hard to get in Slovakia.  We tried it when we got home and decided it was pretty interesting, but we're not major coffee buffs (Bill might say I should speak for myself...).  We sent back a package of cardamom seeds because he was such a nice man.

Actually, I just found an even better chart, and this website has loads of interesting and useful information! 

Do you have favourite herbs and spices that you use a lot?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Pigs Just Wallow...

If Bill blogged, he'd tell you about how much he likes this film of a "cross-country race".  I always thought that meant a point to point race across the countryside, but it really tends to be around in circles, sometimes the same circle several times.  The youngsters go first, then the senior (over 18) men, which includes veterans (over 40). 

These races take place on most weekends over the winter and you can count on rain and mud without fail.  People lose shoes in the mud and cars get stuck on the fields.  The wind has been known to make flag flying unsafe and tying down the tent critical.  After the men have churned the mud up well and truly, then the senior women have their turn (women become 'vets' at 35).

This is what Bill does for fun.  They say there is a thin line dividing those who become a crook and those who become cops; I'm convinced the same line exists for mental patients and their nurses.

Know what I mean?

Saturday, 12 February 2011

February in Retrospect

I'm aware that I'm not exactly on top of writing these days, for a number of reasons:
  1. I missed my third blogiversary, not that it matters, but I'm still amazed.  Not so much that I've kept going, more how freaking fast the last three years have evaporated! 
  2. I managed to publish Part III of the 'cars I've loved' series before Part II (this is a function of writing drafts and forgetting to change the date);
  3. I see I wrote about January in retrospect and included posts from February.
Be that as it may, I thought I'd have another go at reviewing what I wrote a couple of years ago.  I still enjoy re-reading a lot of my posts, which I hope isn't too narcissistic; then again, some of them make me cringe.  In February 2008 I was still trying to work out what to write about.  This has turned out to be anything that catches my fancy, but leans towards a frugal life in England and some of the hobbies that entertain me cheaply; at least I think that's what it is.  So, allowing for some practice sessions, we'll start with 

2009, in which I:
Then just last year I
You know what?  I think I'm having a really good life!  Hope you are, too.

Friday, 11 February 2011


If Bill blogged, he would show you a video that turned up on a friend's Facebook page.  He sent me the link, but not knowing how to get it out of Facebook, I looked for it on YouTube.  It appears that the Facebook video is a compilation of several of these and I'm not sure you can see them outside the UK, but I thought it was worth a try, they are such a hoot - pardon the pun - if you like British humour, that is.

They are titled Walk on the Wild Side.  I've embedded one, but there are a whole series.  Enjoy...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Oscar's Clothes

About a month ago I started to work on a second post about the fashions of the inter-war period as shown in movies of that day; it proved much tougher than the first one, but I've not given up.  However, me being easily distracted, this is not that post.  It crossed my mind that I should bone up on the current nominees, but of course that information wasn't available, as I found out.  In my previous life I would try to see at least a couple of the nominated films so I'd know who to route for, but that was then and this is now.

In the meantime, of course, any number of blogs I read have buzzed with news about "The King's Speech" and my money is on that film, in spite of not having seen it - or any of the others.  It's already on my wishlist for my birthday or next Christmas, something I wouldn't normally do without at least a preview.  Why is that?

  • I've yet to see a Colin Firth film I didn't think was excellent, with the possible exception of the second Bridget Jones film.  That said, I've not seen many of his more recent films owing to the fact that cinema is no longer a financial priority.  I may try working my way through his filmography at the library...
  • Geoffrey Rush seems to also routinely deliver quality, even if he chooses some strange roles.  But then he is Australian...
  • It is set in that inter-war time period that I love.  But you knew that already!
  • I've already seen a number of BBC programmes about George VI that were excellent, so I assume I would enjoy any other half way well done programme.
  • Like many, many Brits, I'm a fan of the Queen Mother (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon); I think she had real character.  And I love her clothes and hats.   Lately when we've watched Harry Potter films, Bill has taken to identifying Bellatrix LaStrange as the Queen Mother, which is rather disconcerting, but it does suggest he is also aware of this Oscar nominated film.

The director?  Producers?  Never heard of them.

But I definitely know the name Jenny Beavan, nominated for an Oscar for her costume design for The King's Speech.  Why is that?

Let's see, that would be Gosford Park, Sense and Sensibility, Room with a View, Remains of the Day, Howard's fact, I could just start another wishlist off her IMDb entry.  In my next life, I want her design skills, OK?

Are you tipping any hot favourites for the 27th?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

What I Made for Christmas Gifts

Is it too late (or too early) to talk about this?

You might already have guessed, given the number of times I talked about my book binding.  I made blank notebooks for everyone, with their names stamped on the front.

Given that I started back in the summer, I'd never have predicted finishing them at the last minute.

Everyone at the bookbinding class thought it was a brilliant idea - though there was one even better one that I'll tell you about.

The problems came when the instructor had heart problems - well, new ones, and had to have his pace maker replaced.  He wasn't around for a while and his assistant really couldn't manage to help everyone there with their projects all on his own.  I would spend as much as 20 minutes waiting for the next step and what with the cost of the class and the travel to it, I found myself using a huge amount of energy to practice patience.

Even when the instructor was present, he loved the hustle and bustle of having people queued up to check with him about things and positively encouraged interruptions.  He is a really sweet man and I couldn't at all begrudge him being happy.  Except that it was costing me money.

I'd estimate that each notebook cost between £20-25 to make, not including the payment up front for materials.  Not exactly a frugal present considering the price of blank notebooks at book or stationery store.  

Still, with the names on the front and the hand cut pages (and the obvious flaws denoting a handmade item), they were unique gifts.

What I learned?  

1.  How to make notebooks, obviously.  I took better notes than the first time and doing ten, one right after the other, I learned a lot more small tips on how to do it better/easier.  Doing each step ten times increased the quality of the books I made, of that I'm certain.

2.  That I want to increase the number of activities I can do within walking distance from home.  Until I'm old enough to get a bus/metro pass like Bill's (if they still exist by then), travelling alone into Newcastle has serious costs attached, either Metro fares or petrol (now £1.12 a litre) and parking charges (only 50 p an hour, granted, but it adds up).  

3.  I might go back in the summer on my bike when the weather permits the 20 mile round trip.  It's goal to aim for anyhow.  I've done it before and with all the time in the world I could certainly do it again if it was sufficiently important to me.

4.  The components of bookbinding can be replicated in nontraditional ways that might be quite fun.  I've a number of ideas in mind.  If I follow through with any, you'll be sure to know.

5.  I finally learned to leave if I arrived and found the instructor wasn't available.  It saved me wasting the cost of the class and loads of frustration.  I discovered that in spite of all the ways and reasons I love book binding, I didn't actually value the experience sufficiently.  Once committed to making the Christmas gifts I just accepted that it was going to cost more than I'd realised and I aimed to minimise the wear and tear on my nerves.  I got a lot of satisfaction from making them and I'm not at all sorry I did.  I just wouldn't do it again; not that way, anyhow.

5.  That other idea?  Paul bought an A5 (about half of letter size) diary (the page a day kind like my Grandmother used for her hairdressing business.)  He added end papers front and back with calendars from the previous and next years, often a useful reference.  (Another idea might be to add reference sheets pertaining to a hobby the person had).  Then he raided his wife's fabric stash and found something really lush for the cover, usually upholstery fabric.  I didn't see how he managed the fabric cover with the end papers, but I might play with this idea as well as some of my others.  

I've already found something fun to do once a month that practically in my back garden; but that is another post.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Exploring Locally

Being down to our last box (UHT) of milk, I needed to go to the supermarket for more.  I know from my car journeys that the round trip is only 1.7 miles and there is nothing like having to carry your purchases on your back to make you selective and, consequently, frugal.  The sewing ladies had informed me that the bargain store where I buy my hair colour was about to close for refurbishment and so I decided I'd best go stock up a bit before they vanished for an unknown period.  As it happened, these errands were in roughly opposite directions, but no matter.  I now have a trusty carrier to help me.  This might have been the wheeled trolley thing I bought years ago before I got a car, but it being buried in the loft, I used the human one instead, AKA as Bill.

He's still casting about a little for what to do and he's almost always up for a walk, so we each donned backpacks and set off.  We made a large circle...I measure it to be almost exactly 5 miles, so not that large...and had a sort of day out at the same time, with loads of conversation along the way.  Another errand was to find cards to send for a cousin's anniversary and birthday.  So, I finally got to show Bill the Little Acorn design cards stocked at the Post Office on Nile Street in North Shields.   I wouldn't normally spend that much for cards, but these are beautiful and they are for a 90-something birthday (as a genealogist, that's something I should know...) and a 75th wedding anniversary (boggles the mind).  We both spent ages admiring the lovely art deco designs (click on the link and see for yourself).  Bill would far rather give money to the local business than to a chain, like Clintons, for example.  So that was a score.

We poked our noses into a variety of rubbish type local shops as well some of the national chains.  We wandered into Wilkinson's where I found my hair colour even cheaper than the shop at the bottom of the street, so I didn't stock up.  I normally would, but I'm ambivalent about how much longer to be auburn.  Indecision can be both friend and enemy to frugality, you know.  

We visited another space that used to be a collection of individual stalls, mostly of really tacky stuff.  It's now an entire store, half household items (also tacky), half food.  I found Kraft low-fat honey mustard dressing for 10 pence a bottle - 10% or less of the usual supermarket price.  The bottles expire this summer, but ask me if I care.  I bought five and may go back for more; I love salads in summer and honey mustard is great on pasta, beans and chicken, too.     There were lots of odd things like duck pate that I never see at the supermarket; mind I don't look for them either.  Bill and I agreed it was a fun place to visit.  I'm definitely taking my price book next time I go, both to compare and to update. So, another win.

We popped into Netto, a version of Aldi / Lidl type store to see if we could save ourselves a trip to the supermarket.  They wanted 59 pence for skimmed UHT milk and although they were 'offering' it 2 for £1 I knew the regular price at Morrisons was 49 pence.  In fact we walked another 3 miles or so to save 8 pence, but it wasn't just to save the pennies, but for other reasons as well.  

I confess to not having taken my camera.  In fact I only tucked my billfold into a coat pocket along with house keys and a hankie.  North Shields is not a very pretty place, though some locations on the river are photogenic.  The one place I would have enjoyed sharing pictures of is the bookstore.

On our way to the supermarket we passed Keelrow Book Store.  Their website holds more promise than it currently delivers, but it's practically on the door step so that doesn't matter much.  I'd been in before but discovered a lot more rooms than I'd realised were there.  I loved the place and could imagine me working there for payment in books.  It's a funny old shop with wood floors and three levels and little bedrooms full of books by category.  The shelves spill over to stacks on the floor.  One can see any attempts to really organise always being defeated by new acquisitions.  A fun but frustrating place altogether.   The prices are not cheap, but they are reasonable, certainly comparable with Amazon; like Bill I'd as soon spend the money at a local business.  I shall return with my inter-war reading list (and my camera).  

Continuing on our journey, I learned that whilst Bill didn't particularly enjoy rummaging in the bookstore, he's more than happy to be sent on bike, bus or foot to local libraries where books on that list are currently housed.  Each visit would save me 50 pence in reservation fees and it will fill his time with something he enjoys.  The sewing ladies mention rumours of library closures, but hopefully if it happens it will only being the very small branches.  I have one nearer me, but usually walk the 20 minutes into the Central Branch for the wider selection.  One can return books to any library and there's another errand if he needs one.  (I know, try not to hate me, I'm so lucky.)

At the supermarket we went straight for the milk and bought more than I would attempt to carry, but Bill could manage it in a basket with one hand, so we loaded up his backpack and trudged our way home, closing the circle.  It was a windy day and I had on a long skirt and coat so between the distance, the wind resistance and the added weight I got a reasonable bit of functional exercise.  And free transport.  

The weather got even wilder as the night progressed and I never did get to sleep (until 3 am) in spite of getting up to verify that there wasn't actually someone holding a fire hose aimed at our bedroom windows.   I can't find a retroactive / weather 'pre-cast' to tell me about the wind that hammered and howled, but it is expected to get up to 70 mph tonight, no doubt a repeat. 

Anyhow, I spent a grand total of £5.41 for marinade (salad dressing), marmalade and milk, got some exercise, had fun with Bill.  Bargain day out!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Beach Babes

We went for a walk on the beach last weekend and I finally remembered to take my camera.  Bill was saintly in his patience with my stopping every two feet to take a picture.  After a while he enjoyed pointing out likely subjects.  

Pugs just turn me to mush, they are so cute and comical.  A woman at work brought hers in one afternoon and I was instantly down on the floor to play with him.  

The dachschund really had to work hard to make his way through the sand, I was well impressed with his determination!

Ya' gotta love the water or love fetching to be willing to wade into the North Sea this time of year.  I'd bet most of my dogs would have balked, looking at me like, "Are you mad?" 

Lakeland terriers are popular here and they are amazingly good runners, ie long distance, in spite of their small size.  They never seem to lose their puppy-ness, either.

All shapes and sizes hurled themselves into that icy water.   

Bill loves Jack Russell's.  I think they are scary they have so much energy.  We watched one girl encourage hers to jump over and over again.  I'd have sworn there was a trampoline hidden under him.

I nearly scooped up this puppy into my pocket but he was squirming all over the beach, getting loads of attention.

This clown, a whippet, was awesome to watch.  He streaked back and forth the width of the beach, twisting and leaping with limitless energy.  The Border Collie could actually keep up, but his movement was horizontal and efficient in comparison.  

Who couldn't love a dog with a face like this?

He doesn't look that massive, but his is a Baskerville bark.   People love it when you take photos of their dog.

This tiny brown poodle was so pround of her stick, she drove the other dogs nuts trying to take it from her.  

Lovely to see a bit of dignity for a change, with this kindly old Basset hound.

I told Bill I figured this photography fed my doggie longing and helped put off the day... but some day...

Do you take pleasure from other people's dogs?