Thursday, 31 January 2019

Last Tuesday's Walk

I set myself a goal to walk for an hour most days in January. I did pretty well with that until Bill brought me home a cold. For now I get all my exercise coughing.

He just had his follow up appointment for his pacemaker surgery yesterday and has the 'all clear'. So of course, being a normal 70 year old, he signed up for the Allendale Challenge in April, 25 miles in the fells and valleys. Over here a 'fell' is a noun which means hill or stretch of high moorland, especially in northern England. Unless it's me doing the challenge in which case it is the standard use, past tense of fall. 

Before he was given back his status as active athlete he would walk around with me. I enjoyed showing him my usual two mile jogging path, measuring the route to the knitting shop, having him show me Preston cemetery. He enjoyed playing with his Garmin wrist watch / heart monitor that he got for Christmas. It told us how far we'd walked and, if we remembered to set it, how long this took us. 

Bill prefers to be out in the countryside but I prefer an urban/suburban environment in most instances. I do love a good wood or a beach but one with facilities would be my first choice. The way I see it, nature is infinitely beautiful, but people are just as surprising. 

 For example, what would possess someone in a nice neighbourhood with a perfectly decent house to put a giant spider on it? 

I feel for the neighbours, don't you? I'm not sure I could sleep with that on the wall outside my bedroom.

On a happier note, I saw my first snowdrops of the year.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Another Post-Christmas Post

Does anyone else try to save Christmas wrapping paper to re-use? I don't exactly resent buying wrapping paper, the part I hate is that it is a single-use item. Most of us have lived in a time of such abundance that we fail to recognise the environmental cost of manufacture, we only look at the financial cost of the item. 

Toying with the idea of fancy shaped gift tags...

So much of today's Christmas paper incorporates plastic and glitter (which is minute bits of plastic) and this prevents it from being re-cyclable. So on top of the natural materials, like trees and petroleum by-product, the dyes and the energy required to heat, cut and otherwise fuel the mechanisation of production, if the paper isn't able to be re-cycled into more paper or toilet paper or something, it goes to landfill, where the plastics take hundreds of years to decompose. All that for a single, brief, decorative function. It seems a ridiculous waste to me.

So I provide large bags and ask Bill's kids to place any paper or ribbons they don't wish to keep in them. I know at least one of them (I'm not naming names) takes great delight in crushing the paper into as small a ball as possible. This person is a lovely individual, but their lifestyle is an environmental nightmare. One good thing is that if the paper can be crushed and remains crushed, at least it is probably re-cyclable as plastic won't stay crushed.

I've used brown paper wrapping and fancy re-useable bows for years now. Also, bottle and other shaped paper bags seem to circulate a lot around here. I tend to punch a hole in the bags between the handles and pull a ribbon through to tie the top shut. If the item is too big to allow this, I put tissue paper in the top to hide the item. You won't be surprised to find a save any tissue paper that comes my way. 

This is the second year that we've had food hampers as a major gift exchange. If we are lucky, we get a hamper back at some point. Sarah gave Bill her Christmas hamper re-filled with items for his 70th birthday, which I thought was clever. When we buy these things they come with enormous sheets of clear plastic, another silly single use piece of garbage. I managed to rescue one this year for re-use. Our sheer curtains (cream-coloured) in the front room are due for replacement. Fabric exposed to sunlight over time will break down. The old curtain is enormous and I'm hoping to use that to wrap future hampers, perhaps with any rips repaired with Christmas-coloured mending or patches. We'll see how that goes.

This year when I processed my bags of wrapping paper in several stages. The largest pieces were ironed on a low heat and wrapped around a tube. Decent pieces that were too small to be likely useful got cut up into A4 (letter-size) sheets or A5 (half a letter-size) sheets. The former for making into notebooks, the latter for scribbling notes, grocery lists or possibly smaller notebooks. The odd shaped smaller pieces were stapled together in bunches and put into a kitchen drawer for the same. 

The ragged bits of paper went into the paper recycling; the plastic stuff into the trash. I was pleased to see only two small waste baskets full of trash out of four very large bags. 

An idea I've just run across in collecting ideas for our WI craft group, is Swedish hearts. They can be made from many things but I thought Christmas patterned paper might make cute tree decorations. I'll show them to you if I do make some....OK, that sounded a bit lame to me, so I took the time to do this. It's a bit fiddly but completely do-able. I used this lady's instructions but didn't find her template and my hand drawn one wasn't proportionally (at least I think that was the problem).  This free template has four 'tines' instead of three, which was no problem at all, but it is a bit larger than I might want for ornaments; that said, larger is probably easier for learning. Apparently, you can also make Swedish stars, but I will leave that for another day.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Post-Christmas Post

I think Bill's kids might 'getting' my Christmas tree.  Years ago Sarah brought back a large, heavy bauble of cracked glass from a school trip she took to Victoria, Canada. 

This year Simon made these wooden and glitter shapes himself. I wasn't altogether certain at the time what all the shapes were but now I've taken down the tree and put them together for their photo, I figured out most of them. I think they are quite pretty. I wrote his initials and '2018' on each one so that in future they will 'know their place' in the tree's history. I may replace the threads with some sturdier string or ribbon to keep them from getting tangled on the tree.

Holly, robin, fox, reindeer, Christmas bow/bauble and a ?
Six-year-old Charlotte gave me my present from her, explaining she had 'made it especially' for me. Helen confirmed this, saying they'd had to stay up the night before so she could finish it in time. I thanked Charlotte profusely but I must have had a perplexed expression. Helen suggested I could use it perhaps as a coaster, but I had another idea. I pulled an icicle thread off the three, laced it through the holes and hung it on the tree. Martin apparently was moved by this, saying it was awfully thoughtful of me. 

When I took the tree down the icicle snapped, no great surprise. I threaded a red ribbon in its place after testing that I could write on the ribbon: Charlotte 2018. 

My tree feels even more 'complete' to me now and I know I will enjoy putting on those decorations next Christmas.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Five Things: 9 Jan 19

Looking back through old drafts of posts, I see many topics that grabbed my attention, I just didn't manage to write about them. Most are well covered elsewhere.

5 things (because five is my lucky number):

1 Pearlies - An old Threads magazine made mention of the Pearlie Kings and Queens which mystified me. It turns out they are a part of London's history and culture and you can find them (of course) on Wikipedia. This website is a particularly good read, capturing their history and their ethos. I had no idea they were depicted as Mary Poppins' back up band in the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious number. All those dots on the characters' clothing are meant to be buttons.

2 World Travel - Jada Yuan got a travel writing job with the New York Times a year ago - hers one of about 13,000 applications. She has visited and written about 52 locations all over the globe. I'm not that fussed about travel on that scale but I found her article  summarising her experience quite interesting. In particular her biggest take away lesson: "That people are fundamentally good around the world."

3 Under 3 years for 2.6 million - I blogged in the past about a financial advisor whose ethics gave me chills. I later learned he was sentenced to 5 years for fraudulent activity that took place over 7 years and scammed 41 people out of a total of 2.6 million. He led his clients to believe they were investing in a property in India but in fact he was gambling the cash away. He is out now, having served over 2 (which means less than 3) years at Kirklevington Grange, similar to what I remember as 'work release' prisons in the US.

4 AOC video - Not sure I can find the original of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing back in her Boston University days, but while the music changes, the video remains the same. It fills me with hope. I can't get over how young and innocent they all look!

5 - If you love old books and history (particularly US history) and particularly FREE stuff, let me point you in the direction of the Archive website. I've found genealogical information here, a relatively modern sewing text book and my current favourite: The Book of the Home by H. C. Davidson, published 1900 which outlines the duties of the master and the mistress. 

Tynemouth Priory, just because...
NB: I just realised I put 2018 on my date in the title...tsk tsk.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

100 Years of Food - 2018

This is the final post in this series about a Centenary celebration event held at the Northumberland Federation of the Women's Institute back in September 2018 (can I string these things out or what?).

Sue and Dorothy figured that the phrase 'Eat the Rainbow' is the biggest 'fad' of today, that is being more aware of the nutritional value in food and of the public health push for '5 a Day'. 

She made us a lovely vegetable salad with 'oak leaf' lettuce she had grown herself (green at the base but red on the tips), spinach leaves, water cress, chopped fennel, raw julienne-cut beetroot, baby corn, French breakfast radishes (mild), asparagus (cooked 2 minutes then plunged into ice water), orange and yellow bell peppers and "bell drop" cherry tomatoes. The dressing was made with pomegranate in two parts walnut oil to one part white vinegar, salt & pepper. On top of the salad were pan fried skinless salmon steaks.

As you know, after watching all this astonishing cookery / lecture, we were treated to lunch. In addition to the dishes I've described, we also had two kinds of homemade bread on offer along with with two flavours of butter (lemon and parsley, chive and parmesan). There was enough of each dish to get at least a generous spoonful of each, sometimes more. 

I thought it was excellent value for money and will look forward to any other presentations or feasts they offer.