Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A Day for Gathering Strength...

........ finishing some items - taking inspiration from recent photographs and making plans.

Sometimes a day where we do not set ourselves too many targets is just what we need. Recognizing the need to take stock and allow ourselves relaxation just for the sake of it is important.

Yesterday was very busy - making, listing trying to re-focus my plans in the light of the changes to Folksy - followed by getting daughter to and from music lesson in order to get us all back to school (8 miles away) to support her saxophone performances and her brothers 'techy' efforts on the sound and light desk. We are all getting too tired and we are only just at the start of the 'pulled-in-every-direction-at-once' season where schools, scouts, guides and our own families all expect attendance/chauffering/contributions in kind.....

My daughter missed the bus this morning - I was cross - a 16 mile round trip for me - why couldn't she run like her brother? Its not as if she had the sax or her art portfolio today! Probably because, like me she's tired. Time to forgive ourselves for being feeble and have a 'quiet' night in. Music is my daughter's passion and I can hear the guitar - quiet might not be the right word!

Comfort food - cooked with minimal effort - cottage pie perhaps and some of our pears with chocolate sauce - that should set us all up for a more productive day tomorrow!

Embroidered Brooch - Berried Tree

Now available at Lynwoodcrafts. One of three I have listed today ( the others for my shops at Folksy and WowThankyou ) - I hope you like them!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Cooking Brownies!

-ie Brownies engaged in cooking - NOT practice for which my warrant would be removed!

Mushroom Soup

You will Need:

24 Brownies (7 to 10 year olds )
3 Owls ('harassed' - Brown, Snowy and Sooty)

450 g mushrooms
2 leeks
500 ish ml stock
salt and pepper

Supervise hand-washing, hair fastening.....
Double check allergies on registration forms!

- Wash and slice mushrooms and leeks (Brownies under supervision! - in two groups- one owl/group -one spare for emergencies!)
- Heat a small amount of oil in pans - cook leeks and mushrooms until soft - Brownies take turns to stir.
- Dissolve stock cube - add to pans (Brownies)
- Wash and chop parsley (Brownies)
- Simmer for about 20 mins (remove to hob in kitchen - Brownies tidy up)
- Brownies prepare bread rolls and set tables.
- 'Blitz soup' with hand held blender (OWLS - NOT Brownies - we're not that brave!)
- Try soup. Offer serving to 'tasters' (parents arriving for promise ceremony)
- Wash up - enrol new Brownie.

Apologise to waiting parents (standing in dark car park) for over-running finish time - Oops!


One of our better evenings. Soup was great. Veg-wary Brownies tried and liked it - most of them. Parents liked it and were surprised/pleased we had made it with mushrooms - as opposed to tin or powder presumably!

Everyone survived - although I needed hot tea on tap to recover.


A new embroidered brooch at Lynwoodcrafts today:

Monday, 21 November 2011

'Value' for your money!

Times are increasingly hard and many of us are trying harder to spend our money wisely. We don't have a large family income and it can be a challenge  to get what we want from our purchases. With four of us to feed, clothe and entertain and two of us to educate, wouldn't it be better to whizz down the 'value' aisle in our supermarket 'pocket the difference' and then indulge ourselves in more mass-produced, ethically dubious 'stuff' - pleased to have been clever with our cash.

Perhaps I am greedy, but I want far, far more for my money than that - perhaps now more than ever with the inevitable squeeze most of us will feel. I shop at our local farm shop - beef and lamb are home - reared, pork and venison are locally sourced. They make their own sausages, burgers and pies. Bake wonderful cakes, stock local cheeses, vegetables and potatoes and give a helpful and welcoming service. The door of our supermarket is opened for me as I leave but not by someone offering to help carry my purchases whilst thanking me for calling! If meat bought this way is sometimes expensive, we eat meat-free meals to compensate. I enjoy the experience of shopping, feel good about cooking meals with good, local produce and we all enjoy eating the results - for me I am eating food which I 'know'. That knowledge adds greatly to the experience!

I have been particularly pleased with two recent purchases - one 'food' one not. Our son was 18 a few days ago. He planned to walk, in the hills round Llangollen, with two mates and then we all went out for a meal.   Our son has always liked smoked trout. On the way to drop them off we passed a local trout fishery with smoked trout available. We called on the way back. Having selected some smoked fillets, and been tempted by a jar of very local honey, I commented on the supply of gluten-free bread flour. At this point I was directed to the freezer which contained some gluten-free, smoked trout sausages reared, smoked and prepared on the premises. A little pricey perhaps, but earmarked as a contribution to a family meal at Christmas time. My son thinks as I do and I know he will smile when he realises the connection to his birthday celebrations. Worth every penny!

I have a friend who I seldom see now - but we still exchange birthday and christmas gifts. She thinks very much as I do. I had been on the look out for a small, practical yet attractive gift which could easily be posted to her. I was delighted to receive my order of a folding shopper bag from Moody Cow Designs. Attractive and carefully stitched and so useful for someone who pops out on foot to shop locally. 'French' seamed to avoid any raw edges, Trish has chosen to make the final row of stitching an integral and attractive part of the design. The bags folds for ease of carrying until re-use and the folds are secured by a button and loop fastening. I will take care to include one of Trish's business cards in the parcel - I am sure her shop will appeal to my friend. I am very proud of the 'value' acheived by the money paid for that purchase. My friend will be delighted with her bag, and I am very happy to have bought from a fellow craft worker whose items I have long admired.

What value do I hope people find in the items which are purchased from Lynwoodcrafts? My items are individually and carefully hand-crafted. I use a variety of needle craft techniques. Many of the materials are from vintage, family stashes, others are hand-produced, such as the lovely fibres which I have recently sourced from My Heart Exposed Fibre and Yarns occasionally materials are recycled. I try to add originality and beauty to ordinary items  - notepads, needle books, pincushions, key rings....... Lynwoodcrafts brooches are popular. I can't claim that brooches are 'practical' items - however, I do take care to ensure that they are carefully made to a high standard. My embroidered brooches are very distinctive and are stitched in many different styles - miniature landscapes, floral embroideries, stitchery 'reproductions' of famous masterpieces, abstract geometrical designs....... Felted, embroidered, knitted woven, beaded, crocheted all items embellished with hand embroidery. If you, or someone you know would see the 'value' in my embroidered, hand-crafted designs why not visit one of my shops - details on this blog - I look forward to seeing you!

This is today's listing at Lynwoodcrafts' shop at Folksy:

Friday, 18 November 2011

Folksy, Friday and Fish - in search of the familiar!

Have given up on Folksy for today.

As regards fish, always a Friday tradition in my childhood, we enjoyed a lovely fish meal last night - son is away for the week-end and we wanted to share it with him!

Excuse the poor layout of this recipe - and total absence of quantities - use what seems right!

1  Cut a large sheet of baking parchment per portion. Fold in half - now needs to be large enough to wrap fillet of fish and roll/fold to completely seal.

2 Place fillet of fish (frozen or fresh) on paper.

3 Add 'thin sticks of carrot' -can't do chef-speak - do they call them julienne?

4 Also add any of the following or similar ( veg suitable for oriental recipes) baby corn (sliced) , mushrooms (sliced), onions, leeks, grapes (in half), cherry tomatoes, celery, sugarsnap peas....... to each fillet .

5 Add squeeze of honey, splash of soy sauce (wheat and gluten free in my case), splash of apple juice, squeeze of lemon, small pinch 5 spice powder.

6 Fold each fish parcel to seal. Place on baking tray in oven (about 180) for about 15-20 mins depending on thickness of fish.

7 Cook rice, cous sous - or in our case quinoa (yum), pour contents of fish parcel onto individual serving of  quinoa - enjoy!

A quick and easy recipe - all we could manage after a stressful parents' evening.

Any other suggestions for wheat free, yummy fishy dishes very welcome!

Monday, 7 November 2011

In Search of a Chess Set

a disappointing visit to Chester.

I used to shop in Chester frequently as a child and young adult. There were our favourite shops, shops we visited for special gifts, shops into which we could hardly afford to peep - let alone step inside. There were branches of multiple chains but also local independent businesses. There was a fish monger with a game license, a small department store with a lovely food hall, some excellent bakers and tearooms, fabric shops, expensive jewellers...... A real mixture of shops to suit all tastes, needs and pockets all set in historic streets set out on  a Roman street plan. Some of these businesses remain, but they are, sadly, very much in the minority.

Our son will celebrate his 18th birthday soon. We have a number of gifts in mind, but the item which we wanted him to choose - the 'look-back-on -at-the-age-of-fifty something' gift, remembering that his parents gave it to him on his 18th birthday, is to be a chess set. He's not into jewellery, so many of the items which we might have considered have now embraced digital technology and will only last a few years before becoming obselete and he enjoys playing chess. He also has an appreciation of natural materials and craft skills and we hoped to find something in a lovely choice of woods, attractive board, nice balance/weight/style to the pieces. Chester did not appear to have anything to offer us. Instead there was noise, over-powering artificial perfumes, mass produced, bought today, landfill in a few weeks 'items' which we might probably find on almost every high street. I fear this is the problem - these items are to be found on every high street. The earth's resources are plundered to provide things we don't need, can live without, and, increasingly can not afford to pay for.

I hope the items which I make are not seen in the same light. Many of them are items of jewellery and are, therefore, not essential possessions. However, each is individually considered and carefully crafted. Many use recycled or vintage materials preventing these from slipping into landfill.

I have often described my storage crisis and the various 'containers' which have been employed in an attempt to resolve the problem. I have a small suitcase, with my father's initials on the top. At first glance, it appears to be 'pig-skin' but is actually a type of varnished cardboard. It has a lovely leather handle which I am very sorry to say has been broken in trying to support the rather too heavy contents. It is this little case which houses my collection of velvets and silks. Many of them are very small pieces and I use them with care. Some of my most popular creations are brooches, although these do not appeal to everyone. We all have keys and a need for keyrings. These might as well be attractive and carefully designed, and in my case, stitched. The supply of velvets from my little case has given rise to the first two of these keyrings. The third one uses a small remnant of furnishing fabric. I hope you like them:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

"Don't they make pink ones?"

A lovely day out - Rhug Farm Shop, Betwys-y-Coed, Trefiw and Conwy.

Neither of our children has a regular commitment after school on Wednesdays. That means we are not required to produce a meal by any particular time or to provide a taxi service. Able to take a day off, my husband suggested a mid-week excursion pottering along the North Wales coast - the sort of gentle day out which we enjoy occasionally - and our kids hate!

Passing the Rhug Farm Estate, not encumbered by the kids, we stopped to stock up the campervan fridge. Organic beef, pork and lamb shoulder - they usually have burgers from their bison herd!

We stopped for a cup of tea on a lay-by with this view:

On to Betws -y -Coed, where I spoilt myself by the purchase of a new waterproof - my so-called waterproofs - really only shower proof had always been a disappointment. I had bought my son a more suitable (and expensive) version for his recent Scouting trip to Sweden, and he persuaded me I should have one. We also bought a Trangia meths bottle for his sister - hoping not to have any future arguments caused by her borrowing his.

On to Trefiw Woollen Mills - producing lengths of cloth featuring traditional Welsh tapestry patterns. I bought a hank of recycled sari silk yarn from the mill shop. The craft workshop in the grounds was closed for lunch. We retired to the van for a picnic lunch. My husband offered to brew a pot of tea whilst I 'popped back' to the workshops. Fifty minutes later, my tea was cold, he was more than a little fed-up, but I had enjoyed a chat and purchased some silk rods; mixed packs of hand-dyed silk and mohair fibres, a bag of carded sari silk and two small twists of hand-dyed silk and wool yarn.

We arrived at Conwy much later than expected - with me feeling more than a little guilty, and parked in the shadow of the castle. There was still time to have a stroll around the shops and the harbour. 

We phoned the kids to check that they were home and safe. I mentioned to my son that I now had a waterproof like his. 'What exactly like mine?' Well - yes. That brand really only does that version - in black - at that price level. I didn't want to pay more! 'Well now I'm going to keep grabbing yours off the rack by mistake!' A fair point - and the reason why I was warning him - his shoulders won't fit into mine!  I did begin to wonder how well he knows me, on several counts, at his next question - 'Don't they do a pink one?' Me?? Pink???

The lovely fibres I purchased, blended with some from my stash have given rise to this embroidered brooch and embroidered barrette:

Friday, 28 October 2011

Two right legs!

Today has not gone according to plan. I had two part-finished brooches - I stopped sewing when, the monotony of Question Time having sent me to sleep- whilst stitching 'on auto', I stabbed my thumb - very purposefully. I got up quite early - finish brooches, list, find driving instructor for son, go for a walk...... All sounded quite pleasant. Tried to check my blog etc to find that my account was disabled, due it now appears to 'disallowed' info in my profile. I have now fixed it - thankfully. The route was - send request to Google for clarification - their message terminating my account did not explain why. They then reinstated my account and 'replaced' this blog - otherwise removed. Only then, when checking my profile - on the advice of a forum contributor, did I find the detailed message explaining the problem and the remedy. The message I could only access through the Google account from which I was suspended!! That old song about 'the gas man cometh' comes to mind. Anyway I'm here now- sssshhh! - (touches wood!)

Whilst trying to find forum help for my on-line woes, using computer in room next to the kitchen - there was a slight rumble and muted 'crash' of a glass-sounding variety. I peered in and blamed precarious stack in the sink - too many on-line worries to get to tidy up! A little while later there was another ominous rumble - a bit like an after-shock - I ignored that one I'd had enough for one day. Daughter offered me a coffee - opened the cupboard to find jar - heap on cupboard floor due to collapsed shelf - just laughed - you do in the end!

Persuaded son to leave computer games and go for a healthy walk in the sun. Pretty wet round here so put gaiters on. His chosen route took us through a wetland area - path runs on board walks. The estate is largely disused now and the paths are not maintained. The nettle stalks were almost like tree trunks. At least  I was only nettled (all be it thoroughly) from the knees upward - due to gaiters.

They are not without blemish though. Our supermarket does a good range of budget out-door stuff - most of which is very serviceable. I had used a pair of gaiters on many occasions and the zip eventually broke. I decided it was my fault for attempting to fasten them over an unreasonable amount of dried mud. Went to replace them - got to checkout - no bar code. Summoned assistant went to check. Swapped them for another pair, with barcode - I was surprised - had only seen one pair on shelf. Got home - waterproof trousers in bag instead of gaiters. Took them back! Checked content of new bag - yep - gaiters!

Couple of weeks later, whilst camping - needed gaiters. Couldn't quite work out what was wrong with 'left one' - see blog title.......

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Just as well I didn't list them on ebay!

... Papercraft tools have been re-purposed to help with the production of LynwoodChums embroidered keyrings.

Our storage crisis and 'do I really need to keep.......?' debate continues. We have just bought some sturdy metal (hopefully mouse-proof) storage cupboards for the garage. My husband spent a tiring Saturday moving the two freezers and three 'ex-wardrobes' already in place. Together with the strong racking system- paint, varnishes, wood preservatives etc, and the slightly less strong (well OK - pretty rickety really) shelves for plastic plant pots, they were all re-positioned according to a cunning plan mapped out on graph paper. The new cupboards are intended to store out tents and similar camping equipment. Each of our children has two tents( one expedition and one general purpose), then we have one cheap two man - previously athletics spectators' den/changing room - now outdoor furniture store when taking camper van 'off-site'. We also have our large family tents, the original slightly battered 8 man and the newer huge central space, 4 large bedrooms and porch, newer 8 man. Then there are the 3 man and 4 man for short weekends where we couldn't face the effort required for an 8 man........

My craft room follows the same pattern. I still have tools and supplies left over from the papercrafts which I specialised in when the children were young. Too good to throw away, I had thought of putting them up for sale.

I suddenly realised that the circle-cutter I have will cut the plastic circles with which I reinforce my keyring fob and some brooches. I had been using the templates from my shape-cutter-system for both ovals and circles, but as stencils and I had then been cutting the shapes with scissors or knives. Silly me. The supplied cutting tool, used with the templates, also cuts the plastic. Yet again, I confirm my belief that disposing of 'stuff' is a mistake. Our storage crisis continues!

This Embroidered Christmas Keyring is the latest item to benefit from the use of the circle cutter:

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The 'two toed method' works best...

.....if you have walking boots on! Sweet chestnuts, acorns, and pine cones - inspiration for cooking and embroidery.

Our campervan needed an outing. Its battery needed charging and its not a good idea to leave it for too long on the same patch of tyre and without wearing the accumulating layer of rust from the brakes. We only had a few hours to spare and neither our son or daughter wanted to come with us. We mentally drew a thirty minute radius around home and decided upon Delamere Forest.

We had intended to walk, but our stroll was seriously curtailed by the abundance of sweet chestnuts on the forest floor. Most of the cases were still resolutely closed. My husband was muttering and 'Ow-ing' and couldn't understand how I was managing. The technique, perfected during many happy autumns gathering conkers, is to put your toes together on top of the case and, gently, press down and drag your feet apart slightly. It works better on a hard surface but I am something of an expert in these matters , and I managed. Goodness knows how my husband spent his childhood autumns! The wild chetsnuts are smaller than the ones in the supermarket and, therefore, more fiddly and time-consuming to shell - but FREE!

Two years ago, when the van was new to us, we camped in the forest during autumn half-term and gathered chestnuts - everything seems early this year and I thought we would have missed them. When we were camping we pan-fried medallions of pork cut from tenderloin. Leeks, apples from our garden, and the chestnuts were added. Creme fraiche was stirred in before serving. We have our holidays in a plastic box on wheels but there is no reason not to eat well. These chestnuts will be split between a venison stew and  a repeat of the pork tenderloin.

There were also numerous acorns on the ground - I've often wished I could think of a use for them. This year my Brownies made little creature from horse chestnuts, acorns, pine cones and beech nut cases - held together with white tack.

This embroidered brooch featuring acorns, is available from Lynwoodcrafts at Folksy (click the image to see the brooch on its shelf!)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I need to improve my marketing skills

Embroidered brooches, and other embroidered accessories, are available from

I have chosen to feature a representative sample of the items which I produce. Unfortunately, I find that I am letting the store down by poor promotion. I know how to 'announce new additions' to other stores at on-line market places. The forums are great. Wonderful sellers support each other and items are viewed and commented upon. Craft Juice postings tend to attract votes from fellow sellers on the same selling site and Facebook and Google + seem to play their part in attracting visits.

When I list new items to my website, I make the usual announcement on Facebook and Google+ and submit to Craft Juice and yet I do not seem able to generate the viewings which I would like to achieve. I do not intend to 'go it alone' entirely and would prefer to keep my website alongside other trading platforms. I would not dream of spamming forums etc at my other selling sites with links to my website and I carefully observe Flickr's rules about non-commercial use only.

Any suggestions which you might have regarding ethical promotion routes for my website would be very greatly appreciated. I am not, generally, an 'in-your-face' sort of a person, and I detest Spam.

These are the latest items to be listed:

Thank you for your help!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I expected to be inspired by...

... the new series - 'River Cottage Veg'.

To some extent I was inspired, but I was also left feeling a little disappointed. The various other series from River Cottage have been great. I love the whole ethos of Hugh's way of life - sustaining his family, providing employment and encouraging more of us to adopt as many of his ways as are practical, all without great compromise to his ideals.

I have been finding myself increasingly confused as to the relative merits of the various 'purchasing criteria' which I have tried to employ. Our family budget is very limited - but that is not really the point. The money we spend might not make much difference to the world, but I still want to feel good about our choices. I have supported 'organic production' since our first opportunities. We do not have a local organic shop and have bought organic lines at our supermarket. That goes against the grain since I do not like the dominance of the huge chains and the influence they have and I am finding the number of organic lines shrinking of late, not a behaviour I wish to support.

There is a lovely wholefood cooperative about 40 mins away. I visit a few times a year and stock up when I go but can't justify the mileage on a frequent basis. I use our local farm shop more and more. A family business with a great reputation - lamb and beef are their own, pork and, in season, venison are local. Unfortunately they don't supply everything we need.

We have two small greenhouses (peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, early salad and strawberries) and a small veg patch. Great but we don't spend enough time on it to maximise output and I end up with 'storage dilemmas'. How in a modern world do I 'preserve' (in the widest sense) food for out of season use without using too much power in refrigeration,given that we don't want too many jams and chutneys.

Then the choice between meat and no meat. I understand many reasons why it is probably desirable for the world's population to eat less meat. I enjoy meat and would find it hard to give it up completely. I always try to make sure it is ethically produced with high welfare standards. I also enjoy completely vegetarian meals, often cook them from choice and would be happy to reduce the amount of meat which we eat. I must confess to a long standing concern/confusion over how to provide a balance diet, with few food miles, using seasonal produce whilst living in North Wales. I often throw in cashew nuts, sesame seeds...... all of which should probably be outlawed or used as occasional treats only.

Back to the new River Cottage series. We don't have enough raised beds to feed a small village, or three gardeners to tend them. Neither do we live on the coast, or have the climate of the West Country, and we certainly do not have the land for goats, pigs chickens.... Consequently, we have always had to adapt and select from the River Cottage offerings. I have always been able to enjoy the programs, admiring the  way the business works/family live/other local enterprises are praised and supported etc. With our limited  garden we could not expect to sustain ourselves from our own production even on a meat-free diet. However, I suppose that I had expected that Hugh's meat-free summer would be produced from his own garden and other local sources. It all began well. A wonderful, bright green soup. I was embroidering at the time and my attention might have wandered slightly around the 'ingredients list part' - but I think fresh peas, broadbeans, parsley, spring onions were involved. We grow all of those. A great start - I could do this!

The next item, perhaps in an attempt to persuade us that veggie food is exciting, was a visit to a chef and family who served a wonderful, 'Thai influenced' - in part at least - meal, which included an exotic variety of grapefruit...... here my attention wandered ( I think some of the other ingredients might have been 'exotic') and I could be heard to mutter 'all I can see on that plate is airmiles!!' Hugh's next recipe, I had to pop out to check on our own supper at this point, seemed to depend heavily on cashew nuts. I really like cashews but they don't grow in the UK!

The program continued, back on track, to a wonderful, and inventive veggie barbecue. Exactly the sort of food I had hoped to see.

How do I prioritise/weight my puchasing criteria? Which is worst veggie - but with food-miles, or some meat locally and ethically produced? How close is it possible for a family of four, with high ideals but a limited budget and small garden, to get towards the ideal of a diet 100% organically, locally, ethically produced and seasonally eaten? For the first time in years I'm not too sure exactly what to aim for on a weekly basis.

I did enjoy most of the program though!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Does my bum look big in this?

....I didn't need to ask!

Just to fill you in on the background to my problem. I liked the idea of wearing leggings. I am of average height, size 12-14 (depending on store), have reasonable legs (although calves rather thick) and I am no longer 16 years old!!

I like practical clothes - comfortable and suitable for wearing flat heals. I have recently treated myself to a lovely pair of black ankle boots - which I steadfastly insist on lacing closed, believing that this is the intended purpose of laces, and ignoring my 14 year olds instructions to leave the boots gaping and tuck the laces under my feet. (She'll have a nasty injury one day!). I have black good quality leggings - 'slim' my legs very well. Now what to wear with them?

Those of you who have read a few of my other blog posts will realise that I hate waste and try as hard as possible to recycle. I'm not quite a member of the 'knit your own sandals brigade' - although some of you may beg to differ! I don't 'do fashion' in the sense of 'wear today - landfill tomorrow'. However, I do want to feel happy and comfortable with my appearance. I also dress myself on a very limited budget.

I have one or two knitted dresses and love wearing them - however they are a pain to wash! I prefer separates - more 'outfits' for my money, can adjust numbers of layers (we're still picking strawberries in October!) and I might be able to use some of my existing sweaters. I have recently scoured sales racks for skirts that 'might do' i.e right colours, a little above knee length.....not wanting to spend  too much on an 'experiment'.

My first choice - and the wrong one!!!!! A tiered ra-ra type skirt in black. Right length, good fabric, some lovely stitched detail, comfortable and TIERS IN WRONG PLACE AND FAR TOO FULL, but ready to wear, and I was in a rush. Yes - my bum did look............... (and it was more suitable for a 16 year old). Dashed back from farm shop feeling very foolish. Liked the feel of the leggings now what?

Purchase 2 was a maxi skirt in a bright print on black, cotton mix jersey. Goodness only knows what height heal I would have needed to totter round on to keep it off the floor ( I bought it for the fabric- never intending to wear it as it was!) My solution - chop off bottom portion just above the knee. Re- hem top part - comfortable - quite flattering - bum back to 'not quite small' but much better! Rummage through sweater draw. Thankful to find I hadn't disposed of sleeveless black sweater from last day job (its always a mistake to throw stuff out!). Chopped bottom of sweater below bust (god job sewing machine does stretch stitches), gathered 'lower portion of once long skirt' and stitched the two together. My take on a sweater dress! Worn over a black top with leggings, it's comfortable completely hides my bum, and looks like? Well - me really. I really like it. So does my husband. Daughter just rolled her eyes - but then I had tied my laces! ( and the best bit is that skirt and dress together cost me £10!)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Our 'Autumn' Harvest?

Well actually, they are. I forgot to pick them yesterday - this was today's little collection. I find picking strawberries tedious in summer - we can't fit them into the fruit cage and lifting and replacing the protective netting takes ages. Why don't blackbirds eat them in autumn? Perhaps they just can't quite believe they're real. We usually get a few and then remove the flowers to spare the plants the trouble of producing fruits that won't ripen. This autumn's crop has been heavier than July's. It seems very odd, the leaves are falling off the apple tree, the autumn-harvest pears are nearly ripe and this is our strawberry bed:

and today's harvest:


This is a also a harvest, of a sort:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

If you were given your lifetime's allocation at birth....

....... how would you spend it?

I'm not talking about money, but about the notion of everyone having their own share of the earth's non-renewable resources. A totally impractical proposition in reality, but as a train of thought it might bring us to totally different choices - very much a practical outcome of its sort.

I don't have an understanding of how much one barrel of oil might provide me in all its various currencies of fuel to plastic carrier bags and I would need a conversion table.

If someone made it simple for me and gave me a quota of road miles, air miles, metres of synthetic fibres, units of electricity, units of gas.............. would it make me think differently. In this mind game, there might be an Exchange at which other folks might offer different parts of their quota in return for an agreed quantity of something of mine. What would be most important to you?

Fairly done, taking into account the number of individuals in the developing world, and the needs of generations to come, you might be sure that your quota would seem terrifyingly small. 'Car share' principles would need to apply to most aspects of our consumption.

Just how many 'airmiles' would we each have? How much of a bargain would that 'cheap getaway', 'out of season' trip actually be if it lead to the consumption of one tenth? on fifth? one quarter?.. of your entire lifetime's allocation.

Our very-close post box has been removed. It used to be a 'dash in my slippers - if not raining' sort of distance. It is now five minutes walk away. It was pouring down when I last needed to post a letter. There is a convenient parking spot and the car momentarily looked attractive. Then I remembered that we are 'saving up' for next year's holiday, when we expect to drive, perhaps to Kent, or maybe, via the ferry to Normandy. My walking boots and waterproof were in the porch anyway...

Simplistic, flawed, pointless ? Simplistic and flawed - certainly. Misguided probably, but, I am trying to question all my choices. The washing machine has finished - a load of towels and its raining and has been on and off for the last two days. I shall have to tumble them, partially at least, now what am I going to save on today to pay for that?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

That Time of Year Again!

'Dad will you get my sax and art portfolio from the sitting room please?'

'Why can't you get them yourself L-----?'

'I'm not going back in there!!!!!!'

Usually this happens to us most frequently in October, but as with many seasonal events it seems to be creeping a little earlier each year. The problem is it is nice and warm today so it was moving very quickly -  up to the point where it fell off the wall and plopped very audibly onto a bag of magazines. In our experience those which are large enough to make noises - either bodily as thy fall, or absolute horror (and my toes are curled up as I type!), have large enough feet to make a scraping noise on a pelmet, or in an attempt to make an escape from a water glass in the bathroom - are definitely best avoided.

Now I am in the house on my own, I have a real problem. My work is in the conservatory - accessed by the sitting room??

I have tried to tell myself that we share our home with many - mostly remaining unseen and just because we know this one is there - somewhere, it won't be the only one and we usually carry on inspite of this knowledge. Its not working terribly well so far.

Those of you who share our seasonal anxieties don't need me to put a name to this creature. Suffice it to say that the conkers which have been gathered for tonight's Brownies' meeting may find other purposes in the meantime. Yes, I am a scientist by training, and yes I am not aware of any evidence as to the efficacy of this remedy - the fear is somewhat irrational and I fear it needs an irrational solution. Wish me luck!!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

To everything there is a season...

...a time to every purpose under the heavens.....

I love to look at embroidery in historical collections. The fine Elizabethan collection at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire is probably my favourite. Produced by the ladies of the house as ornament for textiles and soft furnishing, often using gold thread, the pieces are finely detailed. I have found myself thinking that I am pleased to have the benefit of daylight in our conservatory, daylight bulbs in task lighting, the internet and a library of books for research...... So many 'benefits' of modern living enable my participation in craft work.

I am overlooking the most obvious benefit of the time in which I live. Had I been living in Elizabethan times, or even Victorian times, I would have been conducting my tasks by candle-light, certainly. I live in a small village. There were once many large country houses in the surrounding area. If as my great grandparents, I had been in service at one of these it is possible that my needlework skills may have found some use in helping the housekeeper with mending tasks. If, however, I had other work, and perhaps a family to care for, I would have been repairing hand-me-down clothes and trying to get a few more months of life out of near thread-bare items.

I love rag rugs. I am too busy really, and although I have a number of vague project plans, I have yet to start them. I found myself thinking  - if only I lived 100 or so years ago I would be almost expected to make rag rugs, rather than having to justify the time!

I am lucky indeed that my '..time to be born..' has placed me into a society in which access to education, transport, materials and 'leisure time' ( although now employed in my business - my needlework skills were acquired as 'hobbies) has enabled me to indulge my creative interests - hard work though a small craft business is!

A short post today - I have a camel without ears and need to do a little research!!!

Monday, 12 September 2011


... a compulsion I seemed to have long before it was fashionable! Thrift, sentimental attachment, 'saving the earth', appreciation of vintage designs, and, in some cases, a lack of currently available alternatives have all influenced me.

I find 'having a clear out' a difficult process. I can happily empty a cupboard, re-fold, re-stack and replace the items which belong there and are currently needed. Misplaced items are efficiently placed in boxes or bags each with a more appropriate intended destination. All this has sapped my energy and it is only now that it is possible to start the difficult task of deciding what to do with everything else.

Charity bags, delivered to be filled for home collection have been marvelous. Hoping that I am not ultimately contributing to landfill, and wanting to help a good cause, I find it quite easy to part with clothes the kids have outgrown if they are little used. Books are very tricky. I may have been given the odd one or two which I no longer need, but books which I have bought, fiction aside, are impossible to part with. Household items, other than some received as gifts, are, generally, chosen to last and are not fit for purpose when we have finished with them. We find it hard to contribute to car-boot-type collections for Scouts. We don't usually buy things we don't need!

Textiles usually cause the greatest anxiety - just how much is it reasonable to keep. Sports socks pushed inside each other, make great window polishers - I have enough for the street. They also seem quite good for polishing son's bike - he doesn't do so very often though! I now have enough and must be strict in the future. Towels descend to the realms of 'cleaning' cloths (when cut into smaller pieces) before being thrown out. Almost all cotton fabric is recycled. Shirt buttons are removed and I have been known to knit the shirt fabric into a yarn basket or two - now you begin to see the extent of 'my problem'. I have a drawer full of fleece jumpers to recycle - hardly worn, I plan to 'patchwork' them with some new fleece scraps, bought as off-cuts, and embellish the items with embroidery. These are intended for my use, not for sale. I have planned a jacket (but not yet located the pattern I want to use) and a throw or two. Now the jacket will be unique. Fleece throws, however, are cheap to buy and will be time-consuming to make. Perhaps this is the root of the problem. Many textiles are just that - too cheap.

I have three 'stacking crates' of discarded T-shirts. These are destined for rag rugs (hooked, prodded or woven - on my peg loom), or will be used for storage baskets (knitted or woven). Having watched me weaving, my sister-in-law now kindly sends their discarded T-shirts - brilliant since their family colour preferences are different to ours and they are extending my palette - and my storage crisis!

The smallest, and most precious, scraps of cotton fabric are the off-cuts from clothes my sister and I wore as children, and items which were made for our grandmother. The use of any of these, and I do use them, always merits long and careful consideration!

Antique quilts, when needing restoration, often reveal their true identity. Beautiful to look at, the culmination of hours of painstaking hand-stitching, they are to serve the purpose of providing warmth. Those worked as patchwork, incorporate recycling into the quilt top. The 'wadding' often reveals hidden secrets - recycled blankets and even hand-knitted shawls and similar items. Produced in an age when many people lived at subsistence level and all textiles were valued.

We had a trip to France this summer - the sort of holiday which has not been possible for us for many years. Having brought back too much wine for our kitchen rack I searched the garage for the spare one which used to be on top of the freezer, then was consigned to the garage - since we did not buy enough wine to need it, then was........... given to the last collection of items for a Scout group car boot!

My view that throwing things out is just as important a decision as buying them in the first place is now confirmed!

Friday, 9 September 2011


A little addition to my Folksy shop:

I hope you like him!

This Little Piggy - Folksy Friday No 39

Having added a couple of little pigs to my shop yesterday, I thought I would show you some others - I had fun picking them! I hope you like my choices - click on any item to see it on its Folksy shelf. If you have a moment to spare, have a peek at my other recent posts - more followers are always welcome.

I hope you like my choices:

Thingy-ma-Pig Milliebead
felted fluffies Jules' Little Gems


Gill Bloom



Felted Fluffies

Jules' Little Gems

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Why don't blackbirds....

..... eat strawberries in September?

( this post will be a little footnote to one or two others posted in the last few days)

re - 'Seasonal Uncertainty'
Our strawberries are cropping again. Last year, the plants produced a large second crop but they did not ripen before the first heavy frost. This year, as more fruits formed, we wondered about lifting some and re-planting the strawberry pots in the greenhouse. Dithering about whether or not this would damage the crop, we ran out of time. The first crop always requires protection, in the form of netting, from the blackbirds. Lifting the netting to pick is tedious and I had been wondering about planting some in baskets in order to get them into the fruit cage - 'ground level' being too full! Weekends away would then pose a watering problem. Now even I can smell these latest strawberries as I pass by en route to the washing line - yet not one has been pecked by birds! Do they have some sort of peculiar dietary aide memoirs of the sort which prompts us not to eat oysters in the wrong months? and if so what harm do 'September-consumed strawberries' do since I don't intend to let them go to waste!

re - 'Serendipity'
A fellow folkster very kindly advertised the free availability of some wool fibres - left overs from producing hair falls. I was delighted when they arrived! Those which have been partly processed into hair falls are felted "ropes" of wool about 1 cm in diameter. Absently fiddling about with them I came up with the idea of using a textile centre to my chunky bangles. The present examples have a rolled fabric core but I plan some based on a center of felted wool. Thank you to Jane of Folksy shop GaiaNoir for the lovely gifts of wool and ideas!

re 'Cataloging"
I spent the latter part of yesterday happily thinking, in an unstructured way, about my 'New Venture'. Today I am just as happily planning, having resisted the impulse to rush in ill-prepared. A shop front will appear during the next few days with a message about the opening date. Items will be loaded in draft and then, hopefully, will be displayed with little additional effort on the date in question.

Now doesn't that sound neat and easy - I  wonder......... Off to stitch a banner - literally!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


... filing, storing, retrieving - fabric, threads, yarns..... AND products!

I have many, many fabrics. Some by the part roll, others by the metre, some fat quarters and others scraps. Then I also have fabric for recycling - T shirts for rag rugs and rug weaving, cottons for applique, children's much-loved baby clothes for memory quilts etc. Embarking on a new project I open drawers, tip out wicker baskets, reach down prettily coloured boxes, scrabble under my desk for plastic stacking crates; make a cup of tea to revive me; select fabrics and then what? I fold the selected fabrics into a work basket, the phone rings, I respond to an email, and still I have a mountain of fabrics to tidy away. I need a fabric (and other materials) storage and retrieval system. I have tried grouping by colour, fibre, weight, purpose (this has proved the most inefficient for retrieval as designs evolve and I move on!). I have bought pretty baskets, efficient plastic, recycled and pretty cardboard. I have crocheted baskets from plastic bags, re-cycled T shirts and yarns. I have woven boxes. Countless bags have been stitched/appliqueed/embroidered/patchworked - and the result is always the same. A labour-intensive period of 'harvesting' materials and a frustrating, usually partially completed, and tedious, task of re-storing.

I suppose relative simplicity would be found by producing a limited range of items from a limited palette of materials. I'm afraid that Lynwoodcrafts' Design Department (ie my cluttered imagination) doesn't function in that way. I like to shop in the stereotypical 'Aladins' Cave'- a surprise at every turn - variety, novelty.....I'm sure that it is a monumental mistake in marketing terms to imagine that my buyers share my personal shopping preferences. I do hope, however, that, both in decoration and purpose, my shop-browsers find a pleasing variety of items to muse over. A virtual shop is never too full of shoppers - the isles never too crowded and everyone is welcome.

Whilst the storage and retrieval of materials is a problem which my family would certainly like me to solve, I have become more concerned about the miss-match of items in Lynwoodcrafts' Folksy shop. I have filed by 'purpose of item' - brooches, pendants, needlebooks etc. The number of available departments is limited by the system but is perfectly adequate. Or at least it used to be. I felt that a variety of needlework styles - landscape, floral, abstract - using varied techniques (embroidery, felting, applique...) sat happily alongside each other - each benefitting from the contrast.

The addition of cute animal designs has been one variable too many. Popular and receiving many views and generous compliments - they are sprinkled in amongst the other items - a pincushion here and a brooch there. Difficult to find and looking a little lost. I have so many design ideas ready - featuring different characters, a variety of techniques. I would like them to adorn a range of items. All this creativity and the potential number of items which would be fighting for display space require an extension to my shop; the creation of a new department - or in 'Folksy terms' - a new shop.

You are witnessing the birth of a new venture. The name is in my mind - recognizable as being 'of Lynwoodcrafts', a banner and avatar are under consideration and sooo many products are clamouring to be stitched. Progress will be reported over the next few days - you will be the first to know!

Now where on earth have I seen the printed cotton with small sprigs of blue flowers which I last used for  one of Millie Mouse's frocks...........

Monday, 5 September 2011

Seasonal Uncertainty

A trip to Winchester (handy for open day at Southampton University), revealed a strange mixture of over-lapping seasons.

I'm not really one for very large crowds of people, queues, etc (unless at an interesting exhibition - ie craft related!!). Glad to escape from the open day but with only a few hours of daylight left, we found a trail guide to a local nature reserve and put our boots on. The map lead us up onto chalk downs, along one side, and then back along the other, of a gentle ridge. The views, also very gentle, were a pretty mixture of stubble and freshly sown winter crops.

The hedgerows and grassland had been sown with the most glorious mixture of wild flowers, such food for thought for my embroidery. I struggled to find a flower-free, 'bottom-sized' patch of grass on which to sit and admire the view - not wishing to squash any. At this point it would be great to show you some photos -  however, still feeling stressed from the open day, I had committed the dreadful crime of leaving the camera in the van. Both my husband and son did their best with their phones - perhaps they will send me the results later today - but I am sure these won't compare to the results from an SLR. My one consolation is that there was a strong breeze and most of the blooms were dancing merrily - and so likely to look blurred even with a decent camera. The bottoms of the hedgerows and meadows were dressed for summer - a little too breezy for many butterflies, but definitely a lovely summer scene. However, look a little higher up and the bounty of autumn was prevalent. Rosehips, hawthorn berries, sloes (gin beckons!), elderberries, blackberries...... Conkers! Why are horse chestnuts perfectly ripe and waxily shiny on the first weekend of September? I was intending to have a sweet chestnut gathering in October and have a trip to harvest bilberries - so do I need to set out now? A pity, if so, since we don't have a free weekend for a few weeks!

I have listed my first autumn item in my shop - but will also continue with summer themes for a little while longer:

Thursday, 1 September 2011


.. a program which I seem to remember as a child, a sort of craft-based magazine program. I think a 'finger-mouse' glove puppet featured in every issue. Painted pebbles and something lovely with drift wood and shells, seem to come to mind. I know something was encapsulated in resin - but can't remember what. The main 'theme' was a re-working of found or tired objects with occasional new materials - or at least, that is my recollection - a little hazy after many years!

A quick google search results in the following definition of serndipity:

"the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".

So it was with my new purse design. We spent a very enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend in Cardiff- the subject of a future blog. Having unpacked our 'van' in a somewhat random fashion - miscellaneous armful at a time, I was clearing the table of some assorted deposits. One of these was a small jewellery pouch - provided as a complimentary gift wrap with a necklace which my daughter bought for me. Small, soft and closing with drawstrings it is ideal for use over a weekend. Its shape has caught my attention several times this summer - something like a fat garlic bulb with a very wide stem. Absently fiddling with it whilst waiting for Folksy images to load, I loosened the drawstrings and folded the top down. That created a pleasing shape and, since the top was double (rather than a flap), was likely to be secure. Extending the 'neck' gave enough room for an embroidered design. A 'prototype' was stitched and passed around the family. It worked well - one button closing the purse effectively. A slight problem was that so long a 'neck' made it a little difficult for adult hands to select from the contents. The solution was to reduce the underside of the neck. The top portion forming a lining to neaten the reverse of the embroidery. A slit, the width of the 'neck', and a little way below the folding line has been the answer. The purse is deep enough and the opening still folds over - 'simples!' to quote a famous furry character. I have now listed three of these purses and hope you will like them!

Thursday, 25 August 2011


..... a time-honoured remedy.

A fragrant herb suitable for culinary and many other household uses.

My first encounters with lavender were whilst playing hide and seek in my Grandmother's garden. She lived in an old cottage built to one side of its plot. It was surrounded on three sides by its garden, but there was no access around the fourth side. There were many places to hide. It was an old cottage and had a building, then a coal store/garden shed/outside loo, which had once been a stable - with a hay loft above. It was possible to run right around this and, timed correctly, this removed the need to hide. If playing with only one 'seeker' it was possible to merely circulate, out of phase with him or her. However, that ploy became a little monotonous. Alternatives were a large clump of bamboo - a little hazardous since the leaves were razor sharp, a hedge cut into a large archway, a small shrubbery, a short hedge enclosing a vedge plot, the front porch - entwined with a quince tree, and lavender bushes. The lavender was particularly useful since it was planted on a 'dead-end' path behind the cottage. It was a 'point of no return' - one either hid successfully or was captured. There was no possibility of worming on my tummy to other cover, or of making a run for it undetected. The lavender bushes were very large and  hosted a large and busy community of bees and hoverflies. They filled the senses. Soft and tickly to the touch, fragrant, noisy with the buzz of insects, beautiful to look at - and, as I discovered in later years, very tasty. It was almost a 'companion planting' principle. I 'planted' myself in the lavender and protected by the insects, which my sister feared, I remained hidden - or at least if some part of me should become visible she pretended not to notice in order not to need to get too close!

Some years ago a friend of ours bought us a gift of a fabric bag filled with 'Herbes de Provence' and attractively tied with a ribbon. We stored it carefully and it lasted for some time making a characteristic addition to many soups and stews. When it was eventually finished we tried many times to replace it, but always found our new supply lacking in something. We eventually realised that the lavender was missing from our alternatives.

I have many aromatherapy oils. The ones which I most frequently replenish are tea tree and lavender. Of these we find the lavender to have the more varied use. In checking my reference books before writing this I find that it may be infused as a tea (I'm off to raid our very small, juvenile bush as soon as I click 'Publish'). Its many uses center aound its calming and antiseptic properties. Strange it is that a plant which, when growing, attracts so many insects, and yet in dried form is an effective insect repellant. Successfully warding off, amongst other wee beasties, clothes moths - an animal to which I show very little mercy!

This is my latest lavender bag to be listed on Folksy:

Millie changed her frock and this one was added to my shop at WowThankYou:

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Idea Soup.....

... and the ingredients?

In my case, the ingredients include a keen interest in acquiring new craft skills - predominantly those relating to textile crafts ('Jack of all trades and master of...' comes to mind - but I get by). A firm belief that I am not an artist, have no artistic traits/skills/tendencies and yet I can 'cook up' a good idea from the ingredients to hand. An unshakable tendency to hoard fabric(new and 'recyclable')/yarns/beads/threads.... A good library of craft books and magazines, including a lovely set of vintage 30s,40s,50s needlework magazines and a bound set of 'Golden Hands'. I learn techniques, pick up hints/tips/tricks but absolutely and rigorously observe all copyrights. I am guided by a firm belief in Fair Trade principles. For some reason, a love of tiny things and miniaturisation has always been quite central to my interests. I think this may have been born of limited pocket money and shortage of materials, as a child, coupled with some favourite baby dolls which were only about 6 inches tall and for whom I fashioned many wardrobes!

Many of the other influences are even less tangible. I have always had an interest in wildlife and the countryside, in the heritage and traditions of craft skills, in growing our own fruit and veg, in the effects of colour and texture on my mood. (The ways in which certain combinations can instantly and unexpectedly unlock archived memory files - causing recollections to flood out constantly causes fascination).

Why it is that the ingredients for my soup give rise to certain broths or creamy creations and not others I have no idea. Many of the ingredients in my store cupboard are personal and unique and are only in my possession. The exact combination of ingredients in that pantry is entirely unique - much of it based upon life's experiences.

I shall try to give you an idea of the ingredients selected for today's concoction. The aforementioned fascination with things miniature, a stock of printed cotton fabrics, a (possibly) rather strange imagination, an undeniable love of 'cute' themes - which I have tried to hide (unsuccessfully). The importance of family life and precious recollections of the many milestones along the way. Lastly, I think, a family of little robins. Published in a women's weekly magazine, each chapter in their life story was only a couple of paragraphs, together with a single illustration. Every Sunday my father cooked breakfast and mum had a 'lie in'. Difficult to achieve with a young family, her solution was to let my sister and I scramble into bed with her and listen to the latest escapades of Rowly and Rowena robin. Brief in written detail, most of their family antics were hugely supplemented by our imaginations.

My imagination, coached by the author of 'the Robin Family', has now embarked on the textile illustrations of the lives of Millie Mouse and friends. Your imagination will need to supply all the details. Today's offering is 'Isobel's First Day at School':

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Millie Mouse and Friends

..... a recurring theme!

I have revisited my poppy designs many times - using different materials and techniques. Equally, the cheerful daisy motifs which I embroider have appeared on many different items in a myriad of colours. The  next theme to be re-visited is ....... mice.

As a young child, an elderly friend of may parents, who called on us once or twice a year, once came with a lovely little gift from the church fete - two little mice! About three inches tall, beautifully dressed, with little felt heads and tiny leather hands and feet, they were treasured. My father used to come in for lunch ( we lived next door to his business). He used my building bricks (a fore-runner of 'Duplo') to build houses - the mice were dropped in before the last roof brick was put in place. I would then peer at them through the windows. Some years later I looked for them to no avail - they seemed to be lost!

I played about with scraps of felt and fabric and made a pattern for my own version. A felt head and a little cylindrical body, male and female mice (including a bride and groom) were carefully dressed and given little accessories - baskets of flowers etc. They sold well as a fund-raiser at the school fair. This success in spite of their 'arms'. Now called 'chenille strips' - in my day, 'pipe cleaners'. I was unable to find suitable grey ones and my poor little mice had rather strange anaemic-looking white arms. Some were fortunate to have sleeves - fiddly to sew but they looked much better!

A few years ago I had the task of clearing my mother's house. A joyous discovery was made! In the dresser  was a collection of novelty egg cups - Noddy and Big Ears (complete with hats), a panda, some strange looking chickens... I remembered all of these and finding them was quite a reward for plodding through a tedious task. Next to them on the shelf, some coloured felt items turned out to be egg cosies - several made by my sister as a child. One of the cosies seemed a little 'rounded'. Too large a 'bump' for a spider, but, unable to imagine what might lurk inside, I peered in cautiously to find...two lovely little mice. Missing for more than forty years - but perfectly safe.

Millie Mouse and her friends are the products of my fabric store, nimble fingers and an imagination coloured at an early age by two little mice! I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


...or, rather, 'eep-eep-eep' which seems to be the way in which mother ducks keep their offspring close to them and the ducklings respond in the same way!

One of the best things about June. Always fearful that I have missed my chance to spend a little while with my particular favourites - and happy when, having walked past many families of almost full-grown young from earlier broods, I see an entire set of ripples heading my way - more than can be caused by the one adult female which is all I can see clearly at a distance.

I had been carrying 'duck food', mixed seed and corn, for a few weeks - trying to find an opportunity to visit the canal at Llangollen. Yesterday, whilst son was helping at the local Scout campsite we persuaded his fourteen year old sister  to go with us. At fourteen, parents are embarrassing at the best of times, but parents that kneel on the tow-path hand-feeding ducks, whilst constantly talking to them, are - apparently, so embarrassing that its best not to be seen with them. The mother ducks were tame and although pecks from them don't hurt at all they do make me jump - in turn making the ducks jump and causing me to drop entire hand-fulls of seed at a time. You might think that this was to the duck's advantage but it sinks very quickly and the babies are too little to up-end to reach it.

Whilst I enjoyed their company, my husband managed to take some pics. They didn't keep at all still and, although I made friends with several families, the photos below are the only ones remotely worth posting. Working our way up the canal we arrived at the horseshoe falls, where we watched clouds of small fish, some being gobbled by a slightly larger fish, darting around our feet. My daughter was sufficiently distracted by the novelty of using Dad's camera and added the photo of the drake in all his beauty.

Now so much for embarrassing parents! One of our usual means of occupying the kids on long car journeys used to be to sing. Often tedious 'one-man-went-to-mow type' songs. As they got older Scouts campfire songs took over. The only sensible route back to the car was back the way we had come. This was too boring for our daughter who decided to pass the time by singing, and dancing (where some sort of linear progression was possible) a whole string of irritating action-type 'disco - songs' - oblivious to the strange looks SHE was getting!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Pretty and Practical - Folksy Friday No 38

Whilst I do like purely decorative items my display space is limited and it is lovely to find useful items which are also beautiful. I hope you like my choices. Click on any item to view it on its Folksy shelf.

Kate Bowles moody cow designs
Maytree Lane pipdesigns
BaggieAggie Old Friendship Crafts

Kate Bowles

moody cow designs

Maytree Lane



Old Friendship Crafts.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Custom Embroidered Items

... a new listing from Lynwoodcrafts. Choose an item from the list and then select from more than 12 embroidery designs (more to follow soon). Your item should be posted to you within four working days. See the listings in my Folksy shop for detailed information

To see the selection of Custom Items and the Custom Designs which are available click the tabs on the link bar.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Black Grouse

My son was 'mountain-biking' yesterday evening, with his Explorer Scout unit. They stay for about 2 hours, but, since it takes at least 30 mins to get there and another 30 mins to get home, I put my boots in the car and walk whilst he's cycling. The centre he uses is in an area of forest and there are way-marked foot paths, however, walkers are in the minority! We find most folks engaged in out-door pursuits to be friendly, helpful people, generally. My son has been rescued by kind souls providing extra inner tubes etc in the past - when he has worked through the ones he had on the bike and his spares. Unfortunately for me, the centre now has a barbecue night on a Wednesday and, yesterday, were having some sort of time trial/race. The cycle and bike routes are entirely separate and clearly marked. However, the forest was far from quiet and crossing the main cycle tracks was almost like trying to cross a town by-pass in the rush hour. I followed the marked trail to its junction with a network of public footpaths over open moorland and escaped over the stile into peace and quiet.

When timber is cut the habitat is drastically changed. Good practice suggests that some trunks should be left as nest sites and perches, particularly for woodpeckers. These serve the purpose but have also been employed as something akin to totem poles. I have often wondered whether the carved silhouettes would be rocognizable to their real cousins and thus serve to scare them off. I took pics of a few including the 'bikes' for my son's benefit:

Once out in the open it was very windy and a little cold. There were many small, ground-nesting song birds which I did not identify. The path is little more than a sheep track - in places not even that. The sheep had obviously found it a little narrow and kindly left tufts of their fleece. I gathered some on the way back - although probably not exactly the same tufts as I saw on the way! The path was marked with arrows mounted on short posts at sensible intervals. I wasn't carrying a map having meant to stay on the forest trails, but the path was easy to follow. The area is used by local groups carrying out Bronze Expeditions for D of E and I was wondering how any of them ever managed to get lost - in good visibility at any rate. I walked for half the time available to me and then turned back. There were some lovely lichens, new curls of bracken and many heathers and grasses but it was much too windy for decent photos, neither I nor they could stand still! I took these pics just to reference the general colours:

As previously mentioned, the path was marked although otherwise a little indistinct. Having turned back the previously visible posts were now hidden by the heather and I took a wrong turning cunningly worn for me by the sheep! I could see the stile I was returning to, so was not lost. However, I must admit it would have been a little different in fog! The forest is peppered with carved 'statues' representing local wildlife. The forest trail, up to the stile, is marked as the 'black grouse' trail and statues of the birds - in a frighteningly large scale mark the stile. As I was running out of even the narrowest of sheep trails, I heard the characteristic 'Go Back' call followed by a sqwawk and a black grouse rose a little above the heather and flew of in alarm. I was thrilled to see both it, and its mate, by whom it was followed, but very sorry to have disturbed them.

My tracking skills are dreadful, I tried to re-trace my steps and failed. Not wanting to disturb them again I set off in an arc towards the stile. Unfortunately, the heather was getting deeper and I was concerned about stumbling across more nest sites  - be they of grouse or other birds. There were areas of recently burned moorland which I decided would be safer, since I could see my feet at least. I trudged through a very boggy bit to get to the first. Now I know that my bargain-priced boots are both comfortable and waterproof! My walking pole was not a 'must-have' 'look-the-part' accessory, but essential. My right arm aches almost as much as my legs today. I have found in the past that walking poles allow one to retain some dignity whilst effectively proceeding on all fours. Unfortunately my dignity was temporarily abandoned when I tripped over one heather bush - a springy soft landing at least! I was now short of time and the small patches of deep heather which I was still having to wade through were hard work. The areas of short new growth worked well but were not conveniently placed and I was zig-zagging in a ridiculous way towards the stile. I probably only had to negotiate about 500 or 600 path-less meters, but they wore me out.

I finally found my son and bike. Normally, after mountain biking he is forced to change or travel home sitting on a towel. On this occasion I was wetter than he was!