Thursday, 27 December 2012

Happy Christmas from Anglesey

Wednesday 26th December 2012



Hello and a very Happy Christmas to everyone. I've been busy making crochet snowflakes..much easier to make than they look actually. The lovely card with the white dove was sent by some dear old friends who always make the loveliest cards which I look forward to receiving each Christmas.
 How has your Christmas been? Here it's been a quiet family time..well, Christmas Day was lovely..lots of gifts being opened, food, watching the Christmas Strictly Come Dancing special on television, and so on..
I've had some lovely gifts, including a book on crochet, the latest Alexander McCall Smith in the Isabel Dalhousie series, a super-moisturising Chubby Stick lip balm and a long-wanted cd of Paul Simon's Graceland (extremely long-awaited..think it came out in 1986!!)
 Today,Boxing Day, things haven't been quite so blissful...my son's door wouldn't open..the mechanism had gone and he was locked in his bedroom! The thought of trying to find a joiner on Boxing Day was ridiculous so I had a go with my electric drill. Well, suffice to say I got him out but the wood around the lock had to be drilled at and hacked away BUT as I've always hated the dreary 1960's doors in my house maybe it was a blessing in disguise! A good excuse now to get my longed-for pine doors :-)  
As if that wasn't enough I managed to knock over a large full jar of olives on the top shelf of the fridge and soaked myself,half the fridge and splattered the wall and floor..wasn't best pleased at having to spend an hour cleaning out the fridge on Boxing day!!  
It's evening now though, all hassle receding, and I'm watching "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", drinking Tia Maria and feeling "mellow" ha!

I love my Christmas tree..it's full of special ornaments that have memories for us..lots of salt dough angels, mermaid, ponies that I made and some figures made by my kids when they were little, some felt decorations made by my sister a peg doll angel at the top. Lovely to have traditions..they make Christmas so special.





The week before Christmas I went with my daughter to Chester for a bit of shopping..as expected the city looked lovely despite the rain.There was a Christmas market by the town hall and a lovely simply-decorated tree in the main street.




                                                     Cheese at the Christmas market....




                                               Simply dressed tree looking lovely....



                                              Pretty sparkle in the shopping arcade...



All I need now is a sunny day and a walk along Newborough or Rhosneigr beach to blow away the cobwebs and sluggishness of being stuck indoors..
it occurred to me today though that it's only about six weeks until I can sow my tomato and sweet pea flower seeds and yes, hurray, the shortest day of the year has passed and it can only be a matter of time until the days get longer. Roll on spring!!  

Monday, 17 December 2012

Monday 17th December 2012



It's that stressy week before Christmas again and as usual I am panicking about getting things ready for the holiday. Someone gave me an unexpected Christmas pressie at work and it threw me into the usual dilemma..do I reciprocate..and if so, do I give a gift to everyone at work?..thereby passing on the same crisis to the others! All this coincided with me getting the hang of this crochet malarkey and I had the brainwave of giving "token gifts" of a crochet flower brooch to each of the women : not a big expensive present but one which had taken time and effort and was hopefully to be enjoyed. I've got hold of some lilac dotty buttons since taking the picture above too..the dotty ones do seem to look more interesting than the plain ones.I experimented with adding a couple of crocheted leaves peeping out from behind the petals but they detracted from the look if anything...oh dear, I am over-thinking this whole thing aren't I! I'll wrap them in pretty tissue along with a little box each of chocolate-covered coffee beans (I've been telling them to try them for a while now as I love them).. sorted!

I was rootling around upstairs for something and came across Googoo..my first "dog"..I hadn't seen him for a while and was horrified to see some woodworm holes in his wooden frame.What should I do? Treat it or try to take him off his frame? It would be a shame to prise him off..the sound of his wheels rattling along throws me instantly back to childhood in the way that only certain sounds or smells can do..like the smell of privet flowers the sounds of the rattling wheels returns me in a flash to my first home in Patricoft near Manchester. I longed so much for a dog and when my friend Lynette took her corgi for a walk I would accompany her with Googoo on a lead made of skipping rope. He isn't so dapper these days and has only one eye and a distinct leaning-over because of my own children trying to ride him..but I do love him very much.



This childhood reminiscing reminded me of my first teddy who sits on my dresser. It is wearing one of my daughter's baby dresses and I have a photo somewhere of me in my cot with teddy there too..both of us looking a lot newer and fresher it has to be said! 
A few years ago I went on an art course run by the W.E.A. and as homework I made a painting for my daughter Sophie..my teddy wearing her dress was one of the toys I painted, along with ...



...her doll, her musical jewellery box, a lamp I painted for her, her name cushion and her Sylvanian rabbit. It has non-reflective glass (which I think was a mistake) and so the sharpness of the painting is lost on photo but you get an idea of it.



Look how pretty the hyacinth is..I'm hoping the one on the right will straighten up soon if I turn it so it leans the other way towards the light. There's a fleeting moment every morning when, before I become accustomed to it and it fades, the air is filled with the sweet and delicate scent of hyacinth..mmm, another Proustian madeleine moment .. reminding me of the frostings of talcum powder that the ladies of the town would wear as they sat on their porches after their baths, fanning themselves on hot summer evenings..in which book? "To Kill A Mockingbird" of course! One of the best books ever written. 



A sad moment today when I finished off the last of the home-grown tomatoes.These are called Santa and are some I picked when green as I cleared out the dying vines in late October. I forgot about the tomatoes but they quietly got on with the business of ripening in a bowl in the dining room. I have to say that they tasted firm and sweet and were a reminder of summer salad days and picking them off the vine and eating them warm from the sun like sweeties. There's nothing like home-grown when it comes to tomatoes is there?





(In case you're curious that salad on the right is crumbled Stilton, chopped apple and small amount of mayonnaise..a combination made in heaven!)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Wednesday 5th December 2012




   I had a longing for the Snowdonia mountains today..from my house they have been looking pretty for the past month or so, all snow-capped and dramatic. I took my son for lunch at the Electric Mountain visitor centre in Llanberis..ooh, I had the most yummy ciabatta filled with a big slab of nutroast, melting Brie cheese and cranberry sauce. Mmmm. Driving through the town afterwards was a little sad..only two weeks ago the town was flooded in that dreadful relentless rain and some places are still dealing with the aftermath..the little chip shop is "closed until further notice"..I wish them luck,winter is hard enough up there without a stinking mess to clear up.
The trip wasn't all sad though-the mountains were looking gorgeous..the photo above is taken from the end of Llanberis Lake and shows Snowdon, the tallest peak on the right.



I zoomed in on the top of Mount Snowdon..not a huge amount of snow..pretty on the tops but no problem on the roads.


This poem is on a plaque just by the place I stood to take the photos (see below)..adding to the timeless quality of the place.



It was good to get back in touch with nature..the past few days have been about driving all over the place trying to find my daughter a car which she needs to get to her new job 35 miles away. One of our trips took us to see a car at Holywell..the car didn't do for us but to make the most of the long trek we went down to the coast and to Abakhan Fabrics..a veritable Aladdin's cave of fabrics, wools, craft supplies and so on. I came home with, yes, MORE wool for my crochet and some buttons for the crochet flowers I've been making..aren't the colours of the wool beautiful?  



Anyway, in the end yes, we did find a car for my daughter,four miles away in Bangor after all that..usually I see cars as a polluting evil, made necessary by our crazy lifestyles, but I must admit a twinge of envy at the lovely blue car we found for her..how cute is this..


..but will I be able to sleep at night knowing she'll be driving down the A55 every day?! So hard being a parent and letting them go and have their independence.
On a good note, my other daughter sat with me for an hour tonight learning to crochet..good to know the old-fashioned skills are going to be passed on and that a girl who has just been awarded a prize for being top in her year at uni still has time to listen to her old mum! 
Keep warm everyone..it's cold out there..xx

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tuesday 4th December 2012

December is here already..hurray,only three weeks until the shortest day then the tide will turn towards longer days, albeit very gradually. In the meantime, at work I'm up to my eyes in Christmas stuff. I've just helped my clients make a wintry mural with robins (I drew the robins and branches, they painted them) for the foyer of the centre for adults with special needs where I work.



 It was my birthday this week so I was spoiled with some lovely gifts and cards. Biggest pressie was an ice-cream maker which is something I've wanted for years but which has always seemed a bit too much of a self-indulgence when there are bills to pay..being given one by my daughter was a lovely surprise. I can't wait to try out some recipes..I quite fancy making coffee sorbet for a start. She also gave me this cute owl birthday card which is so sweet. The other card,from my friend Faith, shows a print of a painting by the artist J.O.Hughes of Porth Carreg Fawr at Amlwch on Anglesey. 



 My friend gave me a timely gift of some finest wool long-johns! Not a glam present but perfect for this cold snap! She also gave me this gorgeous bunch of flowers..just what I needed to lift the spirits in winter's gloomy days.



I, like millions of others, love watching Strictly Come Dancing on television and this year from the start I've been supporting Louis and hoping he will win.He has a rare balance and grace and I hope he wins.I was particularly pleased that he's being partnered and mentored by Flavia Cacace..I so love watching her dancing the tango with Vincent Simone..in fact I think they were world tango champions. I've taken my daughters to see a few tango dance shows at our local theatre in Bangor. So, lovely surprise to open a gift from my mother of the "Midnight Tango" dvd starring Vincent & Flavia. 

One of my Twitter friends is Sophie who is on Twitter under the name of One Little Egg,also at    http://www.onelittleegg.co.uk/  (sorry,I couldn't seem to make a proper link but you can highlight & right-click to get there) ..she rescues battery hens and re-homes them. I don't know about you but all my life I've never been able to eat a product with eggs in unless the producer uses free-range eggs. I've got my daughter interested in supporting her too on Facebook and she bought me Sophie's fund-raising book "Tales From The Coop" for my birthday.I think it's going to be one of those laughter and tears sort of books. My other daughter bought me Clive James's latest book "A Point Of View"..such good gifts, I felt really spoiled.


Oh yes, not to forget the chocolates!..from my mother..a box from the Chocolate Tasting Club. Yummy!

 

A trip to the Black Cat in Bangor after work with my girls for coffee and cake was just the best way to end a lovely day..



Tomorrow I'm helping my daughter find a car..her FIRST car in fact. It's a big step and a bit scary for us both but she's starting a new job 35 miles away and public transport will be tricky. Will I be able to sleep at night knowing she'll be driving along the A55 expressway every day?? A mother will never stop worrying about her kids I guess. Speaking of sleep, it's 1.30 a.m. so I'd better stop rambling.. hope to catch you again soon. xx

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Sunday 25th November 2012

On these dark winter nights I've been watching a lot of television but I can't sit with idle hands..I'm STILL working on that granny quilt but need a break now and then so have been playing with making crocheted flower brooches. 



Very easy and not requiring much wool, these are perfect for multi-tasking except for Saturday nights when I have to concentrate on the subtitles of the wonderful Forbrydelsen..also known in Britain as The Killing. My Danish being limited to "ping" (money), "tak" (thanks) and "dod" (dead) I have to keep my eyes on the box but it's no hassle ; I got to know the Wallander series first and miss that terribly but of course there have been a few good Scandinavian series on BBC4 in the last year or two. Interesting to see another culture apart from the American stuff that has become such a big part of our lives. Films like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo have followed the popularity of the books of course but my favourite Scandi writer has to be Jo Nesbo (pronounced "Yo Nesbo" by the way!) His book The Snowman was gruesome in places but also gripping.I still feel a bit queasy when I think of the eyeball scene!! I think I have all the Harry Hole detective novels written by Nesbo apart from the latest which I'm waiting to go into paperback.I don't know if you read in bed..I do..but often drop off to sleep whilst reading so paperbacks are so much better than hardbacks to manage in bed. Nothing worse than being startled out of sleep by the heavy clunk of a falling book!


I've been doing some simple printing with balloons at work with my clients. This is so easy and is suitable for even quite disabled people or young children..we just dipped balloons into thick paint and printed randomly..the balloons made beautiful markings and reminded me of chrysanthemum flowers.. 

I'm yawning now so will say goodnight ..thanks for joining me here.Do feel free to write a comment or just say Hello.  xx

Friday, 23 November 2012

Friday 23rd November 2012

Stages of Christmas cake.. last weekend the house was filled with the heavenly smell of oranges, spices, cocoa, Tia Maria...yes, Christmas cake time has come round again. For most of my life my mother made "the cake" and insisted on giving me a portion to have at my home but she gave up doing this about five years ago so at last I have felt able to do to do the traditional thing myself,and in role reversal typical of our stage of life (child becoming parent to the parent) it's now me sending a big piece over to my parents. I love the ritual of it all..normally I never follow recipes, just use memory and common sense, except for this cake. I saw Nigella making this recipe on her t.v. series and have used it ever since..to me it's the perfect seasonal cake.

It starts with a big panful of raisins, currants, chopped prunes (yes,really), spices, butter, honey, muscovado sugar...



                                       ..add orange zest and juice, Tia Maria, cocoa...



                         ..simmer, then rest to let the fruit swell, add eggs and plain flour  



                                    ..bake in a lined tin..no need for marzipan or icing...



                ..a simple dusting of edible glitter is all I add then the alchemy is complete!



                            A piece parcelled-up for Grandma and Grandad. Job done :-)



                                                                Thanks Nigella !!



So.. if you live in Wales you will be very lucky if you haven't suffered from extreme weather today..stormy winds, torrential rain and for some unfortunate people flooding. We were affected in a small way. I drove through three flooded stretches of road to pick up Daughter2 after work..quite scary as it was dusk and difficult to tell how deep the water would be. Then Daughter1 was stranded at Llandudno Junction on a train for nearly five hours. Part of the A55 main road from Anglesey to Llandudno was flooded and closed for several hours, along with the train line so there was nothing for her to do but sit it out ..luckily she was sitting with a friendly old lady and she never goes anywhere without a book so she was able to read.The train people handed out free hot drinks too,so no great harm done in the end..nothing compared to the poor people whose homes have been flooded.  

Last week I went down to Port Dinorwic to visit my hairdresser..not quite as bad as going to the dentist but not something I look forward to. However, the salon is just by the dock where my family kept a boat for thirty years so it was a trip mixed with memories. The lock gates were open and you could just about look straight out onto the Menai Straits..





                                        and this was looking inland into the dock...





                                            l loved the play of light on the water...




                                    ..as usual my eye honed in on a nice bit of rust! Love rust :-)



Are you getting Christmassy yet?? I must admit that despite the rising panic I always get at this time of year I'm also enjoying the general excitement..the cake of course started me off, and then I've made a mural with my clients at work of two snowy branches of robins , most of the robins wearing stripy hats and scarves or ear-muffs. Nothing like a robin for putting a smile on your face.

      Ooh, almost weekend, hurray..hope yours is a good one wherever you are. xx

Friday, 9 November 2012

Friday 10th november 2012

A lovely visit to Beaumaris for me this week...I had a crappy start to the week with lots of family stress..my mother in particular has had lots of ill health and pain and this week was made even more miserable by being the target of cold call bullying and being tricked into buying expensive health supplements she neither wanted nor needed..the trouble with getting to my stage in life is that my kids aren't yet off my hands but I feel I will also increasingly become a parent to my own parents as they become more frail and vulnerable. After a lots of expensive phone calls and resorting to shouting at a ruthless manipulator who specialises in targeting old and vulnerable people I was ready for an hour by the sea to release all my pent-up tensions. My daughter had a sudden yearning for Beaumaris so, as it's only ten minutes away, we escaped for a couple of hours. There's something uplifting about approaching Beaumaris..the pretty pastel-painted houses like giant dolls' houses always make me smile.The water was very still and reflected the colours well. The houses sometimes reminds me of the pretty houses going down to the harbour in Tenby though these are a bit grander.



 About fifteen years ago I worked in Beaumaris for four years as the town's youth leader and got to know the kids from the council estate pretty well. Goodness, that was a hard job..two evenings a week..up to 45 kids, some of them with behaviour problems, sometimes coping on my own if my assistant didn't turn up. I tried to give them an interesting youth club with craft activities, sporting events and competitions, table tennis, pool table,darts, ice-skating..we even put on a show at the town hall..there would of course always be one or two who tried to make life hell for you but in general I was very fond of the kids and am still in contact with one or two. I eventually moved on to other clubs at Pentraeth, Benllech and Moelfre  (all small towns on Anglesey) and was also a peripatetic arts and crafts instructor going round the island and also a few clubs on the mainland for about fifteen years..I still have a soft spot for tricky teenagers..I guess it never quite leaves you, seeing the sometimes chaotic life of a young person struggling and wanting to help them.

There was actually the first of this winter's snow on the mountains across the Menai Straits but unfortunately the low-lying cloud prevented a good photograph..still the shiny shimmery water more than made up for it..


My daughter is a complete mini-me and sees a photo-op wherever she goes! She is also never knowingly out and about, even to the beach, without her huge handbag!



We went into the Janet Bell gallery and enjoyed browsing through all the lovely paintings and crafts. Phoebe particularly has her eye on a lovely painted green tin heart-shaped necklace so I can see I'll have to sneak back pretty soon!  I spotted these old water pumps near the castle..imagine having to pump water and carry it home - still a reality for many of the poorest people in the world I know. We don't know how lucky we are with our taps and flush toilets, vacuum cleaners and washing machines.




                                                  A beady-eyed Beaumaris beauty...



All this cold weather has brought out the gloves and scarves...and an excuse to get knitting (if excuses were ever needed!) My daughters love the fingerless gloves I made them last year and one of them has requested an extra pair so I've been busy busy..though this easy pattern only takes an evening to knit up. I adapted the pattern, albeit on a scrappy bit of paper which I'm sure to lose.I must get more organised!





I had an OMG moment yesterday when I suddenly remembered the hyacinth bulbs I'd started off in bulb vases in a dark place in the garage..I found them fully rooted and ready to burst upwards so a good time to bring them into the light and warmth..I'll show the flowers if and when they open.




I am slightly regretting my decision to make calendars for the new year at work with my classes. We got hold of the ones that have a blank space for your own photos on each month's page ,about A5 size. I did this a couple of years ago and we are doing the same again..making a picture, not a photo, to reflect the month of the year. Some things are obvious.. summer beach scene for August,spring flowers for April, a spooky castle with ghosts for October, a Welsh flag for March (St David's Day being a big thing here)..the tricky thing is coordinating all the calendars so that all months are covered for all clients, even if they miss a session or two. Christmas mural, party table decorations and Christmas cards follow soon..I do so LOVE robins and glitter!