Friday, 8 January 2010

Winter visitors

We thought we were done with the round of seasonal visitors, with Christmas and New Year all wrapped up and packed away for another year. And then today, sitting on the window-seat in the kitchen after lunch, we had  a visitor we had never seen here before. A redwing.

Hanging over the fence from our neighbour's garden is this truly amazing tree (I'd love to know what it is, by the way). It's one of those marvellous plants that excels in every season. It is still covered in red berries - so beautiful in the snow - some of which I "borrowed" to decorate the berry-less holly tucked behind the picture frames this Christmas. There are so many berries on there, we were convinced that the birds didn't like them, but from the numbers of redwings we've seen today (and also thrushes and blackbirds) it seems that one family of birds at least are partial.

I wondered if these birds had a collective noun, as many species do, my favourite being a charm of goldfinches (with which we are indeed charmed in our garden thanks to a large clump of teasels), a parliament of owls (such pomposity and wisdom!) and an exultation of larks. Unfortunately I could find no collective noun here for redwings, but maybe to myself I will know them as a surprise of redwings.

Apologies for the rather less than sharp photos; the light was going and I didn't want to startle them with a flash.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

On the bright side

Today has been one of those days that you can deal with in two ways: ranting-and-raving-isn’t- life-unfair-why-me, or becoming like Pollyanna. I read Pollyanna when I was about eight and like to think that some of her “I’m so glad, glad, glad” attitude has stayed with me. I know it drives some of the people around me mad but really, there are times when there is nothing you can do to improve a situation; getting cross just makes it worse, so why not just try to look on the bright side?

1. I suppose it all started with the Little Helper’s chicken pox. It was inevitable that he’d get it some time now he’s at nursery, although I expected it would be during term time and not right now, given that he hasn’t seen any other children for weeks. Still, at least he incubated it until Christmas and all celebrations were well and truly over. It made the school run a little tricky on Tuesday, though. In the end, I dumped the older two at the lollipop lady’s crossing and didn’t even need to get him out of the car, then at pick-up time I bundled him up and headed for a deserted patch of playground, in between all the groups of chatting mothers (ahem, actually this is what I normally do anyway, call me anti-social…). Perversely, or so I thought, he’s decided that this would be the week that he would finally get to grips with potty training. Nutter, I thought, you don’t feel well, you’ve got chicken pox, this will never work. But, in fact, it’s perfect, we’re not going anywhere anyway, so no embarrassing accidents, and besides now we’re onto number…..

2. The snow. So we’re not going anywhere because of the chicken pox and the potty training, and even if we wanted to we can’t actually get out of the drive because of the snow, so it’s all good. Except that we were expecting the lovely Ocado man to deliver our shopping today and he rang to say he’s stuck in Newhaven and can’t bring us our food. Bother. Except…

3. Not to worry, nowhere to put it anyway, the fridge has decided that today is the perfect day to break down. We’ve got plenty to tide us over and it gives me the impetus to clean out the fridge and use up all those little end bits of everything around the place. Might as well do the cupboards too. Bulgar wheat with a sell by date of 2006 anyone? No-one? Just as well, because I’m cooking it all up for….

4. The pigs. When I fed them this afternoon I used up all the pig-nuts in the bin where we keep their food. Looked around the shed for the next bag. None there. Stomped back up the garden to look in the garage. Nothing. Rang H at work. “Please tell me there’s another bag of pig-nuts somewhere”. “There is, it’s in the boot of my car”. Oh, yes, that would be the car abandoned at the station 5 miles away, up snowy hill and down icy valley to which I don’t have a key? Err, yes. Not to worry, we’ve got bulgar wheat, we’ve got wholegrain-risotto-rice- that-takes- 1 ½-hours-to-cook-that-was-on-special-offer-3-years-ago, we’ve got half a packet of pearl barley we only use once a year in turkey soup, we’ve got the cereal no-one actually likes…..

….those pigs are going to have a feast tomorrow. Not actually sure what we’re going to eat, but no doubt tomorrow will throw all sorts of other little surprises our way. Will I be able to deal with another day with such equanimity and Pollyanna-like poise? Hmmm.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Just for pleasure

A comment I read earlier today made me realise how little time I have spent in the past year sewing for pleasure. It's not that I dislike sewing for my business - of course not, otherwise I wouldn't do it, it's just that sewing for pleasure has become something of a luxury. Bizarrely I managed to find time just before Christmas to do just that - I sewed for pleasure and made a few things that made me happy this Christmas (incidentally the only Christmas for a long, long time that I made absolutely no handmade presents for anyone - I just bought them from other people instead).

For our first Christmas together, H and I bought what I thought of as a "Starburst" for the top of our Christmas tree from the Conran shop (ah, those were the days, lie-ins, weekend shopping, espressos along the way). It was a lovely pointy shiny star made of different coloured foils. I've since discovered that it's called a Polish Porcupine and there are instructions for making one here. We've used it every year since but sadly bits have been breaking off it and we decided that this year we needed something different. Thanks to a button and felt stash that needs some serious re-organising, I spent the weekend before Christmas putting this together:

it also featured on our Christmas Eve party invitation, although that was before I mounted it on the red and white background which it needed for it to be noticed way up there at the top of the tree:

Then, on Boxing Day, with the party and the Day under our belts, I got itchy fingers and knocked out a couple of these for the younger two boys. I know they're not going to want to wear Christmas t-shirts for much longer, so I'm making the most of it while I can (they drew the line at the mistletoe t-shirt I made last year. Kissing? Uggggh!):

This little helper now has chicken pox, cleverly mirroring the spotty pudding, don't you think?

So, a New Year's Resolution? Well, apart from the one I've made for the past 30-odd years (yeah, yeah, yeah, be tidier, more organised, hmmmm) maybe I need to do a little bit more sewing, just because I want to.