24 July 2009

I'm so excited!! I've just bought 2 books that I am sooo looking forward to reading.

The first is Esther Woolfson's memoires - ' Corvus - A Life With Birds' - which I accidentally stumbled across on Amazon. A true account of Esther's life from the day her daughter brought home a fledgling rook. 'Chicken' was the first of many birds to pass through Esther's life and home - opening her eyes to their varied personalities and capacity for affection. I've just started this and it's definitely one of those 'savour' books - so a chapter a day it is, rather than wolfing it down whole (no pun intended).


Another book that falls into the above category, that just arrived this morning is 'Wildwood - A Journey through Trees' by Roger Deakin. Roger was one of the founder members of Friends of the Earth, quite an eccentric by all accounts, but commited to nature and the preservation thereof. He also wrote 'A Swimmers Journey Through Britain' and was well known for swimming in the moat that surrounded his Suffolk farmhouse.


Oh and almost forgot!! I bought this little gem for Simon for Father's Day - but as he hasn't gotten round to reading it I thought I would 'borrow' it. It's the history of Soccer Saturday, and is everything you would expect it to be given that it's written by Jeff Stelling. It includes the history of catchphrases such as the book title, (looks like Jelleyman's thrown a wobbly) and 'they'll be dancing on the streets of Total Network Solutions tonight'; the now infamous 'Middlesbrough Rant' and just how a 6 hour show with no live football, just men watching video screens and relaying it back, has captivated audiences for over 10 years. Whether you're much of a reader or not, if you're a football fan you'll love this book which is great for dipping in and out of. Highly recommended!


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In other news, I had my follow appointment at the hospital yesterday - had my stitches taken out - hurrah - and have been discharged. I have one more week of recovery then it's back to work for 3 weeks, followed by a week in the Monmouth countryside for a well earned holiday! We're staying at Whitehall Cottage in Penullt - website here - and I can't wait to get out and about to explore the area.

21 July 2009

July has proved to be the month of 'sitting doing very little'. My gallbladder op on the first day of the month was very straight forward although there was an overnight stay which I wasn't expecting. More to do with lack of communication between hospital departments than any sort of emergency - but left me with the feeling that it is something that can so easily be remedied. My follow up appointment is in a couple of days so I will address the issue then methinks.

So ... given that I have mainly been sat on my arse for the past 3 weeks, I've been through alot of reading. Mostly good, some of it mediocre and disappointing, but always food for thought.

'Look Who It Is' - is Alan Carr's story so far - perhaps a little early in his career to be penning tombs such as this, but it was entertaining when I needed entertaining and gave me some much needed laughs whilst in hospital.

'Knit Two' - Kate Jacobs is the sequel to the Friday Night Knitting Club - might have been better if I'd known it was a follow on before I read it - but it was alright for chic lit if you need something lighthearted and can be read as a stand alone book.

'A Thousand Splendid Suns' - Khaled Hosseini - the book he wrote after The Kite Runner. I loved the Kite Runner very much and this book is even better. Perhaps because this is written from a female perspective. Like The Kite Runner it gives an insight into life in Afghanistan since the 1970's although more attention is given to the life of the main character. Although the political climate at the time is integral to the plot, it takes more of a background role. Again it highlights the appauling atrocities that man can bestow upon his fellow man, or in this case woman. Utterly heartwrencing.

'The Lollipop Shoes' - Joanne Harris. On starting to read this book I was delighted to learn that it is the follow up to Chocolat. It picks up after Vianne Rocher has ran away from the river people in Lansquenete to start a new life in Montmartre. Forsaking her 'magic' in order to live an ordinary life, and keep the wind at bay, she sacrifices a lot. That is until Zozie del A'lba enters her life, seducing the whole neighbourhood with her charm and carefree ways. Except Zozie isn't all that she seems. Thoroughly enjoyed this book, which was delightful from start to finish and wonderful to see Vianne regain her personality and reclaim her life.

'Testimony' - Anita Shreve. Anita is a prolific author and like all things prolific this means there can sometimes be a sacrificing of quality over quantity. Testimony however is one of her better books. The story is set in a private school where a news of a sex scandal breaks. Each chapter is written in the voice of a different character, each talking from their own perspective. It's a book of consequences - far reaching consequences that start with the actions of adults but which result in the derailment of some of the pupils. Very well written and highly recommended.

'The Pilot's Wife' - After reading Testimony, I went in search of more of Anita's books. Some write up's left me cold but The Pilot's Wife looked as intriguing as Testimony. Again another difficult story wherein an airliner explodes over the Irish Sea killing everyone on board. The wife of the pilot not only has to deal with the death of her husband, but the complete re-writing of their life together before the crash, as she finds out that he wasn't the man that she though he was. Another heartwrenching story with an unexpected twist at the end.

And then there are the books that 'got away'. The Darwin Awards looked to be alot of laughs, albeit macabre one's at that containing "180 bizarre true stories of how dumb humans have met their maker". Not as funny as I hoped it would be and abandoned a short way in.

Disappointing also was 'Heath - A Family's Tale' - a background of Heath Ledger's family and early life - again abandoned not long after starting it. Not as interesting as I hoped it would be.

13 June 2009

Man do those potato plants grow fast! Next I have to feed them until little flowers appear, then open the doors at the bottom when hopefully there should be some spuds waiting to be harvested.

I made myself a nice mushroom stroganoff the other day, from my mushroom box in the garage - it was quite nice too if I say so myself!

There's never enough strawberries all at the same time to have a bowl so I just pick n eat em. They are deliciously sweet.


28 May 2009

It's probably the onset of age/boredom/realisation that there is no time better than the present that has prompted me to turn some of my little fantasies in life into reality. Something I really admired in my Dad was his wonderful vegetable garden. Down one side of the garden was a lawn edged by blackcurrant bushes, roses and spring flowers. That and the ever growing patch of mint was my Mam's domain, but beyond that was a cornacopia of fresh vegetables. A leek trench backed by rows of potatoes, cabbages and onions backed onto the lawn. The other side of the garden was planted with peas, brussel sprouts, radishes and carrotts. Halfway down the garden was a greenhouse wherein grew tomatoes and cucumbers, and bringing up the rear of the garden, next to the compost heap, were cold frames filled with lettuce. Those are just the things I remember, I'm sure there were many more vegetables which were harvested and fed to us all year round.

So it's always been an ambition of mine to have a vegetable garden. It has always lurked there at the back of my mind, and as the years have crept by I felt more and more guilty for not having made this a reality. The truth of the matter though is that I have just been too plain lazy to do anything about it. That and it seemed like such an enormous task. With my Dad's substantial plot in mind, I always felt that I had to do it wholeheartedly or not at all.

Then I got a reality check. On a visit to a local garden centre I saw a potato planter for growing potatoes on patios/balconies or very small gardens and I thought ... hmm ... maybe I have been setting my sights too high. So I purchased said potato planter, seed potatoes and compost and now have a nice crop of potato plants pushing their way ever skywards.


I also bought a ready planted terracota strawberry planter, and whilst the crop hasn't been enormous (about 6 strawberries so far) - they do taste far superior to the supermarket variety. On the way out of the garden centre I noticed a box of mushroom compost and as that looked even easier than growing spuds and strawberries, I decided to give that a go too.

Tonight I harvested my first half dozen mushrooms which I intend to make into a stroganoff tomorrow night.

Since embarking on my little venture I have discovered that all sorts of folks have stuck their heads above the parapet and admitted to 'growing their own' - from the person (like me) with their odd planter to the fully grown garden, so bang goes any idea I may have subconciously entertained about being a pioneer amongst my peers.

Its all good fun though, and as I'm seeing some positive results it may inspire me to expand my repetoire and see what else I can coax out of the ground!

In other news I've updated the book page and the music page - I'm must be on a roll!

25 May 2009

I've finally started work on my gallery page. There's isn't alot there at the moment, but will be adding to it over the next few days and weeks so keep checking back.

22 May 2009

I've just had an operation to remove a lump from my eyelid. The lump is called a Xanthelasmas and is caused by cholesterol deposits forming. I've also got a large gallstone so am having my gallbladder removed in the next month or so. Gallstones can be either cholesterol stones or pigment stones. Interestingly though, cholesterol is found in animal fats, and as I've been a vegetarian for 17 years I'm wondering how I've managed to end up with not just one cholesterol based condition, but two. I do consume animal by-products like milk and eggs, although I don't have a huge amount of either, and gallstones are quite rare in veggies.

Even stranger is the fact that blood tests have shown that I don't have high cholesterol. Whilst I was having my eye surgery, the surgeon did mention that people with Xanthelasmas often have gallstone conditions as well. It's a bit of a mystery why I've got either of these conditions really, so I think I'm going to do some more digging.


4 May 2009


Ooh it's been a while. Due mainly to busy-ness and the death of my old laptop. It's taken me this long to reset my ftp account so I can upload again.

The busy-ness has mainly been due making stained glass bits, constructing a website for a friend which is very almost finished and hopefully goes live this week, and with two impending operations, I thought I ought to get the house in some sort of order. I've also been planting up my flower pots and have made a small attempt at growing potatoes, strawberries and mushrooms.

There is a website - www.43things.com - which is purely dedicated to making lists of things that you want to do. When I started my list I had 35 - 40 things on there. Some things I've deleted because I got realistic and realised I was never going to do them, but so far I have managed to achieve 15 of my goals.

I visited Barcelona, saw Stiff Little Fingers play live, made my own postcards, got a more positive inner dialogue, learned how to plan things better and to complete my to do lists in the time I said I would.

I guess we dont really need a website to help us improve our lives, we could keep a book or a list pinned up on the notice board. I don't visit there often, mainly when I've completed something on my list, but it's a handy little place. People cheer you when you've completed something, or leave a little encouraging note when you're trying to do something and it's heartening to see there are others out there with similiar goals.

23 February 2009


Well, today marks the 14th birthday of my little baby. It's been a pretty damp squib of a day all round due to the rest of her family all being off sick with various aliments and it can't be much fun being the only member of your family to be going to school on your birthday - especially first day back after half term. We went out for a curry last night to celebrate just the four of us and on Saturday she has a 'Hollywood' theme party so the festivities should be in full force then.

In the meantime - here's a little look at the last 14 years!

Happy Birthday Beautiful - love you!!  



18 February 2009

Oh what a funny old week it's been. It's half term and as we've not had much time off since August thought we would spend the week down in Wales. The weather, however, has been appauling so we made the executive decision last Thursday to kick Wales into touch, stay at home and go out and about for days.

It was all planned - Bradford for the National Photo & Film Museum; Cambridge and Ely for the Cathedral and Stained Glass Museum; a day out in Liverpool visiting ancestoral haunts, Ferry across the Mersey and a wander around the Albert Dock.

But like the best laid plans of mice and men, setting things in stone only causes them to go awry. This took the form of both me and Becky (more Becky though) coming down with bugs. We managed Bradford, are hopeful of Cambridge and Ely tomorrow, but will see whether Becky is sufficiently recovered to spend the day trawling round cobbled streets and cathedrals. Fingers crossed eh. Ancestral haunts and Beatles Museums will sadly have to wait for another holiday.

I've been getting inspired and enthused by a couple of websites.

The first is a stained glass gallery by Julia Mills - forget your church windows and pub doorways - this is stained glass for the 21 Century and I love it. Check out especially the Tiddlers page. I particularly love the etching on the glass which has fired my imagination and given me ideas!

The second site has made me chuckle no end - it's a magazine type affair for those of us who like to take things easy, called The Idler. Therein lie such hidden gems as 'The Idle Parent', 'Idle Pleasures' and 'How to be Free'. There are interviews with our Idol Idols, and advice on Practical Idling. It has been a source of great amusement to me today, so if you need a giggle, go and have a look.

Happy Birthday to big sis Sylvia too!

9 February 2009

Progress so far in the stained glass class. My first attempt is a little wobbly and a little on the ugly side but I quite like it. I'll take another photo when I've bought some chain and hung it up so you can see how well it catches the light. This one was made using the Tiffany method - like all those nice antique lampshades.

Project 2 is still in progress. Another sun catcher but this time using lead strips to join the pieces of glass. Think church windows. Lead weathers much better which is why it's used for windows and outdoor pieces. You can tell I progressed to cutting glass in curves which is a little trickier than cutting straight lines I can tell you. This one just needs soldering and finishing and should be complete in the next lesson.

19 January 2009

More stained glass!!

Just completed week 2 of the stained glass course.

Tonight I finished my grinding - and decided to re-cut a couple of pieces to fit better - then put the copper foil around the edges of the pieces of glass. It's very therapeutic - and just doing that makes the whole thing look much better than random bits of glass sat side by side.

Next we were taught how to solder.


Actually - its not so bad. I only got to do a teeny bit before it was time to tidy away - but I can now see what the finished piece will look like and it's not brilliant, but not too bad for a first attempt. Hopefully next week I will be able to post a photo of the finished thing.

Next up we will be learning how to use leading. I have a feeling we will be making trinket boxes - which should be good.

The teacher has asked us to think about designs that we might like to do in the future. I think the Alarm Poppy would look cracking done in stained glass - I wonder if anyone has ever done it like that before. It may be a little on the ambitious side, although I could do a simplified version of it.

14 January 2009

A little late in the day, but Happy New Year! Our's didn't get off to the best of starts with Simon having flu straight after Christmas which in turn led to a very nasty tooth infection over New Year. His 2 week holiday turned out to be more like sick leave than anything else. Christmas itself was really nice though. I worked through most of it for the first time, but that was good. The bit between Christmas and New Year has always been my least favourite 'holiday'. There's nowhere to go and little to do and I inevitably end up with cabin fever and can't wait to get back to work. This year, I only had the 3 statutory days off so it all worked a little better for me.

Simon hit the grand old age of 49 on 12th January. As I was busy on his actual birthday, we had arranged to go out the day before, which was a Sunday. The plan was to have a nice stroll in the countryside followed by hot chocolate and toasted tea cakes in a suitable cafe on the Sunday morning. Sunday night we were going to go for a meal with the girls to celebrate his birthday properly.

We were pleased that he was feeling back to normal again, no flu, and the tooth had cleared up with some antibiotics from the Dentist. Until he woke up on Sunday morning and uttered the immortal words ... "I feel like shit". He promptly spent the morning fast asleep on the sofa. He did feel a bit better later on but we only managed a take-away in the end.

Monday, and his actual birthday. I bought him a DS-lite (Guitar Hero Edition), a mini-Henry the Hoover (it sucks, or rather it doesn't so is pretty useless as anything other than a desk ornament) and a book on the history of Leeds United. I was starting a nightclass that evening, so prepared a lovely meal of steak braised in guinness, with mashed potatoes all to be served in a giant yorkshire pudding. The steak was braising nicely in the oven, the veg was in the steamer, and the girls had strict instructions on when to switch everything on and off. I arrived back from my nightclass to be shown a burnt offering that Nebuchadnezzer himself would have been proud of. Now the recipe does say 3 hours in the oven, and Delia does say not to stint on time, because the stout will turn to a nice thick sauce - but I'm sure even Delia didn't mean it to the quite that thick.

You have to laugh don't you?

Hit of the night though was the cake that Becky had made - worthy of Homer Simpson himself:


Anyway - my nightclass was excellent. I'm learning how to make things out of stained glass. The first initiative test was finding which building on the complex that is Chesterfield College, the class was being held in. (There is a reason why they call them 'complex's). Once I found that, I was sat in a corner with the two other newbies while the teacher got ready for us. There were some folks there who have been on previous courses and were in the midst of making some stunning pieces ... I reckoned they must all be really 'arty' types who had been doing this for ages, but apparently they had all been newcomers not so long ago, just like us.

Martin started us newbies off on cutting glass. It took a little while to get the hang of - because this being glass - I approached it with caution. But you need to be a bit more aggressive with the glass cutter than I thought. No worries, I soon got into it. The harder bit was when it came to cutting curves - I didn't get the hang of that properly, so when it came time for Martin to set us off on our first project (so soon? I know!!!) I went for an oblong sun catchers made up of random squares and rectangles. After cutting all my pieces out I had to grind them. We're starting off using the Tiffany technique which involves wrapping copper paper around the edges of the glass, and the edges have to be rough for that to adhere. The other reason for grinding is to make the pieces fit the pattern. My straight lines left a little to be desired, I made most of the pieces bigger than they should have been, but that's something that should improve with practice.

Anyway, it's something I've been wanting to try for ages and ages, I'm so pleased I got onto the course this time round and I can't wait for next week to finish me grinding and start me coppering!


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