Sunday, 31 January 2010

Absolutely typical

Tall Small and I spent a very lovely hour this afternoon engaged in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which we're going to count towards her Brownie Wildlife Explorer badge. She had the binoculars out and the bird spotting book and coloured in her little counting squares with great enthusiasm.

My favourite part was the two minutes where we opened the windows to hear the birdsong as well as watching the birds - there's something shamefully decadent about sitting right next to a hot radiator with your head hanging out in the freezing cold air watching goldfinches and greenfinches fighting over the birdfeeder while a squirrel pinches all the robin food.

So I was telling her about how I have regularly seen two robins close together in our tiny garden this week, and also that we have a wren hiding in the honeysuckle, but did they show their beaky little faces? Not until five minutes AFTER we had stopped recording our counts. I swear they did it deliberately.

Anyway, that's what we did today - did you?

Friday, 29 January 2010

A different kind of swap

I have to be honest, I am questioning whether I can really call myself a blogger anymore, since I don't actually seem to be blogging at the moment. Hmmmm. But if I start to question why I blog, or whether I should just call it a day, meetings with lovely fellow bloggers usually do the trick to get me back in the groove again.

So it has been recently. Most of you know Emma from Silverpebble - lovely, clever, sparkly, silvery Emma. But did you also know she is a patient and enthusiastic teacher, and bakes a mean blueberry muffin? She had the marvellous idea recently of a skills swap - and over the last two Wednesdays we have made it happen, with just two 2 hour sessions. She has opened the door for me to the bewitching new world of silver artclay and enticed me in with encouraging words, lots of reassurance and just the right number of excited squeaks.


I tried to be brave when Emma set them on fire, and stopped my bottom lip from quivering when she started scrubbing at them with a steel brush but lookie, lookie, they really are silver! I should warn you that if you've ever used polymer clay, or indeed Playdoh, you are going to find silver clay HORRIBLY beguiling. Bank managers beware.

She even showed me how to make figure eight loops for necklace closures - I've done a fair bit of jewellery making before but always with cheapo beads and tarnishing wire. Oh dear. I think I'm really in trouble now.

In return I helped Emma to set up her inherited sewing machine which, all praise the sewing gods, started up first time, had well behaved tension and more even stitching than mine often does. We threaded it, we wound bobbins, we had a few thready tangles but sorted them out - and it's good to see those horrible bobbin related knots early on and realise they're not terminal, right? We made a little calico bag, and will be moving on to more ambitious projects on both sides very soon, I hope! (And this us where I really lose the right to call myself a blogger, because do I have photos? No. Fortunately Emma does ...)

So, Emma's idea, and it really is a good one, is to encourage crafty bloggers - yes, that's you - to find people who you might like to swap a skill with. It doesn't have to be silver jewellery making, it could be how to make your trademark scones or cakes, how to plan a veggie garden or what to do to get spuds ready for planting, how to crochet a granny square, how to arrange flowers, anything! It only takes an hour or two, some refreshments - which don't need to be fancy or indeed home made - and you'll be in for some fab chatting and something lovely to take home at the end! And if you're really lucky, a cuddle with a couple of tiny Pebbles - though to be fair I can't guarantee they'll be able to attend every swap.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

New Year, New Skills

I don't really make resolutions, as I can never keep them; but I have felt the need to learn some new skills, or polish up some old ones.

The need to polish up my parallel parking was driven home this morning when I completely failed to manage it in a tiny space at the Blood Donor centre at Addenbrooke's. It didn't help that I was being hassled by a taxi and that driving around the hospital at 9.30 on a weekday feels a lot like punishment. Anyway, I retreated to quiet residential roads to try to find a space, but quickly passed an old lady lying on the pavement. She'd been pulled over by her enormous wheelie bin, and had scraped her face and cut her hand and couldn't get up. I did what I could to help, and she insisted she was fine and absolutely didn't want me to call a doctor, and wandered back inside. Maybe I should be glad I can't park - if I'd been in there bleeding into a bag the poor woman would have been lying out in the sleet for I don't know how long. Sobering stuff.

But I have learned a new skill or two. The first one was relighting the above fire from the warm remains of last night's fire, banked up with ash at 10pm and reignited with some newspaper at 11 this morning. Yay! My piano teacher claims she kept a fire going without relighting for two weeks from Christmas Eve, though I doubt I'll be rivalling that.

The other skill was that for the first time, I successfully altered a pattern to fit me - this involved moving seamlines, repositioning bust darts and changing the neckline, and is all thanks to Julia's inspirational patterning posts. In celebration I bought enough fabric to make three more tunics - now I just need to learn how to get on and clear time and space to make them!