Speeding up!

I don’t know if it is the first hint of Spring – but oh my didn’t we get a shock when the temperatures dropped last week! – or the post-Covid urge to see folk and enjoy a modicum of travel but the last couple of weekends have found me trotting to Yorkshire to visit my children and their families.

As there is a risk of weeks passing before my next post I thought a few words and photos would keep us in touch.

There was a wonderful high-tea with No 1 Daughter, Peanut and Shrub for Mother’s Day. Poor No 1 Son-in-law missed out as work called, how dare it!

And this weekend a family outing to the fabulous Eureka the National Children‘s Museum in Halifax with No1 Son and Daughter-In-Law and Munchkin.

Eureka is an amazing place for children with learning offered at every corner.

Remember to look after yourself!

You can find out what it’s like to work on the drains, in a motor shop, at a bank or in a post office and other places beside:

Even the loos have something to tell you… did you know ….

Every one is considered with spaces for the under 5s, a good range of dietary requirements being met in the amazingly organised cafe, properly accessible facilities with hoists, and plenty of fun. I mean what could be better than to end the day with a triceratops?!

We had a full day and there was so much more we could have explored but the thoughtful folk at Eureka have that problem sorted too because for the price of your first visit, entry is free for the next 12 months.

Last but not least I have a new obsession. On Wednesday 30 March osprey returned to Cumbria, to one of my favourite Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserves at Foulshaw Moss! Watching the webcam of their nest is truly addictive, have a look https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife/cams/osprey-cam. The nest is empty right now, of course I have checked! As the osprey love to do a bit of fishing I am guessing that they are looking for supper. They have been quite … erm … frisky … since they returned so hopefully there will be Easter osprey eggs soon. Exciting!!!! I mean forget reality human TV give me ospreys any day.

Well must go. House to clean and osprey to watch …

Let the winds blow

Before I go and lie down in a darkened room a little catch up post on life here at Casa Moke and the wild British weather.

Since Covid and all the on-off lockdowns we have been conscious of the time missed with family and good friends. This week gave me one of those special windows (it’s half term for Peanut) to enjoy a few days with No 1 Daughter and her two girls as they decided to stay with me in Cumbria for some fun and frolics in the lovely Lakes.

Of course the weather – I have lost track of the storms swinging through the UK! – had other plans. The wind blew, the rain and hail fell and despite our best efforts we spent two days very close to home. This happily meant a re-visit for me to one of the Auld Grey Town’s treasures, The Quaker Tapestry. But first of all there had to be food. Right away you will know this is my kind of place:

The Garden Cafe is run by the wonderful Nikki and is all vegan so we could relax knowing we could eat and drink everything on the menu. No 1 and I first found Nikki and her fabulous vegan fayre a few years back when she set up a trailer in her garden (hence the name) and it is wonderful to see her business has blossomed. Her ethos and vegan menu fits perfectly with the Quaker meeting house next door. And the Victoria sponge?! Amazing. As for Shrub … she discovered french fries!

The face says it all!

Suitably refreshed, Baby Shrub strapped into a carrier and Peanut hopping and skipping alongside we turned left and straight into the Meeting House to see the world famous Quaker Tapestry. I have visited many times and yet this beautifully sewn piece of community art never fails to impress. Made up of 77 panels embroidered by groups from 15 countries and involving over 4,000 people in its design and creation it is a warm yet powerful evocation of the good that people can do.

This I think is my favourite panel (I even have the tea-towel):

Underneath the panel was a children’s book for the younger clientele to read and Peanut treated us (and the embroiderer sitting behind a Perspex screen greeting visitors) to a rendition of the tale of the two mules in the picture. Jane the lady who sat so patiently was lovely and made Peanut feel a very special little girl. Thank you Jane.

That summed up the warm welcome and kindness we found at the Tapestry. There is something for everyone and I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever here-about or have chance to see some of the panels when they go on their Summer tour (if that is back on this year).

I confess it had not been our original intention to visit the Tapestry – but we are so glad we did – we had been trying to get to Keswick and three times we failed. Water, water everywhere and the prospect of getting caught on the wrong side of a flooded road home saw us turn back at either Rydal or Grasmere.

Becks were over flowing all along our route and feeding mainly on to the roads.

Eventually we took the hint and decided the weather gods wanted us to go to Grasmere. Our Keswick trip was abandoned and this small but busy village became our destination instead. As always No 1 Daughter had done her research and found us a vegan-friendly cafe so in a pattern that must now be familiar we started with food. Shrub is always a handy ‘excuse’ as she needs her regular feeds … as do we!

Again our chosen eatery, Green’s, did not disappoint.

Cooked vegan breakfast was delicious and certainly set up us for a walk around the village and then up to Allan Bank.

Grasmere is a lovely traditional Lakeland village. It’s only downside is that it can be a victim of it’s own success and can sometimes be very full with visitors. But not on this trip as the weather had reduced numbers and we had chance to admire the beautiful church of St Oswald’s – there has been a Grasmere church since 642AD! St Oswald was a busy chap – see Dorothy and William Wordsworth’s graves, walk around the daffodil garden and swing by the Gingerbread shop (still sobbing cos they have changed their recipe and it is no longer vegan…what?! Why?!).

We finished our visit to Grasmere with a bracing walk up towards Allan Bank, once home to William Wordsworth and Hardwicke Rawnsley, one of the three founders of the National Trust. With the high winds the house was closed but as it does not have any exhibits and has been left empty after a fire anyway we were not too disappointed. What makes it truly special are the views and fresh air and we could enjoy both to our hearts’ content. Peanut had a great time clambering on the rocky outcrops and we all gushed over the amazing panorama.

We ended a lovely day with a quick visit to what is becoming one of my favourite Cumbria Wildlife Nature Reserves, Foulshaw Moss, for a bit of birdwatching and an amble around the board walks with Peanut.

We slept soundly that night! Good job too as next day saw us hare off to nearby seaside town Morecambe. With the winds still on the … erm … windy side we attempted a promenade walk …

…. But gave up in favour of … (whispers) … an amusement arcade. Which of course Peanut LOVED!!! Especially as she came first in the Mario carts game and could scream her head off on the simulated roller coaster. Think my ears are still ringing.

For me the best part of the day came with a walk around Happy Mount Park. We have visited Happy Mount for decades and seen it’s fortunes ebb and flow. At present it seems in a happy place, it looks well cared for and despite everything being shut Peanut had an amazing time with a new found friend: clambering all over the playground equipment, shinning up a tree and even kicking a football about. The wind may still have howled and the sea kept churning but she was as happy as Larry. I am sure Happy Mount will become a firm favourite with her just as it was with her mother and uncle.

Bet you are ready for a lie down in a darkened room too after reading through this. But I hope the fresh air, view and happy faces give you a boost, they certainly did me.

Mx

Lovely Leeds

Leeds has been close to my heart for several years since both my children migrated to Yorkshire following career opportunities and then settled there following their hearts. Now between them they are raising the Tribe of Doris my gorgeous trio of granddaughters who are all Yorkshire lasses.

Last weekend I had a mini-visit to one of my favourite cities to visit No 1 son and his family. I started out as always with the bus and then the train from Carnforth.

Where’s Postman Sam and his black and white cat?

I may have mentioned this before but I am sad that this famous little station didn’t have the best of years in which to celebrate it’s 75th anniversary.

2020? Not the World’s greatest year ….

But I am soon off to Leeds and a small – but beautifully formed – family gathering. It was so lovely to see R and Munchkin waiting to meet me off the train. News flash: the train was early!

We spent a happy Saturday exploring things metropolitan. I have become quite a country mouse and have forgotten how amazing graffiti can be.

Confession time. I am not the biggest fan of graffiti, sad little scrawls with spray paint do nothing for me but when it is done right: it is art.

My son thought I had wandered off while having a senior moment to take this photo! Anyhow I was soon rounded up and we toddled – Munchkin is only two – into town.

Loving the mix of old and new!

Arriving at my Elderado, a museum.

We headed to the top and visited the world of the ancients with Munchkin enjoying building her very own temple.

Next I reminisced about the good old bad old days in the temporary exhibition ‘Money Talks’. Decimalisation is a really vivid memory to me. I was away on a school trip at the time and came home to a whole new currency. I still have a soft spot for half-a-crowns. They seemed like a fortune at the time but must have been about 25 pence in ‘new’ money.

No 1 was particularly shocked by the restaurant prices … think I visited this particular eatery as a child with my father around this time. I was partial to a prawn cocktail at eight, spoilt only child that I was. Now I look at the menu as a vegan and wince.

We had only ‘done’ one floor of the museum so we have plenty to return to. The ‘Money Talks’ exhibition was a great discussion starter and if you happen to be in Leeds I would recommend a visit to see it.

After all this looking at menus what else to do but go to lunch and finish with a hot chocolate at the Everyman cinema before boarding the train back to the woolly wilds of Cumbria.

Perfect end to a perfect visit. Thanks and love to D, R and Munchkin for a super visit.

Mx

Cat’s Tale

Hello all – I am about to relate the story of a small stray cat. Some of the pictures may be a little upsetting (just to warn you) but there is a very happy outcome. Do not be afraid …. read on …

My daughter and her family live in a large village in Yorkshire. The front of their house is on to the main street and quite busy. But to the back they have a small pretty garden which they can look on to when they are washing up at the kitchen sink.

Along the outside of the kitchen window runs a wide ledge. A few weeks ago my daughter realised she had company. Sitting on the ledge was a small, scrawny bundle of black and white fur which was plaintively ‘meow-ing’ at her. And so Pearl came into their lives – although the name and the happy ending are a little ways off.

My daughter went out to investigate the little scrap of a being that had come to her back door but couldn’t get close enough to check how she was. The window ledge visits and meowing continued for several days without No1 Daughter being able to get close but she could see the kitten-cat that was this furry bundle was getting weaker. Thankfully No1’s partner R was the hero of the hour and managed to gently corral the cat and bring her into the house. Then they could really see how poorly and injured she was.

Their hairy visitor was oh-so friendly but just skin and bone with a badly injured eye. She was incredibly weak yet obviously glad to have been taken in and cared for. No1 D and R took their new little friend to the local vet. Admittedly they went in trepidation in case there was nothing that could be done to help the little mite who had come to them for help.

No1 phoned the vets’ surgery every day to check on the kitten’s progress and thankfully the vets worked their magic and although they could not save the cat’s eye they could save her. After almost two weeks with the vet and being fed by drip and carefully reintroduced to food she was ready to leave. She was not micro-chipped and no one in their small-ish community had posted her missing.

I know I look sad but really I am on the mend.

Where could she go? No1 D already has two dogs – one of whom is an anxious rescue. What to do? After much discussion and consultation with the vets about their circumstances …. Guess what? She came back to No1 D’s! None of them could bear the thought that she might never be re-homed and after all it was as if she had originally come to them because she knew they would help her.

No1 Granddaughter Peanut and her father vied for who should name the new kitty. Peanut came up with the best name ever (sorry R), Pearl. And so Pearl has joined the slightly chaotic household loosely presided over by my daughter and her partner.

Really getting better and loving my new safe haven.

She has taken up residence underneath Peanut’s bed – although she does have an all singing all dancing cat bed of her own. And loves nothing better than greeting anyone that comes upstairs with purrs and leg cat-rubs.

Peanut has risen to the challenge of caring for her room-mate. Perfect timing for P – there is a fairly new baby in the house (I did say it was slightly chaotic) – to have a fur-friend to look after.

I love my best buddy.

Pearl has really taken to her new domain. She eats well and is continually gaining in strength. She is coping with the dogs by avoiding them but gradually I think an entente cordiale is being reached. To be honest the older dog a feisty chihuahua called George takes no notice of her (we always suspected that he was part cat!) while their anxious rescue Buddy is more bemused by the meowing than agitated.

I think those …. eeek …. Dogs….aaargh …. are friendly but I am keeping my one eye on them just in case.

It now seems as if Pearl has always been a member of the family.

Think I will stay!

I asked No1 D for a new photo but she hasn’t been able to oblige as Pearl is busy being a kitten and always on the move or asleep in her bolt hole under P’s bed.

In the (almost) words of the famous Ellie Brooks’ song: Pearls a Winner!

Mx

Giant Christmas Doughnut!

I have said it. The ‘C’ word. I am sure for the crafty community the ‘C’ word has been a big part of their endeavours for some time now.

I have made a couple of things for my granddaughters and one project (which is enormous) has been benched until next year. My Christmas 2021 crafting seemed finished. Happily I had something waiting in the wings.

Last year I spent much of the run up to Christmas making the Clothkits quilted jackets for Peanut and Munchkin. I had no time to use the bundle of pre-printed fabrics that had been given to me by friend JG.

This year because of the aforementioned ‘benching’ I found myself with a window to complete a Yuletide project that got left behind last year.

Amongst the festive pre-printed fabrics donated by JG was one that looked like it had the makings of a large door garland. It was already cut out and ready to go.

All that was left to do was:

Sew.

If you are ever confronted by such a design remember do not sew up any part of the middle circle – I mean what idiot would do that … – as you won’t be able to turn it out to the right side.

Press.

Those tailors’ hams certainly proved invaluable for this one.

Turn out.

I added a ribbon tab as I was planning to hang it on my front door.

Stuff it and stitch up the middle hole.

At that point I discovered – having already used copious amounts of stuffing – when hung up the would-be garland pulled on the panel at the top! It looked rather saggy (know how it feels). Not wanting to use even more stuffing it was time for a re-think.

Despite the fact that the Giant Christmas Doughnut reminds me of the type of cushion you might want to sit on after a painful piles operation it appears to be destined to be an addition to my sofa during the festive period. That seems a bit of a waste. Have you dear readers any better ideas?

Looking at it now I am wondering if I took out one panel it could become one of those horseshoe cushions you wear around your neck on long journeys. Now there’s a thought. What a way to travel to Yorkshire this Christmas! Whether my son and daughter share the same view when they ferry me too and fro – there being very little public transport – is another thing …

For their sakes I hope you come up with something better!

Mx

Where have all the flowers gone?

This used to be what my entire garden looked like, at least the bit that had previously been covered by a very scrappy lawn. Two years ago inspired by Alys Fowler of “Edible Garden“ fame I thought that I too would love an edible garden.

I had visions of supplementing neighbours’ larders by sharing my copious harvests and of cycling along with hair flowing (cycling helmet only abandoned for the visualisation not my actual journeys you understand) carrying bunches of herbs and flowers to any poor soul needing the solace of rosemary, bay and lavender twined into a beauteous fragrant rustic bouquet and requiring a swig of home brewed elderberry wine (medicinal purposes of course).

Scratch all that. The harsh reality was a lot of kale – please God no more – but only 5 potatoes and a handful of rather pitiful looking beans. The garden was not the abundant source of produce (except for the kale) I thought it was going to be. For why? I hear you ask.

It couldn’t possibly be my total lack of gardening knowledge … could it? I have religiously watched “Gardeners’ World” every Friday night surely by some osmosis all that green fingered know how should have seeped into my very being … shouldn’t it? Obviously not.

Apart from my lack of ken (knowledge that is, not the chap) the biggest clue to my gardening limitations is very obvious to anyone that has seen my garden. It is a limitation that I am more than happy to live with. My garden is dominated by a very large tree.

And she has several smaller friends.

I really do count myself lucky. My nearest neighbour is a sycamore – I call her Cyra – who must be at least 150 to 200 years old. When you look up into her branches there is a whole planet of life – including the occasional woodpecker – and there will be another in her sturdy trunk and yet another in her roots.

Thankfully nothing grizzly appears to have happened around Cyra. She is a field marker tree – planted at the junction of several fields – who lived a quiet rural life until the 1980s when a housing estate was built around her. I sometimes feel sorry for Cyra but I think she maybe likes the company and if she doesn’t she gets her own back in autumn by burying us in her leaves (don’t tell her but they are very handy as a mulch) and hurling the occasional small branch on very windy days.

Despite my love of this marvellous tree SHADY is the best way to describe my garden. So what am I and the mud patch beneath her to do? Trumpet fanfare!!!! Friends and family to the rescue. Thanks to JG and the Kendal Conservation Volunteers I have been donated several woodland loving plants: red campion, foxgloves, violets, forget me nots and primroses.

Brace yourselves and if you are in any way prudish look no further. [whispers] PF and AF brought me some [hushed whisper] … titter (unfortunate word) … naked ladies … Oooh er missus! Alright I will stop now, we are all adults here. Aren’t we?

I popped a few of the gorgeous russet coloured bulbs in a small trough. I didn’t think they would appear until next spring but as you can see they are making a valiant attempt. Slightly wonkily I admit. Those pesky blackbirds had scratched out most of the soil. Is it wrong for a vegan to shout at birds?! But these brave little bulbs are illustrating the reason for the nakedness, they don’t have any leaves. Ooh er …

In case you think I have contributed nothing to the moonscape that once was lawn brace yourself. I managed to propagate some english lavender. Yahoo! Now along with my home grown sweet marjoram, thyme and chives the lavenders have been popped into terra firma. As you can see fallen leaves are a constant in my garden.

To be honest my veg have not been a total disaster this year. I still have some tomatoes struggling to ripen – I stripped away most of the leaves to help them – and I have had success with chillies. The lesson here is I am much better at growing vegetables in pots. In addition the rhubarb that I thought I had killed off last year because it was planted under too much shade seems to have crawled along the bed and like a phoenix risen anew.

Nonetheless what the last couple of years has taught me is that the flowers needed to be in first and then the veg could follow … maybe … perhaps. Friends and family have helped me along the road and with a bit of judicious purchasing the ex-lawn – still bare in places – has many new inhabitants: anenomes, geraniums, salvia, echinacea, asters to name a few (you guessed it I can’t remember the names of the rest). These latter were all delivered in beautiful condition by Crocus Garden Centre and are all pollinator friendly.

Crocus’ website gives full information on the height and spread of the plants, where and how they like to live and what they will get up to over the course of a year. I have planted as best as I can by their instructions but any failures will of course be all mine. I could not afford to buy them all at once so the planting may be a little higgildy piggildy. Just how I like things.

But what’s this? Some new arrivals?

Hellebores and oriental poppies

Better get planting. I am sure the aches and pains from the bending and digging will be washed away by the thoughts of how the garden will look this time next year. I can but dream … and weed …. and hoe … and rake … and mulch …. Where’s that elderberry wine?!

Until next we meet,

Moke x

P.S. Before you worry. I am a peat-free compost gal and have used Dalefoot Compost’s wonderful Lakeland Gold to mix with the top soil and mulch around the new plants.

Jolly Janome is busy

Hello All

Over the last couple of years I have been sewing more and more. I’ve made clothes for me and the girls, bags for gifts, bags for medics clothing and of course many, many masks!

Weirdly I have no photos of the masks, but I reckon you have all seen enough of them over the last 18 months or so. I don‘t need to show you any more.

My favourite pieces however were two quilts. One was made for Munchkin when she was born and the other was sewn for Shrub when she arrived.

Munchkin‘s was made by creating appliqué panels based on the ‘Woodland Critters’ quilt pattern. I tweaked it ever so slightly. There had to be a robin! Then I had great fun deciding on the fabrics to make the blocks before sewing the completed panels together, adding the surround, batting, backing and quilting.

When it came to Shrub’s quilt I chose a simpler method. I bought cloth with pre-printed panels. I cut out each panel then framed them with different coloured fabrics before once again sewing them together, giving them a border, batting, backing and quilting. I must say I was particularly pleased with the border and backing materials that I bought – like a lot of my fabrics – from Reticule here in Kendal.

If you are wondering where Peanut’s quilt is, truth be told I had not ventured into the wonderful world of quilting when she was born. For her birth I made a crochet ripple blanket.

The time has come to work on a special quilt for P. But it is hush hush as Mother Christmas is busy working on it …

Until we meet again,

Moke x

The Tribe of Doris

Hello All,

When I left .. deserted … you in 2019 I had one amazing granddaughter, Peanut. P is now the magnificent and all-wise age of 5 years. Five?! Yes 5! She keeps us straight on all things vegan – “Omi, is this vegan?” – is an animal welfare activist and a budding expert on bears. A perfect bundle of eco-warrior and caring human being.

During my long blog-sleep Peanut was joined by a brilliant cousin and gorgeous little sister. Collectively the three girls are to me The Tribe of Doris (psst this was the name of an fabulous all female drumming band … don’t tell them I stole it).

First to join the party was A, daughter of No 1 Son and No 1 Daughter In Law.

Munchkin is over 18 months old and as you can see is very happy to be donning her welly-bobs for country walks and splashing in mud. I have missed her sooooo much during the various lockdowns and was really pleased that No 1 Daughter In Law’s parents were near at hand and able to be there as part of her childcare bubble. As things have eased I am getting to know A again and it is wonderful to meet the beautiful, reflective and intelligent little girl that has blossomed from the newborn I remember pre-pandemic.

In case you wondered, Munchkin is sporting a Clothkits jacket I managed to smuggle to her during the Christmas lockdown lift. Yes a tad on the big size… but she looks adorable and she will get her wear out of it. I was happy to find that Clothkits are still very much alive and kicking as I loved them when my own two were children and they continue to make gorgeously printed kits along with complete items and fabrics that are irresistible. One word of warning the binding was a devil to get right. Although this could just be me and my cack-handedness.

Then there were … three. Earlier this year P got her wish of a baby sister. Shrub was a bump through much of the pandemic and arrived as a little ray of sunshine in a year overcast by the clouds of Covid. It seems she knew this because I swear she was smiling by 2 weeks old.

Now you have met the tribe. It is a wobbly old world they have arrived into but as with all children they are our hope for the future and they make me even more determined to work to rectify the problems we have so far bequeathed them. After all I don’t want this fearsome bunch coming after me in my dotage (not long off) asking “WHY?!”

Until next we meet,

Moke x

Festive Greetings

Happy Yuletide All

We have left out a little tipple and snack for Santa to enjoy (the extra mince pie is for Mother Claus) and a carrot with some special food for those hard working reindeer.

Peanut is tucked up in bed. Presents are wrapped and under the tree. All the grown ups are settled with mugs of hot chocolate. Peace reigns. While we have a quiet moment I just wanted to say: whatever your faith or belief (or lack of) love and festive greetings from Casa Moke. I hope the year to come brings you peace, health and happiness.

Until next we meet

Moke x

Dog Days

Hello All

It has been an activity mish-mash at Casa Moke over the last couple of weeks. No matter how hard I try my poor old pea-brain can’t come up with a coherent single theme for this post. Dear reader be prepared for the confused Cornucopia of everyday life here in the brr-is-it-me-but-is-Winter-coming-to-the-fffff-reezing-North-?.

First to the ‘Dog Days’. No 1 Daughter frequently travels with her job and last weekend she had the chance to combine work and a family trip while visiting some wonderful Animals Asia supporters in Glasgow. Only two small ‘problems’ her furry friends, George and Buddy. Yahoo! chance for me to enjoy the company of the boys for a couple of days dog-sitting.

George and Buddy would probably call it human-sitting and to be frank they would be right. Their time here does seem to entail a lot of sitting on me!

George takes the lap…

… and Buddy purloins the feet! My doggy visitors certainly make themselves at home. Bless ’em.

And while we relaxing, look what dropped through my door:

It is always exciting to see what classes are happening locally but this year I found it even more exciting. If you have a look under Arts and Crafts you might notice a few entries for ‘Introduction to Needle Felting’, guess who is responsible for them????

Yup that will be me! I am lucky enough to be running a few short courses over the Spring for Cumbria County Council’s Community Learning and Skills Programme in South Lakeland. It was such fun to micro-teach the interview panel that I am really looking forward to sharing one of my favourite crafts with new needle felters.

[Clears throat and takes on serious tone] Better keep up my crafty credentials in case any of my students-to-be are looking (can’t wait to meet you by the way). I have done a little more work on the wall art. The character on the right seems to be sending out some star-dust to cheer up the rather drab lettering:

I think she has done a good job and may need to be rewarded with a tiara or floral tribute…watch this space.

I have also been patch-working my way through several cushions:

I think almost all the fabric was from Reticule in Kendal. They have a huge range of beautiful and stylish fabrics and quarters. I chose these to coordinate with particular colour schemes. I can’t help but chuckle when I look at the blue birds: they seem to be on a see-saw. Have you spotted them? Hope they don’t get sea-sick!

Finally as ‘Winter is Coming’ a wee bit of sock knitting was called for.

Just knitting socks makes you feel warmer doesn’t it? Or is it trying to keep all the stitches on the needles and the counters in the right places that keeps me warm? Well done to Crafty friend KS who has launched herself into the world of sock knitting on circular needles with great results. I think I just like the suspense of working on double pointed needles, will the stitches stay on for another round ….

As you see I have a few projects to keep me busy and snug. And there are those courses to plan. Can’t wait.

Until next we meet,

Moke x