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

Leaving is never easy to do

While it is exciting to start a new job it is equally hard to leave an old one. On Wednesday I did my last shift at Sainsbury’s (a large supermarket chain here in the UK) and I confess I left with a heavy heart.

When I returned from a sabbatical of several months for family and travel back in 2018 I needed to find a job. Having commuted to my previous employment top of my new job wish list was ‘MUST BE LOCAL’! I wanted to be able to get to work under my own steam either by bike or foot.

This was not as easy as it might appear. I live in a fairly rural area and it has not always provided much choice of work – Covid has changed this a wee bit – but after a slight panic about actually getting a job along came Sainsbury’s.

Sainsbury’s has an egalitarian recruitment process – they have staff aged from 16 years to septuagenarians – which definitely helped me (no Spring chicken) as did the fact that a whole new store was being built in Kendal and every post needed filling.

It was a revelation to me. I had never worked in a supermarket before and it was fun to discover all the work that goes on in one. For my first job I was part of the price control team. Ever wonder who prints off and goes round the store changing the price tickets on the shelves? It was interesting and I always knew where the bargains were but often I worked on my own.

As I watched the team of early morning online shoppers whizzing about I hankered to join them. The joy of a supermarket is that, if staffing allows, your requests for sideways moves are usually granted. I became an online shopper.

To answer a couple of frequently asked questions. We do not do one person’s shop at a time we do parts of up to 8 customers shopping on each run we do, then the lovely folk in the back bring them together as they load up the vans. We are given suggested substitutions on our handsets and do not do them on a whim. Sometimes what a customer wants is just not there and we always try and provide something.

We have had an action packed 18 months in supermarkets and I think the online departments saw the greatest part of that. Online deliveries were a relatively small part of the overall sales in our store in 2019. Then along came a global pandemic and a Prime Minister telling us all to stay indoors and get our shopping online! EEEK.

Obviously we couldn’t stay indoors so armed with my ‘Essential Worker’ letter I cycled in for my shifts. We started work earlier (3am!!!) and every half hour brought a change as Online was ramped up to deal with the HUGE increase in demand. New staff were recruited, new vans brought in and new practices were instituted. I have read that online food deliveries went up by 100%, I can well believe it. My legs and shoulders definitely can.

It was a tough time and some customers were not kind (although many more were) but I think we really bonded and pushed together. We had some marvellous new staff, students who couldn’t go to Uni and sadly for them some that had lost jobs or businesses. Managers were busy spinning plates and I think did well to keep calm and share a smile and the occasional tub of sweeties.

Now however it is time for me to say goodbye to this:

And hello to this (and similar!):

Mmm strange how I have gone for the same colour palette.

My lovely online colleagues sent me off with all best wishes, super cards and thoughtful gifts (including a voucher for my favourite Kendal eatery, Waterside).

I love that they got me bulbs instead of a bunch of flowers as they knew everything needed to be packed in my panniers. They also suggested that when the blooms come out in Spring it will remind me of them. Hey folks don’t you worry you will never be far from my thoughts as I will be back in many a Saturday for my ‘two panniers’ shopping!

I think I found the perfect card to thank them with:

Bye all at Sainsbury’s Kendal. You are a wonderful bunch of hard grafting people. I have loved working with you and look forward to catching up with you all soon.

Mx

PS There were more of these vegan chocolate bars. I have scoffed all but one of them ‘cos they are delicious!

PPS My card was produced by these folks:

They have some great humorous Bayeux Tapestry style cards. Mx

The joy of stationery

One of the many pleasurable things about a new job is the need for suitable stationery: a notebook for your ‘how to’ lists perhaps or in my case a new desk diary.

It is quite a few years since I have needed a desk diary for work. I know we have Outlook and online diaries nowadays. They are incredibly useful but nothing quite beats a paper diary: a book that gives you a tactile awareness of the flow of the year.

I love A4 one-page-a-day diaries. But its October and I didn’t want to waste paper! I went academic year. While there are a couple of unused months in my new academic diary I am sure those pages will soon be used for notes.

To make my new diary perfect a couple of additions were needed.

I am sure my bookbinding friends are cringing at my clunky addition of two slim ribbons running from the spine. Sorry JG and B. However I love having markers for today’s date and the next key date.

Well folks those glorious blank pages beckon. Diary entry coming up.

Mx

The gifts that keep giving

Just a quick post today. A follow up to ‘Gifted’. Thanks again to my iron casserole and Anna Jones recipe book – ‘One pot, pan, planet’ – here’s what I rustled up for lunch.

Doesn’t filo pastry make cooking look posh?! This ‘Pea, mint and preserved lemon filo tart’ looked pretty good on the inside too.

I’ll let you into a little secret. My kitchen cupboards do not usually store a jar of preserved lemons so I used fresh lemon rind with a quick squeeze of lemon instead. It still tasted delicious. A green-ish salad – I added a few of a neighbour’s homegrown tomatoes – was the perfect accompaniment. All in all a pleasure to cook and a pleasure to eat.

The left overs will be perfect for quick meals on work days.

Mx

Crossing the road

Good news! My lovely MP Tim Farron sent me a copy of the reply he received to his request from our local bus company. Yes there is indeed a request stop on my outward journey (not shown on the website so no wonder the driver didn’t know) and the drivers have been reminded of this. Yahoo!!! I and others can use the bus to get to lovely little Plumgarths on Crook Road from Kendal. No scary, wibbly wobbly walk needed.

Unfortunately there is no corresponding stop for Plumgarths travelling from Windermere towards Kendal. So there will still be a wibbly wobbly walk home. BUT hero that he is Mr Farron has not finished. He is pushing for the infrastructure (I suspect a crossing) to make a safe stop on the opposite side of the road for the return journey. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime I think I may have to dust off these beauties…

No 1 Daughter sent me a congratulations card for the new job. She couldn‘t have chosen a more apt card.

‚Autumn Hedgehog‘ by Linda Richardson (printed by Orwell Press)

The card is both a hint as to my new employer and also a bit of telepathy on No1 Daughter‘s part. I have – unbeknownst to her – registered for a Cumbria Wildlife Trust online event entitled „Why did the hedgehog cross the road?“. I have previously enjoyed a Cumbria Wildlife event on bees and pollinators in Cumbria. It was fab. I am really looking forward to seeing what Mrs Tiggywinkle is getting up to.

Moke x

P.S. for the one reader expecting a cyclist’s rant, apologies for it‘s non-appearance. The rant was long, oh so long, and dull, watching paint dry would be far more exciting. I decided it would have been completely self indulgent to inflict it on the lovely readers of this here blog … but the next time a motorist beeeeps at me for no good reason …. Grrrrr. ….. Mx

Gifted

I have been a lucky person of late. I have been gifted things that have improved my life no end.

During the Covid lockdowns we gained some new neighbours. And great neighbours they proved to be. Ja and So jumped straight into the neighbourhood efforts to keep everyone – especially the more vulnerable residents – in touch by writing and editing ‘The Surreal Times‘ a superb community newsletter crammed with useful contacts, information, good health ideas, book reviews … the list goes on. But sadly for us Ja and So have moved on. You two are already missed! Sob.

Because they moved themselves they found not everything would fit in their car and that they needed to leave a few bits and bobs behind. I gladly gave them a home. This was not a hardship. These bits and bobs were all useful to me and included a beautiful Le Creuset shallow iron casserole. I know. Amazing. Right?

For years I have wanted a hob to oven pan and now thanks to my erstwhile neighbours I have got one. Thank you Ja and So. The casserole has already been put to good use because I have also recently received just the right cookbook.

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ by Anna Jones was also a gift. A birthday present from my friends AC-K and JC-K. I told you I was lucky!

“One Pot, Pan, Planet“ is actually much more than a cookbook. True it comes with a mouth-watering collection of recipes. The dish in the picture is ‘Broad bean and green herb shakshuka’. It was delicious. The book also brings the reader environmental information – how to eat healthily and sustainably – and gives many ways to help us stop wasting food. It is fascinating and packed full of useful and planet/money-saving tips. I can’t recommend it enough.

They say good things come in threes and sure enough along came gift number three. Good friend JG makes superb small bag sized notebooks from old cartons and postcards.

I love them and use them for shopping and ‘don’t forget to do’ lists. These small hand-stitched notebooks fit perfectly in my teeny tiny handbag along with a pencil. By doing so they bring an element of order to my little old life. But woe is me, I had run out of pages, all the above were full. I sent a plea to JG. And like a book-binding caped crusader (no cape actually worn) she came to the rescue with a new batch.

Phew! The relief. Scribbling can recommence. Toodle-oo for now I feel a shopping list coming on …

Mx

Ripple Effect

Been a busy old week with preparations for my new job rippling as I look into how I will get to my new workplace through the depths of Winter. Shout out here to local MP Tim Farron who has supported my call for a request bus stop nearer to my new employers.

On my way to my interview I discovered that the nearest bus stop was almost a mile from where I needed to be. That would have been great if that meant a stroll along an easy pavement or footpath BUT the walk was along a narrow sliver of vaguely trampled tall grass between a verge and a busy road. It was a very wobbly walk where I needed to step into said busy road in order to walk around the trees. Infact when a police car drove past I thought someone had called me in as inebriated and looking likely to fall in front of traffic!

Walking boots will be needed. It is certainly an unsuitable walk for any less sure footed travellers. Don’t get me wrong I am definitely not calling for the verge to be trampled down or even worse put under tarmac! Eeeek. THE VERGE MUST STAY. It is a wonderful habitat and home to all manner of plants and wildlife. However it should not be ‘home’ to commuters, visitors nor revellers. All that is needed is an extra request bus stop.

If the new stop is possible and is agreed it will benefit not just me but anyone working at or visiting the nearby cafe, small shopping hub and rather splendid hostelry. Never fear I still plan to cycle but when the weather turns nasty – and it inevitably will – it would be lovely to know that there is a snug, safe bus to rely on.

I would not dream of forgetting my trusty steed Hecate, unless of course there are high winds, heavy rain, snow and ice, overwhelming laziness ….

Phew. That was one long, drawn out ripple effect. Here is a much more homely and crafty ripple ready to be picked up.

This is the second baby blanket I have made using this Debbie Bliss pattern designed by Emma Varnam. The first was for my first granddaughter Peanut. It is satisfying to see the ticks appear in my project book as I roll along the rows.

This blanket had to include the colour orange and meant me working with a colour palette I am not used to. I was not sure about it at first but it has really grown on me. It is almost ready for the border and I think that will set it off very nicely.

This is one ripple effect I am pleased to see grow.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

The man who met Yuri Gagarin

Don’t strange and amazing things happen when you travel on trains? Or in my case bus train bus train. They certainly did on my latest trip to Yorkshire to see my family. And here I am curled up in my eldest granddaughter’s bed – rather like Mama Bear sleeping in Baby Bear’s cot – tapping out these few words to tell you all about it.

The journey started in it’s usual peaceful way with me hopping on the 555 Stagecoach bus to Carnforth. I love this bus route, it has to be one of the best in the country. It was comfortingly familiar to be swirling through the glorious green countryside even if the impacts of Covid 19 are still with us. I particularly liked the sign on the open window, got to love a low tech solution to a world pandemic.

Getting off the bus I had a little wait at Carnforth railway station before my train. Time to take a few of my wobbly pics and feel a little sad that Carnforth couldn’t enjoy it’s celebration in 2020 of 75 years since the making of the film “Brief Encounter” in which the station features.

I did notice that Carnforth Station Heritage Centre has re-opened and seemed almost as busy as pre-pandemic. “Brief Encounter” is a film classic adored by many. I have a confession, I don’t like it! I love the station and the Heritage Centre which displays a wealth of social and industrial history. The film however leaves me cold. Perhaps I am being harsh “Brief Encounter” is a creation of it’s time. But controlling men and simpering women do nothing for me.

Moving on before the fans – some of whom are dear friends – turn nasty! I also had a chance to look at some of the posters that adorned the walls of my platform. They have been there a while and I had begun to overlook them. They are really good. Here are a couple. These celebrate the RSPB nature reserve at Leighton Moss. I will try and share the rest next time I am at the station.

So far so normal journey to Yorkshire. Things began to change when I got to Skipton and I hopped aboard my second bus of the day the 64 to Ilkley (the X84 no longer seems to run from Skipton straight through to my daughter’s village. Grrr). It was full of people and happy chattering filled the air. My phone rang. It was a call I really really had to take.

“Pardon? … What?” I mumbled to the caller, muffled by the face mask I was still sort of trying to wear. “Sorry I can’t…quite…hear you” I continued with my finger pressed in my free ear trying hard to concentrate on what the caller was saying. “ I HAVE THE JOB?!!!” I almost shouted with glee (frankly I am surprised that the bus didn’t give me a cheer as I was so loud everyone must have heard). Well I had got the job and I said YES straight away. It was a marvellous moment in the strangest setting.

What I am up to and who I will be working for will have to wait. But hopefully the coming months will be filled with wonderful information about my new employer. Don’t worry it’s not MI5 … although I would say that wouldn’t I?

This journey was definitely out of the ordinary. First the job offer then I met a man who had met Yuri Gagarin. Honestly I am not with MI5. Or am I?

As I got off the bus at Ilkley to catch the train to Burley In Wharfedale I got chatting – as you do – to a lovely man. He told me about how he had met his wife. For my money this was a much better romance than that in the aforementioned film. It all started when he met Yuri Gagarin.

In 1961 at the height of the Cold War Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – the first person to travel in outer space – was visiting Britain. He crossed paths with my gentleman when they were both visiting an art exhibition.

Gagarin was a huge celebrity at the time and attracted very large crowds everywhere he went. During this visit he was threatened with being crushed under the weight of people wanting to touch the man who had been in space. My fine fellow had linked arms with the cosmonaut’s KGB guard to protect the spaceman. Gagarin had been pushed against him and thankful for his services had shared some time with him and even pressed into his hand his medal for space travel so my gent could have a good look at it.

Where’s the girl? We are not quite there yet. My friendly chap told me that meeting the Soviets made him realise that, despite the propaganda, the Russians were just ordinary people not the monsters they were portrayed as being. He became curious. But it was hard to find out anything positive about the Soviet Union in those chilly days so he decided he would have to visit Russia. Ah so he met a Russian girl and they lived happily ever after. Not so fast my friends.

Why did he share his tale with me? It was because of my connection with the Lake District. Didn’t see that coming did you? Before going to Russia this charming friendly man had gone hill walking in the Lakes and been talking to fellow hikers about the lack of information on the Soviet Union. He was pointed in the direction of a young woman. Unusual for the times she had spent some months in Russia learning about the people and culture.

Yes you are right this was ‘the one’. They met and after what I gathered was a whirlwind romance he proposed to her on Cat Bells (a popular fell to the west of Derwentwater in Cumbria) and they did live happily ever after. Poignantly his lovely wife died only a short time ago. I think this is why he told me their beautiful story too. It was a way of remembering happy days and passing on his wife’s memory.

We did not exchange names and I hope that anyone who may recognise this tale will forgive me any errors I have made in the re-telling. It was a heart warming story of love and also of gaining understanding through learning about those we have been led to fear. This kindly man’s story further lifted my already high spirits. I hope it lifts yours too.

As I relate this I realise I had my own brief encounter! And on that bookend I will bid you adieu.

Until next we meet,

Moke x

PS I may have been ‘tipped the wink’ about the job offer as one of my fantastic references KC had text me while I was on the Skipton train to say she had been contacted by my new employer. Big thanks KC for what must have been an amazing reference. 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