Friday, 16 February 2018

Foraging Lessons - Part I

We had a very interesting speaker at one of our WI meetings last year. I get the impression that most of the women don't follow up on any of these talks, but I have gotten good value by doing so. The speaker was from Wild North Discovery and he talked about foraging for food. I took his card, meaning to look into it further.

I didn't think of it again much until casting about for Christmas gifts for Bill. He has most of what he wants and if he doesn't he just buys it. Unlike me, who makes lists and waits...

I bought a membership for each of us, knowing he wouldn't be keen on going by himself. And anyhow, I was really interested in it as well. We both enjoy foraging for berries and the like and Bill likes being outdoors, so I figured it was worth a shot.

We had our first meeting on Sunday. We gathered at St. Mary's Lighthouse on a day when pouring rain was predicted. He just told us to dress accordingly in waterproofs. Also to bring a notebook, a camera and a stick. 

About 15 people showed up and checked in, about an hour before low tide. We went clambering around on the slippery rocks, following him around. He showed us several kinds of seaweed: I remember bladder wrack and something like serrated wrack, kelp, lavar and perhaps sea lettuce and pepper dulse? Not sure how many of these I'd recognise again, probably the bladder wrack. 

He told us we wouldn't likely find razor shells or cockles on this rocky beach but showed us the shells and talked about how to cook them. He explained the difference between bi-valves and grazers. I was fascinated to learn about limpets. I always thought they were barnacles, but barnacles don't move and limpets do, to feed. He pointed out the bald places on the rocks near the clusters of limpets, indicating they had eaten the vegetation that covered most other rocks. Who knew limpets had teeth? I was just grateful they could cling to rocks so well; they helped me not slide around so much.

Those three bumps are limpets...and perhaps a bit of bird poo?

We got lucky with the weather, with just a light shower at one point. The sun was out for a good while at the beginning and the end, but for all that it was perishing cold! And guess who forgot to bring a hat (Bill - though he had a hood) and who didn't think of running gloves, only that dress gloves would hamper writing and photographing. I made do with stretching the long sleeves on my wool cardigan. I also discovered that a waterproof that covers ones rear end and has stuffed pockets makes navigating through slippery rocks and knee-high crevices very hard for this short person.

That straight edge on the right in the beige stuff has a tiny row of teeth!

Bruce is a mine of useful information. Whether I'd ever get Bill to eat 'squidgy stuff' (his words) like limpets or winkles, I'd bet not; I'm pretty sure we'll go foraging for some seaweed at some point, though! We were told not to gather on that day as there were so many of us we could wipe out the resources there and 'sustainability' is part of our lessons.

Our next gathering isn't until spring and it's somewhere in a forest. I'm really looking forward to it!

St Mary's Lighthouse, built 1898 on the site of an 11th century monastic chapel. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part III

So, what about Clara? Well, let me introduce you to her:

Her name is Clara.

She was right next to the clock that I bought and I knew it was love at first sight for Bill. I was rather taken with her myself, but I probably wouldn't have brought her home just for me. I doubted he would purchase her either, but as his 70th birthday is this March, splashing out for something special seemed a good idea.

I asked the man his best price on her before I purchased the clock. He took a bit off both and I took him up on them, feeling quite pleased with the deal. Also, his tables were in aide of a Veterans' organisation, apparently, so that was good as well.

Dancing certainly has kept her fit, hasn't it?

Last month I was darning my cashmere socks, sewing the elastic back on my underwear, we've been eating down the freezers and cupboards and I had a dry January; but I'm prepared to spend a bit on things I really like that I think will hold their value.

When we unpacked our goodies I asked Bill what was her name. He suggested Ola (my Grandmother who was very flapper-like in her attitudes when young, I'm sure) but I thought Ola sounded more turn-of-the-last-century hillbilly country. We tried Olga (Grandmother's improvement on her original name), but that didn't seem right either. My other grandmother was named Clara, and so Clara she became. Still a bit old fashioned, but it seems to have stuck. 

I tried her in several places, but Bill thought she looked happiest in the corner where Mom's chiming clock used to be. 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part II

We went back to the Fleamarket on Sunday, in large part to observe how it might have changed. When I first moved here Saturday's market was more of a yard sale / car boot sale thing. I bought kitchen stuff - plates, cutlery, pots and pans - to use until my possessions arrived from the States. I found an old crockpot, a standard lamp and any number of useful items on Saturdays. 

Sundays were more about collectables: fancy china sets, very weird WWII memorabilia (Nazi stuff even), tons of costume jewellery sellers. There were still book stalls on a Sunday, so that if I didn't get to the library before noon on Saturday, when it - and every other business I needed - shut, I could buy paperbacks for 25p (they are at least £1 now, but still a bargain).

The market has changed a lot in recent years to something much more upmarket. There are very few tables that sell old household goods and I saw none with any old electrical items. There is a wide array of (incredibly tempting) ethnic fast foods. There are up-cycled goods, such as wood items made from pallets or gorgeous bags and jackets made from re-cycled wool, tweed and leather. There are loads of handmade jewellery stalls, funky crafted items, stalls specialising in 'coastal' home decor. There are still some second hand clothing stalls, but the prices are higher than in thrift shops; then again, the merchandise is carefully curated. Bill likes the stall that sells fancy Failsworth flat caps in a patchwork of several Harris tweeds. I like the garden centre in the back corner. 

In short, it's a fabulous place in which to empty your pockets, one reason we don't visit often. So we went mainly to observe the changes (and to look for candle holders). I would say it was about 70% the same sellers. There was a bit more empty space on Sunday than on Saturday - but still plenty to browse. 

We found some glass candle sticks at the first table we came to, but in the interest of observing, made the entire rounds again. When we returned, we gave the lady £7 for the pair and for a small lidded sugar bowl. None are ideal, but will do for the time being. I think these clear glass candle sticks came from a 'bedroom set'. I never saw such a thing in the States, but they are still easily found at flea markets here. These sets consisted of a tray, a couple of glass bowls (with or without lids) and two candle holders. They were meant to be on a ladies chest of drawers or perhaps a dressing table. I'm not sure when they went out of fashion.

I had an idea when we got home and made this arrangement using two seld0m used flower vases (one I gave Mom, one that was Bill's mother's). The two candle holders on those upturned vases belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa. The shortest one came from some previous trip to the market long ago. I added it to the recent purchase to made an odd number. This is something I've only learned since retiring, that somehow odd numbers make a more pleasing design. 

The candle arrangement looks a bit mental, I know, but that's part of the fun. We smile when we see it and the cut glass looks rather nice when the candles are lit. Pity my camera / photography skills aren't likely up to capturing it. 

I'm not really a candle person, actually, other than at dinner. I used to like all the paraphernalia of pyromania but my asthma is not always amenable to perfume-y smells and I'm paranoid about house fires. We probably have a lifetime supply of tea lights for various kitschy souvenirs from holidays on the front porch. I expect tea lights are relatively safe, but I never think to light them.

On my 'wish list' for new skills, however, is to learn to make candles - dipped candles, even, at home (and soap, too!). I'll be sure to let you know if that ever happens...

Thursday, 8 February 2018

10 Years Today!

It just occurred to me to check the date and, sure enough, it was 10 years ago that I started writing this blog. Naturally I am away in Harrogate with only my tablet...

There are so many blogs I have read and commented on (and whose writers have commented here) that are no more.  I am feeling a tiny bit smug at not having given up.

Long ago someone told me the way to stack up experience:  don't quit and don't die.

I shall do my best to follow that sage advice!

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Clara, the Clock and the Candles - Part I

This last Saturday Bill suggested we visit the Tynemouth Fleamarket. We used to go quite often but haven't in months. Bill's kids seem to enjoy browsing there, but I don't tend to go unless I'm looking for something specific. [Warning, this post rambles...]

A few months back we fell into the habit of eating breakfast in the dining room (as opposed to in the kitchen or in bed), using the 'good' Noritake china (which we use for dinner every night of late), our wedding silverware and some silver metal tea/coffee pots that belonged to Bill's mom. The cereals are decanted into glass jars, milk served in jugs (we each have our own) and other foods into non-commercial containers. I got this idea years ago from a blog called Like Merchant Ships. This lady stopped blogging abruptly, but posts occasionally on Tumblr. I thought she'd taken down her blog - I grieved it for months - and now I've found it again! The links don't work and some of the photos are gone, but the basic ideas are still there. She calls this decanting idea part of 'living on less'; I call it 'living better'. Beats the heck out of any fast food breakfast experience I know.

Anyhow, because of setting a fancy breakfast table - it looks great on the days when the sun streams in the window - with silver items, Bill decided the brass candle holder we bought years ago in a Whitby thrift shop didn't look right any more.

We went shopping to see if we could find any silver (glass, ceramic?) candle holders. We were also looking for a sugar bowl with a lid to hold coffee granules. Bill drinks tea at breakfast and I drink instant coffee. We both love improvising (a fancy word for 'making do'). He came up with putting my instant coffee in a short cocktail glass I bought at a brocante in Bourdeaux about five years ago. He provided me with an Apostle Spoon to dish out the small amount of coffee required for a proper cup instead of my usual mug. I always think of Mom when using a cup and saucer; mugs weren't something she ever had. I think they must have taken over after she was gone.

Never heard of Apostle Spoons? Me neither. I still forget and call them Pilgrim Spoons for some reason. Apparently the idea of a set in a nice little case has been around for hundreds of years and these sets are very rare. We seem to only have two...  You can read about Apostle Spoons here, if you wish. [I donated to Wikipedia when they last had out their hat, did you?]

Anyhow, the cocktail glass was only amusing for a few uses and with our damp climate coffee left in it absorbed moisture and hardened. The to-ing and fro-in of coffee between coffee jar and cocktail glass became tedious. So a sugar bowl with a lid was on the shopping list; the one we have actually contains sugar...

I was also looking for a small clock to put on the landing, where we watch TV. I don't own a functioning watch anymore, but we are trying to stop watching the telly and start getting ready for bed at 10 pm sharp. I may be slightly more determined than Bill but it was a nuisance to keep asking him the time. So I wanted a clock.

We found no suitable lidded dish or candle sticks on Saturday, but I did find a clock I loved. It is a French 8-day, Art Deco clock that actually requires winding, possibly the only 'real' clock in the station that day. The website below recommended winding it once a week, on the same day of the week. I let my clock wind down and then re-set it on a Sunday. It was odd, winding it up, as there was increasing resistance with each turn of the key. It was a bit scary! One thing I did notice, it is a solid lump of wood, with space for the clock works carved out and the marquetry added to the front. 

It needs a bit of cleaning, the inside looks a bit grubby and the back plate might look better if polished up (or perhaps that's just worn, I'll find out). Not sure what I might do with the wood, but this amazing website recommends beeswax polish, which we likely have (according to Bill).  If this horologist wasn't all the way down by London I'd be calling in with Mom's old clock.

I'm guessing this is brass, no idea if it will polish up... or not; I'm not fussed. Love the shape of the clock!

Writing this led me Google clock repair near Newcastle and I found a couple of possibilities - who says blogging is a waste of time?

Bill wants to put the clock in the living room, as since Mom's clock quit working we have no time piece in there. I follow his logic, but I'm enjoying the clock where it is now, on the book case. I'd rather have Mom's chiming clock repaired and replaced downstairs. I'll let you know if that happens in my lifetime.

Needs a bit of cleaning, but NO BATTERIES in sight! Only something about '2 jewels'.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Playing in My Jewellery Box

Well, I don't actually have a jewellery box. That is to say I have several, but nothing that comes close to holding all my swag. Like my sewing stash, my jewellery collection has come to me from several female relatives; mostly from my Aunt Rita who must have been one of Oklahoma's reigning queens of maximalism.  Lest you think I'm bragging, I hasten to add that 99% of it is costume. And probably 80% doesn't particularly suit me. But where's the fun without a challenge?

I usually play in my closet. Some of my closet games include:

- Colour of the Month (I had to wear that colour every day)
- Still My Colour? (when I returned to blonde from red hair)
- Let's Do Data Analysis!
- First Thing on the Left (make an outfit with it); I've played this game for about 30 years. Variations on it include
     - Wear All My Tops
     - Wear All My Jackets/Cardigans
     - Wear All My Dresses/Trousers
     - Wear All My Scarves

So, I thought it about time I played Wear All My Jewellery. This is no mean feat given the sheer volume of the stuff. 

I could open a Vintage Jewellery Shoppe, specialising in the 1980s over-sized earrings.

Having tons of jewellery (I paid for excess baggage weight on the trip home, in spite of filling three mens' carry on luggage) means I've needed to use some imagination to store it a way that lets me see what I have. Strangely, once I did that, I sort of lost interest. I'd forgotten about this shelf Bill put up for me. I was frightened to hang too much for fear of ripping it off the wall. Forgive the terrible photos, I took them back in 2011, not that the date is any excuse.

So, for my 2018 game I've started with brooches, many of which are pinned to a crocheted belt, another item I inherited from Rita (Jack said, take anything you want, it's all going to a charity shop, or something similar; I filled my suitcases and then some. Grief makes us do funny things). Anyhow, the game for these goes 'top to bottom' as for which comes next. 

Probably most of these are ones I've worn in the last year or so.
There are plenty of others somewhere.

I loved brooches when I wore suits, back in the Dark Ages. They were part of my 'signature'. I still like them, but they are hard on knitted garments (they weren't very nice to my closely woven jacket lapels, now I think of it). I read a tip about having a square make-up sponge on the inside  of a blouse or sweater will help take the weight off the fabric. I don't own one, but have folded up some fabric bits into a similar size and this seems to be working OK. I'm also thinking that some steel wool might help sharpen some of the pins a bit as well.

This is mostly black necklaces; there are hangers for white, silver, gold and colours...

Monday night I wore a red-eyed leopard on my red jumper to our Book Group meeting, but it was my secret as the pub was so chilly my coat never came off. 

The day before, my brooch had an oval - possibly abalone - stone of bright blues framed in a pewter coloured metal in a delicate filigree. I chose a long sleeved blue tee shirt (it happened to be the first on the left, but the rule for this game is the first thing of the right colour starting at the left). A grey vest (tank top) went underneath for warmth. Black and cream plaid trousers, a black wool cardigan and black shoes completed my outfit. I never left the house, but that is entirely beside the point. 

The main point - just to be clear - is that as long as I'm wearing each thing I own it is unlikely I will get bored with what I have. I don't guarantee never to buy any more jewellery, but at least I'll be very clear about what gap it is filling. 

Earrings on wine glasses: silver on the right, colours on the left. Two chocolate
boxes and one tea towel hold the rest of the earrings.

Today I'm wearing a green-eyed leopard with taupe jeans and long sleeved tee and a cream coloured wool cardigan. The green pieces will be the hardest as I don't have any green in my wardrobe, but one day I may rectify that if I find the right green.

Rita loved animal prints.

Three brooches have not made the cull: two because they have missing stones and one because it isn't at all 'me'. It is a hand crafted piece that is very clever, made by one of my craftiest friends. I appreciated the thought, but felt silly wearing it. It went in a charity bag (along with most of Bill's ties) and I'm hoping someone else will love it. The two with missing stones have gone into a small wooden chest, one of several my Mom had from the 1930s or 40s. I have a plan for that chest...but that is another post.

As games go, I realise this isn't particularly exciting. Then again, I have been told I'm easily pleased. I'm pretty sure it wasn't intended as such, but I took it as a big complement.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A Clasp Purse

I still, after 20+ years, get confused about what to call things. I alternate between calling my 'handbag' (what seems a rather old-fashioned-what-the-Queen-carries term), my bag and my purse. I lean towards the latter most of the time. However, according to Bill, my purse properly refers to the thing which holds my money. Since I use an item made of wool that belonged to Bill's mother, I can't use the word I always did in the States, when I carried a 'billfold', with compartments for credit cards and a check (cheque - another term whose spelling I haven't absorbed). It's not really a big deal, though on the odd occasion when I ask Bill to fetch my purse and I get a mini-lecture. 

A-n-y-h-o-w, our craft group made one of these clasp purses (sometimes it is called a 'kissing' clasp; looks closer to a hug to me, but never mind) and I'm inordinately pleased with mine. I don't very often join in with their projects, as I prefer to make practical items rather than stuff to hang on the wall. I don't consider myself particularly artistic in the way that many of those ladies are, though several will tell you they don't have original ideas, the only copy; I can identify with this. My main area of creativity seems to be frugality, where I solve 'problems' by using materials in fairly peculiar ways. However, this project is refreshingly normal.

The clasps are available on Ebay I'm told. The lady leading this project had bought some and we purchased them from her. I used the first piece of elegant upholstery-weight fabric I came across, paired with some crepe fabric that looked suitable as a sturdy lining.

We were given a pattern based on the clasps provided, but the advice for using a differently shaped clasp was to trace the top of the clasp, draw a line at a 45 degree angle from the corner (which looks like a shoulder to me) down until it is even with the hinge. The shape below the clasp can be anything you like. One lady incorporated a gorgeous pineapple pattern in her brocade, making a long oblong shape. These clasps were rather larger than the one on Ella's wool purse, big enough for me to easily get my hand all the way through. These clasps come with two small loops for attaching a strap if you wish.

We cut two patterns for each of the outside and lining fabric (a front and a back) and stitched them right sides together leaving several inches open at what would be the bottom of the bag, on order to turn them. Some of us made boxed corners before turning our bags right side out through the gap we left. Pressing at every stage is important.

The fiddly bit is of course attaching the clasp. We were told we could use large fold back clips or baste the cloth in place. I did the latter. The metal has a u-shaped gap and with the fabric lined up with the shape of the clasp I shoved it into the gap and used sturdy thread to sew through the fabric and around the top of the clasp all the way around on both sides. 

Then we used three strands of embroidery thread to back stitch through each hole, taking care to keep stitches as hidden as possible. I had thought a curved needle would be easier but it proved rather unwieldy. That is until I came to finishing off a length of thread when I wanted to just loop the thread a couple of times under the clasp. A straight needle goes through just fine but it was hard to get it to come out of the U-shape to pull it through. Switching to the curved needle at that point did seem easier. 

It does take a bit of time to all this, but it's not terribly difficult. I can see me making several of these for gifts and it seems a great way to use some of my more luxurious fabrics.