Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen

Anyone out there remember Ren and Stimpy?

  We've been rewatching this weird and wonderful cartoon and were reminded of this brilliant song. I have taught myself to play it on the ukulele so now I can play as I sing along!

The beauty of this clip is that the second part does that "sing along with Mitch" bouncing ball so everyone can join in! hoorah!

happy new year!

As a bonus I also give you the advert for LOG!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

We wish you a hairy Christmas

Look at this amazing free software you can get on we use it at school in ICT and I've just had a go at it and look what I've done:
click on me to see my hairy red legs up close!

This is a photo of Frida and her first cricket. I have dolled them up for Christmas.

It has been a spider-y sort of Christmas for us (to be fair, when is it not a spider-y sort of time) because yesterday we received a *lovely* hand made spider ornament from my cousin Julie and her family. It was attached to the legend of the Christmas Spider. If you don't know this story you can read a version of it here: it is a sweet story of how spiders created the first tinsel with the help of the Christ Child (or Santa depending on the version) We have several illustrated copies of this wonderful tale in our spider book collection.

It was such a thoughtful surprise and now hangs in a place of honour on our tree. One can never have too many spider decorations, I always say.

Thank you Julie, Chris, Taylor, Madison and Natalie for our lovely spider!

Happy Christmas everyone!

PS here's a good ole cracker joke to get you in the holiday spirit:
Q: What happens to you if you eat too much Christmas tinsel?
A: You get tinselitis!
Boom boom!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Share the love (or at least the chocolate)

Yesterday was the last day of school until the new year--I was wondering if the world would end as the Mayans predicted and then I'd never get to see the Christmas episode of Doctor Who, which would be a real shame. Luckily, we're all still here and so now I can relax and look forward to a bit of the old sonic screwdriver and a new companion for the Doctor. Woohoo!

I also tend to get lots of gifts from children. Much of the time I get milk chocolate that we won't eat because we're vegan. It is a really thoughtful gesture from children who love me and I would never want to act like I don't want it as it would hurt their feelings. But what am I to do with boxes full of milk chocs?

Well, I think gestures are important. It is a kind and loving gesture for a child to give me something sweet so I try to turn it around and share the love with others. After the last day of school, I tally up all the treats we can't eat and divide them into decorated bags and give them out to people who make a difference in my life.

There are many places in town where the people know me and always chat with me when I am there. The public library (where I am right now typing this post) provides me with books and free computer time plus films and CDs as well as a friendly staff who always say hello and help me locate books.

The greengrocers where the people know me well and save back spotty bananas or fennel for me because they know I like them. We have a running joke about them trying give me a bag as I am a notorious bag refuser and will bring a sad, taped up, wrinkled paper bag to reuse several times until it falls apart. Then and only then can they give me a new bag.

The bowl people at the market. This is our favourite fruit and veg stall, run by a friendly husband and wife. We get a bowl of bananas, apples and oranges from them every Saturday as well as other things, but since we buy the Trinity (as the 3 major fruits are known) in bowls we have dubbed them the bowl people. They are lovely and chatty and he always says "and all the best to you, guv'nor" when he gives you your change.

The nice couple who run the haberdashery stall at the market. They keep me in thread and buttons and ribbon and felt and anything you need. They have been kind enough to save back remnants that were damaged and unsellable but still usable for me to take home.

These people make my life infinitely better. They are people who bring lots of joy into my life and it is very nice at Christmas to share a little gesture that says THANKS.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The serenade I am least likely to forget

I run an after school drama club for the munchkins at my school. Today, at the end I was serenaded with the most glorious graphic song I have heard in ages.

Happy birthday to you
Stick your head down the loo
Don't open up your mouth 'cause
There might be some poo!

I laughed as hard as they did and I was really touched by their love and enthusiasm.

Well someone has to be.

Dream On

Last night, in anticpation for my birthday today I had a dream that Spiderman had taught all of the tarantulas to do a Mexican Wave. They were all in sync and it was a fantastic sight. When I woke up, I was slightly disapointed because it would have been a neat trick. but as Spiderman said, "Dream on."

We were talking about our plans for tonight and I was so excited about watching The Muppet's Christmas Carol for the umteenth time. Spiderman jokingly said, "Ok but this year the rule is no blubbing." Ha! "Dream on!" I replied. How can a person watch that film without crying? You'd have to have a heart of stone to hear the words "I see a vacant chair by the fireplace and a crutch without an owner. If these shadows remain unaltered I believe the child will die." I am the most frightful blubberbox every time they show that scene after Tiny Tim dies (and even though I know perfectly well, that he doesn't actually die in the end, the scene is so sad it breaks my heart.) The Muppets do it best with the lines at the end of the show:
Rizzo: and Tiny Tim?
Gonzo as Charles Dickens: And tiny Tim....who did NOT die!
Rizzo: Aww, gee that's swell!

Because that's how it feels every year--the relief in knowing that Scrooge had a change of heart and that Tiny Tim did not die makes me feel, as Scrooge says, "as light as a feather, as merry as a school boy."

Tonight I will have sweet dreams after warm, comforting soup and chocolate mint pudding and a lovely film and a beautifully decorated tree knowing I am loved so much. Dream On. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

On the first day of my birthday my true love gave to me...

My birthday is actually tomorrow. I will be 43 which seems incredibly hard to grasp as I still feel like a kid inside. As my mum says "I have a highly developed sense of playfulness." Spiderman, who loves me more than words clearly doesn't mind that I enjoy being a kid and taking pleasure in simple activities. I am easily entertained by coloured lights or other "magical" experiences.

Spiderman has been giving me gifts every day since last week for my birthday. Little treats here and there to make me smile. He gets a lot of pleasure in planning surprises and I get a lot of pleasure receiving surprises so we are equally matched on the front.

The first present he gave me was SNOW. OK, I realise he didn't actually make it snow, but it snowed and the ground was all frosted like a wedding cake when we woke up last week. He left for school around 7:00am and I was to follow shortly (I was still getting dressed and needed to say my morning prayers) and he said,
Spiderman:  "Now little kitten, don't frolic too long in the snow!"
Me:  "Don't worry! I am just going to make some footprints and make some designs in the snow. I love being the first one in the snow!"
Spiderman: "I'll see you about 9:00 then, shall I?"

Well, I only took about 15 minutes, but I had a wonderful time by myself. First when I walked out the door I walked in his foot steps and pretended to be the Page in Good King Wenceslas. You know...In his master's step he trod, where the snow lay dinted and all that. But his strides were too long so I quickly gave up having legs like a dachshund. Then I walked in all different ways--close steps, far steps, wide steps, narrow steps, toes pointed out, toes pointed in steps. I like to look back and see what the steps look like. then i wrote my name in the snow (not by widdling) but with a stick and then I tried to make bird tracks to make it look like Big Bird from Sesame Street had been walking by. Because there are few things funnier than bird tracks in the snow. FACT.


The next day my true love gave to me a music stand. What a thoughtful way to make my ukulele playing so much better! I feel like a professional musician! It is wonderful to not have to perch precariously on the edge of the bed whilst trying to read the sheet music laid out on the dresser. I have had such fun playing since then. he also assures me that a songbook of ukulele tunes is on its way from Helen Arney--the wonderful geek songstress who got my playing the uke in the first place! It won't be shipped until the 13th of December so I'll have it by next week I hope!

On the next day of my birthday my true love gave to me an autographed picture of  actress Carey Mulligan  who played Sally Sparrow in the best Dr Who episode Blink. Don’t look at the Weeping Angel behind her….
On the next day of my birthday my true love gave to me a trip to the PANTO! I *love* going to a pantomime! I love that the lead boy is played by a woman and the lead woman is played by a man. I love the singing and the corny jokes and the shouting at the actors. I love to boo the baddie and cheer for the goodie. I take audience participation to a whole new level. I am out there, giving it all that just like a kid, shouting “Look out! He’s behind you!”  Spiderman does not seem to share my love of this type of theatre. He is not the shouty type whereas I go home with a sore throat every time. Despite not digging the pantomime scene as much as I do, he took me to Stevenage to see Robin Hood and it was the best one I’ve seen in *ages*! I had such fun! He doesn’t even really mind when I poke him excitedly in the arm-poke poke poke poke! because a good bit is coming up. That’s what pantos are like—the stories are the same, only the jokes change. I never get tired of it. God bless him for taking me.

On the next day of my birthday my true love gave to me an autographed picture of actor Burt Kwouk (mostly known as Cato in the Pink Panther films) but loved by me as Major Yamouchi in charge of the POW camp in the grippingly realistic telly series TENKO.  

Well, today is Monday and I am told that a copy of L. Frank Baum's book of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is winging its way here way from Amazon. This is an amazing book by the author of my beloved Wizard of Oz!

Tomorrow is my actual birthday. We always settle in with a nice warm bowl of leek and potato soup, put up the Christmas tree and watch the Muppet's Christmas Carol. I look forward to it every year. I like the anticipation almost as much as I like the actual birthday and Spiderman has given me loads to look forward to.

Thank you, my true love.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Meet Minou

I am the luckiest person in the world. FACT. I have incredibly talented and generous friends who make my life a pleasure. Look at this *adorable* cat made by my friend Lena.

View from the top--look at that cute winter hat!

View from the bottom--look at the detail on her jumper(sweater)

 Isn’t she the sweetest little thing? Look at that face. You just want to make googly eyes at it and say things like “Awwww…you are so cute!” in a silly voice. She made this wee cat out of a pair of SOCKS. Seriously, SOCKS. How clever is she? Answer: Very.

She assures me it was easy and didn’t take her very long, but she would say that because she is mega talented.

The funniest thing was Minou was supposed to be my birthday present, but Lena was so excited she could not wait three weeks to give her to me. I can totally identify with that feeling. I am the most impatient person when it comes to gift giving. I want to give it to you NOW--who cares Christmas is a month away. I love it and want you to have it.

The thing I love the most is that she made it herself. We both agree that a handmade gift is one where you have put a bit of yourself into--your heart and your love. It is personal and shows great thought and care.  This is probably why I care for Lena so much--she’s a girl after my own heart.

Thank you Lena, for Minou and for being my friend and for being impatient. It is the best early birthday gift I could have asked for.



Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Giving Thanks

Today is the American holiday of Thanksgiving. I never could convince my Texas grandmother that this wasn’t a world wide holiday. Every year, she would marvel at the fact that we don’t celebrate it here. She always had that note of skepticism in her voice that made me think she didn’t believe me even after I reminded her of the origins of the holiday.

Our friend Karen sent us this e-card. I love it so much as that is what we would be eating if we did celebrate Thanksgiving here.
Thanksgiving Greetings from the Vegetable Kingdom
click on it to make it bigger  if you can't read it
But there are many things I am thankful for even if I am not celebrating in the traditional sense.  One of things I am thankful for is being a vegan. It means so much to be doing the best thing for my health, preventing animal suffering and helping save the planet—all things God can be proud of.  So in the words of my favourite vegan poet Benjamin Zephaniah here is what makes me thankful:

I am what you see

I’ve got no bodies inside me

All of me is me

I will not eat nobody else

So I am what you see

I do not plan to eat dead sheep

I will not eat a hen

I’m so proud of what I am

So I will say again

I’ve got no bodies inside me

All of me is me

I will not eat nobody else

So I am what you see



Saturday, 17 November 2012

High as the proverbial kite

One of my favourite guilty pleasures is singing along to Afroman’s song Because I Got High. It follows the hapless journey of a man who has good intentions, but then gets high and doesn’t manage to get anything done. It features lyrics such as:

I was gonna clean my room until I got high
I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high
My room is still messed up and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I was gonna go to class before I got high
I coulda cheated and I coulda passed but I got high
I am taking it next semester and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I was gonna go to court before I got high
I was gonna pay my child support but then I got high
They took my whole paycheck and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

I wasnt gonna run from the cops but I was high
I was gonna pull right over and stop but I was high
Now I am a paraplegic and I know why

'cause I got high
'cause I got high
'cause I got high

  SIDE NOTE: I love this last verse because it reminds me of a Chris Rock public service announcement that reminds you if the police have to come and get you, they're bringing an ass kickin' with them.”
Silent Bob and Jay
 The video was directed by indy film maker Kevin Smith features Jay and Silent Bob in the background getting high with Afro Man. Jay and Silent Bob (who is, indecently, played by Kevin Smith) are my favourite stoners since Cheech and Chong.
click on this to read the full horror of the text

What are you trying to say here, Spidergrrl? That you have a secret smoking habit? Don’t worry, man. I’m clean. I’ve seen the film Reefer Madness and I know what happens when you smoke Mary Jane. You play the piano in a manic fashion and waggle your eyebrows a lot. FACT.

Spiderman and I have recently been re-watching our DVD box set of the Granada telly series of Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett. Brett captures the angularity of Holmes so well that it drove him to a nervous breakdown because he was so absorbed in the part. We all know Holmes had a weakness for a 7% solution of cocaine injected into his veins. Watson was always troubled by his friend’s addiction and was forever furrowing his brow and tutting when he spotted Holmes’ syringe and vial of poison.

So we got to thinking. What if Afro Man wrote a song about Sherlock Holmes? We thought it would go something like this:

I was gonna solve the case until I got high.
I was gonna give some criminals chase but then I got high.
Watson’s giving me the stink eye and I know why

‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high.

I was off the Scotland Yard but then I got high.
I wrote the murderer down on this card but then I got high.
Now they’ve arrested the wrong man and I know why

‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high
‘Cause I got high

So there you go. This is what we spend our life doing. What a load of nonsense.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remember me

This year Remembrance Day (the 11th of November) actually falls on Remembrance Sunday. In the UK we use this day to remember all those who died in wars past. This day was chosen as it is the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the First World War at 11 a.m. in 1918. All over the UK at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we stand for a two minute silence. Everywhere you go at 11:00, everything comes to a stand still as we remember those who have fallen.

I have many to remember as my dearest friend is currently in the US military and growing up I was very close to a man who had been at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed.

In the UK, everyone wears a red poppy to show your support. They are made by disabled veterans--I've even been on a field trip to the poppy making factory.

According to Wikipedia:

The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war.

Quakers often wear the white poppy also called the Peace Poppy. This is to help us work for a more peaceful future where war may not happen.

According to Peace Pledge Union:
The idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.
A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.
The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the ‘Haig Fund’ imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild. In 1933 the first white poppies appeared on Armistice Day (called Remembrance Day after World War Two). The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers - but a challenge to the continuing drive to war. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union began widespread distribution of the poppies and their annual promotion.

The purple poppy is there to remember all of the animals who lost their lives in wars.

According to Animal Aid:

Throughout the history of human conflicts, animals have been victims of war.

During World War I, dogs and pigeons were used to deliver messages between frontline trenches and further afield. Horses, donkeys and even elephants have been routinely used as beasts of burden, while a shocking array of animals – from bears to deer – have been kept as pets in the midst of battle.

Today, animals continue to be used in the battlefield to detect explosives, and thousands suffer and die each year in laboratories, infected with biological or chemical agents, or deliberately shot or otherwise damaged.

To commemorate all the animal victims, Animal Aid has issued a purple poppy, which can be worn alongside the traditional red one, as a reminder that both humans and animals have been – and continue to be – victims of war.

On behalf of Quaker Concern For Animals our Meeting House is laying a wreath with purple poppies at the war memorial in town.

I tend to wear the red twined with the white but next year I plan to also get a purple and wear them all. We must look backwards and  remember them all and then look forwards and see that it never happens again.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

The Oz character time forgot

We were in class the other day trying to teach kids about the 4 directional points on a compass.

The children had managed to come up with N stands for North and S stands for South. We were struggling to elicit a correct response for E and W. After some considerable time a child came up with East. So the teacher winked at me and asked the class how many children had seen The Wizard of Oz. Many hands were raised and we both thought this was a good sign.

So the teacher said: "The Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the ......."

Suddenly a child piped up, "I know! I know! The Wicked Witch of the East and the Wicked Witch of the Wales!"

After we recovered from laughing, we managed to explain that the answer we were actually going for was West, but well done for trying. Plus Wales is actually in the West, so she was partly right.

So there you have it. The character Baum never got around to writing about. The Wicked Witch of Wales, who was probably named Myfanwy or another name that would net you lots of points in scrabble. Well it would  if they allowed names, which they don't. But they should. 

I'll never look at Margaret Hamilton the same way again.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Eat Me

Very few things makes me angrier than cartoon animals who act like they want to be eaten. I hate false advertising--often aimed at children--that shows happy farms and happy animals who would like nothing better but to end upon your plate

I recently picked up a free magazine from the our local Health Food Shop. It is mostly adverts, but it showcases new products as well. I was struck immediately by a colouring competition for a character called Krilly. Krilly in a cool little creature on a surf board, riding the wild waves. And what does Krilly want you to do? Eat him. That’s right because Krilly is the mascot for Cleanmarine Krill Oil for kids.  

The one page advert tells parents that krill oil can “improve concentration and possibly improve learning and performance of school aged children.”  But the advertising campaign is aimed at kids. It really makes me angry. Krill fill the oceans for whales and other sea life to eat. They are not there for us to over-fish and drive into extinction like every other marine creature we’ve managed to do it to.
Then the other day Spiderman and I were in the supermarket and we passed a carton of Happy Eggs. That makes steam come out of my ears. Everyone who eats eggs has heard about battery cages and the treatment of hens. Everyone wants to appease their conscience by buying free range eggs because isn’t that better for the chickens? We picture hens roaming leisurely about, pecking and scratching at the ground, having a good ole time. Who cares that they’ll go to an early grave when their egg production tapers off. Who cares that every one of the male chicks that hatch are killed (gassed, suffocated or worse--ground up alive) because they have no use. At least their lives are good, even if their deaths are not. Sadly, this is not the case.     
Look at that hen on the label. Doesn’t she look jolly? VIVA did an undercover investigation and the resuls were not pretty. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) from the article.
The Happy Egg Company’s TV advert feeds that belief, showing hens in sunshine, exploring verdant vegetation and even taking a ride on a farmer’s quad bike. They paint a picture akin to a holiday camp for hens. If the plants we visited are typical, they are more of a death camp.
Hens are not placed in the free-range units until they are 18-21 weeks old, during which time they are kept in intensive sheds in their thousands. This conditions them to stay indoors, something which is encouraged because of the ‘hassle’ of collecting eggs from outside. In their first weeks, young birds were shocked into submission by electric wires running along the feeders and drinkers to prevent them from defecating on their food.
Home for these hens are cavernous, industrial sheds with small ‘pop holes’ down the sides. Even when open, many birds are seemingly so traumatised by their first few months of life indoors that they never venture out.
Add to this the highly hierarchical nature of hen society, where one bird will not want to cross another’s territory, plus unnatural flock sizes in the thousands and it’s a wonder that any go out at all.
One shed was infested with red mite, which can cause stress, anaemia and even death. Our footage shows many bald and bedraggled birds and worker confirmed that there are big problems in another shed where hens “peck and kill each other.” We filmed plastic yellow bags full of dead hens being carried away. And this despite birds having the ends of their beaks seared off (beak-trimmed) at a few days old to prevent pecking.
The life of a Happy Hen, it seems, is far from happy – it is also far from long. They are slaughtered at just 72 weeks so once the weeks indoors after hatching are subtracted, they spend barely more than a year in this supposedly free-range system. Hens from one shed were to be slaughtered even younger because they weren’t making enough money.
You can read the whole article here:
Do you recall the American adverts for StarKist Tuna? Charlie was a tuna wearing a hat and coke-bottle glasses, whose goal is to be caught by the StarKist company. Charlie believes that he is so hip and cultured that he has "good taste," and he is thus the perfect tuna for StarKist. Charlie is always rejected in the form of a note attached to a fish hook that says, "Sorry, Charlie." The reason given for the rejection was that StarKist was not looking for tuna with good taste but rather for tuna that tasted good. (from Wikipedia)
Those adverts were really funny and you felt so sorry for him every time he was rejected. As a child I sincerely thought that fish wanted to be eaten. They must, because that funny cartoon fish said so, right? This is completely misleading.
Animals are sentient beings who can feel love and attachment for their young as well as pain and fear. When we take their babies away from them and torture them and kill them for our own needs, for our own plates, for our own appetites then we are the villain. They cannot speak to tell us of their suffering, but we can speak for them. We can choose to eat food that doesn’t involve suffering and death. We can pick up a fork and save lives.
There was some controversy several years back about Joe Camel. In 1991, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study showing that by age six nearly as many children could correctly respond that "Joe Camel" was associated with cigarettes as could respond that the Disney Channel logo was associated with Mickey Mouse, and alleged that the "Joe Camel" campaign was targeting children,[2] despite R. J. Reynolds' contention that the campaign had been researched only among adults and was directed only at the smokers of other brands. (from Wikipedia)

 Why is it a problem that a cartoon Camel made children want to smoke, but a cartoon Krill is acceptable in hooking children in to taking a fish oil supplement bought by mum and dad? Or a cartoon hen misleads us into thinking that we are doing something better for animal welfare? Or a cartoon fish makes us believe that animals desperately want to be eaten?  
An animal who wants to be eaten only happens in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
So just be wise and wary. Unless you are at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, if a cartoon animal tells you to EAT ME, don’t listen.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Conservation skills

Conservation: The understanding that something stays the same in quantity even though its appearance changes.  To be more technical (but you don’t have to be) conservation is the ability to understand that redistributing material does not affect its mass, number or volume.

Conservation refers to a logical thinking ability which, according to the psychologist Jean Piaget becomes evident in children aged 7–12 during the concrete operations stage of their development. It is part of Piaget's theory of cognitive development.

We did this in my year three class today. (that’s second grade to my US peeps) and I am sad to say that I still struggle with this. I *know* logically that the short fat container is 1 litre and so is the tall thin container (because they are both clearly marked 1000ml) and yet, I had to run a quick test as I was gathering the materials for the teacher because I had a lingering doubt that it would work. The short fat container seemed so small and the tall was really tall. I did a quick test of filling the small one with water and transferring the water to the tall one.  Needless to say, it worked and I was secretly amazed because I was sure it wouldn’t. I am sure all of the rest of you over the age of 7 probably figured that out, but somehow I am perpetually in that childhood category.

At home I cannot judge the container size when it comes to packing leftovers. I am forever pulling out one that is too small or much too big but unlike Goldilocks I can never get it “just right.”

Principle of Conservation - (
 When I was doing my teacher training we had to run the conservation test on three groups of children. The youngest were about age 5 and were certain that both containers were different and the same water would not fill both. Even after you showed them they still maintained the containers were different capacities.
 The middle group were about 7 years old and at first believed that the containers did not show the same amount of water, but after you showed them they believed and it. This is where I am. With the 7 year olds.
 The last group were 10 or 11 years old. They looked at me like I was incredibly stupid when I asked them about the capacity of both containers. Of course they were the same. They both held the same number of ounces. It didn’t matter about the size or shape of the container. Did I not know that? they seemed to ask with their world weary gaze. I tried to explain that younger people believed that the size and shape of the container mattered, but they were having none of it. Every child swore they had never been so na├»ve.
So there we are. Conservation. A skill that has passed me by. Sigh… is a good thing I work in year three.

An interview with a Cultural Teddy Bear

Embedded image permalink

I just found this weird and funny.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Fruit Slut

There. I’ve said it. My name is Spidergrrl and I am a fruit slut. My recent obsession has been figs. I despised them in my childhood--our neighbour Ruby Hall had a fig tree and always offered me one when I came by to visit. I am sure my words were polite, but my face said, “gag me with a spoon.”  It was the texture, it was all grainy and gooey. She was forever hoisting jars of homemade fig preserves on us and I never ate a spoonful. Ah, how times have changed.

 Image result for figs

Recently we went out to eat at my favourite London restaurant Tibits. One of the salads had fresh figs that had been quartered. I ate one and it was *love* and first taste. I would like to digress momentarily and say there are two things I love about Tibits--the delicious fresh vegan food and the flocked wallpaper.
just look at that texture, waiting to be caressed
 As a child I had a wallpaper sample book (do they even give those away any more?)  I loved to rub the flocked wallpaper so much that I rubbed all the fuzziness off of it. When we go to Tibits I like to sit where I can rub the wallpaper with one hand whilst I eat with the other. Spiderman just gives me that *look*, but I pretend I don’t see him.

Anyway, since then I have been obsessed with figs. I have bought some every week in the local market--big bruise coloured figs with an outer skin like a bat’s wing and a deep russet interior. There is no other way to eat a fig but sensually. I like to stand by the sink and rub the soft leathery skin against my lips and cheeks. Then I slice it open and use my tongue to scoop the lovely, honeyed interior away from the skin. I tend to moan a lot when I do it because the taste is so magical. This is a true transcription of something that happened in our house.

Spiderman: (walking through front door) *whistle* (special whistle he uses to tell me “I love you/ I’m home“)

Me: Mmmm…oh yes…oh God…

Spiderman: Where are you?

Me: In the kitchen..Oh yes…..mmmm…..Oh..Oh….Ohhhhhh

Spiderman: What the hell are you doing?

Me: (sheepishly) Um….eating a fig.

So there you have it. A confirmed fruit slut. Now if only we had flocked wallpaper….

Monday, 1 October 2012

The importance of art and friendship

Last week I got an email saying that a dear old friend named Ruth Buckley had died. She was 92 and died peacefully, without pain in her sleep. She had retired to Florida after the deaths of her best friend Adine and her husband Chuck some years before. I imagine that it is a glorious reunion for them.

She was a hugely important and influential individual in my formative years. She was an artist--a *real* artist who had a studio in her own house. She also had this amazing bust of Nefertiti that I always admired.
Nofretete Neues Museum.jpg

She was this interesting old lady who travelled with her best friend Adine seeing all the great art and architecture of the world. As a child I thought they were joined like one person. RuthandAdine. Like it was all one word.  And they probably were not nearly as old as they seemed to my young eyes.

Several times in my childhood, I was graciously invited over to Ruth and Chuck’s house when Ruth was trying out some new art technique she wanted to share. I felt in awe of her that she--a real artist--would allow me--a kid who liked art--into her studio. She always played classical music as she worked, Mozart was clearly her favourite but she always kindly indulged me when I brought my Beethoven cassette. She encouraged me to love instrumental music and  *feel* the music as I painted.

Once we did silk screen printing using torn paper and earthy toned paints to create interesting abstract geometric shapes on paper and another time we dyed silk scarves in a variety of ways--whooshing the paint around by blowing it through straws or dip dying. I am certain there were other times, but those are the two projects I remember the most clearly.

Our artistic sessions were always followed by lunch. I cannot recall what we ate except for her delicious home-made pickles and Welch’s white grape juice which was like nothing I had ever tasted and thereafter insisted--nay, demanded--that my family purchase the same ambrosia on our weekly shopping trip.

What I came to realize as an adult is the gift that she gave me was time and creativity. She let me come in to her world and shared it with me, teaching me some technique but also allowing me some free reign to create something new. She was older and took and interest in a squirt like me. These days I try to do the same. I am “Auntie Heather” to countless kids. All of my work colleagues with school age children have happily dropped their children off for “play dates” where we looked at the spiders, did some baking, made some lip balm and body scrub and just generally had a good old creative time. When one of our former students was diagnosed with cancer, I would pile all my card making supplies in my trolley and wheel it over to her house. We had several lovely creative sessions before she died.

 It is really important to pay back the debt I owe Ruth Buckley. She valued me as a creative soul when so many didn’t. I have lost count of the times I was beaten up by my peers for daring to dream and be different. Going to Ruth’s studio was a honour. I was very lucky to have her as an artistic mentor and friend.

May it carry on.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tarantula Towers

Tarantula Towers in the name we give to the set of shelves that are the home to our eight lovely spiders--Lily Rose, Blanche Dubois, Rossetti, Pirouette, Pippi Longstocking, Tibia, Polychrome and Frida Kahlo. Spiders make fantastic pets as you only need to feed them about once a week and you only need to clean out their tanks about once a year unless you suspect they are ill or you get fungus on the substrate or something weird. We try to get everyone a clean out in the summer when we have more time. You have to get the tarantula into the travel box--which for scared-y cats like Tibia can take hours--and then give it a good old scrub and dry and then get the tarantula back out of the travel box--again Tibia took hours.

 Here is a view of the newly renovated Tarantula Towers--thanks to Spiderman for doing all the work. All I did was watch.
you can clearly see Lily Rose climbing the wall

We decided on a few changes this year. First we decided that Pippi and Pirouette deserved proper tanks not just sweet jars with holes punched in them. We bought a new tank for Pirouette (one that opened on the front not the top to make getting in easier) and one small one for Frida then shifted some about. Rossetti got a bigger tank and Pippi moved into her old one which was slightly smaller. Polychrome is still so small she is housed in a sprouting jar with a mesh lid. We’ll get her an open in the front tank like Pirouette has when she gets a bit bigger.

Secondly we agreed not to add any fake plastic plants because spiders don’t really care --that fake greenery is really for people as it makes the tank look nicer but all they every do is cover it in webbing and it is a bitch to clean. Rossetti took a real dislike to her fake tree--dug out all the substrate from under her half a log hidey-hole, uprooted the tree and shoved it under there. It was funny to watch, but we didn’t know what she found so objectionable.

Then we decided to turn their tanks width-wise not length-wise to get more spiders on a shelf and be able to share heat mats evenly between tanks. Spiderman arranged everyone’s “furniture” --their hidey and water dish--so we could get a better view when they were hiding. We went round to charity shops and found several cheap ceramic mugs and little shallow dishes so everyone could get new furniture.

Lastly, we decided to go back to water dishes. We have gone back and forth with this idea--we used them for a few years, but were convinced no one was using them. Several dumped all the water out and then sat in the empty dish. What was that about? Who knows what a tarantula’s thinking. We tried bug gel--which is like water flavoured jelly (jello to my American peeps)  for a while as someone said their spider’s loved it and it didn’t evaporate. But again no one seemed to use it. We tried just keeping the substrate moist as we read somewhere that spiders can get all the water they need from the soil.  But the reading of some new books on spider care indicated that they really did need a watering hole so we did (except for Polychrome--she is still too small and could drown in a dish) and all the girls immediately went over and had a drink or at least splashed about. We got a really good shot of Rossetti having a drink with her bum in the air. Spider’s mouthparts are on the underside of their body so they have to balance on the edge of the dish and lower themselves down.

she has a bald spot on her abdomen

 I am glad we did it as Blanche has been seen sucking it down as well. Now that everyone has a clean tank spiders have started to mess them up a bit. Tibia did a big poo right down the front of the glass (that may have been a dirty protest for making her go in and out of the travel box) and Blanche has just strung up some messy clothes lines of web. Pirouette and Polychrome have quite rightly made little hammocks between their sticks as they are arboreal tree climbing sorts. Everyone seems happy in their new homes.

Well that’s it. That’s all the stuff we got done on our summer holiday. We’ll probably never be this productive again.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Notice me

Scrappy bits of paper used to rule my life. There were lists here and there and everywhere and you never knew where the one you wanted was. Need to write down broccoli on the shopping list? Sorry--this scrappy bit of paper is a list of things to buy at the hardware store. So you start a new shopping list only for someone else to unearth the original one after you spent ages trying to remember and recreate the first list. Then the swearing commences. Do you live like this?

Well, live like this no longer. You, my friend, need a handy-dandy adorable notice board.  I am a bargain shopper at heart. We shop at several different shops all about town, 3 supermarkets, 2 health food shops, the Tuesday/Saturday market and the greengrocers. I know who sells what and who has the best prices on things. I watch for sales and then stock up on certain items I know we use. My recent best buy was boxes of Merchant Gourmet vacuum sealed chestnuts for £1 a box--normally around £2.50. Mmmm…chestnuts.

Because we shop at so many places there were always umpteen lists floating around and you could never quite lay your hand on the one you wanted. So I had a bit of a think and came up with a notice board to hang on the kitchen door. Something to organise our lives. Take a squinty at this.
click to see me up close

I used scrap booking paper and my tried and true “ransom note” font of cut out magazine letters to make several spots for designated lists. I even laminated them to keep them protected. There are places for Waitrose and  Sainsburys (our biggest supermarkets where we buy the most stuff) a space for the market/greengrocers and the Health Food Shop. An etc for anywhere else we need to shop (ASDA or Wilkinsons) There’s even a space for the weekly menu. Let’s see what we’re having this week:

There’s also a space for when my library books are due back (they don’t stamp your book anymore--they give you a fiddly bit of paper to keep up with)

I made a handy receptacle  for recycled paper cut into quarters  and sewed a little felt holder for a pen and pencil.

I also put a monthly calendar space called What’s On so we can see at a glance things we have coming up to do and nothing gets forgotten. 

I think we paid less than a tenner for the board and Spiderman figured out a way to hang it on the kitchen door. I made all the rest out of bits and bobs I had lying about in my craft room. It has made a HUGE difference in our lives as far as organisation. If you suffer from scrapophobia (that’s fear of scrappy lists taking over your house not fear of Scrappy Doo--although I can completely understand the latter--that annoying dog with a the huge head gives me the shivers) then what you need is a Notice Board.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Quit bitchin’ in the kitchen

I admit it. I have kitchen envy. Whenever I go to someone’s house the first thing I do is check out their kitchen and sigh. Our kitchen is small and narrow--so small that most of the stuff is stored on shelves in the hallway. There never seems to be enough counter space when you want to serve the food.  I am foodie who loves to cook and I lust after a bigger kitchen. Spiderman made some sarky remark  about it being all about size with women and I fully admit, when it comes to counter space, that’s true.

However, I have to live with what I have and so this summer I tried to pinpoint things that annoyed me and try to fix them. I store all my food in jars in the pantry so when I was reorganising the pantry I decided to put labels on every jar to make it to make it easier to find stuff. I heard Spiderman mutter something about in case I suddenly got amnesia and forgot what rice looks like, but I just ignored him remembering the time he couldn’t tell millet from quinoa. I could have brought it up and shamed him, but I chose not to.   I also  bought a few things--mostly second hand--to make organising easier.

Check out  this little ceramic container with a ventilated lid to store garlic bulbs I found at a charity shop. This replaces my stick- it- in- a- brown- paper- bag- and- then- forget- where- you- put- it previous technique.

This little window box was meant for plants but I have put all my baking things in it to make them easier to get to. Also second hand. It means no more knocking over (and spilling) the baking powder when I am reaching for something in the back.

I found some basic coat racks at Poundland for £1 each and Spiderman painted them with leftover green paint from the Key Box and hung them in the kitchen. I sewed some hanging storage bags to store (from left to right) plastic carrier bags, yellow duster cloths that you use like a washable paper towel, small micro fibre cloths for more heavy duty scrubbing. Since we went paper free in the kitchen all those cleaning cloths were just jammed in a drawer making me cross as a bear every time I went to find one. Now they can just be easily pulled out the bottom, used and tossed into the dirty clothes hamper. Genius. There is also a coat rack for hanging  tea towels that looks so much nicer than the mismatched plastic stick on hooks we had been using.  Lovely-jubley. Thank you Spiderman for painting and hanging them up.


You can also see my black and white apron cleverly made out of tea towels. I got the idea from this blog. It was easy-peasy to sew and keeps all manner of food and flour off my clothes. Here is me grinning inanely whilst wearing my pajamas about to cook us a lovely meal.
you can see my Oz tattoo if you look at my arm

I also bought these adorable bags for storing onions and potatoes from Poundland for £1 each. They have a draw string top but also a zippered side to make getting things out easier. They are lined with blackout cloth so they really keep things so much fresher and they have a designated place to go, not just forever rolling out of the cabinet onto the floor. I ended up with four bags--red onions, white onions, white potato, sweet potato. But how can you tell which is which? Easy. I tied a scrap of red ribbon on the red onion and sweet potato bag to differentiate. Who’s a clever girl?


I also rehoused all my loose recipes that I print off of the internet into a big D ring binder and made a decorative cover because a pretty cover makes it more fun to use. FACT. You can see I used my favourite “ransom note” technique for the letters. It is a great way to use old magazines and junk mail. You’ll see more of this tomorrow when I show off the kitchen notice board.

 I also laboriously made a recipe index by main ingredients by collating all my loose recipes and cookbooks. It took about a bajillion hours, but it was worth it because it now makes meal planning a snap. Sweet potatoes on sale this week? Check the index for 2 pages of  meals that use sweet potatoes so you can use the 4-6 that come in the bag. Want to cook enough chickpeas for 3 meals to save time? Look under chickpeas in the index and choose 3 meals. If the meal also contains sweet potatoes (such as roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes, red onions and peppers in a teriyaki sauce)  it will be cross referenced. There is even a section for meals that look good but are untried from new cookbooks. As we try them I can either add them to the index or cross them out as not to be repeated. 

I also rehoused my cookbooks into this red box I bought at Wilkinsons for about £8. Now they are all easy to get to. I also like being able to utter the phrase “Over by the hedgehog of course” when people ask me where I keep them. Isn’t that where everyone keeps their cookbooks?
the hedgehog doorstop is on the left

 Lastly, I did a bit of arts and crafts (or farts and craps as Spiderman used to call it when he was a camp councillor) and  embroidered this lovely picture of the vegan society logo to remind me what it’s all about--being kind to yourself, the animals and the planet.


Stay tuned for the amazing notice board.