Saturday, 20 June 2015

Solstice Reflections

I am sitting here very quietly, just thinking, reflecting and taking time to breathe in the silence. Almost every year since I was in my teens I've watched the dawning of the day on or around the summer solstice.

Although I've been doing this well over half my life I'm not actually sure why I do it, or why it seems important enough to remain up overnight rather than just getting up super-early! I seem to recall it started one year in my teens that I could not sleep and sat up reading until the break of dawn. I just loved sitting in the quiet and solitude while everyone else slept to watch the daily spectacle of a new day coming into being. Somehow this always seems an important part of my calendar to me and I use it to reflect, to give thanks and to feel in harmony with my tiny part of the world. As years have gone on the summer solstice have gained an extra poignancy as it occurs shortly after what was my Dad's birthday.
04:04hrs - 27mins before the dawn
Tonight, or is it today, the skies are grim, grey and gloomy but that doesn't dampen the thrill I feel as I watch it get progressively lighter. I've chosen to do my solstice vigil on the 20th as I fell asleep after getting home from work and slept solidly till 23.30hrs so I am still awake enough to do this now rather than wait until tomorrow and knock my sleep pattern off any more than it already is.

What are my reflections? I am calm but quite excited as I have some lovely things coming up over the next month as I become another year older. I've already begun my birthday celebrations and been having treats and time with good friends. I have a very deep feeling of anticipation of great change. It's been persistent for the last month or so but I just don't know what it is in relation to. However, for the moment I am willing to accept the change will be good, that I should be content and allow it to unfold. The realist in me accepts that even if the change turns out to be hellish then at least I'll have enjoyed this time!
Typically, despite having been asleep, she wanted up to see if some more dinner might be on offer!

I am utterly grateful and thankful for my cat's health having been to hell and back with her over the last year. It was Friday June 13th last year when I sat up overnight in the garden after a 2am dash to the vet school with my very sick wee sweetheart and waiting on their phonecall. So, knowing tonight after everything including neurosurgery in Feb she can sleep undistressed and content in her life with us is a prayer answered.

I am saddened, distressed and depressed by my Mother's state of health as she drifts ever further into her mind and I cannot reach her. I don't think I'll ever find anything positive in this situation but am forced to accept what I cannot change.

I am so grateful for a letter which arrived this week which brought a small, forgotten but ever so welcome amount of money I am owed from many years ago. That the information arrived on what would have been my Dad's birthday just made it feel like he was looking out for me. And that the sum matches almost identically an amount I was debating using for something special makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up!
05:05hrs-34mins after the dawn
So the day has dawned and even if it is just a vague lightening of the sky rather than a glorious sunrise it is nonetheless welcome. Happy Summer Solstice to everyone and may you be bestowed with good wishes.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Flaming June

Well somehow that's another month gone, but there is no point in asking me where it went! I think my target at the moment will be a blogpost per month and if I exceed this then instead of feeling bad for not posting regularly I'll have exceeded my target so it will be a success. I once marvelled at this tactic some years ago when the ambulance service were splashed all over the papers for failing to achieve their target of arriving at emergency calls in under 4 minutes. Their average response time was around 6 minutes but they raised their target time to 8 minutes so that, without changing anything, they not only met their target but exceeded it in one simple manoeuvre. I thought it was totally disingenuous but inspired at the same time so I'm going to give the trick a whirl to assuage my blogpost absence guilt. This post doesn't actually have a theme other than a whizz round of some random pics from last month.

The weather here is vile and feels like November with the dark skies, howling gales and lashing rain. The promised heatwave obviously was incorrectly addressed and we'd like it returned! There were a couple of nice days which only made the grass go mental and my dandelion crop was taking over. I couldn't do anything definitive so I cheated and pulled them up then strimmed the tall grass to stop the place looking derelict. I know they will be back but I've got weedkiller for the survivors....!
I also stripped some of the prolific ivy out of the hedge revealing what can only be described as a 'bluddy big hole'.
I hadn't realised it had killed the privet and actually WAS the hedge! I'm lost as to a solution, so my plan is to lob in some Miracle Gro and start praying the hedge rather than the remaining ivy sprouts.
My strawberries have come on brilliantly since this pic in March.
I had one single lovely big juicy strawberry ripening up nicely but last Sat I looked out to find it had been robbed and to add insult to injury it was only half eaten.....grrr. Who knew birds stole them? I should have twigged really as the strawberry thief is one of the patterns on my William Morris mugs! There were two more ripening yesterday so I snaffled them before any predators just to be able to say I'd tasted one of my very first homegrown strawberries. Although not perfectly ripe they were deliciously sweet. I'm not feeling homicidal towards all birds, just the ones with sticky strawberry coated beaks!
For many years I've watched successive new little seagull families being raised between these chimney pots and though you can hardly see him the little grey chick is the latest generation. Typically, he was having a wander round the outside but when I tried to picture him he played hide and seek! 
Random car sitting in front of me at some traffic lights - clearly a woman with her priorities right!
In Glasgow, the hospital provision is transitioning over to the new South Glasgow University Hospital on the site of the old Southern General Hospital.
It's been nicknamed The Death Star due to its external shape which might or might not be an improvement on its old nicknames of Sufferin' General or the Sufferin' Genitals depending on your outlook!
It's very bold architecturally but a bloody nightmare if you have difficulty walking as the parking is inadequate and none of it is near the actual entrance.
 
I am always mystified by why hospitals, which are generally for the injured or ill (!) are now based on a single entrance/atrium design which entails miles of walking.
Last month I joined instagram to see what it was like and I have been enjoying it, even doing an obligatory 'what's for my dinner' shot. Before joining I was rather dismissive and couldn't see what all the fuss was about as all I'd seen were supersaturated combination shots which all seemed a bit 'samey' and meh! However, since joining I've realised there is more to it. Obviously, when posting you are selective and want to present everything in it best light and I've been trying to blend in. However, just for a bit of realism, I thought I should provide some context to the arty dinner shot as it made me laugh.
This is the true state of the table at the time. Due to the weather the laundry was drying in front of the patio doors to catch what sun there was and, as I'd been craving Chinese dumplings for ages, this was a solo snack made for scoffing with no time to clear the table of my laptop or craft stuff or to fold the dry laundry strewn over the sofa on the right. The tea towel is not there because of carrying hot plates, instead it is because slippery steamed dumplings, thin dips and chopsticks are an accident just waiting to bounce down the front of my jumper. I may be a slovenly housekeeper but heck those dumplings were worth it!
Right that's probably enough randomness for now. Hope everyone is doing well and I hope to be round to say hello soon. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A Year in Books 2015: May

I am so far behind in catching up that I think I am just going to start again from where I am! I know this makes little sense but right now I am beginning to resemble the White Rabbit haring around and never quite making up the time or catching up with myself. We are five months down the line and I am just posting my first Year in Books post to join in with Laura and all the other readers which is shocking. I have been reading/listening just not posting!
April's read was the new Bob Skinner book by Quintin Jardine which I read on kindle. I am always a little ambivalent about ebooks but the convenience, syncing between devices, being able to read with the light off in bed as well as quickly checking things that arise in the book online does have its advantages.

The book was readable and has the familiarity of characters that I've 'known' and seen developed for 20 or so years. 'Big' Bob is on some sort of sabbatical as he hates the idea of the integrated Police Scotland and has decamped to Spain where he helps out an old friend which in turn helps him decide where his future direction will lie.

It was a good enough book, enjoyable for me due to the familiarity, but not one of his best. Normally his books will focus on some key individuals but many of the others are woven through the story in the background. I felt it was rather pedestrian as it had a fairly limited cast of characters and was mainly set in Spain which is where the author spends much of his time. I finished this today on my phone while abortively sitting waiting in an X-Ray Dept for scans which I had to reschedule due to the glacial pace of the dept. as I had other meetings to attend. This kind of thing is where ebooks come into their own.

If you haven't read any QJ and enjoy the Ian Rankin/James Oswald crime-novel-set-in-Edinburgh genre then these are definitely worth a look. Its not as dark and curmugeonly as Rebus and the only spooks come from MI5 but it is a pretty contemporary read as everyone has aged and kept pace with time. Incidentally Quintin is very caught up with the male characters in his books being constantly described as 'Big'...Big Bob, Big Mario, Big McIllhenney...etc. I met him at a book signing last year and asked him why? but he reckoned it was just the Scottish thing about prefacing men's names with either 'Big' or 'Wee'. That aside the female characters feature strongly and he's very equality and diversity minded as they get a fair share of promotions and positioning.
May's book is the delightfully titled Paw Tracks in the Moonlight by Denis O'Connor which was recommended to my by a lovely Instagrammer @seriouslyrubylicious who has the most stunning Maine Coon cats. I'm falling in love with these giants of the feline world again after having been put off some time ago by the bad tempered MC which used to belong to a friend. I am off to bed to start reading this book tonight and am hopeful I'll love it.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Crafty Treat

Today was a very good day to treat myself. There has been a fair bit happening recently and by this afternoon I decided some 'be-nice-to-myself-time' and a bit of retail therapy was in order.
I haven't visited Queen Margaret Drive in ages but I was visiting nearby and decided it was high time for a tiny wander as two of my favourite shops are just a couple of doors from each other. QMD follows on at the top of Byres Road and runs past the Botanic Gardens and over the River Kelvin. It also used to be the location of the old BBC Scotland Headquarters before they moved to the riverside.
 
Kibble Palace at the Botanic Gardens and the spire to the left is is Oran Mor which does A Play, A Pie and A Pint at lunchtimes.  
View over the Bridge and along the River Kelvin 
No idea what this tree is but it looked amazing. If anyone knows please do tell.
 My first visit was to the marvellous Opal Moon which stocks a wonderfully eclectic range of pretty and mystical things.
 I love that they even think of the four legged customers who might be passing.
It's a tiny tardis of a shop and there must be magic afoot as I've never known how Joan packs so much stock in. It's also the kind of place you can never leave without a perfect little something for yourself or as a gift. The first thing to catch my eye, or more accurately my nose, was the beautifully scented wax tart which is already in my burner and bringing a calming aroma to the room right now.
Then I was totally delighted when I realised they had managed to get the lovely little angel cards back in stock.
Many spiritual shops will have a bowl on the desk for you to randomly select one as a message from your angel. They are lovely and I've been after a set for ages. Today was obviously my lucky day!
You can store them in their own box but mine are now in a gold bowl on the chest of drawers beside the front door for me to choose one each morning and for friends to select one when they come to visit.  
They even came with some bonus angel stickers which is nice.
The next visit was to Yarn Cake for yarn, cake and to see if they had any handled crochet hooks.
Its taken me until the last few rows of my chenille poncho to realise my carbonised bamboo hook is kind of dragging the yarn and a handled hook might make things more comfy for my wrists. I lost my  5.5mm aluminium hook on the train journey down to London.
Obviously, cake, coffee and chatter had to be partaken of before any gruelling decisions regarding what to buy. The hook choice was simple though, and I bought a 5.5mm Clover Soft Touch for the poncho and a 4mm KnitPro Waves for general use. I was also delighted to get a snap of their new sheepy cake label holders but less delighted I couldn't get one to follow me home.....*big petted lip time*.
I decided to save my yarn purchase till next week when they are having their Yarn Shop Day with discounts. Technically, this means I will SAVE money but I think we all know I will use the saving to buy more yarn. I may also have to have more cake and coffee while I ponder what I'll purchase again.....! Apparently, to get the discount you have to tell Antje, the owner, that you love her. She said she'd tried this last year and it was quite hilarious from the extravagant expressions of adoration to others whispering it in an embarrassed tone.

I hope you've enjoyed our trip to QMD. It certainly cheered me up and I'm just sorry I can't send you a piece of the amazing warm from the oven Rocky Road Brownie, handmade by Antje. It was exactly as scrummy as it sounds!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Happy World Book Night 2015 and Giveaway

Happy World Book Night 2015!
I didn't apply to be a giver this year but neither did I want to miss out on celebrating it. So I joined in at an event in Glasgow Women's Library where they were having readings from a number of participants' favourite books. I particularly enjoyed the passages from a book called 'The House on Mango Street' which I'd like to read.
I've never visited a Women's library before but they were very welcoming and it was lovely to hear the readers share a part of a favourite book and why they had chosen it. There was a quiz, a really hard quiz. Well, I found it really hard but some others were giving it baffled looks as well so maybe there is hope for me.
They had a number of WBN books and were happy if anyone wished to take some extras. So I asked if they would mind me taking some for a giveaway, which is where you come in.
There are five books in total and if you fancy one then please just leave a comment. 
If you have a particular preference let me know and I'll see if I can accommodate the request if you are a winner.
Four books are from WBN and the small one above and below is a collection of Scottish recollections of home.
I'm particularly looking forward to reading this one as I love social history and reading the thoughts and lived experiences of others. Probably why I enjoy blog reading so much!

There are no hoops to jump through, no tricky questions - just leave me a comment and I'll draw the winners on Sunday 26th Apr 15. I'll post internationally too if you are a winner so all are welcome.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Cute & Free Plant Labels

I was looking for nice plant labels for some roses and shrubs I'd bought but nothing took my fancy. As I was making a cup of coffee I realised I could cannibalise the white plastic from the milk container. Even better it would be both free and come with recycling brownie points!

Kit
White milk container (Note to self: avoid washing in really hot water as it goes all wonky and melt-y!)
Scissors
Craft Punch/s
Hole punch or eyelet kit
Permanent marker
Covered wire or string

Making the labels:
Firstly I cut up the milk container to get as many flat surfaces as possible,
and used a spare piece to test with the punches
Out of the four heavy duty punches I have, only the large butterfly punch was strong enough to cut out the shape completely, so butterflies it was then!
It found it was actually easier to use the punch 'upside down' as I could see how far to push in the plastic.
saving myself any wasted or incomplete punches
After I'd punched out all the butterflies, I used the spare pieces of plastic to cut other shapes with scissors
Creating the hole:
The easiest way was just to use one side of a normal office hole punch. This would have been far and away the kindest to my wrists and the labels would have been ready to thread with the garden wire or string.

Not one to make things easy, I decided to try this kit that I'd bought from Lidl a couple of years ago that I've never taken the time to properly figure out how to work.
It has a pair of hole pliers, crimp type pliers and little soft metal rivet/eyelet shapes.
After some trial and error, with no real help from the enclosed instructions, I did figure it out. It's a nice effect but you really need the wrist strength of an Amazon as well a couple of goes at getting it right! 
 The deal seems to be firstly punch a hole corresponding to the size of the eyelet. I suspect these pliers might work better on a thicker material as I had to snip the half punched holes with scissors after I'd used the punch, though this might just be my wimpy wrist strength!
 Position the eyelet in the hole
then fit into the crimp pliers and squeeeeeze like Billy-o! I must admit that a couple of eyelets or more were squashed by angling the pliers against the table and leaning on them!
 reverse view
 Finished labels
All ready for the wire or string 
 I used a Sharpie permanent marker and so far so good but I'll know better in time how well the writing, and the eyelets, hold up to the elements.


Now I just need to drink some more milk to have another container to use...!