Category Archives: Indoor Activities

Airfix versus Warhammer

Assault on Black Reach - apparently

In the morning I am taking Boy the Elder into Leicester to spend his birthday money.  The only thing which was on his list was a Warhammer series 40,000 Assault on Black Reach gaming set. If you understand what that means you are either likely to be a 13-25 year old male or a nauseating parent who is really sucking up to her children.  You know who you are, Sister the First.

BTE has been an avid Airfix fan for ages and has got some beautiful models of WW2 planes, tanks and ickle tiny soldiers.  He’d started to get really good at the building and painting and I understood it; it was real things painted to look like real things that did stuff that actually happened.  The Aged Parent bought him membership of The Airfix Club for his birthday and he gets enamel badges and everything.

Supermarine Spitfire - obviously

Then suddenly Warhammer came on the scene and there are dozens of little grey plastic mutant figures littering the house and desperate, plaintive pleas for Ork Stompas echo around the rooms, and I just don’t ‘get it’. But then I’m not really supposed to, am I?

Thus, tomorrow morning, we are venturing into Leicester to find a shop called ‘Tabletop Tyrants’ where, being a Saturday morning, it will be awash with hundreds of teenage boys, who are strangers to soap and don’t have a girlfriend or a clean pair of underpants between them.  BTE will hand over his shining debit card (the glancing light blinding the shuffling youths) in exchange for box loads of plastic mutants with machetes and assorted weaponry plus the associated paints, brushes and glue.

I begged him to shower tonight or wash his hair, as a gesture that he has a shred of individuality, but to no avail.  He did paint his nails purple though, which I suppose is a start.  I will hide his trainers and leave his Chelsea boots where he will trip over them but I fear that the use of a toothbrush will be a step too far.

Lancaster Bomber

Ork Stompa

Airfix seems wholesome, Wargaming does not.  Still, at least he’s balanced – an Ork Stomper on one shelf and a De Havilland Mosquito on the other.  Boy the Younger will, of course, insist on combining the two and will strafe and dive bomb the mutants with neatly painted Spitfires and Lancaster Bombers.  Boy the Elder will flip his lid and a horrible fight will break out on the dining room table between a lanky evil-smelling geek and a  malevolent, grudge-bearing 8-year old.

Now THAT I get.

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I must spend more time with my children

I don’t spend enough time with my children, despite the fact that I mostly work from home.  I am always busy and when I’m not busy,  I’m so knackered that I’m no good to anyone.  I know that a lot of this has to do with the recent house move (added to the previous three)  and a very, very stressful few years, but a) this is not going to get any better and b) that will be no comfort to me when they’re suddenly eighteen and have left home or simply don’t want to hang around with me anymore.

Boy the Elder spent most of this weekend with a friend (at the Cosby Air Show) and after we had dropped him off, Boy the Younger and I decided to go for a walk at Foxton Locks.  On a whim, we popped in and took one of his friends along as well.  We had a lovely time but as we drove back BTY asked if this friend could come back for a sleepover.

Now, I am ashamed to admit that I absolutely hate having my children’s friends over for sleepovers.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with their friends, but particularly with the younger ones, I resent the extra responsibility of another child.  Isn’t that awful?  And particularly at the moment, when there is still so much work to be done in the house before it will be as I want it, the additional pressure leaves me feeling absolutely drained.

The boy sleeping over was fine but I couldn’t wait for him to be collected, mostly because I could feel a massive headache coming on of the kind that requires a day in bed with hot water bottles on the back of my neck.

I’m also not very good at being spontaneous.  I used to be spontaneous years ago, renowned for it in fact, but not anymore.  Spontaneity suggests large chunks of free time that have been unaccounted for and I rarely have those.  When they boys are at their dad’s, I usually spend my time catching up on jobs or asleep.  By Sunday evening, I’m starting to relax a bit but then Monday comes again all too soon.

A basic 8884 Sponge Cake mix with a lot of food colouring *

But after the friend had gone and BTY and I were on our own, I felt far too guilty to go to bed and leave him downstairs alone, so I suggested that we bake a cake together.  This was extremely well received and although he got a bit silly and messy, he eventually produced a multi-coloured cake decorated with bright yellow buttercream and Smarties.  He declared that it was a Happy Cake and couldn’t wait for Boy the Elder to come home and have a slice.  My heart melted a usual.

While we were waiting for the cake to cool, I suggested that we get a jigsaw and we returned to an old favourite depicting three Spitfires against a stormy sky.  We got the straight edges out and did the outline first and then he got to work on the Spitfires.  He was so thrilled when he managed to get pieces in the right places and we really enjoyed doing the puzzle together.

When Boy the Elder came home, the dynamic changed, but it brought it home to me very strongly that I have to make more time for them.  When BTE was little, he didn’t have an older brother muscling in on his time, telling him what to do or generally being a git.  I also had the time to do creative things with him on a regular basis.  BTY has always had to share his time and I have not been in the position to do lots of creative stuff with him.  He needs to spend quiet periods with me, just being together and having a bit of fun.

Must try harder.  Otherwise I’ll live to regret it.

* Click here for basic sponge cake mix

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A day out at Canons Ashby and a Wartime Housewife Quiz

Canons AshbyToday, and on a whim as we have spent too much of the summer holiday relocating, we fired up the Escort and visited the National Trust property of Canons Ashby in Northamptonshire.

Canons Ashby was owned by the Dryden family for four centuries from the late 1500s; bookish, conservative, modest people who respected the buildings enough to re-model and extend but never to completely sweep away the past.  The house itself is rather more than a manor house but not quite a grand mansion and much of its beauty lies in its homeliness and attention to the decorative.

Sir John Dryden (1631-1700), the very first Poet Laureate, is a member of this family and was appointed by Charles II in 1668.  He was the best poet, dramatist, translator and critic of the age and his translation of Virgil is one of the great masterpieces of translation in English.

The house is full of interesting and beautiful things, including some fascinating items which I have never seen before or didn’t know about.  Let’s see if you can identify them.  There will be a modest prize for the person(s) who can identify all five correctly.  If you click on the pictures, you will get a larger and more detailed image.  Good luck!

This competition closes on Friday 2nd September 2011 and the winners will be announced on Saturday.
The Wartime Housewife’s decision is final.

1.  WHAT IS THIS AND WHAT WAS IT USED FOR?

2.  WHAT IS THIS?

3. WHAT IS THIS AND WHAT WAS IT USED FOR?

NB: This soldier is 5 feet high

4. WHAT IS THIS?

5. WHAT IS THIS DECORATIVE CEILING MADE FROM?

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Bank Holiday Weekend

In which the Wartime Housewife discusses, Easter, Good Friday, the amenity of Welland Park, food mixers, crucifixions, St George’s Day, Hallaton Bottle Kicking and Simnel Cakes.

The last two days have been fairly varied and marginally calmer than my life usually is.  We all had a bit of a lie in on Friday morning and then my former common-law sister-in-law, Eliza, came round for a coffee and to give the chaps their Easter Eggs.  We decided to go to a performance of Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’ at Rothwell Church in the evening, which seemed particularly appropriate being Good Friday.

Not that anyone would have known it was Good Friday.  My electric food mixer decelerated to a halt on Thursday and I had to buy another one in order to make Simnel Cakes for Easter.  I know, I know, I have a wooden spoon and I’m not afraid to use it but time is precious, it is.  I naively rang Argos to see if they were open on Good Friday and the girl on the end of the ‘phone came as close as she dared to saying ‘Errr yeah, durr?’ (you can add the irritating teenage inflection yourself).

Welland Park

When I went into Market Harborough it was clearly just another shopping day with every shop packed to the gills with people loading up trolleys for the oncoming siege situation of a Bank Holiday.  I bought my mixer, taking care to take out the extra 3-year cover, as the last two mixers have only lasted me a year each.  Well, a year and three days actually so they were JUST out of warranty. (Insert your own choice of compound swearing here).

I dropped the boys in Welland Park for a couple of hours and went home to make Simnel Cakes.  The delicious smell of hot cinnamon, nutmeg and fruit cake wafted around the house in a tantalising way as I rolled out the marzipan for the top and made the 11 balls for the disciples (twelve minus one for Judas Iscariot).

I left the last two in the oven and went back into town to pick the chaps up.  Welland Park is a wonderful facility just on the outskirts of Market Harborough.  There are tennis courts and bowling greens, a cafe for tea and ice cream and a massive play area for the children, as well as open grassed areas for ball games or sitting quietly under the trees picnicking.

But the most glorious thing is the gardens.  As you walk in past the tennis courts, there are the most glorious flowerbeds in complementary colours ranging from soft pinks and mauves to vibrant reds and oranges.  My favourite was a bed full of swathes of forget-me-nots in pink, white and blue with deep mauve tulips standing guard over their smaller, fluffier cousins.

As I walked towards the playground, I passed through the rose garden which has the bell tower from Symington’s factory as the centrepiece, and which has just been planted with tiny, intricately patterned box hedges.  In the summer the smell from this garden is heavenly from roses, lavender and the honeysuckle which boldly scales the trellises and archways round the edge.  We are fortunate indeed.

In the evening, we collected Eliza and headed off to Rothwell to hear ‘Crucifixion’.  It’s not an easy piece of music and it was performed admirably by the choir and the two soloists, particularly as quite a proportion of the choir can’t read music.  There are some familiar hymns in it and the congregation joined in which was most enjoyable.  It’s a very moving piece and just the thing to round off Good Friday.

Today, I dropped the boys off with their father and headed into town, which was even more packed than it was yesterday.  I bought some wide ribbon to finish off my cakes then returned home and ate my lunch whilst watching a repeat of James May making his plasticene garden for The Chelsea Flower Show.  St George’s Day appears to have been completely forgotten in all the excitement of Easter and a Royal Wedding.  I shall have Mushrooms for supper (after Dr Who, of course – hurrah!).

Tomorrow morning, I am driving down to London to pick up The Aged Parent and take her to Sister the Second for Easter Day.  I am hoping for many Lindt Bunnies for I have been a good girl all year.  So far anyway…

On Monday it is The Hallaton Bottle Kicking and Hare Pie Scramble.  Hip Hip Hurrah!

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How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint

HOW TO MAKE A DISPLAY CASE:

Utensils:
1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
Felt
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
Scissors
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Method:
Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray

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Shamefully taking advantage of a busy man

Apologies for the blurry photo - it was very dark

I don’t know if any of you watched the wonderful series ‘The  Story of England’ presented by Michael Wood on BBC?  In it, he told a fascinating story of the history of England through the records of the small Leicestershire village of Kibworth.  Now Kibworth is just up the road from me and I go there every day which add an extra exciting dimension for me and the many others who were involved in the series.

The Father of My Children had a degree of involvement in the series and I accompanied him to the book launch at Kibworth.  These things are always good fun, but I will own up here and now that I find Michael Wood hugely attractive; it’s that tousled toff thing combined with unbounded enthusiasm.  Works for me every time and it means that I get history and totty in one fell swoop.

After a film show and an excellent presentation, I duly bought the book and queued up at the end to get it signed.  He had a train to catch, so everyone was thoughtfully getting their books signed without engaging him in too much conversation.  I sidled up and smiled my most winning smile. 

“Could you please write ‘To the Wartime Housewife?’” I asked.
“Of course” he said.
“And after your name, could you please just put, in brackets, TWC?”
“TWC?  Oh-kaaaay” he obediently wrote it, but asked no questions.  He was in a hurry.

And what, you ask, does TWC stand for?


Thinking Woman’s Crumpet of course!  One for the gallery I think.

Oh how could I!!!!

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A Tale of Two Childhoods

   

The Boys are off to Norfolk with their dad for a few days tomorrow and, while the washing machine was carrying out its incessant and inexorable labours, we went into Leicester, primarily with the intention of seeing if we could get Boy the Elder’s camera fixed.  Yet another example of our throw-away society – a £50 camera would have cost £120 to get fixed.  They can get f****d.  (Fixed – what did you think I meant?)  I haven’t been into Leicester since Christmas and I think one visit every eight months is all that’s necessary.

We looked in many shops.  The boys looked at toys, computer games, gadgets and books while I looked at shoes, boots, sandals and books. I bought a boxed set of Powell & Pressburger DVDs for a fiver and a hairband with a red bow on – last of the big spenders, me.

However, we went into two shops in The Shires which, to me, were about as opposite as it was possible to be. 
The first was called (I think) The Model Shop.  It sold model kits of things; aeroplanes, tanks, ships, rockets, cars, Star Wars and Dr Who stuff and sets of figures to go with your kits.  It had a whole corner devoted to Hornby train sets and all the glorious paraphernalia that goes with it and we were all dry mouthed with excitement for different reasons.  I have a train set rattling in its box with nowhere to set it up.  Boy the Elder likes WW2 tanks, planes and ships and Boy the Younger likes planes, Star Wars and anything Boy the Elder has got.

There was no music playing and it was staffed by young men who knew all about the things they sold.  One chap spent ages with Boy the Younger helping him to find something he could manage without getting overwhelmed and dispirited.  All the things in the shop required an initial interest, patience, a bit of skill and the opportunity for development of one’s skill and the associated learning that comes with collecting things. 

It was lovely, although I admit I was the only girl in there and certainly the only one dribbling gently on the ‘OO’ gauge landscaping materials.  I nearly bought a ‘Trackside’ Morris Oxford, just in case, but Boy the Elder calmed me down, gave me an injection and persuaded me not to empty the garden shed in order to re-create a post war rural layout (mixed traffic)  in obsessive detail. 

The other shop was a place of horror and revulsion.  The Disney Store.  In some ways, I don’t feel the need to say anything else.  There was loud music blasting from speakers in the ceiling, nauseatingly perky, yet strangely passionless shop assistants pounced the minute one was through the door and the lighting could have been used to extract confessions from Russian dissidents.

It was bulging with plastic and polyester shite designed to turn parents upside down to extract every last penny from their fraying pockets.  Racks and racks of hideous merchandising from every film you can think of and some we didn’t even realize were Disney.  I didn’t see Mickey Mouse anywhere.  When Boy the Elder spotted Marvel Comic merchandise, he started sounding off in the way that only indignant teenage boys can.  When I explained to him that Disney had bought Marvel for $4 billion last year, he walked out of the shop, convinced that the world had ended.

Poor Boy the Younger just wanted to look at Buzz Lightyear drinks bottles, untroubled by the wailing and gnashing of teeth from his family, but it was horrible.  The worst thing was that everything was instant, required no skill or imagination and was utterly disposable. 

The two shops seemed to represent two separate worlds; one in which children’s play could be calm, constructive and fun, and one in which children were willing victims of the iniquity and greed of the merchandisers.  And naturally it is presented in such a way that the children are encouraged to want more and more as every new film comes out and the parents are too enfeebled and anaesthetised to say no.

Would anyone like to buy me a shed?

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Shining lights in a world of televisual darkness

I’m going to take the unusual step of doing a second post today, because part of it concerns programmes on television tonight and tomorrow.

The Boys and I have a lot of DVDs because there is almost nothing on the television that is either worth watching or that I consider suitable for the chaps.  Also, I never sit down before 9pm (later in the holidays) so there’s quite a narrow window of opportunity for the TV companies to entertain me.  And when I say “TV companies”, effectively I mean the BBC, because, other than ‘Heartbeat’ on ITV (which is like mainlining Ovaltine – in a good way), no other channel is producing anything on a regular basis that is remotely interesting or valuable.

So now we come to the positive bit.  Recently there have been some shining, glittering examples of good television, all incidentally on BBC, that have raised my spirits no end. Two of them are recent, adult programmes and two are on CBBC (the children’s channel) and have been around for a while.

Last Sunday, ‘Sherlock’ launched itself onto the screen at 8.30pm on BBC1.  I’m not a big Sherlock Holmes fan in general and I have rarely read the books, although I rather liked Rupert Everett’s version in ‘The Case of the Silk Stocking’ – intuitive casting.  I must admit that it was the presence of Martin Freeman in the cast list which caused me to watch it, as he never turns in a duff performance and seems to choose his roles with discrimination.

This new version is set in the present.  Watson (Martin Freeman) has just returned, injured, from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and bumps into an old friend in the park who suggests that he should visit Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) with regard to a flat share.  They meet and we are immediately launched into the potential of their relationship.  Freeman is psychologically damaged by his military experiences and Holmes is the type of bonkers that only the upper classes can get away with.  Both are clever and both are functioning outside the experiential realm of ‘normal’ society.  There is a wonderful line in the first episode where a copper calls Holmes a psychopath. “High functioning sociopath!” he snaps back. “Do your research”.

From the very start we are drawn into a thrilling, sizzling chase around London as Holmes and Watson try to solve a seemingly unconnected series of suicides.  Watson is excited and bewildered by the ethernet speed of Holmes’ thought processes (which are frequently displayed on the screen as text) but he is his own man.  There is a brief and moving few seconds when, after Watson has encountered Holmes’ arch enemy in a car park, he is left standing alone, his posture and disposition every inch the soldier.

I have been reliably informed by The Father of My Children, who is a big Sherlock Holmes fan, that the premise for this version is very close to the original books.  There will only be two more episodes, the second being tonight at 8.30pm on BBC1.  On no account must you miss them.

The second shining light is ‘Rev’ co-created and starring Tom Hollander.  I am so sorry that I haven’t told you about it before as Monday night (10pm BBC2) is the last episode, but you may be able to catch a couple on iPlayer.

The hero of this humorous and moving series is Rev. Adam Smallbone, the vicar of an urban parish who has to contend with a dilapidated church and a virtually non-existent congregation.  Smallbone is a man who really wants to make a difference, but who is racked with doubt as to whether he’s up to the job.  The supporting cast of characters includes his lawyer wife who keeps his feet firmly on the ground, Nigel the smug and sanctimonious lay reader who clearly wants his job and the vulpine Arch Deacon who is too busy attending celebrity interviews to take Adam’s needs seriously.  And then there’s Colin, the down and out who treats Adam’s home as a drop in centre.

This is a comedy that is miles away from ‘Father Ted’ or ‘The Vicar of Dibley’ because it feels real.  Adam Smallbone may be a vicar but he is still a man, with all the failings and insecurities of other men.  He smokes and drinks and slobs about the house in his pants when no-one’s looking.  His relentless attempts to do the right thing and be the person that the public perceives a vicar ought to be, result in some funny and excruciating moments.  Hollander has a beauty and depth about him which turns any character he plays into someone we have no choice but to care about.  The characters are understated and there is no canned laughter and the series is all the better, and more intelligently funny for it.

If anyone from the BBC is reading this, please, please re-commission this series.  No really, please.

The other two programmes are on CBBC in the afternoons.  I am a complete fascist about what my children watch, even though many would not agree with my criteria, ergo, our large collection of DVDs.  They are not allowed to watch ‘Tracy Beaker’ under any circumstances, for example, because I think it’s completely inappropriate to show the constant bad behaviour and negative messages which are portrayed when there is no positive pay-off and no redemption for the characters.  But that’s just me.

However, there are two programmes on at the moment, from 5.15 on Tuesdays, which even I don’t want to miss.

The first is the TV programme of ‘Horrible Histories’.  Terry Deary has had years of success with his ‘Horrible Histories’ books, in which he conveys serious historical facts in a child-friendly and clever format.  This has now been translated to the television to great effect.  It is never patronising, it’s unerringly funny and some of the songs have us crying with laughter.

The programme that follows it at 5.45 is a sketch show called ‘Sorry, I’ve Got No Head’.  It has many familiar comedy faces, although the only one I can name is Marcus Brigstock.  It is just as funny as many adult sketch shows, but with age appropriate content.  The sketches which make us fall about are the two posh old ladies who insist that everything costs “At least a thousand pounds! A thousand pounds?  Oh I’d say at least a thousand pounds, dear”, The Museum of the Imaginaaaaaaaation in which there are no exhibits and the French exchange student who has lived with his English family for nearly 20 years and simply won’t go home.

It’s so lovely to be able to enjoy these programmes as a family, without at any point thinking “Oh my God, how am I going to explain that one?”   Well done BBC.

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Hols

Am I the only parent in the world who looks forward to the school holidays?  I was in a shop the other day, buying children’s things, and a brief conversation was struck up with the assistant. 

“I can’t wait for the holidays” I said.
“Ooh, are you going somewhere nice” asked Assistant
“No,” said I,  “I’m just really looking forward to spending some time with my children”.
She looked at me aghast.  “You are the first person I’ve heard who’s said that.  Everyone else has been in here moaning about how much they’re dreading the school holidays.  That’s really nice.”

My only problem with the holidays is finding childcare for the days when I’m obliged to be elsewhere.  During term time, everything is such a rush; rushing to school, trying to remember all the thousands of things they seem to need and all the insidious and constant amounts of money requested for this and that, rushing to clubs, rushing to finish dinner before choir/scouts/football, trying to get them in bed at a sensible time.

I love the holidays because we don’t have to get up so early and we can stay up late watching a film and eating chocolate because we can sleep in.  I love going places with them or just staying in and chatting or playing a game.  I like being able to have their friends round without being stressed to the gills because I’ve got too many other things to do and therefore resent their presence. I like having the time to do cooking with them or ‘crafty’ things.  Also, we really get our moneysworth out of our English Heritage and National Trust cards and, with English Heritage, I can take a couple of their friends along as well.

This last term has been a nightmare.  We have moved house, tried to negotiate the financial minefield that comes with moving, failed to get the house into a decent state yet which is driving me insane, started the long, arduous and stressful business of trying to get Boy the Elder into another school (as yet unsuccessfully) and watched my car slowly deteriorating because I have no money to repair it.  Oh, and whilst this is all going on, I have been trying to lay the groundwork for a new business using a computer that was run by one-legged, shell-shocked goblins.  I’m sure I’m no worse off than anyone else, but it’s all been a bit of a slog.

The Boys and I are knackered and I cannot wait for Friday afternoon and the start of the six week summer break.

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Notes from a Small Library

As many of you pointed out, Harborough Library has computers and I am using one at this very moment, although it is jolly busy and I had to book an hour’s slot, which won’t be nearly enough time.

I love and hate libraries in equal measure.  I never, ever use the library because I can’t get my head round the concept of reading a book and then GIVING IT BACK.  This is a monstrous idea, although the people who have just moved three and a half thousand of them from my old house to my new house may well beg to differ.  I also dislike the fact that libraries are no longer quiet.  As I type, I can hear a wretched baby howling in the play area (sic) and there is a school group in the children’s section who are talking in normal voices and clapping.  It’s all wrong.  Where are the crusty, sour-faced individuals insisting that if the old man in the corner continues to breathe in such a loud and wilful way he will be ejected forthwith?

On the other hand, a well-stocked library should be a haven of knowledge, creativity and mental exploration that opens a world of learning to anyone who cares to look.   Also, instead of scary librarians with dyspeptic personalities, we have a charming, well-spoken young man with a long ginger ponytail who clearly loves his job and can never give one enough help. Swings and roundabouts, you see.

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Things to Make and Do at Easter: Part 3 – Egg Decorations

FABERGE STYLE EGG DECORATIONS

These eggs are so simple to make but look wonderful, particularly if you hang them on a small branch.  You can buy sheets of bead stickers and ribbon stickers at craft shops and good stationers, and haberdashers with have ribbons and beads and often have bags of off-cuts or assorted oddments which are perfect for this sort of thing.

Think through your design before you start and lay your materials out.  They take a little bit of time, but you can go off and do other things while they’re drying.  And of course you can use the egg to make Hot Cross Buns and Simnel Cake.

You will need:
Eggs for blowing
A sharp, long, thick needle
Acrylic paints
Paint brushes – assorted sizes
Clear varnish to make them extra hard
Beads, ribbons, stickers etc for decorating
1/8” / 5mm ribbon to make hangers
PVA glue (because it dries clear)
Scissors

Method:
Make a very small hole at each end of the egg
Poke your needle into the egg to break it up
Position your egg over a bowl and blow through one end until all the egg is out
Leave to dry
Paint your egg carefully with acrylic paint.  You will need more than one coat to get a thick, dense colour, leaving to dry between each coat
When all the coats of paint are dry, apply the varnish to the whole of the egg and leave to dry
Decorate with beads, ribbon, stickers etc and leave to dry

To make the loops:
Cut a length of thin ribbon about 6 times the length of the egg and thread onto the needle so that the ribbon is exactly in half
Thread the ribbon through the bottom hole and out through the top hole, leaving the two ends hanging out of the bottom
Tie off the ribbon neatly at the bottom so it can’t slip through the hole
Put a tiny dab of PVA glue around the hole at the base of the ribbon to set it firm and leave to dry

Post Script 19.04.11:  You can thread the ribbon through a medium sized coloured button on the bottom and glue it on.  This completely covers the hole and makes a very neat finish.

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Things to Make and Do at Easter: Part 1 – Felt Egg Cosies

As it’s nearly Easter and also the school holidays I thought I’d give you a few creative ideas for adults and children alike.  We will have Felt Egg Cosies, Hot Cross Buns, Simnel Cake and Faberge Style Decorative Eggs.  I will do these in the early part of the week to give you time to buy anything you need.

EASTER EGG COSIES

I made this little felt egg cosy some years ago – I also made a chick but it has gone astray.  You can copy my colours or you can make your own; I would suggest making several and doing them in different colours for different people.
For non-sewers, the ‘right side’ means the side you will see and the ‘wrong side’ is the side you won’t see.
The list of things you need is based on my colour scheme.

You will need:
Felt squares in yellow, black and white
Cotton – yellow black and white
A needle for cotton
A needle with a slightly larger eye for wool
Some pins
Fine black wool for the whiskers
Coloured wool for the hair

Method:
Cut out the pattern pieces using the template provided (you should be able to print it off easily)
Pinch the ears at the bottom and sew them onto the back piece of felt for the body
Cut out the eye and nose shapes and pin them onto the front piece of felt for the body
Using white thread and small stitches, sew the eyes and nose to the body
Now cut some little circles in black felt for the irises
Stitch them onto the white eye pieces, using black cotton, to create a nice or funny expression
Thread some fine black wool and sew through the nose for whiskers, leaving about 1”/2.5cm at each end.
Use some black cotton to secure the whiskers on the wrong side, taking care not to sew through to the nose on the right side.
Now thread your needle with yellow cotton.
Place the body pieces wrong side together and overstitch right round the edge
Cut some coloured wool into short lengths and bundle them together
Lay the bundle front to back between the ears and sew into place.
Tip: If you keep one hand inside the cosy it will stop you stitching the two sides together too far down and spoiling the shape

Another Tip:  If you are a little short of time, you can glue the nose and eyes on using craft or fabric glue.  This might make them tricky to wash but then you might never need to.

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Filed under Children, Indoor Activities, Sewing

Packed Lunch to Share! A highlight from the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury

Crikey!

As I mentioned on Saturday night, Lady Somerset is up for the weekend.  She has resided in Glastonbury for the past 22 years and has seen many things.  Monday 26th July sees the onset of the 15th Goddess Conference in Glastonbury which, including all the fringe events, lasts for nearly a week.

The Goddess Conference was set up initially for women and men to celebrate female spirituality, and to be a forum for women to showcase their artwork and creativity.  All fine so far.  In more recent times, the conference has become more extreme and limited in nature.  When Lady Somerset arrived on Friday, she could not wait to show me a leaflet that she’d brought with her, that had completely shocked her (usually unshockable) sensibilities.  She also couldn’t stop giggling, which is always a bad sign, as she pulled the leaflet (pictured) from her bag.

Just in case you can’t read the leaflet, although you can probably enlarge it, this is the gist of what is going to happen in this workshop.

“An offering of deep healing of our feminine bodies, this ritual experience begins with a morning of breath work and movement to open out bodies and being-ness into a space of receptivity.  We will use this sacred dance to claim the power inherent in our womb-spaces.  Spiralling deeper together we will nourish out bodies with a shared lunch, before moving into the afternoon’s healing ritual.  Holding the feminine power we have accessed through dance, we will then provide an opportunity for deep healing for each other through yoni massage.  Yoni is a Sanskrit word meaning sacred space or source. This tantric healing technique holds the capacity to heal trauma, held in the tissues of the yoni, help access orgasm for women who do not reach orgasm, and heightened pleasure states for women who would like to experience their orgasmic capacity more deeply.  The touch of sacred massage can support you on your path to reconnect with your deep self as woman and rediscover your body’s sparkling life energy, honouring the feminine in a state of being rather than doing.  This idea is to explore our bodies so they can open in a flow of feeling, experience whatever arises in each moment.  Enter this ritual prepared to receive and explore your own body, and to serve as a priestess in giving to another woman.
* Please bring your own sheet and lubricant and a packed lunch to share.  Wear comfortable clothing in which you feel beautiful and can move freely.”

”PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN SHEET AND LUBRICANT … AND A PACKED LUNCH” !!!

I have been to many workshops in my lifetime and I can honestly say these things have never been on my kit list.  And who exactly will be going to this workshop?  I don’t see any age limit specified either which could be construed as being somewhat unethical.  The way I see it, these women are being asked to pay fifty quid to touch each other up (with or without a packed lunch) under the pretext of ‘healing’.  Assuming that the participants may have chosen this course because they have suffered some kind of emotional or physical trauma, is this really an appropriate forum for dealing with it?

I would have to leave the first two items on the kit list to the participant’s own discretion, but in my capacity as a Wartime Housewife and with the benefit of the advice of Lady Somerset, we came up with a few suggestions for the packed lunch.

     Fish Paste Sandwiches
     Muffins
     A banana (as oranges are not the only fruit)
     A Mars Bar (no further explanation needed I think)
     A bottle of gin (my God you’d need it)
     A packet of Wet Wipes
    
I will offer a free, exclusive and not yet on sale Wartime Housewife mug to anyone who can infiltrate this workshop and give me a full and detailed report on proceedings.

One gauntlet, thrown down.

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Filed under Behaviour and Etiquette, Indoor Activities, Leisure

Volunteers are the backbone of communities

Join the Neighbourhood WatchAs I mentioned on Thursday, in my article about Baking Cakes for Fetes, I was asked to bake for a table top sale to raise money for Haiti. The sale had been organised in a great hurry by some members of the church, who desperately wanted to do something to help. When I walked in with my tray of cakes at 9.45 this morning, I was astonished at what they had been able to achieve in such a short space of time. The donations were incredible and the tables were groaning with cakes, clothes, china, giftware and toys. I hope they raised a decent amount of money, but what was really good to see was how many people had got behind it and had worked together to make it happenVolunteering at your local hospital

This is what communities are best at.  There was an experiment done a couple of years ago in a small town in Sussex, I think, where all the volunteers, in every aspect of community life, went on strike for day to draw attention to the contribution that they made.  This meant the school, hospital, care of the elderly & handicapped, meals on wheels, drivers, community groups; all stopped.  The result made the national newspapers.  Communities need volunteers and there are so many things that one can do.

In our parents (and certainly grand-parents’) day, if a woman stopped work because she got married, as the middle classes invariably did, she didn’t just spend her day cleaning the house and baking fancies.  There seemed to be an understanding that she would get involved in some sort of community activity.  It might have been the WI, the church, the local school or hospital, and it also had a social dimension as well.  Men would have their own social activities that would often have a charitable dimension or at least the odd fundraising jaunt.

Helping out at School

I’m not suggesting that everyone should be hot-footing it down to the WI or the Rotary Club – these organisations are not for everyone – but there is usually something we can do, even if it’s only a couple of times a year.

Most of us actually have very comfortable lives.  We may not be rolling in asses milk, bathing in caviar or eating Lamborghinis, but we can be pretty sure that we have a lot more than many.  At Boy the Younger’s school, parents (mothers and fathers incidentally) go in to hear children read, help out in cookery or art classes, or accompany the children on school trips.  Because lots of people do it, one is not asked that often and it’s therefore not too onerous.  The Scouts are always asking for help on an ad hoc basis as well as needing leaders and this can be really good fun as well as supporting an organisation which gives so much experience and confidence to young people. 

The point I’m making is that you don’t have to be turning up at some draughty village hall, full of 90-year olds talking about broccoli and cardigans every week in order to ‘do your bit’.  A lot of people, myself included, work long hours and have many responsibilities, but we also have plenty of opportunity to cast a glance outside our own lives from time to time.  Several friends sponsor children in poor countries.  The Aged Parent gives £2 a month to The Lifeboats. Another friend plays the piano at a music group in a prison.

Have a look at the link to The Lunchbreak Philanthropist.  She is going to do a piece each week on what people can do in their lunchbreak at work.  What a brilliant idea!  I shall be very interested to see what she comes up with.

All I ask is that you think about it, it doesn’t have to be massive.  And just because you’ve done something once, it doesn’t mean that you have to get sucked in to doing more and more, you have a perfect right to say no in a clear, steady voice.  But just occasionally your presence could be very welcome indeed.

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Filed under Community and shopping, Family and Friends, Indoor Activities, Leisure, Outdoor Activities

The joy of singing in a choir

This will only be a short message as I am rather tired.

Last week, I trundled along to the Village Hall for a meeting about a new musical which is going to be performed next year and to which I felt I could make a contribution.  Unfortunately the hall was in darkness as the meeting had been postponed and no-one had let on. 

There was, however, a choir practice in the church and when the choirmaster arrived, he cunningly suggested that as I was already dolled up and out, I might as well join in.  He has been trying to get me to join for some time now, so I gave in and pulled up my singing trousers. 

I used to be reasonably good (2000 years ago) and was even considered to be quite promising, had lessons as an outpatient at the Royal College of Music etc but for one reason and another I never carried it on.  This was, then, the first choir practice I had been to since 1983 and I can’t tell you how much fun it was.  We are practicing furiously for a Christmas concert in four weeks time and I don’t know half the songs, but the joy of singing again is beyond words. 

So now, with a piece of toast and a mug of Ovaltine, I am climbing the wooden hill to Bedfordshire a Happy, if slightly Hoarse, Housewife.

Good night!

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Filed under Indoor Activities, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art