Friday, 22 October 2010

part of something big...

This is a bit of an unusual post from me. Normally I stick to pictures of vegetables, sewing, and my dinner.

But today I'm going for something a bit different.

First of all, I must confess to hanging around on this here internet rather too much of late. Bad things can come of that - but mostly good things, depending on where you hang out. I've struck up some beautiful, long lasting, real life friendships through the internet, and so many positive, life changing things have happened as a result of them.

Today I want to tell you about something, and make a suggestion.

I want to tell you about a network I'm part of, a virtual network, on a virtual forum, which I first went on to to figure out how to save money on my van insurance. There I found lots of beautiful, wonderful people, sorting out their finances, and at the same time, supporting each other to change their lives.

One of those women is Elaine. For one reason and another, reasons that happen to lots of people every day, and through no fault of her own, Elaine found herself standing in the bank one day, threatened with repossession of her home, and left with only 71p and three nappies.

Through a couple of years of astonishing strength, she's pulled herself back from that edge, and on Monday she relaunched her own business, and took herself off benefits.

Many of us have followed her story, and been inspired by her positivity, strength, and can-do attitude. We cheered her on. She cheered us on. In fact, we all cheered each other on, so much so that a whirlpool of generosity, good feeling, and hope circled round all of us, til we found ourselves doing things we'd never dreamed we could, taking leaps of faith, and believing that we'd have a soft landing. We generally did.

We've commiserated each other through illness, job loss, crises of all kinds, and celebrated wildly as we've pulled through those crises, found new and better jobs, and got well again. Claire's beautiful jewelry-making business, which had been ticking along slowly for months, has suddenly skyrocketed after suggestions were made, offers of help accepted, and the positivity seeped through us all and out into the universe.

One chance comment made by a woman who works in a South African orphanage, about how a visitor to South Africa might like to bring a couple of old football shirts for the children she works with, bounced around this network of women - 'my son has an old shirt, would you like that?' 'my daughter's team are replacing their kit, could we send the old ones to you?' 'Wouldn't it be lovely if we could get the kit to you by Christmas!' 'Wouldn't it be lovely if we could *all* collect some kit?'

In fact, wouldn't it be lovely if we could collect 10,000 football shirts, ship them all to South Africa, and put 10,000 smiles on 10,000 faces for Christmas?

And so - Kits for Kids was born.

It's not something that would usually inspire me, I'm afraid, collecting football shirts. I have no interest in football whatsoever. I have more of an interest in helping orphans, of course, but I would have questioned whether the best way to do that was by sending football kits. However, what I *love* about this whole thing is the passion, the drive, the enthusiasm, the can-do attitude, the YES, we'd LOVE to help, what can we do? The bouncing around of ideas, the chance suggestions feeding into each other...

And so, here I am, slightly bizarrely, asking those of you in the UK if you have any old football shirts lying around the house that you'd like to donate. Or if you know anybody else who might do.

In the midst of all this energy and enthusiasm, someone else asked - how will we get all these shirts to South Africa by Christmas?

And I love the fact that instead of the idea falling flat at this giant hurdle, the mantle was instead taken up - 'I know someone who works for a shipping company', 'I'll ask the local football club for sponsorship'. Yet again - what can we DO?

Remember Elaine? She who started the whole thing in the first place? She's apparently the five times world mind mapping champion - did you even know there was such a thing? One aspect of her new business is teaching people how to learn effectively. Because isn't that really the key to everything in life - the ability to take in and retain information, to know how to find things out, to think creatively?

And she's selling copies of her two fabulous books - one for adults, one for students of all ages, both of which contain a wealth of techniques for learning effectively. £3 from the sale of each one will go towards the shipping costs for Kits for Kids. See, we're all helping each other.

So, if you've got some old football kit lying around, get in touch with me. We can only collect in the UK, I'm afraid. And if you'd love to take in all that information that whizzes past each day, to regain your enthusiasm for learning, and at the same time support a woman jumping headlong into the world of self employment, and pulling the rest of us along for the ride, then pop over to Elaine's site and have a look at her books.

Be part of something BIG.

The photographs here were taken at the Katha Day Centre in Katlahong. Katha Day Centre is a registered charity in South Africa, Charity Number 031-394 NPO

Sunday, 17 October 2010


A slightly gloomy week here, so I'm very much in need of a bit of colourful cheeriness. And colourful cheeriness I've had today! The sun's been shining, and there's plenty of gorgeously coloured leaves lying around. I've scoffed an entire box of strawberries today, we must be getting to the end of the season soon, these ones didn't have quite the flavour of last month's.

And oh! I haven't told you about the limes! But I might save that for a special lime flavoured post later in the week.

I've been pottering about in the garden in the sunshine this afternoon - would you believe my sweet peas are still flowering? I planted these a couple of years ago, nothing much happened last year, then this year I've had a few of these pink-and-white cheery little flowers. A few weeks ago they started producing pods, and I thought I'd seen the last of the flowers, but no! This week, they've started blooming all over again! So now there's a few of them in the kitchen along with the last of the roses (well, I keep saying 'the last of the roses', but they just won't stop flowering either! Not that I'm complaining mind you...).

And it's not just the flowers that are full of colour in the garden - look at that rainbow chard! I just couldn't capture the colour properly, such a rich, dark red, so beautiful with the light shining through it. I'm ashamed to say it's looking rather slug-munched (and would you look at all those weeds round the bottom! Oh dear!), so I've snapped a fair bit of it up to go in the freezer.

I must get out and do a rainbow-chard-themed photo session in the garden soon. I do love this stuff, all the little seeds look the same, and then you get such an array of colours! Of course, half of mine got eaten before it had much of a chance to get going, but I've still got some fine red ones, and a couple of smaller but no less cheery pink and yellow. Yes, I'll do that this week.

No pictures of the sewing project just yet, but it's progressing, if a little slowly! Perhaps I was rather too ambitious, I never was much good at following a pattern - but this one I just couldn't resist. You'll see what I mean when you see it (unless I abandon it as too much effort - which still isn't out of the question!).

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


I took this photo while walking in the local park early on Sunday evening. I do so love it there. The sunsets at this time of year are spectacular, and the view is incredible. I'm always ever so thankful that I live so close to somewhere so beautiful, and I try to walk there whenever I can, it's a lovely end to the day.

I was there on Sunday with a friend and her dog, just walking and chatting, and reminding myself of the need for balance. A nasty cold, lots of things to do, the looming end of PhD (again), and the lack of my little working space were all getting a little overwhelming. The kind of overwhelming that makes you stomp your feet and shout 'bah!' (try it, it makes things a little better!)

Yesterday our temporary guest moved on. I've so many mixed feelings around his stay. I'm ever so glad that we have the space, and the ability to help a friend in need, and he's such a lovely man he's a pleasure to have around. But I really didn't realise how much I relied on having my own space, and how much I missed just being able to pop up there and *sew*.

So today will be a day of balance. There's writing to be done, yes, and lots of it. But there's also a little bit of reclaiming my attic - I might even move a bit of furniture! Not that there's much furniture up there, or really anywhere to move it to, but we'll see. It might involve a bit of decluttering. It will certainly involve a bit of cleaning. I might even treat myself to some flowers, or I might pick rocket and fuschia from the garden.

I've got some time this evening too, so that might involve waving a duster around the house, and settling into the attic for some sewing. Sewing! Oh, how I've missed it. I don't even have anything in particular in mind, it's just so nice to sit and stare at those untidy (ahem) piles of fabric and start putting them together.

Watch this space and see what I end up with!

Friday, 8 October 2010

I didn't get to take many photos while I've been in London this week, what with dashing about, meeting friends, and training courses lasting most of the daylight hours. I did sneak in a walk along the canal though as the sun was setting, and most beautiful and refreshing it was too.

It's all about writing this week, writing, writing, writing, and since I've been chatting to a lovely friend who is also writing, and she's found it helpful to start the day writing on her blog, that's exactly what I'm going to do. Not that I've been up to anything half so exciting as she has to tell you about! So I'm sticking with a Simple Women's Daybook entry, because I'm enjoying those at the minute, and it's easier to answer questions than to come up with something new all by myself.

Outside my window... fog, would you believe! And drizzly rain. I can barely see the other side of the street. The whole place has a fabulously gloomy Dickensian air about it, a proper autumnal feel that makes me want to get all cosy in the house. I've got herbal tea, and candles, and soon I'll be heading towards the sofa and a blanket with the laptop I think.

I am thinking... about the writing I need to do, and how I have ten weeks left in which to finish this PhD. Again. Ten weeks! I'm actually trying *not* to think about that too much right now.

I am thankful for... a trip to London this week, an inspiring and interesting course, and a lovely 88 year old man who kept me entertained on the train home. Oh, and being back here in my own house, of course, very thankful for that.

From the learning rooms... lots of paper from the course, and two chapters waiting to be edited.

From the kitchen... plenty of cups of tea, and not much else so far today. Looking forward to some nice home cooked food tonight though after a couple of days of restaurant fare.

I am wearing... non matching stripey socks, a long black skirt, and my hand knitted cardigan! (really must sew on those new wooden buttons soon).

I am creating... WORDS.

I am going... to spend the day writing, and the evening at a party. How lovely.

I am reading... nothing in particular at the moment, must sort that out at the library tomorrow.

I am hoping... for a focused day of enthusiastic concentration.

I am hearing... the kettle boiling, and Peter singing a little song.

Around the house... a few candles, to lighten the gloom outside.

One of my favorite things... being cosy inside when it's cold outside.

A few plans for the rest of the week: writing, a little jaunt to a party tonight, a night *in* tomorrow, more writing, and perhaps even a couple of days at work.

More from the Simple Women's Daybook here

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Burnwood Glass

Well, I did promise a spot of creativity today!

And creativity there was indeed - although sadly not much of my own. But off I toddled after lunch with a coconut and lime cake from the Women's Institute (of course), across town, sewing bag in hand.

And we sat, and us girls sewed, and we ate cake, and drank tea, and chatted about this and that, and at the end of the afternoon I'm managed to cut the bottom off one skirt, and cut some green lace of another. Very productive! But I'm plotting a little flurry of bunting making soon, and might even be brave enough to try to sell some of it, so watch this space...

Meanwhile though, would you just look at that stripey fish! How stripey! How cheerily fish-like it looks! You see, the house that I went to is full of creativity already, and is the birthplace of these cheery stripey fish. All over the kitchen wall were fish! And robins! And spiders! With little top hats on! Oh, so cheery, winking and blinking in the sunshine, hanging looking sparkly and marvellous while they wait for new homes.

Well, I suspect that, while my Christmas presents this year may all be hand made, they might just not all be hand made by me... :) I have, in fact, completely fallen for these cheery little robins, and I'm hoping one of them might just sneak its way into my own Christmas stocking this year. Well, I know it will, because I'll be putting it there myself, just to make sure.

And if you fancy a little robin of your own, or as a special treat for a cheery person (or a miserable person, come to that - might cheer them up!), then hop on over to Burnwood Glass and have a nosey round. The solar flower fountain deserves a special mention in my opinion, as does the kaleidoscope, and there's even a little video to play with!

So not much in the way of creativity from me today, but I do hope these cheery little robins and fish make up for it. And now I really must get ready - I'm off for a little dance...

Photos thanks to Burnwood Glass.


Well, would you just look at what came out of my garden last week! Runner beans, rhubarb, spinach, rainbow chard, yet more yellow knobbly courgettes, a couple of tomatoes, and a whole load of herby flowers. And they all seemed to just grow, all by themselves! How's that?

I'm also very much enjoying my decision to paint that bench blue :)

A week of dancing and trains here, so not much gardening or craft, but I am taking some sewing round to a friend's this afternoon (and some cake!) so let's hope this is the start of a bit more creativity round here.

What's your weekend going to involve?