Lent – did YOU give anything up?

Lent – did YOU give anything up?

Many people do not celebrate Lent but people often give up things for it – just to challenge themselves. It’s a great thing to do as it often leads to people giving up negative habits. The most important thing to do when trying to quit a bad habit is to set yourself goals, and stick to them. It’s all well and good to stub out a cigarette and say it will be your last, but for many people the lack of a quitting strategy leads to remission and disappointment. If you want to change your life for the better this month, here are three examples of vices that it’s always a good idea to start giving up, along with some straightforward advice for how to go about it.

Eating sugary foods

Sugar has crept into the diet of people in the developed world in a big way, and it’s having a seriously detrimental effect. While it was once a delicacy, it’s now surprisingly ubiquitous, especially in sugary drinks and confectionery. Quitting sugary foods can help prevent feelings of fatigue throughout the day, regulate your sleep patterns, and reduce excess weight, so it really is a good idea to get started as soon as possible. In terms of strategy – don’t keep sugary items close at hand. If they’re too readily available you’re bound to reach for them in a moment of weakness.

Alcohol

Alcoholic drinks have a lot of obvious detrimental effects on your health and to your well being. Drinking to excess, especially in the young, is actually on the decrease at the moment, so it has perhaps never been a better time to try going drink free. Often the most likely thing to trip you up in this instance is social drinking, so make sure your friends and family know about your goals, and let them help you to steer clear of temptation.

Smoking

The word is well and truly out on how bad smoking is for your health. But despite the health warnings and the increasing difficulty of finding a place to smoke, many people still find it difficult to quit. The chemical addiction of heavy smoking is not something to be taken lightly, so use quitting aids if you need them, such as nicotine gum. Another interesting approach that’s gaining a lot of popularity at the moment is vaping. Electronic cigarettes can offer a range of nicotine doses and e-cigs starting packs are a good way to gradually wean yourself off the chemical, while enjoying the taste and feel of a product which doesn’t involve inhaling burnt vegetable matter. So look into e-cigarette options if you’re looking to quit.

This is a guest post.

Internet and Kids: Survival Guide

Internet and Kids: Survival Guide

My two little monkeys are at an age where they’re dabbling with internet, playing games, using Skype and it’s sometimes worrying.  I’m not the most technical minded of people so this kind of advice is invaluable.  Online safety is just as important as safety in every day life.  I thought this article was particularly useful and informative.  I hope it gives you some helper pointers.

The current generation of children will grow up online, becoming far more knowledgeable about this promising new frontier than we can ever hope to be. But before they reach that stage they’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and the net can be a dangerous place to make them. It’s for this reason that so many parents are worried about their children’s online safety, desperate for a way to make learning to use this vital resource just that little bit less risky.

Here are four steps you can take to safeguard your child online. Not every step may be for you – in fact it may be that your ideal lies in your own unique combination – but every step is something available right now that will make your children safer.

1. Discuss the risks on their terms

For any safety measures to work, your child needs to understand why they’re there. Knowing why certain things are dangerous helps your children develop their own judgement, so they can be safe even when the risk is something you didn’t foresee.

Remember, children lack experience of the world’s darker side. They don’t understand the potential dangers of the net, so focus on the things they can understand and give them a sense of responsibility and agency about avoiding them. Make it crystal clear that harmful content will often be made to seem tempting and safe, and that good web behaviour doesn’t just protect them but the whole family.

2. Install great antivirus software

Every computer needs a decent antivirus software; in fact every device that connects to the internet should have some kind of protection. Antivirus software will steer your kids away from risky content and outright block things like viruses and dangerous websites. Most examples of antivirus software will also come with additional features you can use to increase safety.

3. Restrict content with parental controls

Antivirus software usually comes with some kind of parental control system. This allows you to define what is and is not appropriate for your child to see. It can’t catch everything, but it does make it much less likely that your child will accidentally visit somewhere they’re not safe.

4. Monitor web behaviour

Many makes of antivirus software allow you to track where your children have been online – browsers have their own ‘history’ folders, but kids will very quickly figure out how to get around these. You can use this to track and steer your children’s behaviour or as an observation system they know is in place.

Whether you choose to follow all of these steps or just a few, always remember that communication is the most important protection you can give your child. Knowledge allows them to adapt on the fly, and an informed and cautious user is safer than one who has all the protective software you could hope for but no idea what to watch out for.

This is a guest post.

Lowly Roots

Lowly Roots

I’m a huge fan of recycling, or upcycling or whatever the in-term is at the moment.  There’s something so satisfying about transforming old, abandoned, scruffy, broken items  into loved, treasured and beautiful things.  My kids are terribly embarrassed by their magpie mother, if I walk down a street I always keep a close eye out for sparkly things – whether that be pop can tabs which can be spray painted and daubed with nail varnish to make bracelets, odd earrings, scattered beads from snapped necklaces, nuts, bolts, washers, straggly ribbon blown by the wind and caught in spiky bushes….anything really.  I’ll often go into a shop and fish out the change in my pocket, only to find the spare change is outnumbered by small metal objects that can in no way be exchanged for a can of pop or a pint of milk.

Here’s a few things I treasure, all found objects.  Laugh if you must, maybe it’s not normal.

A turqouise glass bead I found by a riverbank on a dog walk.  An archaeologist friend of mine said that beads such as this can sometimes be from the iron age, but then again, it could just as easily be from a broken bracelet from Accessorize, lost on a sunny day spent by the river. Who knows?  I like it.

A turqouise glass bead I found by a riverbank on a dog walk. An archaeologist friend of mine said that beads such as this can sometimes be from the iron age, but then again, it could just as easily be from a broken bracelet from Accessorize, lost on a sunny day spent by the river. Who knows? I love it because it was lost and rolling around amongst the rocks, and now I can make it into something pretty again. 

I'm not enthralled with this bee to be honest.  It'll probably be pulled in pieces and made into something else, but I do love what the abdomen is made from.  I found it squished in the middle of the road, probably run over by a million and one cars.  If you look carefully you can see the image of a pylon-like tower with zig zags coming out of the top that look like the symbolize radio waves.  At the bottom it says 'BBC' so I'm presuming it was some sort of promotional pin badge.

I’m not enthralled with this bee to be honest. It’ll probably be pulled in pieces and made into something else, but I do love what the abdomen is made from. I found it squished in the middle of the road, probably run over by a million and one cars. If you look carefully you can see the image of a pylon-like tower with zig zags coming out of the top that look like the symbolize radio waves. At the bottom it says ‘BBC’ so I’m presuming it was some sort of promotional pin badge.  This is almost impossible to see on this photograph by the way, it’s hardly visible because of the damage.  Say what you like about the bee, it’s not great, but the pin badge did make a fabulous bee’s bum, or at least I think so. 

I think this is called a nut?  Not as in hazelnut obviously, more of an industrial 'nut', most probably used with a bolt to secure things to things.  I'm very vigilant when I walk past garages and where people fix cars outside their houses, because there's a higher llikelihood of finding strange little odds and ends that I can scavenge.  The next pic shows what I made from it.

I think this is called a nut? Not as in hazelnut obviously, more of an industrial ‘nut’, most probably used with a bolt to secure things to things. I’m very vigilant when I walk past garages and where people fix cars outside their houses, because there’s a higher llikelihood of finding strange little odds and ends that I can scavenge. The next pic shows what I made from it.

I turned the 'nut' into a pendant after gluing and wireworking random bits and pieces onto it.

I turned the ‘nut’ into a pendant after gluing and wireworking random bits and pieces onto it. The copper coloured central ring and the metal outer ring were also just picked up off the pavement in passing. 

Maybe it’s the remains of the ‘Hunter/Gatherer’ instinct.  The same reason why it’s so therapeautic to spend hours picking masses of blackberries from hedgerows, when you could easily just bob down to the grocers and buy a box of them for not very much money and save yourself the trouble of purple stained clothes and thorns embedded in fingertips.  I could just buy supplies from craft shops, or simply spend a couple of quid on pre-made jewellery from shops, but there’s no challenge in that.  Besides, I can make things that I can actually see in my mind’s eye, and they’re unique.

If you’re willing to invest a bit of time pulling  things in pieces you can find all manner of things too.  I had so much fun disembowelling a bedside clock a while ago.  It was broken and ugly so I didn’t feel guilty ripping it in bits. After messing around with a screwdriver, ripping off the facade and rooting around amongst the innards, I found all these gorgeous little things.

I never imagined a dissected clock could be so interesting!

I never imagined a dissected clock could be so interesting!

I 'sewed' some of the clock to a wirework bee I made.  All held in place with the wire you can sometimes find wrapped around corked wine bottles.

I ‘sewed’ some of the clock to a wirework bee I made. All held in place with the wire you can sometimes find wrapped around corked wine bottles.

It’s just so much fun, and so fascinating to see what you can do with something and nothing.  My dad used to play a game where he’d draw a squiggle on a piece of paper, then my sister and I would take turns trying to make little pictures out of them.  That’s all I do with metal and wire really.  I just pick something up, look at it, turn it round, put it on something else, attach it, embellish it somehow and then it becomes something else entirely.  Make no mistake, this doesn’t always work.  I’ve made some monstrosities in my time.  I tried to make a german shepherd out of wire once, and it ended up looking like a weird dog wearing baggy pants, a friend said that it looked like a canine MC Hammer.  Here it is for your amusement and my embarrassment….

Dog wearing pants that are far too big for it.

Dog wearing pants that are far too big for it.  I was trying to copy a sillhouette and it just didn’t work at all!

Anyway, I digress.  This is just an example of how doodling with metal can be fun. It doesn’t always come naturally to me, but because I love it, so I persist, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

The point is, from just a piece of wire, or an abandoned bit of tatt, you can come up with all sorts of things.  Silver or gold, or expensive materials are things of beauty, you can’t deny that….but I’m actually proud of the lowly roots that make up many of my creations.  I’ll proudly boast that something is made from a broken hair clip and feel absolutely no shame about it at all.

Life’s about making things up as you go along, or at least it is for me.  You find the sparkle on the pavement, the simple little things that make up a day and turn them into something good and worthwhile.  That’s the idea anyway.

Dragonfly Days

Dragonfly Days

Today I am not asleep.  I’m very proud of this fact.  And I’ve done tons and it’s only midday!  Fatigue is horrible and it has been ruling my days, but I’m battling it now,  it’s official.

I took the kids into school, tramped up town, saw my GP, picked up my prescription, bought fleaing and worming tabs for the furry beasties I care for, nit treatment for the kids in case they bring further small insecty pets home, arranged to go into the Help the Aged charity shop (locally known as Help the Hagged which is very un PC I think) for two hours tomorrow and ate a bacon butty from Greggs.  Exciting stuff, if you live a quiet life that is.  Which I do.

Less staring at the walls, more action!  I had a chat with a friend the other day and we both decided that it would be good to do more stuff so we’d have more news to share.  She mentioned she was going to do pole dancing lessons.  I don’t think I could teach poles to dance, so I’m passing on that particular activity.  I mean, they don’t do much do they? Perhaps I’ve just talked to them in the wrong tone of voice in the past.  Lampposts just ignore me.

So, I’m just going to go into a charity shop and amble around.  That’s brave for me at least.  I’m also going to challenge my cash till phobia.  I once worked in a co-op for extra cash when I was a teenager and the cash till was possessed or something.  It just beeped and threw out random numbers, and I gave the wrong change a lot.  That job didn’t last very long and I’ve avoided any job in retail ever since because I’ve worried they’ll make me use a till again.  I’m facing my fears.  Hopefully this will open up more job opportunities for me.

Oh and I’ve made a couple of dragonflies recently, both are custom make for customers.  I’m rather proud of them.  When I get down I lose my creativity and my lust for life – so I’m working hard to get past that too.  Making things make me happy.  I feel like I’m achieving something if I have something actually in my hands that I’ve put together.  Here’s a couple of pics, I do love dragonflies, I think they’re beautiful insects.

Wirework and scalemaille dragonfly.  Doesn't fly very well unless you lob it across a room though.

Wirework and scalemaille dragonfly. Doesn’t fly very well unless you lob it across a room though.

This is made from copper wire, upcycled wire from wine bottles, cultured pearls from an old necklace and an old battered locket.  Again, this refuses to fly but will hover if held with a piece of string.

This is made from copper wire, upcycled wire from wine bottles, cultured pearls from an old necklace and an old battered locket. Again, this refuses to fly but will hover if held with a piece of string. 

So that’s me today.  You could say I’m a bit like the dragonflies above – the right shape and size, but not actually doing what dragonflies are supposed to do…ie, flying.  But I’ll get there. I’m just stretching my wings a little today.  Flight will have to wait for a while, but I’m getting there. Hope that makes sense, in my head it does anyway.

 

Steampunk Geekery

Steampunk Geekery

A while ago I posted a picture of a top I was working on.  Tbe plan was to customise an M & S undergarment with chainmaille and scales to make it look steampunky.  I quite fancy doing more of these because with a minimum of chainmaille you can get maximum effect, if you see what I mean.  A proper full chainmaille top can literally take weeks of work and the materials alone cost a fortune.  Customising items is quicker, plus I can get more precise sizes if the base garments are pre-chosen by the customer.

Well, that was a waffly paragraph, I’m just thinking aloud and justifying my reasons for pulling a perfectly good piece of lingerie in pieces and sewing bits of metal onto it.  Here’s how it looked the first time I blogged about this.  It looks rather different now as you can see in later photographs.

Planning Stage

Planning Stage – I decided I didn’t this in the end, so it looked very different by the time I finished.  Check out later pics!

You can see above that all the chains are pinned rather than sewn in place and that the straps are still intact.  After a lot of pondering, I changed my mind about this design. The scales looked too much and the chains on the seams would restrict the flexibility of the material.  Plus the metal rose on the bust looked like a big bobble …sooooooo  I took the straps off and attached a japanese weave choker with chains supporting the bust – added a dangling pendant with a sparkle of red beads and scales to emphasise the neckline – echoed the pendant design along the bust and finally, I sewed solid metal rings that look like studs below the bust and around the back so the design continues right along the bra line.

I was rather embarrassed to show my parents my project and had to explain over and over again, that it's not 'kinky' and that the idea is that it's worn as a body top with a long victorian fitted waist and flared skirt with a bustle in a steampunk stylee.

I was rather embarrassed to show my parents this particular project, I had to explain over and over again, that it’s not ‘kinky’ and that the idea is that it’s worn as a body top with a long victorian fitted waist and flared skirt with a bustle in a steampunk stylee.

My dad doesn’t know what steampunk is and I swear he thought it was some weird fashion to do with odd people, alternative music and steamtrains.  My mum thought it was ‘interesting’ and fekkit, I like it anyway!

Each 'stud' is sewn individually so that if one comes loose, the rest don't all fall off one by one.  It is, as you might say 'quality'.  And these little rings took ages to sew in place I might add.

Each ‘stud’ is sewn individually with double thickness thread which is looped several times so that they won’t come loose.  It is, as you might say ‘quality’. And these little rings took ages to sew in place I might add. Ages.  Ages and ages.  Did I mention that they took me ages?  Donkeys years.  

All the chains, and the outer jump rings on the japanese weave, are sewn onto the actual material with four stitches on each jump ring, in four different places on each and every ring, so that if one thread slips through the gaps in the jump rings in one place, they are still held in place by the other three stitches.  That may sound like gobbledegook.  It is in fact just common sense.  This is the sewing version of superglue.  Those goddam rings 'aint coming off in a hurry in summary.

All the chains, and the outer jump rings on the japanese weave, are sewn onto the actual material with four stitches on each jump ring, in four different places on each and every ring, so that if one thread slips through the gaps in the jump rings in one place, they are still held in place by the other three stitches. That may sound like gobbledegook. It is in fact just common sense. This is the sewing version of superglue. Those goddam rings ‘aint coming off in a hurry in summary.  They are well ‘ard.

Another pic.  I'm not very good at this newfangled photography thing.

Another pic. I’m not very good at this newfangled photography thing, but I think you have a clearer view of the bust here. 

This is for sale if anyone is interested, although you do have to be a 34B.  It is £50 plus postage and it’s completely unique. the materials are bright aluminium and they are glass beads, I think the ‘studs’ are steel, although I can’t be sure as they’re upcycled from an old bracelet.    If you think I can do any customisation for you, please do let me know.  Happy to help, any suggestions as to further projects, contacts with people or businesses who would be interested in selling things like this, anything……would be appreciated.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it wouldn’t do if we were all the same would it.

P.S  I’m not modelling this so don’t ask me. ;)

 

 

And So….

And So….

Unlikely to become famous or influential….ie can be written about for cheap laughs with no adverse consequences.

Kay: Unlikely to become famous or influential….ie can be written about for cheap laughs with no adverse consequences.

And so it continues, being on the Brink of Bedlam that is….literally.  I’ve been a bit up and down recently and not in a good ‘Let’s have a laugh mucking about on a see-saw’ kind of way either.  I’m rather prone to depression and have been suffering a little recently so,

‘Hi-ho, Hi-Ho

It’s off to the GP I go!’  *sing in a 7 Dwarves cheerful fashion*

I think a change of meds and a change of lifestyle will help.  I also think writing down my goals, plans and thoughts will make me feel more positive and braver as a result.  I can face challenges and I can come out of this a better person.

And so…Plan A – go to my lovely friendly danish gp and ask for a change of meds.  I still trust her even though she said, and I quote: ‘I stab everyone’ before she gave me my flu jab.

Plan B – Go to my local charity shop and see if they’ll let me help out.  This will give me work experience, enable me to have conversations with people instead of pets and there’s a 6ft transvestite who works there who I think might be nice.  I see him/her in the mornings walking down the hill and he/she always smiles and looks friendly.  He/She’s always impeccably dressed and I’m always curious about people who dare to be different.

Plan C – Visit the job centre and stare hopefully at the computers.  I shall ask the computers to tell me about local jobs and I will absolutely not swear at the screens when they tell me there’s loads of jobs out there…..in Hertfordshire, or at the North Pole and only for people who can speak Japanese and can drive their own car etc etc.

Plan D – Raid google for local groups I can get to.  I can’t knit, but I’m planning on finding out about the local Knit and Natter posse.  I’m hoping they will have a space in their heart for someone who has only ever knitted 6 inch squares from scraps that are then sewn into patchwork style blankets.  I did this about 30 years ago with Guides and I was never very good at it, but as long as they have coffee and biscuits there I’ll be fine.  I’ll just clatter the knitting needles together a bit and have awkward conversations with OAPs – anything is better than sitting in this bl**dy house on my own any more.

Plan E – Tidy the house.  This will make me happier.  Falling over stuff may be funny in slapstick comedies, but I’m going to break my neck if I don’t move the bookalanche at the top of the stairs.  Gawd they’re slippery if you get a load of the shiny backed ones in a sliding stack and stand on them.

Plan F – Eat sensibly.  I have to feed the kids properly so I do organise one decent meal a day so that’s good at least.  During the day though, I have been known to massacre a jar of Nutella with a teaspoon, and just drink tea, which is stupid.  Plus if you drink too much tea, you spend all day thinking that you need the loo…again.

Plan G – Stop sleeping all the time!  I have heard it said that the hallmark of depression is sleeplessness or insommnia.  For me, it is the opposite.  I can’t keep my eyes open.  After having dropped the kids off at school I have been known to sleep for hours and hours because I feel there is no point being awake.  This is no way to live.  For the sake of my kids, my husband, my dog and my cat, changes must be made.

Plan H – Be positive and be confident.  It’s all alright really and I’m alright really.  I should stop telling myself that it’s not and that I’m not.

Plan I – Do the above.  Write about the little victories. Seize the day, or the knitting needles, or the new meds, or the pile of washing.  Seize it all.  Get my life back . And write more. Because writing means I’m mentally putting myself ‘out there’ again which is a therapy of sorts for me, and because I love the written word as much as I hate housework: and I mean that with a passion.

And so…..wish me luck  :)

 

 

Musings on a Dog’s Dinner

Musings on a Dog’s Dinner. 

Unlikely to become famous or influential....ie can be written about for cheap laughs with no adverse consequences.

Unlikely to become famous or influential….ie can be written about for cheap laughs with no adverse consequences.

As you may have gathered from previous posts, we have a german shepherd called Boris.   I feel I can write about him and his life because he is unlikely to become a famous politician or a pop star in the future – my musings are not going to be detrimental to his future life.  Unless he develops opposable thumbs on his paws, if that happens he may very well take over the world and will curse my blog for letting the world know of his peculiarities and weaknesses….namely chicken tikka marsala, sardines, eggs and cat biscuits.  Goddam our dog, he’s far too clever for his own good.  He eats better than I do. I have been totally and utterly manipulated by his doggy demands.  Help!

I suppose I’m just venting really.  German Shepherds are known for having dodgy tummies, so on dog biscuits he was an absolute nightmare.  They just didn’t suit him, I suppose the politest way I can put it is to say that poo bags just weren’t ‘doing-the-doo’.  So, I put him on what is known as a Raw Food Diet.  He eats raw meat, which up until recently was suiting him quite nicely.  I’ll admit, chopping up bits of raw liver, slopping containers of raw mince into his bowl, lobbing raw chicken carcasses into the back yard for him has been a little traumatic.  I’m very glad I’m not a vegetarian, because I’d be a quivering wreck by now.  So, yep, my dog has turned me into an amateur butcher I suppose.  Until recently.  You see my dog is clever, very clever, devious in fact. He’s decided he wants to choose his own food and has recently refused to eat anything apart from small fish, left over curry and eggs.  Oh, and stolen cat biscuits, much to the despair of our little black kitty.   Rosie has taken to growling sometimes whilst eating her cat biscuits.  Cats growl!  Who knew?  She’s defending her grub from him.  You see he does what we call Counter-Surfing.  Because he’s a big dog he can reach the cat biscuits almost anywhere I leave them, the beast.

So now, 9 times out of 10, he refuses to eat his raw food and will instead rob the cat and raid the dishwasher if I’m not quick enough to stop him.  He had a whole chicken leg the other day sat in his bowl, and he just left it there – preferring instead to sit next to the newly loaded dishwasher licking the chicken tikka marsala encrusted dinner plates.  We do not need a german shepherd pre-wash and try to discourage this behaviour, but he’s a determined furry monster. This is not a balanced diet by anyone’s standards.  He does love sardines and raw eggs though, as a treat.  In desperation I’ve taken to giving him these to stop him starving himself.  Unfortunately he’s realised that if he pretends to starve himself, he gets his favourite foods.  I am, being manipulated by a dog.  It’s not funny anymore.

When I was a kid we had a labrador who would eat ANYTHING, she once scavenged a massive tub of margarine from the fridge and licked a huge dent in the middle of it.  She would eat lettuce, fruit, cooked meat, raw meat, stolen lasagne…anything.   I miss that.  Having a furry hoover had its uses.  If the kids drop crisps, Boris wanders over, sniffs them and then looks up at us as if to say ‘What do you expect me to do with this?!’ and then wanders off.  Perhaps I should borrow a labrador for a day and get them to give Boris hoovering lessons.  For those of you who read quickly and might have mis-sread that, that’s ‘hoovering’, not ‘hovering’.  I do not want my dog to hover – just to eat sensibly.

So that’s it really.  Just a bit of a rant about the battle of wills with Boris.  Life is full of its little challenges.  Challenge 1 – feed dog properly.  Challenge 2 – write more.

This blog is dedicated to my lovely friend Gabrielle who said I should persevere with writing. So I have. Job done.  For today at least.  Next time I may ascend to loftier literary heights of excellence, I might write about the cat’s dinner.

Much love to anyone out there still reading this stuff.  x