Sunday, 27 May 2012

Bluebells and Beaches

Hello Everybody,

Well, Britain has been doing its wonderful changeable weather thing recently.

Last weekend, I took my Mum to see the Bluebell Woods at Yoxall Lodge.

Yoxall is a pretty village in South Staffordshire, not particularly far from my house. Yoxall Lodge is a farm with about 100 acres of woodland and fields, and lies within the National Forest. I'm not sure when they first opened their bluebell walks to members of the public, but I've never been before. Mum had been a few years ago. We didn't pick the best day weather-wise, it was dry (just about) but rather chilly. It was an overcast, miserable day full of grey skies without a hint of sun. Gloomy. The bluebell woods normally shut the week before (usually opens between approx. 14th April and 20th May), but since it had been such a cold, wet Spring the opening times were extended to see the last of the bluebells. In all honesty, they were a bit past their best, but there were still some pretty ones to be seen.

There are seven walks in total, all with slightly different views and atmospheres. Some take you through dark woods, others through open meadows. Although none were strenuous (we did them all in a couple of hours at a strolling pace), some were very slippy underfoot and I nearly fell over a couple of times! I think the Foxholes Walk was my favourite.

There was also a walk by a lake, which was lovely and took us by an area where volunteers had been burning down the rampant rhododendrons. Lots of birds were flying very quickly over the grasses in the lake. It wasn't too busy, so we could hear plenty of birds tweeting all around us. We also saw a lot of grey squirrels and a cute little mouse, as well as some cows!

Of course, it wasn't all bluebells! We saw plenty of other gorgeous wild flowers, including white bluebells (? whitebells).

I loved seeing the ferns starting to poke up in-between the bluebells, waiting to uncurl. I am not sure if the white bluebells are white versions of the Spanish variety, or native English bluebells - which are quite rare. Spanish bluebells are becoming quite a pest and are threatening to wipe out English bluebells, because they are more vigorous. The pollen of an English bluebell should be creamy-white

Moving on from bluebells the weather took a turn for the better, from about Tuesday I think, and the sun has been shining like mad. It has been really quite hot and I'm glad I chose this week to have off work. During my time off, I took a couple of days to visit my friends who live in North Wales. 

First stop on the trip was the delightful village of Betws-y-Coed, which was quite busy because of the nice weather. We chose a nice rock to sit and have lunch on by the river, had a lovely stroll around the little shops and a delicious ice-cream.

We then moved on, via a garden centre in Caernarfon, to the seaside! It was late in the day by this point, so we just had a brief stop at Pensarn beach, by Abergele on the North Wales coast. You can see the off-shore wind farm in the distance. Although it looks cloudy, it isn't really - just a bit hazy.

We took off our sandals and dipped our feet in the (freezing) waves. It was quite nice to feel the sand in-between our toes, until we noticed thousands of little jelly blobs lying on the sand. They weren't very big, about a couple of centimetres, and were clear jelly with a brownish-purple streak inside. We weren't sure what they were, so we were careful not to tread on them in case they stung us. I later googled and think they are sea gooseberries. I'm still not incredibly sure what sea gooseberries are, but never mind. You can see one here that I scooped up on a shell.

We were a bit tired after our trip out, so no time for building sandcastles!

So, that was a little summary of some of the fun I've been having this week. Has anyone else been doing anything nice? I hope you've made the most of the weather - it may be our Summer!

Thistle Girl x

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mini Bottle Terrarium

Hello Everybody,

Yesterday I decided, rather impulsively, that I was going to create a terrarium. I have been eyeing up Rachael's lovely terrariums over at her Squiggly Rainbow blog for a while now. She sells her fab terrariums in Australia, a little bit far for postage to sunny Staffordshire. So, I decided to have a go at my own. I love all the little characters and objects she puts in them. I really want to make a little gnome garden, but don't have the right bits and bobs yet - will keep a look out!

I didn't want to start with a large one, I thought I'd give it a go on a smaller scale first. I liked the look of the light bulb ones on Pinterest and found a good website showing you how to get the filament out, but I had no dead light bulbs (will have to wait for that project). So, I thought I'd start with a bottle terrarium.

I found a bottle in the shed that I'd cleaned out and kept for making flavoured vinegars etc. To give you an idea of scale, it's a single serve Bottle Green sparkling pressé bottle - 275ml, measuring about 20cm in height.  I should point out that I have no real idea how to make a terrarium. I put some gravel in the bottom and a bit of cleanish potting soil (I hope - I don't want bugs). Then I bunged in some moss from the garden and added a bit of water. I think I added a bit too much water, so I'm hoping some will evaporate off.

Although I wanted to make a gnome garden, the bottle is a bit small for that and I don't have any gnome-themed miniatures yet. However, I did want to put something of interest in it to make it slightly less dull. I found a small ?Chinese figurine in a garden pot, which has been following me around for a few years now. I'm not sure where he originated from, I have a feeling he was my Nanny's but I'm not sure. He is painted and says 'Longevite' along the bottom. Strange thing. Anyway, he has now got a new home inside a bottle whether he likes it or not. I wanted to put in a lucky sixpence, but it wouldn't fit so I put in a tiny silver threepence from 1918. Not sure if that's so lucky though.

Here is my finished bottle terrarium. The photos aren't particularly clear as it's tricky to photograph into a bottle and the glass was a bit steamy. Sure you can get the gist though.

I'm not sure where it's going to live yet, I don't think they like direct sunlight. Has anyone else got/made a terrarium?

Hope you're all having a lovely weekend,

Thistle Girl x

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Brownie Badges

Hello Everybody,

Well I woke up this morning and suddenly decided to have a look at my old Brownie and Girl Guide badges. I have no idea why. I would quite like to make something out of them or display them in some way, as it seems a shame to keep them hidden in a drawer. I haven't got all my badges, think they're still over at my Mum's, so I will have to ask her for them. Some of my Brownie badges are on my old camp blanket and I have a Girl Guide sash with a few on too. I think I have duplicates of some badges, because I was in a local Pack and in a school one too! Here is a picture of some of the ones I've dug out so far:

From left to right, top to bottom: Staffordshire Knot County Badge, Footpath Brownie Badge, 1st Colwich Pack Badge, Science Investigator Brownie Badge, Staffordshire Guides Unity '94 Badge, Needlework Brownie Badge, Speaker Girl Guides Badge, Writer Brownie Badge, Hostess Brownie Badge, Girl Guides Promise Badge, 2nd Birthday Brownie Badge, Agility Brownie Badge, Local History Girl Guides Badge, House Orderly Brownie Badge, Elf Six Brownie Badge, Swimmer Brownie Badge, Venture Brownie Badge, First Aider Brownie Badge, Camper Girl Guides Badge, Challenge '92 Brownie Badge, Outdoor Cook Girl Guides Badge, Chaffinch Patrol Girl Guides Badge, Road Safety Brownie Badge, Rugeley Division 10th Anniversary Badge, Sixer and Seconder Brownie Badges, Entertainer Girl Guides Badge, Animal Lover Brownie Badge, Artist Girl Guides Badge, Collector Brownie Badge, Sportswoman Girl Guides Badge, Jester Brownie Badge, Silver Bar Girl Guides Sash Pin, Cook Brownie Badge, Agility Girl Guides Badge, 1st Birthday Brownie Badge, Crafter Girl Guides Badge, Venture Brownie Badge, International Challenge Unity '94 Badge, Girl Guides Sash with Badges.

They are all badges from Brownies and Guides in the early 90s. I don't remember getting half of them and I'm fairly sure I didn't deserve most of them. I remember having an argument with my Mum over the "Animal Lover" Brownie badge, something to do with crying every time I had to clean out my guinea pigs! I do remember getting the "Science Investigator" badge though, there was a group of three of us (I think) working for it and it took ages. We had to make yoghurt and do a project on Marie Curie. There's a badge from Unity '94, I think we went in Guides. It was an international Girl Guide camp and we (the 1st Colwich Guides/1st Bishton Guides, can't remember which) were camping with some girls from Sierra Leone. It was based at Shugborough Hall in Staffordshire (at least a mile from my house) and lasted 2 weeks I think. It seemed a long time away from home when you were 11. I don't remember much about it, apart from wandering around fields collecting signatures from Guides in a workbook (things like: 'Find a Guide who can tie a sheepshank knot') and throwing up all the way to Alton Towers. We got given some ashes from the campfire at the end in a little film canister, I still have mine!

I have to say thank you to this website, for helping me find out the names of all the badges - I had no idea about some of them. 

Does anyone else have collections of badges from when they were younger? Any ideas what to do with them?

Thistle Girl x

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Introducing Rupert

Hello Everybody,

Yes, I know - I've been astonishingly bad at blogging this year. It's now May and I have just realised that haven't posted anything since January. Oops. I have a few things to share with you and I'm going to start with Rupert.

Rupert arrived to live at Thistle House on Good Friday. He came all boxed up and I actually didn't unpack him until the next day, despite being very excited to meet him. Here he is:

Can you guess what he is? He's a Roomba 770 Robotic Vacuum Cleaner made by iRobot. Yes, before you ask, I am lazy. I absolutely HATE vacuum cleaning and never seem to be able to find the time to do it. To be honest, I'd rather spend my life doing other things, so I thought I'd treat myself.

He's fab, I fell in love with him straight away. Rupert can't do stairs and obviously will only clean areas he can get to/around, but he does a pretty good job. I can't believe how much dirt he keeps finding - I did a thorough clean before putting him to work. He goes under the beds and sofas and has even brought a sock back to his docking station for me - it's like having a little pet. I've used him at least every other day since I got him and he's still behaving himself. He comes with a virtual wall to stop him going places, but I haven't used it yet as it takes those really fat batteries and I don't have any. I'm not sure it's really necessary in my house anyway. I just open all the doors on one floor and let him work his way from room to room. He's quite slow and although not as noisy as a traditional vacuum, still quite loud. I was a bit worried about the size of the waste compartment before getting him. He does need to be emptied regularly, but can manage an entire floor of the house in one go with no probs.

Here is his underside (sorry Roops):

He is a bit dirty and due a nappy change - sorry. The compartment at the bottom is where he collects his dust. It's usually transparent so, as you can see, it's full! The compartment above that contains two brushes that can be removed. One with bristles (covered in my hair!) and one with rubber bits. Then at the top left there's a little brush that spins around, getting in all the nooks and crannies. You can take that out to be cleaned too. It all seems very easy to maintain. There are two little filters but I don't think they can be washed and replacement ones have to be bought every so often.

Rupert came with two brush cleaning tools, which are rather nifty. 

The one on the left, or above, is one for the bristle brush. It is ingenious. You just slide the brush through the centre hole and all the hair gets caught in its teeth. Brilliant.

The other one I haven't used as much. It is a multitool and includes a tiny scalpel edge for slicing through stubborn bits of tangled hair etc.

Rupert has on occasion got himself in a bit of a tangle. Generally, he untangles himself (he has an anti tangle mechanism!) and cables don't appear to be a problem. However, I have some bits of spare carpet with unsealed edges that he like to chew and unravel (they have been moved now) and he also once bumped into a pile of yarn, knocked it over and started to eat it. Fortunately, no harm was done to either Rupert or the yarn.

Speaking of which, here is the yarn in question:

It is Wendy Capri - the label look as though it's from the 80s or 90s - and is a textured cotton/acrylic mixed in off-white with strands of pastel blue and pink running through it. It was donated to me - I have a bagful- and I have no idea what to do with it. I could always make dishcloths or shower scrubs. Initially, I was going to make a baby toy, but wasn't sure whether it would be weird with blue and pink?

Any ideas?

Anyway, I'm going to love you and leave you with a photo of these wonderfully fragrant freesias, which are brightening up my lounge in this dull weather.

Thistle Girl x