Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

We are sound October 30, 2011

Filed under: Music — lauravw @ 11:35 am

A lot has changed in the past 18 years – but a lot has remained the same.

One December night in 1993, I went to see James, in concert in Derby. My mother came with me to the concert, while my father, who drove us there, went to a nearby cinema to watch Kes.

And then last week, mum and I went to see them in concert again, this time in Nottingham.

I’m not sure what 15-year old Laura would have made of the fact that 30-something year old Laura would still be going to see the same bunch of musicians, even after all those years. Or that this time, she was wearing a skirt, grown-up shoes, and a pashmina. (15-year old Laura had a very limited wardrobe of jeans, trainers and band t-shirts. 17-year old Laura had a similar wardrobe, but with the addition of a leopard-print top and some dark lip gloss.)

Some things change, and some don’t. Something that has changed in that time: the fortunes of the group that supported James back in 1993, a little-known group called Radiohead. I hear they’ve done quite well since then.


Here comes the science part October 22, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 2:20 pm

Things have taken a turn for the scientific: I have been conducting experiments in the garden, under the cover of darkness.

You know all about our hedgehog visitor by now (and yes, this is another hedgehog-related post). Well, with winter approaching, my mother was kind enough to buy the little creature a house in which to hibernate. This picture shows the house being inspected by Daisy, my glamourous assistant.

We found an ideal spot for the house by our garden fence, underneath an apple tree, where it is protected from the prevailing winds. But this is in the lower part of our garden, some four feet below the patio, which is where we always see the hedgehog. For some time we’ve had a small ramp along the side of the fence, connecting the patio to the rest of the garden, but we’ve never been sure that the hedgehog has found it, let alone that he has been able to use it. So some experimentation was needed!

First, we put mealworms (our hedgehog’s snack of choice – and a good thing to put out for him, since it is of no interest to passing cats) on two places along the ramp – some in the middle, and some a little lower down. That night there was a heavy rainstorm, which most likely washed the food away. So we repeated it the next night, and the next, and each time, the food had disappeared by morning. But that doesn’t prove that the food was eaten by the hedgehog, so…

We covered part of the ramp in flour, hoping to be able to see footprints in it the next day. That proved inconclusive. I did a bit of research, and found another technique: taking a bit of cardboard, covering it in foil, and then using a candle to blacken it with soot. Heaven only knows what my neighbours thought I was doing as I stood in the garden, in the cold, hovering close to a candle as dusk fell. It is trickier than it sounds to blacken a piece of foil in that way, but I got there in the end (albeit with a smaller piece of foil than I had started with – I got a bit impatient part way through, and threw half of it away so that it wouldn’t take as long). I put the foil-covered cardboard towards the lower half of the ramp, and left it there overnight.

By morning, we had evidence! There were plenty of footprints on the foil, and judging from pictures I’ve seen online of hedgehog footprints, that is what they are. So we now know for sure that he can and does use the ramp to access the rest of our garden.

But will he find his house? I’m planning to repeat the foil trick in a spot by the entrance to the shelter, and lay a Hansel and Gretel style trail of mealworms leading from the bottom of the ramp to the front of the shelter.


Halloween paper chains October 21, 2011

Filed under: Crafts,Halloween — lauravw @ 1:54 pm

Today I have been decorating our fireplace for Halloween, a job I love to do. I have two boxes of decorations: one for Christmas, and one for Halloween. They are both filled with things I have collected over the years, and I love to open them up each year and be reminded of what’s inside.

Some of my very favourite Halloween decorations are also the first ones I acquired: as a teenager I went on holiday with a friend and her family to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where we visited a Christmas store. It was a big old house, and every room, except for one, was filled with Christmas decorations. The one room that wasn’t filled with snowmen and reindeer was instead filled with pumpkins and black cats. I loved it.

This year I have made new decorations – the paper chains that you can see in this picture. I’ve been doing an evening class in some graphics software, ostensibly for work reasons, but I found that these new-found skills can also be applied to Halloween decorations, which is a bonus. I tried to make the patterns I used modern and somewhat minimal (there’s a close-up shot of them here), and I’m really happy with how they turned out.

If you’d like to make some for your own home, download this PDF, and print out a few copies (ideally in colour, but I think black and white would look good too). All you need to do is neatly cut out the strips, then stick each one into a loop with tape or glue, making them into a chain as you go. For the chains you can see pictured on my fireplace, I used 5 A4 sheets of paper.

And if you do make some, I’d love to see a picture of the results!

I’ve had my eye on a few other Halloween projects that I’ve seen around the web. My favourite so far is this collection of yarn-wrapped pumpkins and gourds.


Owls October 3, 2011

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 12:59 pm

This little chap was an unexpected visitor to my part of town last week.

As I walked home from work on Friday afternoon, I passed the craft fair that comes to town every few months, and tucked away in a corner was a fenced off area containing a display of birds of prey. There were more than a dozen birds, from Little Owls like this one to bigger birds like a Harris Hawk.

They’d come from a rescue centre, so all had rather tragic tales to tell about how they’d ended up needing to be taken in. They seemed to be in good shape now though, and well cared for. Friday was such a hot day here, and they all had great big water bowls for drinking out of and splashing around in.

I took a lot of pictures, so if you want to see some of the other owls, have a look at the album I made on Flickr.

And while I’m talking about wildlife, I’ll just let you know that our little hedgehog seems to be spending more and more time in our garden. If I wake in the night, I can often hear him pottering around on the patio, rummaging through the gravel. I’ve started putting out dried mealworms for him, and by morning they have always disappeared – I hope it’s him that’s eating them. We’re also leaving out plenty of water for him every day – it’s been so warm and dry that it must be difficult for less mobile animals to find water. I have read that he could go into hibernation any time between now and November, but I expect the hot weather means he won’t be doing that any time soon.

The hot weather also means that it doesn’t yet feel right to put up Halloween decorations. I’m working on a little Halloween project though, so hopefully soon the appropriate weather will arrive.