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

The waxwings, we found them! December 23, 2012

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 4:59 pm

waxwings2012I wrote last week about my fruitless search for waxwings, and I’m thrilled to report that today we finally found some.

It was a bright sunny morning, and we were keen to go for a walk, having been cooped up all day yesterday due to the heavy rain. I wasn’t even planning to take my camera, but Andy thought I should, and I’m so glad I did. (I just took my compact camera, but luckily the light was good and so I could still get decent enough pictures of the birds.)

I wasn’t even looking for waxwings really – we’d been out for about an hour and a half walking around the neighbourhood, exploring footpaths and seeing where they went. On the way I’d been pleased to find a school I’d seen featured in Country Living magazine last year, with its own farm. There were two pigs in a muddy field close to the school, and some chickens nearby.

And then we headed for home. As we walked down the hill, Andy saw a tree ahead that was filled with birds – there were about a hundred of them. They are quite confident around humans, and we were able to watch them for several minutes before a passing car spooked them. As we approached the tree, there was a man walking towards us, completely oblivious to the birds above his head. It’s odd to think that for me, this was a real treat, but for him it was something he didn’t even notice.

Anyway, I’m counting this as an early Christmas present. I hope you and yours all have the kind of Christmas you want, whether that be one packed with family, or with the chance to enjoy some peace and quiet. Whatever form it takes, merry Christmas!


The one with the choir

Filed under: Christmas — lauravw @ 4:47 pm

I can still remember my school music teacher, Mrs O’Loughlin. I was not one of her better pupils. Several of my friends took piano classes, or learned the flute, but I just stuck with the recorder, which was mandatory – and I wasn’t very good at it. (Having said that, I can’t remember anyone in my class being able to make the recorder sound anything better than passable.)

Fast-forward 25 years, and I’ve joined a choir. Back in my school days, there was only one reason to join the choir: they held choir practise indoors, at lunchtime. So if you joined, that meant one fewer lunchtime shivering in the cold each week. Even then, I opted for the playground rather than having to sing yet more hymns – it was a Catholic school and the hymn-singing was rampant. (Are children allowed indoors at lunchtimes these days? Once we’d eaten, we were booted out and not allowed back in until the bell rang – unless it was pouring down with rain, in which case we were allowed in the seldom-heated school hall.)

I love singing now, but all my singing is done at home, usually when there’s no-one else in. Last October, I went with my mother to see James, who played a series of concerts with an orchestra and choir. That was when I realised I wanted to sing in a choir – one that sang rock music, rather than the stuff you expect from a choir. There are a few rock choirs around, but that’s not what I’ve joined – there wasn’t one in a convenient spot for me. Instead I’ve joined a local community choir, where the music ranges from the Beatles to Christmas carols. It’s close enough to what I was looking for to make it worthwhile, but I live in hope of being handed the sheet music for something like the Pixies…

I’d been to two rehearsals before I found myself performing in front of a pub full of people this Wednesday. Daunting. Some of us were quite nervous, but we managed. (And with hardly any whiskey – one before, one after.)

That was quickly followed by a performance at the local railway station, where we sang carols to commuters during rush hour. They don’t sell whiskey at train stations, which is a shame…


Looking for waxwings December 14, 2012

Filed under: Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 9:26 am

Tuesday was a bright but cold day, and I had the day off work. I’d got all my jobs done, and so was able to react quickly when I saw a report on Twitter that a flock of waxwings was in the area, near a shop just ten minutes’ walk away.

I grabbed my camera, swapped the lens over for the telephoto lens I bought last year for taking pictures of birds, wrapped up warm, and trotted off down the road, optimistically.

Of course by this time the birds were nowhere to be seen. I wandered around, just in case I could find any berry bushes on which they might be feasting, but no such luck.

Earlier that morning, a noisy flock of birds had flown right over me when I’d been in the garden. The local birdwatching site lists of flock of waxwings as having flown over our area at that time, so it was probably them – but I didn’t get a good look at them.

The next day, which was again freezing cold, I got the bus to work. As it passed through a part of the city not too far from where we live, I spotted an unusual flock of birds in a tree near the road, moving around and adjusting their perches. While it crossed my mind to get off the bus to go and look at them, I decided not to as a) they might be starlings, b) I’d be late for work, and c) without my camera I would be annoyed that I couldn’t take pictures of them.

Later that day, I saw another report on Twitter saying there had been a flock of waxwings right in that spot. I should have got off the bus after all.

So while it’s likely that I have technically seen two flocks of waxwings this week, I’ve not been close enough to be sure – and certainly not close enough to see how beautiful they are. I will keep looking! There are plenty in the country this year, as there were two years ago – when I did manage to get a picture. But since then I’ve got a bigger and fancier camera, so if they would please come back I’d be able to get even better pictures. If you want to know when these Scandinavian visitors are in your area, following the UK Waxwings twitter feed.


Fashionably pale December 5, 2012

Filed under: Cosmetics,Fashion — lauravw @ 7:23 pm

I’ve started a new blog, about clothes and cosmetics. I’m not stopping doing Busywork, I just felt that these subjects don’t fit so well with the mostly domestic nature of what I write about here on Busywork. So I’ve set up a new home for my thoughts on style, finding suitable cosmetics for very pale complexions, and clothing in general. The new site is called Fashionably Pale, and I would love it if you’d come and visit me over there.

And I’ll be back with more Busywork posts very soon, including something about my recently-acquired Mary Berry cookbook. Let’s just say that as a result of buying this book, the cake tin is now full of treats which I’m having to eat up in order to make space for the next batch.