Thursday, 17 April 2014

Five More Mummy-Saving Resources

1. Plenty of tunes. Streaming online music, all day, for free, with only onscreen adverts (easily ignored) and occasional pauses to check that you are still there: this is what Grooveshark offers. Music can be a wonderful tool in changing your mood and encouraging your kids or husband to get up and Get Down. Grooveshark is a fantastic way of digging up Northern Soul tracks without putting together a vinyl collection; also brilliant for re-discovering the hits of your student days. You too can writhe about to Kate Bush, Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins when you should be washing up, without having to re-start your CD collection.

2. A sense of perspective. This can be gleaned from the most unlikely sources. Now and then we need reminding that "this too shall pass", and when we look at what our ancestors lived through, it would be churlish not to count our blessings. Regular readers will know that the 1940s era works as a beacon of hope for me - there are endless lessons to be learned from the Home Front - but I have also been inspired by the bravery and courage shown by men in the military sphere: the Band Of Brothers series being a thought-provoking portrayal of this.

Also learning from the past, but with a confrontational eye on the political, social and eco issues of today, Harriet Fasenfast charts her year as an urban farmer in A Householder's Guide to the Universe. Her down-to-earth advice on running a household, gardening, shopping and so on, is shot through with philosophy and poignancy as she discusses consumerism, friendships, her son's addictions, our society's obsession with fame and fortune, and gathering wisdom from our elders. A firmly-rooted and challenging book.

3. Healthy joints. Chopping wood, carrying the (smokeless) coal in, lugging baskets of wet washing around, shifting the sewing machine, offering piggy-backs to nine year-olds: household activities can generate wear and tear on our joints, when you least expect it. I had no idea that three hours of rag-rugging one Winter afternoon would result in tennis elbow; that has to be the most homesteady repetitive strain injury a body can have, don't you think?

Thursday, 20 March 2014

I Got Rhythm - A Newcomer's Guide to Northern Soul #1 : Hot and Temperate

Northern Soul is no more difficult to get into than any other dance subculture you care to name, but if you are in the same position as me and know NO-ONE socially who can tell the difference between Jason Knight and Jason Orange, then this guide, based on Gershwin's I Got Rhythm (as in "I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man, who could ask for anything more?", is for you. 

Yes, Gershwin is nothing to do with Northern Soul, but you've got to have a system. So:

1. "I Got Rhythm..."


With Northern Soul dancing, you do need a strong sense of rhythm, and the ability to stay on your feet, which is partly why it isn't a big drinkers' game. 

Most dancefloors will be nice and slippy and you need shoes with no grips if you are going to perfect the sliding aspect of NS moves. I have recently treated myself to these smooth-soled bowling shoes by Delicious Junction, but they are quite an investment. I found Adaptor Clothing best on price and service.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Inspired-by-Sherlock Snood

A scarf is the obvious choice of project if you're just starting out with knitting, but a snood is even quicker and more satisfying. 


For complete beginners like me, it helps to have someone show you what to do, and to have something to refer to later on when you've forgotten. I found the casting-on and casting-off diagrams and instructions in Make It and Mend It really helpful, and that's coming from someone whose Lego-diagram-following skills are put to shame by her six year-old. There are also dozens of learn-to-knit videos on you-tube, but I found it annoying to have to keep pausing while I struggled to keep up with even tying a slip knot.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Dig for Victory #7: A Wildlife-friendly Fruit and Veg Garden

As most gardeners know, attracting wildlife to your vegetable and fruit plot is hardly a struggle. "Woodpigeons will eat your thoughtfully provided pea shoots," says John Lewis-Stempel in The Wildlife Garden"every slug and snail for a three kilometre radius will munch your strawberries, and all the cabbage white caterpillars on earth will nibble your brassicas." John's humour and experience is evident throughout his book, particularly in the helpful section guiding gardeners in striking the balance "between feeding yourself and feeding garden creatures."

The following extract from The Wildlife Garden, which was published earlier this month, is reproduced by kind permission of the publishers, How To Books and details how to make your garden fruitful without neglecting or damaging the wildlife that live there.

"• Give up the evil weed-killer, along with chemical pesticides.These inorganic chemical concoctions upset the natural balance and tend not to discriminate between pests and predators. In the fruit and vegetable garden the ideal is to encourage beneficial predators and let them do the pest-control for you. Think toads, song thrushes, hedgehogs, grass snakes, bats and beneficial insects like ladybirds. Predators need a home in the fruit and veg garden. Try making a bug hotel for ladybirds, a log pile for the common frog and a bat box for a pipistrelle.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Small Good Things We All Can Do #4

As a mother of two children, both born at our local hospital, where we all received outstanding services and care, I'm in a very fortunate position, and that's why I wanted to let you know about the Save the Children's "No Child Born to Die" campaign #firstday. 


Thanks to global action on issues such as immunisation and malnutrition, the world has made impressive progress in reducing the number of children dying before their 5th birthday. However, this progress could stall unless urgent action is taken to tackle the shockingly high numbers of newborn babies still dying each day. In 2012, nearly 3,000,000 babies died in their first month of life. 
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