Monday, 26 October 2009

I want a pumpkin!

Look at these templates for making halloween lanterns out of pumpkins ... the scared ghost one will appeal to all lampworkers who like dotty beads! I'm printing that one out and have instructed DH to find me a pumpkin this week when he's on his travels out and about!

I am hoping that the Covent Garden Soup company recipe I use for roasted squash soup will suit pumpkin as well ...

Image copyright:

Friday, 23 October 2009


This week, I've been experimenting with different colours of the dimpled nugget beads. Many colour combos have been rejected - these are the best ones and I've made a batch of each. I'm turning them into jewellery today but by the time I'll be finished, it might not be great photography conditions so I thought I'd post this picture in the meantime.Handmade lampwork glass nugget shaped beadsI think the green ones are my favourite, they have stains of a darker green whispering darkly through the core of the bead with smudges of teal murmuring quietly around in there too.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Strike ... what strike?

This morning, I got quite a bit of post ... one item was postmarked only a couple of days ago but unfortunately, no sign of the supplier package that by rights should've been here much earlier in the week. Oh yes, my BT bill arrived fine - if you're going to go on blinkin' strike, you can blimmin' well keep the bills you awkward so-and-so's. (People who know me will re-write that sentence with other words for those italicised!) ;-)

And about an hour ago, there was a red Royal Mail van and a yellow DHL van, one of them must've been collecting from the postbox which is opposite my house, I'm not sure which one. Curious ...

I thought it was all the sorting office and delivery/driving personnel were on strike but I have both received post and seen it being collected - are they on strike or not??! This leads me to wonder if these are temporary, non-union staff. I remember something being on the news about Royal Mail taking on double the number of temporary staff it usually does to cope with Christmas. I wonder if those staff are now doing as much as they can, once they get trained, the regular workforce will have to watch out. When they're on strike, Royal Mail don't pay them, they forego their wages, the management will therefore just use that money to pay the temporary staff (who will be glad of the work), and starve out the regular workforce.

I try to be sympathetic with my postman whilst I'm signing for the numerous packages that arrive for me, he told me about how one day he was expected to do an extra half hour's sorting AND deliver post to a second village which would take him another 2 hours but he had to fit it all in his usual timeframe because he has to pick his kids up after school (and there was no offer of overtime even if he could get someone else to pick them up). So I can understand that when they say they're not arguing about pay, OR modernisation (they all have those handheld devices now for you to sign instead of paper), it seems the management want to modernise the amount of work they have to fit in.

When I was a kid, I went to primary school with the postman's little girl. We still had the same postman when I left home aged 19. After getting married, I lived in one house for 10 years, another for 13 - both times we had the same postman from the day we moved in until the day we moved out. So, they don't seem to move on that eagerly, they can't be that badly off ...

During the recent regional strikes two days at a time I wasn't getting post at all on some days and it impacted on how quickly I got supplies for my business from time to time which was inconvenient but the local office seemed to get quickly caught up. I was still using Royal Mail for sending out jewellery and I never received any complaints.

However, as it's now a national strike, I can't be certain packages aren't sitting in intervening sorting offices. With a two day strike this week and they are talking about a further three next week, they must really have grievances to forego so many days pay but I am wondering how big the backlogs will become, I won't be risking Royal Mail til well after the strikes have finished. No-one is going to order a couple of pairs of earrings at the prices couriers charge for UK deliveries, let alone £19.13 for an international package. Given the number of companies that have sprung up to step into the breach, and the prices they are charging even for small packages, we clearly haven't been paying enough for mail deliveries, there must be some middle way but we're stuck coping with it whilst the management and the Unions just posture at each other and don't do anything serious to sort it all out.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Temporary postage increase

During the disruption caused by Royal Mail workforce's regional and now national strike actions, until things get back to normal, I am only undertaking to post packages within the UK. I will be using DHL. I will e-mail you when I dispatch and your package will take 1-3 days to arrive. A signature will be required upon delivery. I have had to increase my post and packaging charges as a result of this from to £9.09 per package, whatever its value. I apologise for this big increase but matters are out of my hands - normal postage charges will be resumed as soon as possible.

Many apologies to any international customers wishing to place orders during this time.

If you come to Cambridge on a Saturday and buy from my stall on the Art & Craft Market, there are no postal charges at all!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Home for a rest

I was supposed to be on holiday this week. We left on Monday for a week in a rented cottage on the North Norfolk coast which we thought would make a nice autumn holiday before the weather gets too cold. I took some new yarn to knit myself another pair of socks, a couple of paperbacks and was looking forward seven days of of rest and relaxation somewhere different.

When we arrived, the pretty leaded and frosted glass in the window of the front door was cracked in several places; we reported it immediately to the owner as we didn't want to get the blame and have it deducted from our deposit cheque. She knew all about it, apologised and said a trustworthy workman had a key and would repair it on Wednesday morning, she was going to ring us that evening to let us know.

As the stay at the cottage progressed, we gradually found more and more things wrong:

Timer on the central heating came ON in the early hours of the morning, the boiler was in a corner of the bedroom and so woke us up and kept us awake til we turned the thermostat right down to turn off the heating. There was no instruction manual so we couldn't re-set it.

The toilet seat was so loose, you had to be aware of it before you sat down else you nearly fell off ...

Lid of the pedal bin in the kitchen was broken so it didn't pop up, you had to manually lift it every time you wanted to put anything in it which I thought was unhygienic and kept having to washing my hands afterwards which I found extremely annoying and time consuming whilst trying to cook.

The FM radio didn't have an external aerial and it kept going off station so listening to the radio was irritating. I really like listening to Chris Evans' Drive Time in the evening when I'm making dinner and Classic FM is really relaxing to have in the background when you're not watching TV.

We don't really watch much TV - especially when we're on holiday - but after very stressfully getting locked out of the cottage by the repairman yesterday for hours and hours til we got hold of the owner (looooong story), we sat down to our dinner which was great - a seafood and pasta salad made with fresh seafood (we usually have to use frozen being so inland where we are!) We began to relax a bit after a bottle of Chianti. We wanted to watch the England game which was on ITV so should be OK to receive on the TV - it's not like it's a wildly obscure, digital pay-per-view channel or anything ... but no, the TV is tuned only to BBC digital channels.

The TV had an analogue mode as well but I couldn't blimmin' well work out how to change it to analogue, bum all about it in the manual. Our own digital TV is really easy to retune so I decided the solution was to retune it. I dutifully read the Manual left by the owner. Trouble is the two options indicated in the manual on the Set Up mode were missing on the menu so I couldn't retune it. I am fully computer literate, used to be able to set the timer on a video machine in the days before DVDs and I passed a two year HNC in Software Engineering with distinctions in all modules - I ought to be able to do this, especially with the manual. After 40 minutes of cussing, losing both our tempers, it was practically half time when we finally got ITV working - I couldn't tell you how the hell I did it. If you've ever seen Basil Fawlty getting cross with his car when it wouldn't start and hitting it with the branch of a tree ... that's kind of hysterical irritation I was experiencing!

Tired from two nights of interrupted sleep and the stress of all the other things going wrong, we decided to call it a day and go home first thing in the morning. I think if the location were better all these minor things in isolation could've been overlooked but they all built up into a great big hole of despair. Yesterday was honestly the worst day on holiday I have ever experienced.

We stayed at a place called Blakeney which - with it's flint cottages and quaint quayside - would be lovely if it weren't for all the cars everywhere plus it isn't close to the sea at all which I didn't realise when we booked. We like to stay by the sea, use the car as little as possible and then explore the location on foot doing lots of walking with Missy, our adorable Manchester Terrier.

Normally we stay in a lovely, well equipped cottage on the Northumbrian coast in a lovely place called Bamburgh, but we decided we had got a bit staid and set in our ways and thought we should go somewhere else, I wish we hadn't! In Blakeney, you have to walk for two hours to get to the sea through the salt marshes. Salt marshes are I guess, interesting enough for the wildlife and birds alone, but there's a lot of it and it's pretty featureless and flat so four hours of walking through it can be a bit boring. (Plus it smells in places too!) We found the walking from Blakeney dreary and dull (when it wasn't smelly).

We got back home a couple of hours ago after a very stressful three days away and are looking forward to four days of rest and relaxation by way of a staycation at home. In order to get over this "holiday", I am not planning on being at my stall this weekend. All of my regular customers know I was going away this week and I have had a note on my website for several weeks that I wouldn't be there so I hope you will forgive me if I go off-line now and have a little lie down!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Less hazardous selling conditions this week

The weather on Saturday for the craft market was much calmer ... a truly lovely early autumn day. The week before we had wind that was so gusty, we considered putting up a sign saying "Beware - low flying earrings!"

I'm pleased to report that I sold two pairs of earrings and a bracelet from the pink camouflage range and that means a donation of £30.50 to go to Cancer Research UK.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Pink camouflage jewellery

I've named the jewellery that I'll be selling for Cancer Research UK as pink camouflage - this is the name of the latest design for their ribbon. I've made all the beads up into jewellery, photographed them and made a new Cancer Research charity page on my website. Here is a selection of a few of the items on offer:

Pink Camouflage crystal earringsPink Camouflage crystal braceletPink Camouflage drop earrings

Black and white striped lampwork bead earringsI've also been making black and white stripes beads very similar to last week's red stripes. I sold all but one of the items made with red striped beads last week so am hoping for a similar result with the black and white ones! The full range of black and white striped jewellery can be viewed on my Lampwork > Lampwork Jewellery page.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, don't forget to visit me on the Art & Craft Market in Cambridge if you're about on Saturday!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

New charity beads

Someone close and very dear to me was diagnosed with breast cancer on Monday. I'm not going to go into any more details mainly for the sake of her privacy plus if I write anything sentimental, we're all emotional enough already and it will just cause more tears.

On the same day as I got the awful news, this envelope arrived with my post.Cancer research envelope with Will You Join the Fight written on itWhenever something touches me very deeply or is extremely upsetting, I want to do something practical. In this case, I want to cure all cancer ... now. Unfortunately, I can't do that on my own so I have decided, yes I will join the fight.

The literature from the Cancer Research people urged me to do a direct debit of £2 per month, I was tempted to do that, but if I do another Charity Page on my website like the one I have at the moment for the Orangutan Foundation (on which I am selling my red mist jewellery), I am hopeful that my wonderful customers will help me raise much more than that. So far, by donating half of the proceeds from the red mist jewellery, the Orangutan Foundation UK has received £193 in the past four months.

So I need a bead ... on Tuesday I made all kinds of prototypes based on the colourway on the envelope and I have chosen this one as my favourite.Cancer research handmade lampwork beadsThe shape of the beads doesn't really show up very well from the photograph, they're nugget shaped rather than uniform round. I have commandeered the melon baller from my kitchen which is metal. After making a roughly round shaped bead, I make indentations on the bead with this new tool, the work marks are then melted in and it leaves an gentle organic shape which I am calling "dimpled nugget" - the shapes left on the surface are like the camouflage blobs on the envelope image.

For beadmaking colleagues, the colours I've made this bead from are all Effetre: rubino oro and violet swirled around dark rossato and then heavily encased in dark rossato.

I've made a big batch of these beads today along with numerous matching spacer beads. They're annealing in the kiln as I type and they should be cool enough to clean whilst I watch TV this evening.

I'll be making them up into jewellery, it will be my top priority tomorrow so I can put it all up for sale on my stall on Saturday. Half the proceeds will be donated to Cancer Research, I'll be making a new charity page for my website when I get chance to enable my mail order customers to join in.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


It's odd the things you think about when you're making beads. Yesterday for example, I was trying to remember all the lyrics to "Ernie, the fastest milkman in the west". I think it was because the night before I was watching a programme on TV about a family living with just the technology that was available in the 1970s. I was interested in it because that's when I grew up. The connection between Ernie and the programme being that we had that record when I was a kid and I could sing it word-perfect.

What was worrying me a little yesterday was that we never got to find out what happened to Trigger, poor old Ernie caught the concrete hardened crust of a stale pork pie underneath his eye and I'm not quite sure who looked after the horse that pulled the fastest milkcart in the west after Ernie bit the dust. Ernie's rival, Ted drove the bakers van; he wouldn't have needed a horse, I hope Sue looked after him. As Bennie Hill is now dead, there's no-one to ask, alas!

Other notable things I was remembering from growing up was making the Christmas Pudding that we had on Christmas Day, 1973. We made it in a cookery class in the Autumn and had to store it cool and dark til Christmas. When the day came to eat it, I remember being so proud because my dad said it was the best Christmas Pudding he had ever eaten!

Talking about my dad, he loves pomegranites (runs in the family because I like them too - this time of year is great!) So when I was seven or eight, I decided he might like one for a christmas present. I was very organised with my christmas presents in those days (proof that some things DO change!), I bought it from my pocket money and wrapped it in October. By the time dad opened it two months later, it had gone all shrunken and hard ...! Good old dad looked delighted, thanked me profusely and said he was looking forward to eating it later :-)

Rightio, I'm off to make a load of recycled glass beads and try not to think about the clothes I used to wear back then!