Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Words of wisdom

Today's words of wisdom are

Left over mince pies and maltesers
Are not a proper breakfast

:-) I didn't actually have this for breakfast but yesterday I was very tempted. I waited til later and had them with a cup of tea. We saw off the last of the turkey yesterday as well so it feels like Christmas is over. DH is already threatening to take down our tree! Had a super time, don't often get to see brother, Dave, and all the rest of my family turned up as well on the day and then 3 days of quiet and chill time. Lovely presents, DH bought me a Pandora necklace so I can now put my large hole beads on that as well, I have worn a different combo every day so far since I got it. I love it. Here's how I'm wearing it today.

Brilliant tin from sister, Sharon. I complained to her about it when I saw it in Lakeland one Saturday in November when we were on the craft market together. It's in a lovely pink/silver Art Nouveau style and I coveted it greatly for my collection but the biscuits it contains have got palm oil in it so I forbade myself from buying it. Sharon bought it for me, ate the biscuits herself (she's so self-less!!) and left me a note inside about elves eating them so she replaced them with palm oil free chocolate! Inspired!

Super selection of books and DVDs, one was a compendium of loads of different knitting and crochet stitches with photographs of swatches knitted up. I've had tons of fun playing about knitting some up, combining stitches to see what I can come up with myself. Merlin series 3 DVD ... was really hoping to get that and am half way through the excellent How to Survive in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu.

Highlight of Christmas day has to be getting Sandy back over the tongue poking out mug incident. When I put her warmed plate in front of her ready for her to help herself to vegetables, I sleight-of-handed my photograph underneath it and giggled to myself all throughout lunch. I could hardly wait to say "Anyone for some christmas pud?" When we cleared the the table, she was passing plates to me. She picked hers up first and was so intent on grabbing dad's and then mum's that she didn't spot it until after the fourth plate had been passed along! She jumped a mile when she noticed it (c'mon ... I'm not that scarey!) A great reaction and it was a huge laugh.

However, I had a shock when I got into the shower on boxing day, she had placed it very carefully so it wasn't noticable until you actually got into the cubicle BUT .... but ... as it's a photo of ME sticking my tongue out, not her, she hasn't got me back .... yet!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas card

This year's christmas card money has been donated to Doris Banham Dog Rescue. Many thanks for all my friends and family who don't mind getting a christmas card from us to enable this much needed donation to be made.

Warmest Christmas and New Year wishes to all who are reading.


Plus licks and woofs from Missy.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


DH has gone out this morning armed with a list of the last few bits and pieces that we still need for the 25th that got missed off the big shop yesterday. He is also visiting friends, Kev and Mandy. Kev made our Christmas pudding last year, his own secret recipe and it was absolutely brilliant. It was so good, my family have said they will only come to me again this year if Kev is making the pudding and fortunately, he is supplying us with another so DH is also picking that up too.

I have been diligently cleaning the kitchen today and didn't notice a text was sent to me by DH an hour ago ... a whole hour ago ... innocent enough message:

"Have we got potatoes?".
"Arghhh! NO, we have no potatoes", I urgently messaged back. No reply. I rang him, no reply so I don't know whether he is getting any or not! Help! What if the shops are all out tomorrow due to frozen ground? I have probably got too many carrots, anyone got a good recipe that makes carrots look like roast potatoes?! Quick!


No, he didn't get any potatoes so without any cup of tea after his journey or me asking him how Kev and Mandy were, I sent him straight back out to get some and phew, we now have potatoes. However, my little panic pales slightly compared to Kev and Mandy's, they are so laid back, they haven't even bought their turkey yet, which is probably fine if you have ordered one (we picked ours up from the free range farm down the road yesterday). But, they don't have one on order, I suppose the shops still have them for late comers but I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving it til tomorrow ....

And THEIR little panic (which they aren't actually panicking about, I am panicking for them) pales in comparison with some other friends, Martin and Suzy, whose story was related by Kev to DH. Martin and Suzy came home with a frozen turkey crown yesterday but had no room in their fridge to put it. For one thing I don't know how they have no room. I know for a fact they have TWO big fridge freezers because when we moved into a house with a built in fridge and freezer about 5 years ago, we gave them our old one one which was quite new to keep in their garage for "overspill" items (they have a big family). Anyway, they decided to put their frozen turkey crown in their oven to defrost. Suzy started doing some baking this morning and unfortunately, forgot the frozen turkey crown (complete with packaging) was in the oven ... they now have to get another one and are talking about becoming vegetarians. ;-)

Monday, 20 December 2010

Etsy shop

Opening up an Etsy shop was going to be one of my New Year resolutions so I feel extremely organised to have accomplished this feat before 2011 has even started.

Due to the craft market cancellation today, I have gained a day this week. I was tempted to get on with all of the jobs I need to get done before the 25th but as today was going to be dedicated to my business, selling jewellery in Cambridge I decided there's still plenty of time for all the Christmas preparations (breathe slowly and deeply ....) I have instead earmarked Wednesday and Thursday for list-busting and so the time was re-allocated to creating the Sooz Jewels Etsy shop.

For the time being, I'm concentrating on my recycled/upcycled glass jewellery. I only have three items in there at the moment, the majority of the recycled range were photographed before I got my new photography set up so I'll be adding to the listings as soon as I get some nice new photographs of the stock.

My New Year's resolution has changed from "Create an Etsy shop" to "Stock my Etsy shop". All the hard work has been done now and the rest should be easy (she says).

Best laid plans

I'm afraid the market has been cancelled for today. I was just setting off about half an hour ago when I got the call. It's not too bad where I am (about 50 miles North of Cambridge) but freezing fog and icy roads have forced many stallholders to decide not to travel. You really need about 10 stalls to make a decent showing. There were 15 of us on Friday and Saturday was full with over 30 stalls.

I will keep an eye on the forecast for tomorrow but Countryfile were forecasting a big lump of snow for Tuesday; they're often wrong on predicting snow so I can't say whether I'll be there tomorrow or not!

It was quite funny when my mobile rang because we were sat in the drive about to leave and heard the tone, I'm not familiar yet with receiving calls on my new mobile. It sounded like an alarm on the car, we went round checking the doors were closed, seatbelts etc. before it rang again and this time I felt the vibration and realised someone was ringing me :-) I couldn't get hold of the market manager (busy ringing everyone else no doubt) so I tried my sister, she had her mobile phone turned off. She normally stops overnight at my mum and dad's house after she's done the Sunday main market (they live much closer to Cambridge) so I tried ringing there but Sharon had decided to go home and so I woke them up! :-/ Ooops, sorry mum and dad!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Spell(un)bound and christmassy

I'm not sure if it's the fact that I got the christmas tree decorated today (poor thing has been all barely forlorn in the corner since Wednesday waiting for me to overcome my festive lethargy), or if it's that the christmas presents are now all wrapped (except for DH's) or if it's the fact that I'm finally feeling warm after two days out in sub-zero temperatures in Cambridge City Centre (the banana I had with lunch was half frozen when I ate it!), or if it's the sherry I was tippling whilst I was doing said decorating and wrapping (I only bought it because I need the bottle to turn into lovely dark blue beads) but ... but ... at last I'm feeling christmassy!

My Cambridge No-Snow spell was finally broken at around 3.45pm yesterday afternoon. It would probably be an exaggeration for me to say I packed my stock and stall away in a blizzard because it wasn't very windy but it was ve-e-e-rrry snowy! I had snow on the top of my hat and DH looked like he'd got a very severe attack of dandruff - the snow really showed up on his black overcoat! When we shook the tarpaulin that had been covering everything up, even in only half an hour, it had quite an accumulation on top.

I am counting myself lucky that it held off for as long as it did, given the awful forecasts that were being given earlier in the week for Cambridge. Sales were well down on the seasonal average but it was really good to note that the City Council had salted the pavements (they didn't do that last year, indeed I can't remember them ever doing it before in December). The Market Manager had also been given a supply of salt for the market - last year, the Council quoted health and safety regulations that said they weren't allowed to salt the  market because if someone fell over due to it not being done properly, they would be sued - no salt, no lawsuits are possible. I know it was in the tory manifesto to do away with such stupid health and safety legislation but whoever decided to give us salt this year - thank you, thank you, thank you! There is a concrete entrance on a bit of an upwards slope and it was so depressing last year to see people try to get into the market only to turn away because it was too slippy.

So, hopefully when I report for duty tomorrow, people should be able to get out and about in Cambridge, even if it is in fewer numbers than previous years. I can't blame people for sticking to the indoor shopping areas due to the unseasonably cold conditions but if anyone fancies venturing out, roads allowing, I will be in All Saints Garden opposite Trinity College tomorrow (and possibly Tuesday as well).

If you're suffering with snow-related problems, my genuine sympathy - I hope anyone who has to travel stays warm and safe.

Now where's the bottle for another glass ... I think I could definitely do with feeling even more christmassy.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Kiln update

Robin e-mailed me back very quickly to say you press the plastic bits to release the wires. So easy when you know! Not really intuitive though, it looks as if it would grip tighter if you pressed them in further. Anyhow, the wires came out easily enough, new ones inserted, made sure none of the wires were touching the outer casing (they would burn) and then I screwed it all back up.

Unfortunately, I still have the tCL error. I've e-mailed Robin to ask him if 4 years is a good age for a Paragon SC2 and whether he thinks it's worth fixing any more. It was definitely worth trying a £52 fix when new ones are about £600.

I am therefore reluctantly resigned to not making any more beads before the new year. I only have two more making days left before I will be at the craft market for four out of the following five days and then I will be getting ready to receive guests on the 25th; after that I'm having a rest!

We're getting our Christmas tree tomorrow so it's time to deck the halls, make merry and forget about kilns. Shame I don't feel Christmassy at all yet!

Defeated by small bits of plastic

I have managed to get the back of the kiln off and remove the old thermocouple from the firebrick hole. This was relatively straightforward; 12 screws to remove the kiln back and 2 different ones requiring a quarter inch spanner to get the ceramic block thing out of the firebrick hole (if a woman designed this, one tool would do both jobs). I've got the new one in place at the back now but attaching it at the other end to the controller is causing some grief. The instructions just say to "Remove the old thermocouple wires attached to the back of the controller".

The photograph above shows the back of the controller and the old wires - I have no idea how to get them out. It looks like I have to remove the bits of plastic first. They don't look like they unscrew (though I have tried).  Another tack was to grab them with pliers and pull but all that has done is chew the plastic up. Before I ruin it completely, I have sent a photograph to Cherry Heaven and hope they have some advice of how to do this. I am thinking there is some kind of trick to it that only men know. I am thinking I should've just ordered a new kiln by overnight carrier, it would've been here by now and I wouldn't be left unable to make beads at the busiest time of the year. (Yes, I am grumpy AGAIN!)

I am going to make myself a nice lunch and watch Bargain Hunt to cheer myself up.

Extra days

I will be doing some extra days at All Saints Art & Craft Market in Cambridge on this coming Friday (17th), Saturday (18th) as usual and also the following Monday (20th) and Tuesday (21st). This is subject to weather allowing me to get there (I note the forecast says it's due to turn cold and snowy again from Thursday onwards) and that I have sufficient stock left.

I am running out of some things due to the fact that I cannot replenish my bead stock. Additionally, some silver items have sold out and there is now not enough time left for me to have the items assayed and put them back out on the stall or post for Christmas. It's very unlikely any items ordered now will reach you in time for Christmas but if your item is in stock, I will be happy to post it first class to you. Please e-mail me first to check availability.

The part for my kiln has arrived this morning so I'm now going, screwdriver in hand, to see if I can fit it. It may be a job for DH but I'll keep you all posted (ha, may my performance in that regard be better than Royal Mail's!)

Monday, 13 December 2010

Post and phone

No post on Thursday but he finally arrived on Friday morning with quite a bit of post; thankfully my materials arrived, but not the spare parts for my kiln. Nothing was waiting for me on Saturday when I got back from the market. I am really hopeful it will arrive this morning. The reason given for sporadic post was that they are doubling up, two postman per round because of the icy conditions. I really don't understand that at all, if it's dangerous for one, surely sending two is twice the risk?! I suppose one can ring for assistance if the other has an accident but isn't that what mobile phones are really good at? Oh well, anyway, the snow and ice has virutally all melted here over the weekend so I am hopeful they will be delivering once a day from now on.

Speaking of mobile phones, I got a new one on Saturday. My old one finally gave up the ghost after seven years - it would work OK in the house for texts but not phone calls and if I took it outside in the cold, it just switched itself off (know the feeling!) The O2 staff were comically appalled when I rang them about upgrading, my SIM card was one of the oldest ones on the network apparently (I feel quite proud :-))

I am getting to grips with how the new one works and what it does, I can take photos but can't send or receive them yet, I think I have to upgrade my package with O2 as I'm on a really cheapo one (I really only ever text, it's very rarely used for calls).  Sister, Sharon, tells me that she just had to enable it on her phone as it's not a feature everyone uses so there will be another call to O2 a bit later on.

Right, I'd better get showered and dressed ready to wait for the postman. (Fingers crossed!)

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Relying on the postman

I have ordered a new thermocoupler (and a new relay just in case - always a good idea to have a spare). They are being dispatched today first class but I can't imagine they will arrive til next week. There's a possibility that it's the element in the kiln but without an electricity meter I won't know til I fit the new bits. I'm feeling so gloomy that I'm convincing myself they won't fix it.

Things that were posted to me on Monday haven't arrived yet, some materials (really really need that package as I can't make earrings if they don't arrive). DH is expecting a cheque (really really need that too!) New SIM card for my mobile (could do with that before Saturday). Two Amazon packages (would like those but not desperate) and some Love Film DVDs (ditto). Broke one of my 2.5mm bamboo needles that I use for sockmaking last night so can't even take refuge in knitting new socks (that's always fun). I've ordered some more as soon as I broke it but they probably won't arrive either.

All the disrpution and delays as a result of icy pavements and side streets is a nightmare at this time of year. Only the postman arriving with armfuls of post will cheer me up today and maybe the ice disappearing. Out of the last 10 days, I have only had 3 lots of post. At least it's supposed to be warmer for next couple of days. Need something to lift me out of the gloom.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

More kiln trouble

A couple of months ago, I was getting a tCL error on my kiln and after some advice from Cherry Heaven to make sure it's warm before I turn it on, the kiln has been behaving itself nicely, I just turn on the studio heater a few minutes before the kiln. Once I start work, I usually turn the heater off because as the make-up air comes in from outside, I'm just paying to heat the garden!

I’ve been using the kiln at least 4 times a week without any more problems. However, this morning, it got up to temperature OK but when I started to work (with fan going and window open for fresh make-up air), obviously the studio got cooler again. Then I noticed that the kiln was losing heat with alarming speed. It has been much colder outside earlier on in the week and last week and it was working fine then.

In fact DH said the car was registering minus 2 when he turned on the ignition and that's much warmer than the last couple of mornings!  So I've e-mailed Cherry Heaven again to ask them what they think is up, I guess either relays or the thermocoupler. No beadmaking for me until it's fixed. 

EDIT after initial posting: Quick phone call with Cherry Heaven chap - I have an exercise to do when it's cooled down and then ring him to let him know how the kiln behaves to diagnose exactly what replacement part(s) I need. 

Monday, 6 December 2010

Frozzed tootsies

My feet got really cold this morning. I was only out there in my converted shed for three hours, it has polystyrene and chipboard underneath the new vinyl but as I hadn't used it for 2 days, any heat from Friday's activities had long since dissipated through the insulation. Two pairs of socks and my heavy walking boots were no defence.

Here's me with my feet on my tiger hotwater bottle whilst I ate my lunch waiting for my poor frozzed toes to thaw out! Normally I would go back out there after lunch but I have retreated to the warmth of the house and am going to package up some parcels for commissions, a couple of alterations from Saturday and maybe make a necklace or two indoors for the rest of the day!

The spell I cast on 1 December has worked - Cambridge was still very green on Saturday and felt positively warm compared with Lincolnshire! There were fewer than normal Christmas shoppers around for a December Saturday - I'm hoping that next week everyone will realise there are only two shopping Saturdays before Christmas day. :-)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

I'm dreaming of a Green Christmas

I'm dreaming of a green Christmas
   With every Christmas card I don't write ...

I am so fed up with the snow. I was really shocked to hear on the local news that the Lincoln Christmas market has been cancelled this year on account of the Lincolnshire weather. As a Saturday market trader myself, I feel sympathy with all the traders who will have bought in materials and stock specially for this huge event. It's never been cancelled in its 28 year history. 

In my webmaster days, I spent a couple of years working on Visit Lincolnshire's website and I can attest to the fact that it's of enormous importance to the economy of the city. There are hundreds of stalls and visitors from all over Europe flock to the four day event. All the hotels and guest houses are full up to capacity, booked months in advance, the shops all open extra days and extra hours. I'm sure this will hit the City hard.

So far, I understand Cambridgeshire is broadly OK and forecast to stay relatively snow-free for next few days. As long as I can get to the A1 (2 miles from my home), I should be able to get to my stall there on Saturday. However, at the moment, the news reports that the A1 is blocked at our junction (near Grantham) both ways with jack-knifed lorries. Actually, looking at the state of our very long driveway, I'm not even sure we can even get out of the garden!

DH has been hearing horror stories about journies home from tradesmen working on the site he is supervising. He hasn't been able to get there (about 25 miles away) for the last two days and so he's been stuck in doing paperwork. He's run out now and every day he is stuck at home is a day's wages lost. People in villages in and around Lincoln are reporting 12 inches of snow and journeys of 7 miles taking 7 hours.

I haven't seen the postman since Monday morning; I am expecting two lots of yarn that I ordered last week as well as supplies to make jewellery with. I really hope it all goes away soon.

Trip to Belgium

My mum and dad, sister Sandy and her partner, Chris have just got back from a trip to Belgium for a book launch. My dad was a guest of honour there. I wish I could've gone but it's just too busy for me at this time of year to miss a Saturday in Cambridge.

The whole story is on Sandy's blog. It will be of interest to anyone curious about Second World War history, warning: it will probably make you cry (it did me!) In Sandy's inimitable style, she also finds lots of humour in the story as well, bless her.