Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How to buy a present for a Virgo

It was my birthday yesterday and I feel fortunate that I have lovely and generous family and friends who bought me such lovely presents.

I reckon that I'm easy to buy for because I love books and I can't afford to buy them for myself. I really look forward to getting one for my birthday and these ones about sum me up perfectly.

Gardening at Longmeadow by Monty Don. Gardener's World is an addiction for me. Woe betide anyone who tries to speak while it's on! Monty is now using his lovely garden at Longmeadow on the programme and this book charts the history and the making of it.

The Intolerant Gourmet by Pippa Kendrick. Not a book I'd heard of before but this is a perfect cookery book for Virgos. It combines the love of cooking with the likelihood of food intolerance (we're a sensitive sign). Authored by the friend of the mother of a friend of my sister's. Some delicious looking recipes lurk within.

Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collection by Aimee Ray. Over 400 easy embroidery designs. I've recently rediscovered hand embroidery (and R8 is discovering it along with me). Full of useful techniques and inspirational designs.

Edible Seashore (River Cottage Handbook No. 5) by John Wright. I've hoped to have this book for AGES (thank you Lins!!) and it's every bit as lovely as I'd hoped. I spent much of my childhood rootling around the shores of Pembrokeshire in amongst the seaweed and shellfish without really knowing what much of it was. (I have happy memories of hours spent popping bladderwrack, a bit like the pleasure of popping bubble wrap.) I love hunting out crabs and anemones in rock pools. This book is what to find to cook and eat along with plans for lobster pots and shrimping nets. I'm reading this one first!

Thorntons chocolates. Two boxes. I love chocolate and there's something special about a layer of individual chocolates in a box. It says BIRTHDAY to me. Yum.

Google Nexus 7. Thank you to everyone who contributed so generously to the buying of this. Virgos love gadgets (think fellow Virgo Stephen Fry). This is a seven inch tablet - Kindle-sized but like an iPad. Clever, clever, clever. I switched it on, it politely asked for the wifi password and then it introduced itself to the PC and my android smartphone. It's got a Kindle app on it (the first thing I added!) so I've got my happy snout sniffling about in the Kindle store like a truffle pig.

Montezuma's dark chocolate with orange and geranium. Smooth, dark and delicious. The best chocolate.

Not pictured (because I was wearing it and I forgot). Diaphanous web-like scarf in gorgeous jewel-coloured yarn which can only have been crocheted  by an especially talented spider.

Thank you to everyone for all of my lovely presents!

Yesterday we went to see the film Brave, a brilliant animated Disney film set in Scotland and featuring the lovely Angus, my new screen crush.

*SIGH* Isn't he gorgeous?! I think I might have to save up for an Angus!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The butterfly summer

One of our butterflies.

If this summer was a novel I'd call it The Butterfly Summer. This is the year we raised butterflies, ten Painted Ladies, which arrived in a pot as teeny tiny caterpillars, sat on the coffee table on their sugar substrate getting bigger, turned into chrysalids and then hatched into pretty fluttery butterflies.

We kept them in for three days, waiting for a gap in the rain, and then released them a week ago, watching delighted as, one by one, they flew out of the pop-up butterfly house and into the garden. Mostly they alighted on the buddleia, some flew around in a big circle and landed on one of us, others flew straight upwards into the topmost branches of one of our trees.

I've been spotting them for the past week, mostly refuelling on the buddliea. I'm very proud of our butterfly 'babies' but missed having them to care for so immediately another batch of baby butterflies was ordered. This time we have little tortoiseshell caterpillars, almost too tiny to see and they're getting bigger on a diet of fresh nettles.

In between rearing butterflies we've had an austere time as we're saving to go to Mull in October. There have been sleepovers, hot tub days for H10 and R8, riding Itsy, a trip to the County Show (we got soaked), body boarding at the beach and lovely giggly friends over.

The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

In the midst of all this the Olympics happened in London and were wonderful. Brian and I got tickets for the football quarter finals at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which happened to be GB v Korea. GB did what British teams usually do at that stage and lost after a penalty shoot out but it was all very exciting and I really 'got' football having seen it live. The atmosphere in the stadium was like a rock concert - the roof was closed to keep the rain out which made it even more concert-like. We Mexican waved, we batted around big Olympic themed beach balls and we moved a huge flag. Crowds are funny, organic things and it was good fun to be part of such a big one, until it was time to queue for the park and ride buses of course! Ah well, it was an experience!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Wow Mummy, who painted that!?

I mentioned in a bog a few weeks ago (Lovely things) that I'd been offered the chance to try out something from Snapfish and then review it on my blog.

Snapfish kindly gave me £35 of account credit and there then followed a period of delicious agony while I sorted through my photographs to find a suitable image. I decided to go for a canvas print as it's one of the things I have yet to try . In the past I've bought a mug; a big posh photobook; a smaller photobook and a calendar - and I've always been very impressed with the quality of the items and the service I've received.

In fact one of the photobooks, a present for my mother-in-law, got lost in the post and Snapfish replaced it immediately and with a huge apology. They also rescued me last year when I accidentally deleted my July 2011 pictures from my computer. I'd used Snapfish to make a calender at Christmas and all of my prints were safely stored on the site. (I was so relieved, if it was possible to hug a website, I'd have hugged it.)

Here's one I made earlier.

Anyway I finally settled on an picture of H10 and R8 that I took of them paddling at Newquay. I'd previously manipulated it (using a free trial of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 that I decided not to buy because it was too good and I was too obsessed with it!). It looked (on my computer screen) like a painting rather than a photograph and I was quite pleased with it.

Then we all rushed off on holiday to Devon and I rather forgot about my Snapfish order. When we arrived home there was a big parcel waiting. Inside was the 16"x12" photo canvas.

"Wow Mummy," said H10, awed, "who painted that!?"

It looks and feels like a painting, like proper art. We were all gobsmacked and delighted. It remains to be hung on the wall, once we have redecorated.

It's worth registering with Snapfish - they offer free prints for every newly registered customer - it's also a useful back-up store for all your most precious photos (as I found out!). You can connect to your pictures on Facebook as well as uploading from your computer. There are usually offers at Christmas too which I find useful for presents. Oh and I can recommend the canvas prints!

Disclosure: Thank you to Kristina of Snapfish for giving me £35 account credit and free postage in return for this blog post.