Friday, December 17, 2010

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

The New CoolBoxUk Blog and Website

And this, my friends, is the end of this blog... If you want to read my 2010 musings you will have to look somewhere else, as I now have a new website to combine all my blogs and photo albums: here's the link --

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Roundup Month November

November 2009

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?

I’m sadly nearing the end of my Cadfael whodunit series which I’m thoroughly enjoying, and will definitely keep for a re-read in some years’ time. The episodes I’ve read this month are “The Heretic’s Apprentice”, “The Confession of Brother Haluin”, “The Potter’s Field”, “The Summer of the Danes” (one of my favourites!) and “The Holy Thief”.

I also had the quarterly issue of the “Permaculture Magazine” in and read most articles – some interesting thoughts on possible energy shortage in the future and inspiring allotment stories.

What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?
We still have the “Merlin” series once a week on iBBC, turning more and more into a comedy and giving us some good laughs. There is also a series of short behind-the-scenes videos available on the Merlin Website which we’ve been watching over dinner, too.

More special were two theatre plays I’ve been seeing together with my SIL Fiona, one right at the beginning of the month and one right at the end:
First, we saw “Origins + Lemons”, a play by the Christian playgroup Riding Lights – just five actors and minimum props but an amazing performance with food for thought as well as a good laugh. The play, staged at Egham church, reviewed many well-known Bible stories in the light of the ongoing religion-science conflict. You can see a little rehearsal video of it here.
The other play was a more famous piece: “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, based on the real happenings around the witch trials in the puritan community of Salem/USA in the late 1600s. This is a very emotional tragedy and was incredibly well played by the local amateur playgroup The Runnymede Drama Group, with my BIL Graham in one of the leading roles (atypically as a pastor!) and our niece Eleanor as one of the “afflicted” children.
There is a lot of information on the original happenings, including biographies of all the main characters in the play, on this website, and also a link to The Crucible broadway play and movie.

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?

This month was full of activities and events!
On the 5th of November of course was Bonfire Night, the annual British celebration of an historical event when one Guy Fawkes intended to blow up Parliament and the King, incidentally also in the late 1600. He didn’t succeed but provided the future generations of the country with a great excuse to have parties, bonfires and fireworks!
So, every year on the closest Saturday we have the “Bonfire and Fireworks Extravaganza” at the Vicarage here in Chertsey. This year there were nearly 400 people in attendance – soup kitchen, BBQ and cakes, a huge bonfire and great fireworks, and a welcome opportunity to meet lots of people I hadn’t seen for a while. The rain held off until all was finished and we only got a little damper on the way home. There are lots of photos on my Facebook, but I think you need to have your own account there (free) and be “Friends” with me to be able to see them. If you haven’t got a Facebook account let me know and I’ll send you an invite…
Next we had a late birthday dinner (yes, for MY birthday!) at Eve’s – lovely roast (and all Petra-diet friendly) and good company, and then a farewell party for David and Margaret, moving into their retirement home at the coast. David used to be one of the Chertsey bellringers for many years and the party, a bring-and-share at the house of our Tower Captain, was after his last practise with us.

What seasonal activities did I do?

Time seems to be flying by – I noticed out of the blue how late in the year it was when somebody asked after the homemade Christmas cards I usually sell on behalf of SfP, the charity crafts group I run. That was at the beginning of the month, and I immediately spent an “emergency session” – all afternoon long – to put together the Christmas card packs and label them to take to church for the first Coffee Morning of the month. It is amazing how much time that takes up…

We have started handbell practice with a view of playing in the Christmas service and maybe at a carol afternoon in one of the old people’s homes in Chertsey. It’s the first time I’m doing this, as it is the first time since we joined St Peter’s that Malcolm, our Tower Captain, has offered this activity, prompted by our new bellringing member Rachel from the US (it was what she did over there, rather than church bell ringing). I find it great fun – we are doing an assortment of Christmas songs and carols – and hope we’ll keep it going…

The 29th of the month was already First Advent Sunday – I can’t believe we are that close to Christmas! I spent the afternoon at practice and evening singing evensong with the choir at Lyne church because I like the traditional Lessons and Carols style of their advent services.

What special or unusual purchases did I make?

Freecycle (now called Freegle here but I can’t get used to that) has afforded us a second freezer, now sitting in the shed for trial. It’s quite an old version and missing a couple of drawers, so we don’t know how well it will work, or how energy efficient (or not) it will be, but we could certainly use the extra freezing space!

Plus, Sean got a colour laser printer also from Freegle which needed repairs but now works absolutely fine and has replaced my very old black+white laser printer which had started to play up too often.

And I got some more National Geographics magazines; 4-ring binders; and a pair of outdoor mittens via Freegle; and bought a pair of brandnew “walking socks” from the FARA shop. They are wonderfully warm (although I can’t get used to walking sock-footed, so still wear my sandals over them)…

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?

The diet is still going on and beginning to really grate on me now with all the Christmas parties coming up…

A health concern developed in the bathroom: some mildew and even a real mushroom! It is not so very damp in there but on the other hand, there’s no airing – still, this is the first time I’ve seen these here. I’ve been using vinegar to discourage them, and Sean has brought in his heatgun to give them a good singeing – let’s see if it works…

What was going on in garden and allotment?

The garden has died down completely – just a few carrots and cooking radishes left, and the chard is still producing some leaves. I spent some of the nicer days – it was quite mild earlier in the month! - with stints cleaning up the veggie beds for digging in some manure, and some light pruning.

We had some very high winds and the large window we had leaning against the wall (for use in a cold frame to be built for spring) fell over and the glass went into smithereens. Shame…so much for that project.

The allotments look poorly now – there’s still some kale/cavolo nero, as well as parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes going in ours, but other than that everything is ready for clearing and manuring, just as the garden. Haven’t seen Emily since the Bonfire Party!

What new recipes did I try out?

Typical autumnal fare to use up the kale and the squashes!
This one is our firm favourite:
Bacon Chestnut Squash Roast
Roast Salmon on Crispy Kale
Cavolo Bero, Pine Nut and Basil Risotto

What were my accomplishments this month?
I’m keeping up-to-date with the Faithbook project and managed a few random digi scrapbook pages, plus I’ve started to put together a new website for myself, called The Coolboxuk Site, on Joomla which is a CMS rather than standard website. This will replace my old website and the various blogs I’m currently running, all in one place. It’s quite different and has lots of possibilities (some limitations, too, I’ve noticed) and should be much easier to maintain for me, and easier to look at all my different things for those of you who like to do that. But – this is only a pre-announcement. It will take a long time to upload all the scrapbook albums and tag them!
Also, I finally got proof of my acceptance into the Church Bellringers' Guild in the form of a certificate - it was signed in March but only given out during the AGM and received in my stead by our Tower Captain Malcolm. It's

What were my disappointments this month?

It was more Sean’s disappointment than mine but I do feel for him, and of course I find thing like this mega annoying on principle: one night somebody vandalized his van, right here in the driveway! One mirror was broken off altogether leaving nothing but holes in the side of the van, on the other the actual mirror was prised out of its frame. He has now replaced both provisionally with mirrors from his old van, which is still living officially off-road at Woodlands.

Anything else noteworthy to include?

Some strange things happened this month, vaguely related to us.
The first one was caused by the rough weather and flooding: a canoeist died on the river Dart, on a section that Sean has paddled often, and I’ve paddled it, too (although not in spate conditions!). It was somebody I knew vaguely, and a Facebook friend of Sean’s – so it came us quite a shock as well as a reminder that things do go wrong in canoeing, even for the most experienced!
A few days later I had an appointment at my chiropractor’s to find the carpark full of police cars including a Forensic Team van, and the receptionist in a fluff. Apparently, there had been an armed robbery that morning at the jeweller’s next doors! In quiet Ascot…

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Roundup Month October

October 2009

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I managed to read three more of the Cadfael Chronicles mysteries – books 12 to 14 (The Raven in the Foregate; The Rose Rent; and The Hermit of Eyton Forest). I really enjoy these medieval whodunits with the herbalist monk turned sleuth! They give a vivid insight into the world of the Dark Ages which is one of my special interests, as well as having an affinity for my faith and for herbs which I’m also interested in…the perfect book match for me! (You can find some of my reviews of Cadfael books here but I haven't done these last ones yet!)
I am also still doing my daily Bible-in-a-Year section and have managed, seen over a week at a time, to keep my Faithbook pages of the daily devotional verse up-to-date. You can follow them on my Faithbook Blog here.

What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?

We enjoyed watching the last episodes of part 3 of the “The Tudors” which we liked except for the fact that Henry has just gone through wife #4 and still looks like “the handsomest prince in Europe”… I reckon while following the historical events and personages by and large, the series is rather taking creative liberties with the details. It does, however, show the king’s spiritual dilemma of being a Catholic at heart despite all his reformative actions, which I was able to confirm from other sources. I wonder how many of his dubious decisions were really caused by the council of those close to him…

As this series closed, BBC fell back on the next part of “Merlin” which is suffering from the same problem – following the characters and main outline of the Arthur epic but playing at random with the stories. Well, after all, this one is a comedy... We find it rather enjoyable but I admit that it is only due to the flexible time of watching on iBBC on a laptop that we have got into watching these things at all – usually while having dinner…

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?
The main event of the month was the annual District Bellringers’ Outing. We visited eight churches and many of them were really special for their interior or their harvest flowers; foremost the” Westminster of the South” (Lingfield) and a tiny little church in Chaldon featuring a set of chiming bells, a replica of the oldest bell in England and one of the best preserved doom paintings. We also visited Outwood Windmill, the oldest working post mill in England, and were given a tour inside which was really interesting. They even swivelled the mill around while Sean and I happened to be on the top level and that was a really eerie sensation! Here is an article with photos I wrote for the Runnymede Deanery Website as part of my job!

I also spent an afternoon with my friend Eve during the half-term holiday, making two draught excluders for which I’m now knitting covers from leftover bits of wool – they’ll be really funky!

What gifts did I give and/or receive?

I received some belated birthday presents: a lovely little hand-turned vase from Emily which she had bought during a recent holiday in Devon, so it’s a really special thing (picture here); and a beginner’s lace making kit from Eve which she had found by lucky coincidence in a local charity shop (picture here)!

And I finally managed to meet up with Emily at the beginning of the month to present her with her (by now very belated) wedding present: the keepsake album I’d made for her. She was absolutely thrilled with it which of course made every minute I spent on it worthwhile! You can see some photos of this album a bit further down on this page - entry of September 09!

What special or unusual purchases did I make?

Found via Freecycle (now Freegle here in Surrey): a pair of brand new wellies; and a thick door curtain which should help keep us a bit warmer this winter.

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?

Right early on in the month I picked up a nasty flu – it first seemed to be only a really bad cold (the type that makes your nose drip so bad you have to actually block it up with tissue!) but then turned into a gastro flu type problem which persisted on and off for most of the month. Rather annoying.

I also had a call from the local clinic to come in following my recent blood tests and was told by my doctor that I was low on vitamin D, so now I’m on a daily two big chewable tablets of D+calcium.

What was going on in garden and allotment?
The last of the harvest was brought in – now the freezers are both full of beans and courgettes, blackberries, grapes and plum compote; and corn is hanging up to try for popcorn.

Autumn is well advanced and everything turned to glorious colours at the end of the month – I was out photo hunting!

Things are starting to die down now and we dug over the first beds at the allotment to receive their winter cover of manure. We are still having the last beets, radishes, carrots, chard and some lettuce in the garden.

What new recipes did I try out?

We really liked a recipe called “Iranian Tortilla” which was recommended in a real life TV series called “Economy Gastronomy” which we watched in September.

And as Emily and I dug up the first parsnip (okay, without waiting for them to get the first frost…) she recommended “Curried Parsnip Soup” which has also made its way into our favourites list.
(The two recipe names are linked to my own Joomla favourite recipes website which is a collection of recipes I want to try, or have tried and liked - collected online so I can use them on my kitchen mini laptop.)

What were my accomplishments this month?

This month my profile and artwork were featured in the Spot Light section of Club Scrap's Digi Scraprap.
I was very pleased with the sunflowers I’d planted for some colour in the garden – they were the late types and flowered from end August until now in wonderful shades of amber to brown.

I’m still keeping up with the photo a month even if I’m way behind in making the scrapbook pages for them – I have started publishing the photos themselves with short information on my 365-blog. People are getting used to my having the camera round for everything and are volunteering photo ideas, and even Sean sometimes picks up the camera for a snapshot of me in my daily or special activities…

I’m still keeping up with the no yeast/no sugar diet, appreciating the fact that now after half a year I am allowed wet cheeses (i.e. cream cheese, feta, mozzarella etc) and some fruit which was what I missed the most!
I completed part two of the Book of Me Challenge with the Club Scrap Forum – I do a page for each part for Sean and one for me to match, and each part consists of three different questions – i.e. six pages a month. You can see the October pages here - or if you want to see more go to my Crafts website.
Also managed to complete a few pages with photos from the Bellringing Outing.

What were my disappointments this month?

The external mega hard drive we have with ALL our data has started to keep crashing. So far nothing has been lost but it is very annoying as every time it happens I cannot do any work, or any scrapbooking, as all my files are on that drive and I don’t dare touch it so I have to wait for Sean to come home and fix it. Also, it worries me in case it would corrupt some data! So now Sean has bought a couple of terabyte disks for backing up and saved all the photos, and I’m going through all my digiscrap files to resort everything before a big backup that can then be synchronised on a regular basis. This is one of the most boring large projects I’ve ever undertaken! But I’m sure I’ll feel better for it once it’s done…

Anything else noteworthy to include?

Uncle John and Jenny moved to the New Forest – shame, no more beehives at Woodlands…it’s like the end of an era!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

District Bellringers' Outing

The happening of the month (for us) was the District Bellringers' Outing on 10th October. You can see the first LOs with photos and story of the day on my Digi blog:

My Faithbook and Photo-a-Day blogs have also been updated to today!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

New blog: my Faithbook + Lots of Photos

I have started reading my Bible-in-a-Year and apart from a mixed reading section for each day with consecutive passages from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs, it also has a highlighted verse and passage as a basis for daily devotions. To extend and deepen my meditation, and involve my faith in my hobby, I have started a digital scrapbooking Faithbook: a page every day with the chosen verse/passage of my Bible. I'm showing these in a separate blog and hopefully they will be updated fairly regularly (which means about once a week I suppose) and if you would like to share in my daily devotions, here is the link:

I've been uploading lots of recent photos with short explanations to my other blog - if you are following this one, you might also want to follow the other one as it gets updated much more often. It's just glimpses of my life rather than long stories but you might enjoy the photos...

Monthly Roundup September

Here's a new idea I picked up from a friend's blog and thought I might try and do this on a monthly basis, too. This might get me out of my dilemma of the irregular blog entries and keep you all informed about my doings: it's called a "monthly roundup", just answering a set of questions at the beginning of the new month about the previous one. I hope you'll be enjoying it!

September 2009

What books and/or magazines did I read this month?
I have finally managed to get the Cadfael Chronicles complete and am now reading them all consecutively, which is more fun than piecemeal. They are separate stories, but the author has a habit of referring casually to things or characters from previous episodes. I’ve had a fair bit of time for reading and so I’ve got through books one to eleven! You can find an introduction review on my Book Reviews Blog but I haven't completed later pages.
The other thing I started this month is reading my Bible-in-a-Year, finally - I bought this three years ago at Spring Harvest and have been meaning every year to start it at the beginning of the year as it is numbered so. But of course, then I always forgot. Now I just thought it doesn't really matter when to start, and between my dodgy health and our upside-down lifestyle of going to bed late and getting up late I haven't been to church much this year and miss some spirituality. So doing this long daily reading and the meditation verse each day seemed a good idea. I'm also using the meditation verse to make a page for my Faithbook each day (well, FOR each day but not necessarily daily, just as I find time...). It is very rewarding.

What movies, television shows, plays, etc. did I watch this month?
The third part of “The Tudors” is on iBBC and we’ve been watching King Henry with his third wife (three episodes) and his grief after her loss (fourth episode). Shame Queen Jane died in childbed – he might have been content with her…
We also watched another weekly on iBBC called “Economy Gastronomy”, a rather fun real life TV series where two chefs teach a family each week how to save money and make the most of their ingredients while still have satisfying meals. They had a good variety – large families, a gay family, a single mother and child, and even a student cohab. I learnt some tips and tricks, too, and copied various recipes from their website. Some useful entertainment for a change…
Finally, we watched a variety of Open University documentations: on dinosaurs; the chemistry of snow; the history of mathematics; the mysterious decline of the honeybee; and the oldest map of Britain. It’s our “dinner theatre, thanks to the flexibility of iBBC…

What fun things did I do with my family and/or friends?
Sean and I spent an afternoon at Saltex, the local show for estate managment, clubs and amenities. It’s a strange mix of agri- and horticulture; playground stuff; and sports resources. We got free tickets through Sean’s uncle, and Sean wanted to have a look at wood processing machinery. There wasn’t much on show, and what was there was so expensive as to put a stop to any further musings about getting into the wood recycling business. We ended up buying some work clothes and shoes for Sean, and a sturdy pair of secateurs and thick gardening gloves for me.

What gifts did I give and/or receive?
Well, of course September is my birthday month but we usually ignore the fact more or less. I got a lovely home-knitted scarf from a friend (the type that is knitted in the round and you can double-sling it over your head, pull it up as a hood, or pull it down over your shoulders to keep you warm there. Plus a nice little picture from MIL.
Not so much a gift as a prize: Sean was away for a weekend at the Cardington Interclub Slalom Finals, coming third in his division which got him a special 25-year anniversary trophy from the event (photo here). Not that he’s proudly collecting this kind of thing – but it’s an ashtray shaped little bowl and will probably come in useful for something…

What special or unusual purchases did I make?
We have pretty much gone off spending a lot of money on buying things – not that either of us was ever a big spender – and have instead started thinking about resources we have. For the first time since I’ve met Sean we have been getting lots of fruit from Woodlands (there are tons of different sorts of plums and apples, and also Asian pears, grapes and figs), and Sean has ingeniously converted an old filing trays box and some computer fans into a dehydrator (photo here), so we have been cooking plum compote for the freezer and drying apples, prunes and pears to tide us over the fruitless season. Let’s see how long it will last us!
Received via Freecycle: book ends; 4-ring binders; grapevine cuttings; waterproof mittens; two planting tables and a load of big terracotta planting pots

What illnesses or health concerns did I have?
My annual blood test was due (compulsory for anybody on Thyroxine) and my doctor ordered some extra tests as well to try and look into my continuing problems of low energy and immune system. One of the tests required was for fasting blood sugar which meant for 12 hours before the appointment I couldn’t eat or drink anything other than a little water, and the tests have to be sent in early so I had to go for the early morning session! The whole setup did NOT suit our normal lifestyle and was a right nuisance.
Later in the month I developed a really bad leg after a mossie got to me one night, biting me 6 times across my calf. Either I’ve suddenly gone allergic to mossies or this one was infected with something because each of these bites went swollen, pussy ad sore, and they took over two weeks to heal. (photo taken after about a week!)

What was going on in garden and allotment?
The courgettes and beans are in full production – there are far more than we can eat so Sean did some research on freezing containers and found a type that is the ideal size for our freezer drawers. He drove over to Maidenhead to buy them in bulk – only a few pence per box and we have 200 boxes, so that should cover the whole of our harvest.
The little cucurbits called “melothrie” are also a success, making an easy and unusual addition to salads. Sean has got quite used to a little side salad with most meals and doesn’t deride it as “rabbit food” anymore – in fact, if there isn’t one he asks what’s missing!
Sean’s taken the chilli plant in the growhouse under his wings, tending to it rather lovingly, and it’s responding with tons of flowers and little chillies in various states of ripeness. He takes a few off almost every day now – sometimes as many as 20! Again, the surplus goes into the freezer, and I’ve started using chilli in cooking a lot more than I used to.
The allotment still looks in good shape after our mega effort in July – unfortunately, “something” (rabbits? mice?) ate nearly all the beetroot, the carrot fly tunnelled all the carrots, the fennels don’t seem to want to form proper bulbs, and the corn is far behind, but there’s more beans and courgettes, spinach, parsley, the last potatoes, onions and garlic ready. And it all looks very pretty thanks to Emily’s wedding flowers – sunflowers, cornflowers, nigella, marigolds and cosmos.
Oh, and of course there’s the hedgerow bounty as well – I’ve spent a couple of afternoons out foraging for blackberries!

What new recipes did I try out?
I have been searching for bean and courgette recipes, of course, and these are our favourites:
Crunchy Pecan Beans (in photo mixed with sprouting broccoli)
Courgettes in Blankets
Salmon Stir Fry
Salad Nicoise
I also found an interesting recipe to deal with those green tomatoes we had to rescue from the blight last month: Tex Mex Rice with Green Tomatoes (no photo)
(Recipe links go to my new online cookbook - see next paragraph.)

What were my accomplishments this month?
I finished the first section of the Book of Me Challenge at the Club Scrap Forum (six pages – one each for the three themes for Sean and for me). It was interesting to talk to Sean about some of the questions and I certainly learnt a bit more about how he sees things (he’s not very forthcoming in such talk unprompted!). You can see them here.
I also completed Emily’s wedding keepsake album – 40 pages!!! Format is 6x6”, but still, it was a lot of work and I hope that she’ll like it. I think it turned out really well (and was a good way of using up some of the lovey-dovey embellishments for which I don’t have much use in my ordinary scrapbooking…). See photos in post below.
On another note, I started a new project: an online cookbook with my favourite recipes, especially recipes adapted or found for this anti-candida diet I’m on. As I’m getting used to Joomla from my work with the Deanery website, I had Sean convince me that it is the ideal medium for this idea, and it turned out that, as usual, he’s right. It works really well – and Sean did up one of the mini IBM laptops for me which now sits in the kitchen so that I can use my online cookbook without having to print the recipes – safe the trees!
Finally, job-wise we had the first network meeting, for School Governors in the Deanery, and with a speaker from the Diocesan Education Centre. It all went really well and was appreciated by those who took part, so hopefully it will be the start to some successful networking projects in the future. As this is a main objective in my job description I feel quite passionately about it!

What were my disappointments this month?
Something really annoying happened: after my blood test I went to Coffee Break at church just to say hello and sort out the SfP cards for sale as I hadn’t looked after them in a long time. Everybody wanted to talk to me, and the Traidcraft stall was up as well, so it all took longer than expected, and what with a long wait at the post office afterwards and queue in the supermarket I was a few minutes late at the carpark – and Mr Job’s Worth Traffic Warden must have been waiting right there to put the ticket on my car. Or maybe it’s because my little car stands out from all the others and is easy to remember that he thought it had been there for a long time and checked back…? Anyway, it cost me £30 which I thought hilarious, especially since the carpark is usually half empty now that the maximum parking time is only two hours…

Anything else noteworthy to include?
Our old church choir was called back in for an afternoon on special request to sing at the memorial service for one of its former members. Although a sad occasion it was a happy get-together and the singing went really well, and felt really good. We all still feel ready to get back into our Sunday duties if only they could find us a new music director… (photo here)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Have a look at my latest pages

I know, I know - two months no entries again... That's because I've been busy. I'll write something up with a few photos soon. But meanwhile have a look at my other blogs and see my latest pages on the 365 photo challenge (updated to June 10th) and my childhood Deck of Arts - some interesting tidbits I'd say.
But I've been busy with more: I've made a whole keepsake book for my friend Emily's wedding - here is what it looks like but you can see all the pages in my scrapbook website. On the homepage, find "Emily & Giles' Wedding".

The whole album can be stood up - it's 6x6" format.Front cover (it's covered with a plastic-type sheet).One of the pages - there are over 40 all together...

I've also started another album in my old favourite format of 12x12" - going back years to my holiday in Bali. So many lovely photos, and I'm using the travelogue I wrote at the time as base for the journals. Here's the dedication page - I've already done some more pages which again you can all find on my scrapbook website (find the link "Bali Holiday").

On the website, all the pages are big enough to read the text as well!