Sunday, November 04, 2018


I don't like "stuff" . I hate having unnecessary stuff clog my house and my life. It is this hatred of stuff I don't need, along with budgetary constraints and an eagle eyed husband that I really don't shop as an activity on its own any more. In fact, the last time time I shopped for something I didn't need, I really didn't like the experience. I still like getting presents for people, but shopping because I have nothing better to do is out the window.

When I was living in Iowa, I used to patrol the aisles of the local fabric shops paying particular attention to the fabrics available for quilting. The colours and displays were really beautiful. I found myself buying fabrics for their beauty alone and not because I had a plan for a specific quilt. This lead to a rainbow of small amounts of quilting fabric that was folded neatly in colour order and looked at from time to time. Then, if I was planning to make an actual quilt, would I incorporate these beautiful scraps into it? No. All new fabric had to be purchased adding more and more remnants to my growing "stash".

There seems to be culture amongst quilters where having a large stash of fabric that will never be used is a good thing. Some women actually have a sewing room. A whole room dedicated to sewing! There is a little envy here as far as having a sewing room goes, but then these women have these sewing rooms filled to the rafters with sewing materials that will never be used in their lifetime! Naturally this varies from person to person but nobody seems to think that this is wrong. I don't want to give quilters a hard time, they are mostly wonderful, generous and kind hearted women. The desire to accumulate bleeds into other crafts and hobbies too.

Stuff can take over your life bit by insidious little bit. You'll wake one morning to discover that you need a bigger house to contain your growing piles of stuff. You've got a house that is bigger than you ever thought you could afford and you're

written in 2006 - another find in the drafts folder - this is still relevant.  I still hate stuff but we have more now.


One of the great levelers is that we all need to use the toilet.  We all poo.  Every single one of us.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have modern flush toilets have become accustomed to having the unpleasantness just go away with the touch of a button or the push of a lever.  Our human waste just goes away. But it doesn't.  We know that it goes into the sewer or septic tank.  What ever we throw down the toilet, goes there too.

When visiting the Greek islands we were confronted with a new rule.  The only thing that gets flushed is what comes out of our bodies. The paperwork that goes along with this bodily function goes in the little bin next to the toilet. So, you wipe yourself afterward and put the paper in the basket, not down the toilet.

My initial reaction was, "Ew!"  I'd rather it just get dropped after use into the darkness of the water and never be seen again.  I didn't want any further interaction.  But, as a good guest in somebody else's country, I did as custom dictated and disposed of the toilet paper in the bin rather than flushing it.  After a few days, I didn't even think about it.  I just complied.

The diameter of standard plumbing in Greece cannot handle paper.  Use the bin provided.  You get used to it.  Woe to the tourist who clogs the system by ignoring the custom.  I wouldn't want to be the cause of having to call the plumber out or the reason there is a back up of nastiness.

The benefit of this is that the seas the Greek islands I have been to have been fabulous!  So clean and unpolluted. I was able to contrast this with the water around Malta.  Same sea but different regulations.  The sea was much more polluted.

One of the benefits of only flushing what comes out of your bottom and not the paperwork afterward, is that very little else will be flushed.  No tampons will be made to disappear.  No condoms or ear swabs and certainly no moist towelettes.

See where I am headed with this?  The toilet is not this magical device that makes things disappear.  Flushed items do not just go away.  They go somewhere.  Biological waste will be managed.  It will be processed.  The other stuff won't.

A lot of the plastic will end up having to be scraped out of the sewers by actual people who are paid to do it.  Condoms, dental floss and disposable wipes are the big culprits in the sewer.  What doesn't get cleared out by those poor people, may end up on our oceans.

There are vast rafts or gyres of plastic in our oceans.   They are so large that they have names.

Please don't flush anything down the toilet that hasn't come out of your body or is actual toilet paper.

Written in 2010 and discovered in drafts this morning

Coptic Christians

My family and I have been regular visitors to Egypt for the last nine years.  We have managed to go almost every year since our first visit in 2006.  Sometimes we have even get to go twice!

In 2006 we visited Cairo and took a side trip.  The day we went was a special day.  I suspect it was first communion for little ones at the church.  I remember so clearly the beautiful voices of the children and the oily crosses on their foreheads as families tumbled out after the service.

During the past few years of turmoil in this part of the world there have been instances where churches and communities have been targets.  This week 21 Coptic Christians working in Libya were publicly executed by extremists.

These people were from a small community not far from where we have stayed while on holiday.

My first contact with a Egyptian Christian was in 2009 on a trip to Port Ghalib on the Red Sea coast.  We were staying in the Marina Lodge hotel.  We had a glorious time and made some great friends.  In the hotel there were a couple of small shops.  A dive shop, a shop selling papyrus, a perfume shop and a general souvenir and basic stuff shop.  If you need some gum, a postcard and a stamp this general shop was the shop to go to.  The shops only sold to the residents of the hotel and for the bulk of the time, they were empty.  I went in to buy postcards and stamps one evening after dinner.  I chatted to the young man running the shop.  He was very kind.  In his halting English we managed a conversation.  He told me that he was a Christian and showed me the discreet tattoo of a cross he had on his wrist.

When hearing about the young men who were beheaded, I shudder.  During the Arab Spring and the big revolution that they had in Egypt, all the tourists stopped coming.  The Marina Lodge closed its doors for a period of time.  I know because we were there again in 2011 and stayed across the harbour in the Crown Plaza Hotel.  We walked by the Marina Lodge and were really sad to see through the windows at the tables and chairs stacked up and covers over things to protect them from the harsh sun.  I wondered then about the young men who were running the quiet little shops inside the hotel.  They would have lost their jobs when the hotel closed.

I wrote this in 2009 - I found it in the drafts of the blog and have posted it today.  Still relevant

Friday, October 12, 2018

Growing fast

When I brought Fen home, he weighed 2.8 kilos. 

Yesterday when he went for his second set of injections, he had shot up to 6.7 kilos!  He has outgrown his first puppy collar.  It's like he has outgrown the newborn sized clothes.

He has a new red collar. 

He still fits in his crate. . . I expect that at some point, I'll have to get a larger crate for him.

This is him at 10 weeks!  Growing so fast!

He likes sleeping in his crate.  He takes himself off to it for naps.  He only woke up once last night to be let out for a pee.  It is exactly like having a baby in the house again. . . except this is a baby dog rather than a baby human.   We are all falling in love with this little cutie.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Near the house and the day before my birthday unbeknown to us, a litter of puppies was born.
We didn't know it then, but one of those puppies was destined to be ours.
I had been visiting Dull near Aberfeldy playing with my friends in a house rented by them.  While I was there, I made the acquaintance of Scout, a handsome black Labrador.
It was Scout that convinced me that I've been without a dog for long enough.

When I got home I searched the Kennel Club for Assured breeders.  Scout was healthy and active.  He had no hip, elbow or eye problems and none of the tell tale signs of a badly bred dog.  I wanted a healthy dog.  I knew that it was going to cost me a lot more than a dog off Gumtree but I wanted to avoid unscrupulous breeders.

It turned out that there was a gold star assured breeder near the house - seriously - less than 10 minutes drive away.  Not only was this breeder near, she had the above mentioned litter of puppies and we share the same vet!

The litter she had when I contacted her was larger than she had planned.  The breeder had a waiting list but because the bitch had produced 10 puppies instead of the expected four, everyone on her list was satisfied plus a couple extra puppies.  When I phone asking about puppies she had some that were available!  I went over to the breeder's house about an hour later and plunked a deposit down on one of the black male pups. His eyes were just opening so I couldn't really get a good fix on what he would be like. . . but I already had puppy on the brain.

A few weeks later The Man of the Place went with me to see the pup.  His eyes were open by then but he was still very small.

Yesterday was the big day. The pup whose pedigree name is Exelby Weaver and his pet name is Fenrir (Fen for short) came to to live with us.

He had a very big day yesterday.
A car journey that he didn't like much.  There is a new house with new smells and new routines.  His mum and litter mates aren't here but he seems to be settling in okay.

I am delighted with him. He is a beautiful dog.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Work to do!

The man of the place and I are leaving for yet another diving trip on Friday.  Before I go, I have a number of things I need to accomplish.

1. Finish some pyjamas that I am making for my grandsons in Chicago.  I am hampered by the sewing machine malfunctioning when it comes to the buttonhole maker.   This means that tomorrow I have to take the machine into town and hope beyond hope that he can fix this problem while I wait.  If it works, then I can get everything finished!  I would also like to make myself a new nightgown. . .but that is merely icing on the cake if that happens.

2. Make plum jam.  I was hoping I could wait until we got back before I this happened.  I looked yesterday and damn it, the plums are ripening.  The wasps will swarm in and take everything if I don't make the jam.

We lost a big portion of the tree in a spring storm.  The tree is now suffering more damage as the weight of the fruit snaps the branches!

I started picking the plums this morning. I started work in the drizzle thinking that there would be fewer wasps.  There are fewer wasps, but there are still a couple around.  No grabbing the fruit without looking first!
If a plum splits, the wasps will start feeding.  They will tunnel in and then in the manner of James and the Giant Peach will have a dry, safe place to quietly get full of plum.  The wasps were happy enough in their little plum cave but I disturbed the branch. They started to come out!  They were still on the plum but I didn't need any further reason to come back in the house.

I took my two bowls of plums in and I will come back out later with more containers.  I may have to bring buckets!    This means that I have a lot of plums to convert into plum jam. 

As I am going into town to see about the sewing machine tomorrow, I think I will be getting some more sugar.  I think I have enough jars.  Thankfully plums contain plenty of natural pectin and I won't need to add any. 

This little tree that I bought as a sapling from a supermarket display years ago is finally coming into its own.  The first crop of plums was a lone bowl of fruit. The next couple of years were worse.  No plums or the few plums that were there split and wasps got them before I could get them.

I rejoice in the plummy harvest, but I am not thrilled that I am forced into plum jam production this week.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Coming soon. . . a new addition

Over the years I have welcomed rescue dogs into my home.  Some were not a good fit.  Some were fantastic!
We had Barney the basset hound who was with us for two years.  He was so handsome and mostly good natured. He had the best ears and the deepest bark of all the dogs.  He developed bloat or GVD and did not survive.  I was heartbroken and cried for ages when he left us.

I researched the next breed carefully and decided that a Staffordshire Bull Terrier would be a good match for us.  I had to wait a bit before the right dog came along.  We got Polly as a small pup.
She was a terrific dog.  We had her for many years.  She died at the age of eleven.
I've tried another rescue dog almost immediately after Polly died.  It was too odd to not have a dog in the house.  We had Xena for a while another very good natured Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  She was older (about seven) when we got her.   I really tried with her but when she jumped over the fence to start chasing sheep, her number was up.  With that breed, I really need to start with a pup that can be trained and don't come with bad habits  She couldn't stay.  I am not put off that breed at all.  They make wonderful, loyal pets.

Last week I was up in the highlands, on the banks of the Tay in a very nice house.  When the ghillie showed up with his dog Scout, I was smitten!  Scout was a well behaved black Labrador.  He had a glossy coat that was almost blue and so affectionate!
The day I got home, I started looking into getting a dog just like Scout! Here's what I knew about Scout.  He was a working dog and had a formidable pedigree.  You just don't find dogs like him in rescue situations.  One quick look on the Kennel Club website for reputable breeders told me that there is a breeder near me!  I mean not far at all!!

Not only was this breeder close, she had a two week old litter with a few pups available.   The breeder had been expecting a litter of four pups.  Those pups had been spoken for.  When Saffron, her bitch whelped, she produced 10 puppies!  There were three black lab dog pups available and one yellow dog pup available.   I dashed across to see them and put a deposit down on one.

They have good hips and elbows and have been tested (and passed) for other painful diseases associated with pure breed labs.  Bred for temperament and obedience, this will be a brilliant match for us.

SO. . . .in the beginning of September our new piddling, chewing lab pup will be here.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Plastic Free

As a human who lives on planet Earth, I am dismayed at the intrusion of plastic in my life.  It is a huge global problem.  There are billions of tonnes of plastic in our oceans.  It is in our food chain as micro particles.    We need to stop using quite so much of it.  

With a local group of like-minded people, I go out to pick up plastic along the beaches.  The last two times we were out we got about 2 tonnes of plastic!  Most of it is washed up from the storms.  If it isn't in the ocean in the first place it can't wash up on the beach.  

There were loads of soda bottles and hundreds of plastic ear bud sticks!  How did so many Q-tip sticks get in the ocean?  I'll tell you.  When some people clean their ears, they flush the Q-tip down the toilet.  It then ends up in the sea.  

Please don't flush ear buds, tampons, plastic tampon applicators, condoms or wipes!    None of them are disposable.  They DO go away once you flush them, but they don't disappear!

I have started to take little steps in the reduction of plastic in our lives.  Farewell to disposable and convenient plastic containers.  As a family we have been recycling for years.  Our area is the worst in the UK for recycling.  There are no collections or separating out the plastic and metal for recycling.  So we do that here at home.  

I planted a box hedge years ago.  It's all mature and dense now.  We hide the empty chicken feed bags behind it and fill those up with plastic milk jugs and dog food cans. When we have a huge amount or they start blowing around in the wind, we take them to the nearest recycling centre.

The baby steps included going back to big box powders when buying laundry soap.  It is considerably less expensive.  Bars of soap instead of liquid hand soap.   

Trying really had to NOT use plastic when I buy produce at the supermarket.  They shrink-wrap EVERYTHING and put bananas in plastic bags!  Fruits and vegetables don't need that!  They come already protected from the elements!   We have a way to go with supermarkets.

I was told that every toothbrush I have ever had is still around.  With this in mind, I bought some bamboo toothbrushes for our family.

I also got The Man of the Place a replica of his dad's old safety razor.
We are now regretting that we had thrown out his dad's razor and his uncle's old razor when we cleaned their houses out.  Disposable razors are a nightmare to recycle as they have plastic and metal in them. He is delighted with the shave he gets with the old fashioned razor.  We will save a load of money on not buying those super expensive disposable razors anymore.  I haven't tried it on myself yet.  Eek.  We have to make a container for the old blades so that they're just not lying around.

Driving out of the way to a market or making a special trip to the recycling centre defeats the object of recycling.  I just try to incorporate the journey into daily life.  

There are some areas where you just can't avoid plastic. . . but if we all start taking small steps.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Donald Dennis Carew 1933- 2017

A few days after my last blog post, my father died.

I loved my dad.  He was a good father.  I always always felt loved.

I am desperately sad that he has left this world. Ever practical, he requested no funeral.  He was cremated.  He also didn't want his ashes interred anywhere.  "It's too expensive.  Flush 'em for all I care."  With no funeral to go to, no arrangements to coordinate, I was left adrift with my grief.   For a while, the sadness threatened to overwhelm me.  In the end it just made me short tempered. I apologised to the family members living at home for my irritability.  I have all this grief and I don't know how to make it not suck so much.

With nothing to do, I just went back to work after two days.  There was no point in staying home and wallowing in sadness. What I did find very helpful was gratitude.  I was so lucky to have such a loving father.  I thought the world of him and he thought the world of me.  I had a father in whose eyes, everything I did was terrific.  I was smart, capable and talented.  Who wouldn't love having that in ones life?
Dad on his last visit to me
My dad and I shared a lot of the same interests.  Love of nature was the big one.  He used to take us on nature walks when we were really little.  Probably to get us out of our mother's hair.  We would look for wild asparagus in the spring.  Identify animal tracks in the mud and listen to bird song.  He taught me how to identify a lot of North American birds by song alone.  I was quite adept at that by the time I was grown.

He taught me how to fish and how to tie a fly for fly fishing.  He showed me how to read a river and identify spots where trout were likely to be hanging out.  If we caught a fish, he would slice it open to see what the fish had been eating.

If the fish weren't biting, we entertained ourselves in other ways. We scooped the beds of rivers and he showed me the little stick and pebble houses that caddis fly larvae made for themselves.  We caught little sticklebacks.  I remember bringing one home with me and keeping it in an aquarium for  a bit.  He taught me how to catch crawdads.  I got really good at that. It turns out that if you come home with a bucket full of crawdads you will not have the hero's welcome you think you'll have. 

Of course there were a few times when our relationship was tested, but I think that happens in many relationships.
The last photo of us together.
 I called him on Sunday.  I sometimes couldn't wait to speak to him and would call him in the middle of the week but it was rare for me to fail to call him on Sunday.  Sunday evenings now suck a bit because I still catch myself thinking I should call him before I go to bed.

I am enormously grateful that I had you as my dad.  Most of the time the gratitude wins out over the grief I feel.