Things to Do
My list of things to do is varied. I know that I seem to have a reputation for wanting to take part in scary adrenaline fuelled activities (I can’t imagine why!), and I do love doing wacky stuff like that. But actually there are lots of things on my list that can be done sitting down. Ahhhh sitting down. One such thing was to make my own cushion cover. Simple, maybe. But something that actually I thought I’d never do.
I have made a cushion cover before. A very long time before my list was written. I was at school, quite early on at secondary school; we all had to make one for our textiles project. Mine was a thin beige cushion cover onto which I stitched a felt pattern. It was a mess. I couldn’t use the sewing machine. I couldn’t sew by hand. I certainly couldn’t thread a needle. I found the whole experience quite upsetting. I simply could not see the cotton against the material – and I wasn’t allowed to use contrasting colours because I was told that wouldn’t look right. I was defeated. Everyone else in the class – boys and girls alike – seemed to be creating wonderful things. I knew what I wanted mine to look like, I have always been quite creative and even a bit artistic and I have the ability to see images in my head (I often refer to it as thinking in colour), but I had no skill in making it happen like I imagined. I was not proud of my cushion. I wish I’d not bothered trying in the first place. It put me off sewing completely.
Over the last few years my list has grown into something that helps me try new things, learn things and achieve things. One afternoon I thought I should be adding things that I’ve tried before and failed at… and this was one of those things. I was sure that one day I would conquer this thing. Such a simple thing.
Very soon after updating my list that time around a friend came and spoke to me saying she could help me with my cushion cover. I explained about my eyes and my difficulty in seeing cotton, and that I had been defeated previously, but she said it would be no problem, she would show me how to make a cushion cover myself that I would be proud of. So I went over to Fenland Textile Studios one lovely Saturday morning with my Mum and Sister (moral support!) to have a go.
This is Fenland Textile Studio based at Unique Cottage Studios. Set in the middle of rural Lincolnshire, just outside Spalding, it is surrounded by flat fields growing tulips, potatoes and lots of other distinctly British things. Angela, a lovely and very talented lady, loves to work with materials – she quilts, sews, dyes (using natural things like indigo, tulips, and other similar things), and teaches. She runs classes and taster sessions at her studios and for groups and schools around Lincolnshire. She invited us in and, wearing her gorgeous red Dr Martens as used in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony (how did I not know they re-paired up those red and blue Docs and sold them?!), began to explain what we were going to do.
Our cushion covers were going to be made using a man’s shirt. This meant we didn’t have to worry about a zip or button holes – the front of the shirt would become the back of the cushion cover, providing an easy way to stuff in the cushion pad. We had two choices – either a patchwork cover or a appliqué pattern. My mum, who has been known to make dresses and other clothing (she made LincsGeek’s waistcoat for our wedding) went for the patchwork option. My sister and I decided to go down the appliqué route.
We started by making our pattern and cutting out the front and back of our cushion from the shirt we brought with us. Next we designed the front of our cushion and cut that out of different material before using iron-on stuff (I didn’t write down what it was called so now I can’t remember!) to fix that to our cushion so we could more easily stitch using the sewing machine. I used both a manual (gorgeous antique Singer) sewing machine and an electric one successfully – using black cotton meant I could see it against the light coloured material I’d chosen, and I think my flower design looks great with the black outline. I even managed to sew the front and back of the cover together without supervision. Go me! Ok so my line is a bit wobbly in places, and a bit too close to the edge on one part of the flower, but who cares – it’s home made by me and I love it!
Angela was great. She calmed my nerves and had a teaching style that made me feel totally at ease. She gave instruction without being patronising in the slightest and in a way that made me feel like I knew exactly what I was doing all the time. She showed us how to do things, demonstrated, and gave us every opportunity to chat with her and ask any questions we had. The three of us has such a lovely day in her company, and the results (and our smiles) speak for themselves.
I know it probably sounds like nothing but I am ever so proud of my cushion cover. My very own home-made textile project is now sat on my chair in the back room where I sit and day dream. You never know, I might even attempt another one sometime; I have gained so much confidence from this experience and am very grateful to Angela for helping me achieve this.
Find out more about Fenland Textile Studio on Angela’s website, on facebook and on twitter. I like the look of the Indigo Blues workshop and the Cake and Make sessions, and will be going back to get my craft on soon.
Back in January LincsGeek and I spent a fabulous week in Ruka, Finland, where we enjoyed some amazing scenery and lovely ski runs. [Read about the trip here.] The thing about Ruka that we really liked, apart from the fact that we often had runs to ourselves, was that it was more than just a ski holiday. It was a winter holiday – the landscape and location meant that there was so much more to enjoy thank simply hurtling down the slopes over and over again.
We booked two excursions through Crystal Ski when we booked our holiday – two things that we didn’t want to miss out on. Booking with your holiday makes sense really; first it means you’ve paid for the activities before you arrive on holiday so it’s easier to budget and you don’t use up those Euros on your first day, and it also means that should activities get booked up you have your place firmly secured. We chose two things from my big list to take part in – a snowmobile ride one evening, and a husky farm experience and sled ride.
Night Snowmobile Safari
Snowmobiles, or Skidoos, are very well catered for in Ruka. With over 500km of free-to-use snowmobile runs through forests and open landscapes you could spend a whole week exploring; but we decided to book a group safari style excursion as an introduction to riding the machines.
The snowmobiles we had were something like 700cc machines – they will easily carry two or maybe even three people and reach very high speeds. LincsGeek and I had one each, of course, and after some very quick instruction (this is the accelerator, this is the kill switch) we lined up in a row of about ten or 12 snow mobiles for our guided tour around Ruka. It was 7.30pm in the evening and pitch black, we were dressed in so many clothes (suits over our ski suits, gloves over gloves) due to the -29 degrees Celsius temperatures, and could not wait to get going. The line of bikes snaked along dedicated tracks, through trees, over hills and across lakes. To be honest I had no idea when I was going over a field or over a lake, it’s very difficult to tell the difference when there is that much snow!
Speed was controlled with a squeeze handle which was very responsive. The route we took wasn’t all flat and straight, there were some sharp bends (lean!) and some fun steep ascents and descents which added to the excitement. The snake line did mean the speed was generally kept down but there were opportunities to play about with the throttle and feel the cold wind on my face. I found myself leaving a nice big gap so I could see what the engine was made of, and I know LincsGeek did the same.
Sadly the Northern Lights weren’t out to play that evening – it would have been our best chance of the week to see them, but that would have been an added bonus of what was already a really fun way to spend a few hours. If you ever have the opportunity I would highly recommend taking a Skidoo out for a spin – seriously good fun, a proper buzz, and a great way to see the landscape away from the ski runs. Next time we go (there will be a next time) we will either book the day time safari or just hire a couple of snowmobiles for an afternoon.
Husky Farm Visit
On the Saturday we spent an afternoon out on a Husky farm close to Ruka Village. The main reason for choosing this one was to have a go on a Husky sled, naturally, but this was much more than that. We took a quick ten minute coach ride to a local Husky Farm (the Finnish know how to drive in the snow!) where they keep over 200 working dogs.
Husky sleds are very simple and traditional. Made from wood, they have two skis underneath, a tall handle at the back to hold on to, a large canvas sling for your gear (or partner!), and a metal brake mechanism. After some quick tuition (stand on the skis to move, stand on the brake to slow down, jump on the brake with all your weight to stop but be prepared to keep going anyway!), we went and met our dogs. Our sled had six Huskies that were absolutely raring to go – they knew what they were doing even if we didn’t! The two at the front were the leaders, trained to follow instructions (or the sled in front in this case) and give the sled some speed. The two at the back are trained for strength – they are the ones who get the sled going, the pullers. And the two in the middle were there to assist with both strength and speed. They did not need any encouragement to get going at all, but did need an awful lot of strength to get them to stop!
We did a 5km route around some sled runs on fairly flat terrain, getting up to speeds of around 30kph we were told. LincsGeek took the sled first and I sat inside, and then we swapped over half way around. It was absolutely amazing. So smooth. Quite fast. Really easy to steer. We were told that thanks to around 30cm of fresh snow the previous night the runs were nice and even and fairly slow, but they still felt quite fast to us.
Once we returned our dogs to the farm we were introduced to some of the new arrivals – it was great to be able to play with some of the puppies. We were given some information on how the dogs are trained and looked after, and had plenty of time to ask questions and learn as much as we wanted to about the farm and the dogs and the sport of Husky sledding. The experience finished with hot sausages, muffins and tea in their hut.
It was a really fantastic afternoon that I definitely want to repeat sometime. (Note the photos are all a bit rubbish as it was so very cold!) Those dogs are amazing. You can book full day safaris too which look like great fun, although we were warned against the week long Husky Sled Safaris as they are apparently lots of hard work and you get very very cold!!
The Big Blog Exchange is an exciting, unique and exclusive project that has never before been explored. Sixteen passionate bloggers will swap lives, blogs, cultures and places simultaneously in real life for ten days.
Between 7th June and 17th June, selected bloggers will have the opportunity to live and learn in a different place, immersing themselves in local culture whilst blogging on their exchange partners blog.
Bloggers will be provided with an itinerary full of experiences and activities to participate in during their stay. However, what you write about and how you choose to record the experience is completely up to you!
Sounds like fun! So I’ve signed up…
Should I get chosen, another blogger would come to the UK and I would give them my blog for ten days… you’d read their posts on here. At the same time I would visit their country, explore it, try things, meet people, and blog on their blog. Regular readers of Splodz Blogz will know that I am always looking for a new challenge, something new to try, a new adventure; this seems like something that would give me loads of new experiences, and be something I would remember for ever.
In order to register in The Big Blog Exchange and be in with a chance of being one of the 16, I had to write a short piece explaining why I wanted in:
Life is all about the journey. The challenge is to make the most of each day, to spend time learning, experiencing, trying.
I don’t believe that life, my life, is about being the best at everything – I enjoy too many things for that to be possible. But it is about exploring the world around me, learning and developing as a person, trying to make a difference in little and big ways, being inspired and inspiring others, setting challenges and achieving goals, and taking opportunities I’m given to try new things.
The Big Blog Exchange would be an extraordinary thing to take part in. It would allow me the opportunity to do something incredible, to immerse myself in another place and to do exactly what I want in life – to learn, to experience, to try. I once wrote that I was too old and sensible for adventure; but I know that I am happiest when living in the moment and doing unforgettable things, and when I am reminded of them.
Can you imagine?! It’s the stuff of dreams. It would take me away from everyday life and provide a totally unforgettable experience that I could share with the world through my blog. Life is all about the journey, and this would be a pretty awesome journey to go on.
This is a Vote for Me Competition…
If you think that I would make a worthy participant in The Big Blog Exchange, and if you think you’d enjoy reading about my experiences while exploring another country and those of my exchange partner, then I’d really appreciate a vote. I am well aware that vote for me competitions are fraught with potential issues, but hey, if I didn’t try I’d never know if this adventure was meant for me.
Hostelling International are looking for just 16 bloggers from across the world so I know it’s unlikely, but it’s gotta be worth a try. After all, I’ve learnt that opportunities like this don’t come along very often, and when they do you have to grab them. I’ve had awesome experiences thanks to someone taking a punt on my behalf in the past – I’ll never forget being a torchbearer – so this time I thought I’d take a punt on myself. This is me giving something adventurous a fighting chance. Because I felt like it.
Here’s the link you need… go vote (please!), and tell everyone!
Oh, and if you’re a blogger and think “I want some of that” then go to The Big Blog Exchange website and register yourself… Your blog can be on any topic and you can be from anywhere in the world. I would love to know if you’ve registered after reading my blog (comment below) – I might even vote for you!
I was featured on The Big Blog Exchange blog as they like my motivation, which is very nice >> Motivations We Love! http://blog.bigblogexchange.org/2013/03/02/motivations-we-love/
At the end of last week my sister and I had a rather civilised afternoon taking high tea at Stoke Rochford Hall near Grantham in Lincolnshire. The Hall, which is an old manor house close to where Sir Isaac Newton did his teacher training, is a beautiful traditional building in an expanse of gardens both formal and informal. I was given the opportunity to review the Afternoon Tea for Two experience by Asda Gifts.
The Hall and the setting were lovely. It was a proper old manor house with lots of history but having been renovated very recently following a fire in 2005 everything was clean and in good repair – no worn out carpet, peeling paint or wobbly bannisters. As good children of an ex-history teacher my sister and I sat and read the little booklet telling us all about the place before we ate – we found it interesting that the fire place was not sold along with the house in 1970s – the black and white marble fireplace in the Oak Room is still owned by the family. It was actually a very nice place for a walk, we did wander around a little but it was so cold and started to snow (and we were being chased by a chicken!) so we headed inside to wait for our booked time.
We found the staff really friendly. We checked in at reception and were collected by our waitress for the afternoon straight away (we were 15 minutes early) who took us to the Oak Room and our table. We were the only ones in there – it was very quiet, it could have done with some classical music in the background or something to break the silence. It was a really lovely location, the chairs were comfortable, and there was plenty of space at our table. The fire was lit which made the large room feel cosy. Our waitress brought us tea straight away (there was a simple choice of tea or coffee) and we sat and chatted whilst enjoying the views across the park through the massive windows.
The food arrived a few minutes later – a plate of sandwiches and a cake stand with scones, fruit tarts and cakes. The sandwiches were four each of crab, cucumber, and beef and horseradish on different types of medium sliced bread. They were cut into triangles, with the crusts on – this was a rustic easy going afternoon rather than silver service, which suited the surroundings and the price. They were all very nice; the crab was definitely our favourite, closely followed by the beef.
Next we moved on to the three tier cake stand. The fruit scones were slightly warm – we think they were home made but a little hard so probably frozen and defrosted in the oven. They were served with plenty of jam and clotted cream and were definitely a highlight of the afternoon tea.
The fruit tart, brownie and fruit cake were definitely full portions – again, rustic rather than dainty. Actually they were probably a bit too large; there was no way we could eat it all, it was like having three puddings! The tart was nice – a cream filling with fresh fruit on top, the brownie was totally chocolatey, and the fruit cake was moist and full of flavour. There was butter available on the table for the scones and fruit cake should we have wanted it.
We had four cups of tea each, although we could have easily drunk another couple each should we have been offered more. I’d say it was simply a case of the tea pot being far too small – only two cups of tea out of each pot meant we relied on our waitress to refill the pot each time we had a cup. It either needed a bigger pot, or we needed a pot of water alongside. It was actually a bit odd the waitress didn’t come back into the room after bringing the food and refilling the teapot for what was the last time – she didn’t come back to ask if the food was fine or check if we needed more drink. We even left unnoticed. The fact we weren’t bothered meant we could sit and chat to our heart’s content, but I couldn’t help thinking we were left to our own devices a little too much. I expect had there been other customers we’d have seen more of her and would have had our pot refilled more often. Or maybe four cups of tea was our limit!
Despite the fact we could have drunk a lot more tea we both really enjoyed our afternoon of civilised dining at Stoke Rochford Hall. We had our fill (more than our fill) of lovely sandwiches and cakes, and having grown up holidaying in Cornwall I am rather fond of a scone with jam and clotted cream. It was a really lovely afternoon chatting, eating and watching the world go by, and I am very happy to have ticked another thing off my Things To Do list.
We’d definitely do this again as paying customers, either at Stoke Rochford Hall or somewhere else; it would have cost us £35 for the Tea for Two voucher from Asda Gifts which allows you to choose from over 80 locations across the country.
The beginning of the year is always a good time to update my big list of things to do – my bucket list – the list that gives me plenty of challenges, plenty of things to aim for, plenty of things to think about.
Last year (doesn’t 2012 seem like a long time ago?!) I ticked off seven things from my list (and added to a couple more), including swimming with dolphins (I really should blog about that experience, I will do so soon) and the Sky Coaster in Kissimmee.
I love planning my next “Things to Do” adventure, and I know that I will be ticking two things off in the next couple of weeks, three if the Northern Lights put on a show while we’re on holiday in Finland. Oh and for the record, I have promised a good friend I will arrange to give blood when I come back from my holiday!
As you know, though, my list is always evolving. Each time I tick something off, whether big like the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge or small like eating a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, I find new things to add. The list is long but there is always room for more, new, interesting, exciting, thought provoking, scary, educational, adrenaline fuelled, cultural, and other challenges.
So thanks for all your suggestions so far… and your offers of help with things already on my list… keep them coming… leave your comment below!
My list of things to do is not only about big personal challenges or adrenaline fuelled experiences. It also contains a number of little things that I haven’t done that I would like to.
I have been lucky enough to visit the USA four times now. I’ve still only ventured to the Sunshine State, but I love it there and would love to go back sometime soon. I want to see the rest of the States and the world too of course, but sometimes it’s good to go somewhere you know you will enjoy. This time around I managed to tick three things off my list, all different – there was the Skycoaster, the swim with Dolphins at Discovery Cove (which may get its own post sometime in the New Year), and I ate a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.
For some reason Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches have always intrigued me. They are very American, here in the UK we like to keep our peanuts and our jams separate! I have wondered how they would taste – I like peanut butter, I like a nice jam sandwich, it is supposed to be the most popular sandwich filling in the USA, so it must be good!
It was mission accomplished one sunny lunch time in Florida in October. We’d been to Walmart for groceries and bought a jar of PB&J – apparently America’s favourite combination of the two sandwich fillers – and I got to giving this thing a go.
No. No, no, no, no. No. I did not like. I couldn’t even finish the sandwich. Yuk.
The combination of buttery nutty and a little bit salty peanut butter with the incredibly sweet and chemically grape jelly (sorry, jam) was not nice. I could not make the flavours go together. My taste buds rejected them and wanted to separate them to different corners of my mouth. What I was hoping for was a perfect marriage of fruit and buttery nut, a revelation in flavour that would mean I’d be taking PB&J sandwiches to work. But what I got was an unpleasant taste in my mouth that I just couldn’t get rid of. Disappointed!
Maybe if I used products from home, which aren’t anywhere near as chemically (what goes into processed food in America?!?!), it would be different. Maybe I should try another one. I don’t know that I could bring myself to do it.
I’m really sorry my American friends, but I really don’t get it. I wanted to like it, I really did, but no, this combination is not for me. Please don’t hate me, but every time I hear any mention of PB&J on the telly or anywhere else I will involuntarily screw my face up with a look of “euwwww”.
Any other strange foods I should be trying?