Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Doggy Sleepover

This last weekend we were looking after Charlie.

     Charlie is our son's family dog. She is a very new addition to the family as they have only had her a month and she is only four months old. She is known as a Double Doodle as she is a cross poodle and cocker spaniel, crossed with another the same. Our daughter in law is allergic to dogs, but they thought it would be good for our grandson, Eden, if they had a dog, and as poodles and poodle crosses do not shed hair, they would be a safer bet to not bring on Cherise's asthma.
     So Charlie was added to the family.
     She is a sweet little thing, but INCREDIBLY energetic, she is constantly on the go .... or asleep! There is no in-between state. The other slight problem with Charlie is that she is not fully house-trained yet. If there is a newspaper on the floor, she will generally try to aim for it, but hasn't fully got the idea that dogs go outside to have a wee etc.
     Anyway Mike and his family were off for a long weekend break near Blackpool, and the caravan they had booked, looooong before they had even thought of having a dog, did not take dogs, so they asked if we would mind looking after Charlie, and we (of course) said 'No, problem!'
     Charlie had visited before, and we know that Tallulah, in particular loves chasing round the garden with her - and Bridie does occasionally join in too. So Charlie was dropped off on Friday afternoon and the fun began.
      Imagine a houseful of overexcited children - now quadruple that - and remember that one child has toileting issues.
     Actually they spent most of the afternoon in the garden even thought it was raining on and off all day. Eventually Tallulah was so knackered she came in, followed by Charlie who was not in the slightest tired out. Tallulah collapsed on the living room floor and Charlie bounced all over her. When she realised there was no joy there, she tried getting a rise out of Bridie. But Bridie is an older dog, and has dealt with puppies before so she snapped at Charlie and Charlie decided to play with a squeaky ball instead.

   Eventually bedtime came and Charlie's bed was put near the open door in our bedroom, as we'd been told she was used to sleeping in Mike and Cherise's bedroom. The lights were put out and all was quiet for at least thirty seconds, then we heard the sounds of small doodle galloping down the stairs. There was a yap from the living room, then silence and we fell asleep. We were woken about half eleven by the sound of something bumping about underneath the bed, the bumping continued until a small dog emerged at Graham's side of the bed and began raiding the waste paper basket for tissues.
      Small dog was retrieved and removed to the other side of the bed again.
      Most of the rest of the night was fairly peaceful apart from the galloping up and down stairs of various dogs in various combinations.
     Actually the rest of the weekend was a lot more peaceful. They got over their excitement and Charlie calmed down a lot. She also quickly got the hang of the dog flap, especially with Tallulah helping her. Tallulah would go through, Charlie would bark 'Where have you gone?', so Tallulah would pop her head back through the flap as if to say, 'Here I am! Come on!' and Charlie would push at the flap.
     It wasn't long until she was barreling through it at full speed and at every opportunity.
     We didn't get the toileting issue sorted completely, but it was obvious that Charlie was doing at least some of it outside, although she would still gallop downstairs, have a quick pee in the living room (hopefully on the strategically placed newspaper) then shoot outside.
     Charlie has been attending training classes, so she does 'sit' very nicely and waits to be given a treat. And she is a very good natured dog, if occasionally noisy - but so is Tallulah so we can't complain.
     Charlies visit also gave both of our two a good lot of extra exercise, which can't be bad.
     So all in all, we would be happy to doggy-sit again (especially when Charlie has figured out that outside is where the doggy toilet is!)

Incidentally Charlie has black eyes, but the flash made them come out luminous yellow - well at least you can see them!

Friday, 25 October 2019

Greeting the Spirits

The main event of Samhain (Hallowe'en) is the opening of the doors between the Worlds, so that inhabitants of all the spirit planes can get together.
     It could be said that all the doors between the various worlds are in their best alignment at this time, so we can anticipate visitors from the lands of the dead, the various tribes of Fairy, from the deities, the Wild Hunt, or the Ladies of the Night (I am writing another article about these night visitors) from spirits incarnate or not. In fact anyone who fancies turning up.
     On the night of Samhain our ritual welcomes all spirits, from wherever  they might be, and from all stages of incarnation.
     So how do we ensure that we have a welcoming space for our visitors?
     Most spirits do not like bright lights (although there are exceptions to every rule) so firelight and candle light give a gentler, warm light. If you are not happy using naked flames, then use shaded lamps instead, and strings of fairy lights. You can find some smashing strings of lights in the shops at this time of year, and, of course, you cal always carve a pumpkin lantern or two.
     We usually spend some time out in the garden and have a small bonfire. There is a fashion for garden fire bowls at the moment and these are a lovely way of making a small, contained fire. We hang candle lanterns in the garden too.
     Incense is always attractive to the spirits, particularly perfumes such as copal, frankincense, sandalwood and Nag Champa. Sometimes the spirits will use the smoke to create a temporary form, or to send a message. Watching the incense smoke can be a relaxing form of meditation too.
     There must be a feast! This is a festival after all.
     Spirits will partake of the essence of any food or drink, while the incarnate guests can enjoy the material substance.
     If you are hoping for a visit from a special spirit friend or relative, you can always make sure that a dish of their favourite food is included.
     If you are having a meal at a table, do set places for your spirit guests. These can be miniature place settings, but it is only polite to give them a place of honour at your table. I know my mum would like a good pot of tea in a nice china cup and saucer, with salmon and cucumber sandwiches.
     The Celts sometimes called Samhain the Feast of Apples, so a dish or two incorporating these fruit would be a nice idea. This was also the time when animals would be butchered, so meat dishes are appropriate. Especially sausages. Most bonfire parties will feature a sausage in a bun, or other food which can be held and eaten.
     There are also traditional games to be played with apples, such as apple bobbing. Or peeling an apple in one strip and throwing the peel over your shoulder. The peel should for the initial letter of a future spouse or lover's name. And, of course, eating an apple by candle light as you gaze into a mirror, when the face of your lover will peer over your shoulder into the mirror.
     You can also formally invite your guests from many realms. The words you use do not have to be part of a set ritual, they can be spontaneous words of welcome.
     You could say something very simple like:
     We welcome all spirits to our home,
     Come and visit us!
     Merry meet, merry part and merry met again.

     You could also drink a toast to all your visitors, seen and unseen.
     Above all this should be a lighthearted fun evening, and a bit spooky!
    One that you and the spirits look forward to all year.

I was aiming for a picture high on Halloween decor and low on crap and dust - in our house?

Sorry we don't do tasteful minimalist.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Bedspread - a Witch's Craft

After three months filled with the excitement of crocheting, my HUGE project is finished.
     And it really did turn out to be HUGE!
     I have really enjoyed it, not only making the background shapes, but finding out how to do new shapes and new stitches, how to make flowers, trees, mountains and lots of other stuff. How to join pieces or make beautiful textures.
     I already have MORE stuff planned to do - well, I tell a lie, I have already started my next project.
    But first here are a few piccies of the finished bedspread. It is soooo HUGE that I couldn't manage to get it all in at once.

It has taken me just under three months from start to finish, and I am really chuffed with it, and so is Graham. To be honest I expected it to take me a lot longer to make.
     There is a Witch's cottage in the deep, dark pine wood at the left, and yes there is a little Witch to live in it. There is also a blue dragon which lives in the mountains at the bottom.
     There is a black field of stars and Moon, and a little boat in the boat house at the top, which can carry you on your journeys. There is a colour wheel, made up of triangular fields joined by little streams and a pool with a spiral in it at the centre. The colour wheel is all the colours of the rainbow and also represents the seven classical planets and colours used in different types of magic.
     There are fields of clover, daisies and of sunflowers.
     The yellow field with the poppy surrounded by a circle of leaves represents the cycle of the year. The colours of the leaves from fresh green in spring, through to the more mature deeper greens of summer, then the bright changing colours of Autumn and the brown fallen leaves of Winter, to the start of Spring again.
     You may also notice that in the sea at the bottom of the bedspread is a whirlpool. The spiral is the simplest form of unicursal maze, a symbol that goes back into pre-history and can be found on our most ancient stone monuments including Newgrange in Ireland. It represents a spiritual journey, or the journey through life, or the magical transformation from child to adult. It can also be the conduit or passage between one world and the next, like the black hole which leads from one universe to another, from waking conscious to dreams, or from this material world, to the spirit worlds.
     This whirlpool is also made up of four interlocked spirals in white and shades of blue, so this also represents the four directions, or the four quarters of a magic circle.
     This is more than just a bedspread, this is also a magical artefact for dreaming and spirit journeys.

     This is a Witch's Craft.

     Magic is everywhere.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Haunting Bunting

We always put decorations up for Samhain.
     We have collected quite a variety of  bits and pieces over the years, and inevitably some of them are getting a little past their best.
     One of our main decorations are some orange and black paper chains, although they are rather faded now and have the occasional tear - well they must be 30 years old.... But I have not seen anything to replace them to my satisfaction in the shops. Many of the decorations these days seem to be cartoony or cute and I wanted something a bit more ..... I dunno really.
     Anyway, I had an idea. I could make some special Samhain/Halloween bunting!
     But first of all we needed some suitable fabric. So off we went to our local Boyes store, which is a department store selling everything from discount clothes to kitchen ware and wallpaper, to craft supplies, fabric and wool!
     I love looking at all the bolts of fabric on the shelves, there is so much to choose from. And we found four different coloured netting fabrics printed with spiders webs, stars and moons and pumpkins, just right for this project. So we bought a metre of each and carried them home in triumph. - I may also have bought some wool ....
       The first step was cutting out the bunting shapes. I didn't want plain triangles, I wanted them to have spooky, wiggly edges. I also wanted the shapes to be fairly large, so I needed to make sure I got as many as I could out of each metre of fabric.
   I did this by cutting the shapes alternately from one side of the fabric to the other, so they made interlocking wavy triangles. Also I couldn't figure out how many I would need for a string of bunting, so I made as many as I could from each piece.

As you can see the concept of 'triangular' is rather a loose one, but you can see how the shapes fit together, the top of one becoming the bottom of the next.
      Once I'd got them all cut out, I sewed across the top of each to make a channel we could thread some cord through. And on Sunday morning, Graham and I sat and threaded them onto long cords, with a knot between each piece to help keep them spaced out.
     It turned out I had made loads too many - there were certainly well over a hundred in total. It took me a few hours sewing away with my ancient hand sewing machine - I have tried electric machines, but they go too fast for me, and my old Singer machine can sew anything from silk to leather, so it suits me.

So here are the finished strings of bunting, all hung up in the living room.
     I have actually got some shapes left over, so I could make another couple of strings if I want to.

     It will soon be Samhain!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Sea Sides

Now, just because I haven't mentioned The Bedspread for a little while, doesn't mean that crocheting has not been going on.
     I have now got the main central section together, decorated and complete (I think), so now is the time to concentrate on the sides and bottom edges, which will be the sea surrounding my central magic island.
     You know that I had been crocheting many pieces of ripple stitch, with bands of dark blue, light blue and white. To me these represent the waves breaking on the sea shore, and when you look at these, the waves break at different times, not all together. So to try and represent this I made these first pieces in different lengths and with the coloured bands in different positions within each piece.

     I then fastened these together end to end in a long piece for each side and the bottom.
     When I had done this, I decided two things, these strips were not wide enough in proportion to the main bedspread, and to the majesty of the sea I wanted it to look like. Also, when you look at the sea further out, it appears more uniform than the breaking waves at the shore.
     So rather than make more small pieces to match the inshore sea area, I decided to try and make special larger pieces to represent the wide almost infinite nature of the sea.
     Also I thought it would be easier to make the sides before fixing them to the main bedspread, as it is sooooo huge and quite heavy and difficult to keep manouvering about.
     So, here is Graham modelling one of the finished sides:

As you can see, this is still ripplestitch, which seems very appropriate for the sea, but I have used some thicker wool. This means that the 'ripples' are larger and wider, which to me represents the strength and depth of the sea and the larger ocean waves. You may also be able to see that the larger waves don't always match up with the smaller, inshore ones, and that was also a conscious decision as the sea does change its waves as it becomes shallower and hits underground rocks or features which change the shapes of the waves and how and when they break.
      The mixed, smaller ripples will be attached to the bedspread sides, allowing the sea to drape and hang down the sides of the bed.
      I have completed both of the sides and am now working on the bottom edge. Then all I need to do is fasten them all together and the bedspread will be finished.
     And I shall show you the finished result.

     I think ripple stitch might be one of my favourite crochet stitches.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

First World Problems

My son has been having trouble with his waterworks.
     Well, I mean his house has.
      This has meant that his dishwasher has been out of action for over a fortnight now.
     He told me at the weekend that he was looking at the mountain of dirty dishes piling up in the sink, and wondering what to do about them, seeing as the dishwasher is broken.
     'Bin them and buy some more?' I said
      And from the look on his face, I believe this was something he had considered, until his wife sighed and said, 'Well I suppose I shall have to do the washing up!'
     At which point the lightbulb went on in his head and he had his Eureka moment, 'Oh yes!' he thought, 'That's what we used to do before dishwashers!'

     To be honest we have never had a dishwasher and never wanted one either - besides which I don't think you could fit one in our little kitchen.
     Graham has just pointed out that we do have a dishwasher and it is him!