Sunday, 25 January 2009

Burns and bags...

This weekend kicked off with Burns Night in the mess. I have a little bit of a love hate relationship with Burns functions. I love them because I love haggis, but I'm driven mad by the fact that we are nearly always only served a token portion of it! It's like all the Christmas functions you go to nowadays where they don't have Christmas pudding because "people don't like it".

Dinner was the typical lengthy military event. We were still seated and running through speeches when I checked my watch at midnight, but tiny servings of haggis aside, the food was great and the readings from Burns (some from Canadians) were as entertaining as ever!

Our friends MaryAnne and Ed had also been allowed out for the evening. Ed is on crutches at the moment, after throwing himself down a mountain at Christmas. They were both seated on the top table and had to walk into the dining room after everyone was seated, Ed limping along in plaster behind the bagpiper. It shouldn't have been funny, but it was!

I've also been doing a lot of sewing this weekend. A few weeks ago I heard about a website called The idea behind it is to populate the world with reusable cloth bags made from recycled fabric, to try and curb people's appetite for plastic bags. This is particularly poignant in Canada where recyclable waste isn't collected from your house and checkout assistants look at you as if you're mad if you bring your own reusable bags to stores.

At BATUS we have our own "Green plan coordinator" a woman whose job it is to help the base save money and become more environmentally friendly.

Together we are exploring the option of using the crafting skills of the local wives to make morsbags for the one store in our village. Most of the plastic bags that leave the store have served their purpose and are in a rubbish bin within 5 minutes of being issued.

We are meeting the manager later this week, so I thought I'd better knock up a couple of sample bags. I meant to make two, but couldn't stop!

I made the bags from a mixture of old shirts, pillowcases, sheets and t-shirts. Even if our grand plans for distribution comes to nothing, there are still five more morsbags in the world, with the potential to eliminate the use of hundreds of plastic bags over their lifetime.

I also made another applique birthday t-shirt for my niece Millie. This time I tried a more subtle approach for including the birthday number on the design and I tried out some rather retro fabric too!

I used to have an aunt who knitted me awful scratchy sweaters every year, I do hope I haven't become the applique t-shirt equivalent!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Applique birthday t-shirts

I'm quite new to this craft business, but there are some fantastic blogs out there with some great ideas on them, some of which are on my blog roll to the right of this page.

The inspiration for this birthday t-shirt for my nephew Archie, came from the House On Hill Road blog.

The author of the blog makes one every year for her kids. A birthday t-shirt can be anything you want it to be, although I guess it should probably have the age of the child on it somewhere in words, numbers or whatever you fancy!

For this one, I printed the different size numbers, traced them onto Heat & Bond and then sewed them on with blanket stitch. This is the first one I've done, next time I think I'll experiment with images and writing too.

UPDATE 19/5/10 : For more sewing projects please visit my new blog Little Island In The Med

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Comedy comes to Ralston...

Another week has flown by and with it a bit of a treat on the entertainment front!

On Monday we had the slightly surreal experience of four top comedians taking time out from their nationwide Snowed In Comedy Tour, to come to Ralston Theatre for a performance.

The theatre is about 15o metres from our house and no more than 5 minutes walk from anywhere in the village. The last thing we saw there was a pretty amateur school production of the Little Prince, so you can only begin to imagine how bizarre it was to be back there to see Ed Byrne, Dan Quinn, Craig Campbell & Glenn Wool on stage!

The show was all thanks to some innovative thinking from a Corporal at the base who was looking for a way to entertain the junior soldiers who are visiting for the winter repair program. What begun as an ambitious idea for the mess, ended up entertaining nearly 300 people in the village. A great morale boost in the depths of winter!

That said, the weather has been a bit milder this week. It even got up to 5c on Tuesday and with the warmth of the sun, around the village you could hear a thaw slowly beginning. After the arctic weather we had recently, it's a sound which is music to most of our ears!

As with last year, we've been guilty of over-reacting to the relief of temperatures getting above freezing. This afternoon we decamped into the garden with our books and sat around our wood burner with garden chairs wedged firmly in a foot of snow! The relief of being able to go outside for some fresh air without arctic kit on sometimes gets the better of us!

I am relieved to see that temperatures are forecast to stay at about this level for the next fortnight at least and with the Canadian clocks going forward in only 7 weeks, I am daring to start thinking about spring, even though I know we may have a lot more winter weather ahead of us!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Back in Canada

We arrived back on the prairie midweek and we've been incredibly lucky with the weather we've had so far.

At Calgary airport we were forced to leave the car unplugged and so had our fingers crossed it would be the right side of -20c when we landed. Fortunately we were lucky!

Despite a winter storm on Thursday which closed the base early, the sun has been out and the temperatures around freezing.

Yesterday I took the dog out for a walk, which for once was a leisurely pleasurable experience. I had time to linger in the garden and check out thermometer, which revealed our winter lows have quite literally been off the scale! I also discovered our rubbish bin lid poking out of a snow drift, when the snow eventually shifts in spring, all sorts of forgotten possessions reveal themselves!

The snow is still very deep though, as you can see from the photo of Macy below, naturally the dog should have legs!

With the start of 2009, we are now into our last 6 months in Canada and preparing the paperwork for our next posting. Hopefully we'll be heading back to Germany in July, but we won't know if this is the case until May. With only about 26 weeks left, there is an awful lot left to fit in...

Jim came back from Kenya just before Christmas and having noticed some visitors to this blog were looking for information about BATUK, I promised a short summary...

The British Army Training Unit in Kenya is based at Kifaru Camp which is about 8km north-east of Nairobi, it is a drive which can take anything from 15 minutes to an hour! Jim was accommodated on the base, but families who are posted there live in houses in the city.

BATUK is currently undergoing a transformation with more staff being posted in to cope with the increased training. Jim thought the countryside was beautiful and would like to have spent more time seeing more of it.

Things are changing, but if you are posted in and can get hold of a copy of the guide on armynet, it has a lot of useful information for families and dependants.

PS - Audio from Jim and my Christmas show is now available to download and listen to on the BFBS website

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Blue skies, green grass...

Our week away from the frozen prairies of Canada visiting the temperate coast of England, has been for us, like a brief step into summer.

Between complaining how hot the inside of houses feel, we have been dazzled by the riot of colours on display in Europe at this time of year. The grass, green even at this time of year, the water, unfrozen and still blue and the buds starting to poke their heads above the soil.

When we lived in the UK I always thought winter was dull, but after two years spending 6 months looking out at snow, I see the bare trees and grass in England with different eyes.

Just in case you think I am being a little over the top, here are the two very different views we've been looking at over the last fortnight.

Firstly the Canadian prairie, where most days sky and earth blend into one...

And next the wonderful browns and greens of a winters day in England...

We fly back to Canada on Tuesday and I am relieved to discover they are forecasting highs of -1c. I think I will need to be eased back into the Canadian winter very slowly...