Sunday, 31 October 2010

Samhain, Halloween, BST and all that

It has been a trying day.  Child #1 has entered into the spirit of Halloween and has behaved like an absolute horror all day.  Strangely, my parenting skills were top notch.  I remained calm while she ranted and raved.  It is flipping exhausting though.

I usually like the day the clocks go back as you keep forgetting and thinking it's later than it is.  Not today though, it just felt like Groundhog day.  Weekend are becoming stressful.

Reasons to be cheerful:
I fixed Nigel's watch with duct tape, so I no longer have to buy him this one.
Railroad Rush hour is an unexpected hit
We packed two backpacks for the Mary's Meal/Backpack Project, and will probably manage to fill a few more if we look around bedrooms, cupboards and garage.

November Events of Note

Monday 1
World Vegan Day

Wednesday 3
10.30 - 4.30
Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh
Free.  Open to members of the public, trade buyers, Fairtrade groups, etc

Among the products on display will be Teas and Coffee, Rice and Lentils, Ground Nuts and Pulses, exquisite wood carvings, quality hand-crafted pottery and clothing. The event will also feature Malawi as a travel destination and artist David Kelly will be exhibiting his internationally acclaimed paintings.

Come and meet the producers from Malawi who have flown in especially for this event. Hear how their products are grown and manufactured and how trade between Scotland and Malawi is benefitting people, communities and business in both countries.

For more details contact Imani Development, Oban, 01631 569990.

Also on Wednesday 3 is a meet up of East Lothian bookworms, Tequila Mockingbirds - 7.30 in the Thorntree Inn, Cockenzie.  Take a book to swap and blether about books with other women over a drink or ten.

Thursday 4
Non-Fiction Day is an annual celebration, initiated by the Federation of Children’s Book Groups in partnership with Scholastic Children’s Books. It aims to celebrate all that is brilliant about non fiction and show that it’s not just fiction that can be read and enjoyed for pleasure.has information about great non-fiction books, authors and free resources for you to use at home or in the classroom.

Frugal Cool's ReMADE Christmas Party >>>

Friday 5
The Festival of Lights is one of my favourites (I love Holi too).  We've all got new outfits from Rupali.

Saturday 6
Made in the Shade hosts the official launch of Glasgow's only weekly indie market (specialist bakers, artisan coffee roasters, vintage clothing sellers, designer makers, indie thrifters, florists, fashion designers and secondhand music and books traders) in the undercover courtyard of the newly refurbished Barras Centre from 10.30-5.

The Barras:  Supermercado & MITS  HQ Grand Opening

Wednesday 11
Remembrance Day

Thursday 12
Friends of Cuthill Park Meeting - bring your designs for the Community Garden along to their meeting at 7pm. in The Goth.

Today is also Share the Buzz Love - a day to tell other East Lothiats about the wonderful - Aberlady Art Exhibition, Ballencrieff Book Group, Cockenzie Coffee Morning, Drem Drama Club, Elphinstone Egg Hunt, Fenton Barns Folk Singer, Gladsmuir Geocachers, Humbie Hockey Match, Italian Lessons in Innerwick, Kingston Karaoke, Longniddry Library, Musselburgh Museum, Ormiston Ornithologists, Prestonpans Pensioners, Sustainable Stenton, Tranent Table Sale, Whittinghame Wrestling...a one-stop shop for events, news, information about East Lothian.

Saturday 13
Prestonlinks Woodland Group need help pruning and transplanting apple trees.  Meet under the pylons at the Battlefield Orchard at 9.50 for 10.00 a.m. (look for the Ranger van). Info  01620 827242.

Sunday 14
The Friends of Cuthill Park need help to plant an edible hedgerow.  Works starts from 2.

Monday 15
Say No to Bullying Week

Tuesday 16

Friday 19
Children in Need

Saturday 20
Compassionate Living Fayre- now in its third year, it has free vegan food, workshops, talks, stalls of cruelty-free products, face-painting, hair-wraps, shopping, kid-friendly - I highly recommend it!  Augustine United Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh 10.30 - 5.30.

Sunday 21
World Hello Day - anyone can celebrate simply by greeting ten people.

Monday 22
Road Safety Week - if we want to improve the safety and quality of life of kids using roads in our communities, we need to SLOW DOWN.

Thursday 25

Monday 29
Hip Hip Hooray

Tuesday 30
St Andrew's Day

Make A Difference Day

When I told fellow environmental volunteer Annemarie it was Make a Difference Day she joked "... in a good way....or a bad way?".  When my five year old volunteers to wash the dishes she certainly 'makes a difference' but the fact she's volunteering to wash the dishes gives me hope!

Annemarie and I were in Cuthill Park along with Jan, Tom, Laura, Katie, Nigel, Emily, Lucy & Georgie clearing space for an edible hedgerow.  It was my second stint of volunteering that day as had been working in the Small World in the morning.

When I'm in the fair trade shop, my shift passes quickly, I enjoy a blether with my colleagues and customers, I arrange the beautiful handcrafted goods, make orders....and it is very easy to forget why we are giving our time.  Every item we sell has a story:

Every Batsiranai doll sold from our wee shop in Prestonpans, has a twin in Zimbabwe, where it was made.  When you buy one of these handmade dolls, you keep one and its twin is given to a needy child from a family affected by HIV/AIDS. The dolls are made by the Batsiranai Mothers Group whose own children have special needs and are often shunned by Zimbabwean society.

The Goonj notepads are made from office waste paper (i.e. documents which have been printed on one side and plain on the other).  It is great gift for a Nosey Parker as you never know what you will find on the reverse!

By purchasing one of our carved wooden birds, you can Make a Difference to the Wichi Indians whose way of life is threatened by the relentless advance of 'civilisation'.

The craftspeople themselves Make a Difference; customers choosing to buy ethically Make a Difference, volunteers in not-for-profit organisations Make a Difference.

This afternoon in Cuthill Park, the results of our volunteering were obvious, visual, instantly rewarding.  I couldn't tell you which sort of volunteering I like more but I know that volunteering really does Make a Difference.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Self-seeding Annuals

(This post won't be of much interest to anyone else- sorry!)

I've been thinking about the garden.  I love foxgloves and quite like the feverfew that grows readily in my garden.  I'm not so wild about the marigold and regularly remove Lady's Mantle and Miss Wilmott's Ghost. 
I'm not only a frugal gardener, I'm a lazy one so I like the idea of sowing annuals known for self-seeding. My longlist for next year:

Lobularia maritima
Euphorbia marginata 

Centaurea cyanus
Nigella damascena

Tropaeolum majus
Clarkia pulchella
Lathyrus odoratus 

Calliopsis Coreopsis tinctoria
Rudbeckia hirta

Verbena bonariensi

I'm not even sure if they all grow in the UK so this list is likely to change!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Apple Day

Apple Day (21 October), an event initiated by Common Ground in 1990, is an annual celebration of apples, orchards and local distinctiveness.

Apples have been cultivated in East Lothian for over 200 years. The county even has it's own variety, the East Lothian Pippin, recorded in 1881 from Tyninghame Gardens.  More recently, the Prestonlinks Woodland Group planted Oslin and Scotch Bridget varieties at the newly created community orchard near the coal store in Prestonpans.

Abundance Edinburgh is and wonderful organisation which collects surplus fruit grown in the city and puts it to good use.  It also has a great apple identification chart here.

The Fruitful Porty scheme lets you order apple, pear, plum and cherry trees at sub­sid­ised prices through PEDAL. Download the fruit tree list (or order online).  Deadline is Monday 25th October.

Another great foody resources is Forage - a map of edibles in public spaces.

Children's Orchard is all about getting children outside planting and growing and making the future for healthy and fruitful.

Roots and Fruits school gardening blog documents Barbara's sessions at East Lothian schools where children are taught about how to grow fruit and vegetables.
Apples in Scotland: A Practical Guide to Choosing and Growing Our Favourite Fruit by John Butterworth (2001) lists all the known Scottish apple varieties.  They have brilliant names: Bloody Ploughman, Coul Blush, Lass O'Gowrie...

We were given a bag of apples from Christine & Malcolm's garden (proud owners of James Grieve, Lord Derby, White Melrose and Peasgood's Nonsuch varieties!) and have been celebrating Apple 'Day' ever since!

The apple biscuits were a bit of an experiment (one egg, some flour, some porridge oats, some oil, sugar, honey, grated apple) but they turned out lovely and chewy.

Other than eating apples, I haven't 'celebrated' Apple Day.  Hopefully, we can do something a bit more community-centred next year (although a quick google tells me that 21/10/2011 is "the end of the world".  Cor(e) blimey).

Half Term, Half-way, Half-demented

Before the October holidays began, I stocked up on craft bits and pieces at Borders Scrap Store.  On the first day they were off, I let the girls have free rein with my paper, googley eyes, feathers, buttons, ribbons, beads - even the dreaded glitter.

They had great fun until it was time to clear away at which point they began watching television and began squabbling.  And squabbling.   When Nigel came home I went out for a walk round the block to preserve my sanity.

I firmly believe that any time outside is good therapy and the second day was much better.  We spent much of it outside in the garden, weeding, digging up the vegetable bed and rehoming the feverfew and marigolds. 

  In the afternoon we made seedbombs using my new formula.  Red clay powder appears only to be sold in huge bags at great expense.  Previously, other guerrilla gardeners have been kind enough to share a stash with me but, after a bit of research I decided some bentonite-based cat litter would be a good enough substitute.  Kitty litter has the advantage of 'clumping' which makes rolling a doddle.  Also, the version I used had a baby powder scent.

How to make a Purrfect Seedbomb
Mix 1 part seeds (we used native non-invasive wildflower mix) , 3 parts compost, 3 parts bentonite-based cat litter, stir then slowly add, 2 parts water.  Mixture should resemble brownie dough.  Form into marble-sized pieces.  Dry for 24 hours.  

As they are going to be given an Christmas presents, we decorated little boxes to put them in.  

It was spectacularly messy (and again, the girls left me to do the tidying up).

All in all it was a happy day.  The postie brought a copy of Anorak magazine (advertised as 'The Happy Magazine for Kids') which Emily loved.  The illustrations are fab.  

I took delivery of another roll of vintage wallpaper to add to my collection.  You can never have too much orange/green/brown swirly patterned stuff.
On the third day of the holidays, I had to catch up on some hauswhiffery so let the girls watch the Sarah Jane Adventures.  Later this afternoon we went out for a walk/cycle/peramulation.  Lucy and Georgie both took dolls in prams while Emily cycled.  We went along the old road and tracked down the Drum-mohr geocache.

In the evening Nigel and I watched Blood Diamonds. Not exactly an uplifting feelgood film.

Cuthill Community Garden: an update

On Sunday we went for a walk to Cuthill Park to take a look at the Lowes Market Garden mural.  It is really lovely, as is the collaborative painting 'Cuthill Garden'  Both were painted as part of The Big Draw.

The murals aren't the only new thing in the park: the area earmarked for the community garden has been flattened by a digger loaned from Cockenzie Power Station.  Lorraine and her colleagues from Mobex have kindly strimmed away the area along the metal fence ready for planting some hedging. 
My own vegetable patch is made from a couple of pallet collars found on a litter pick.  They are perfect for building raised beds and, as they are stackable, would be great for making potato towers.  Coming back from Ednburgh on the train I spied a whole heap of them on one of the building sites.  Now, if I could just persuade someone to deliver them to Cuthill Park, we will have ourselves a ready-made community garden!

Next work-in day: Friday 22 Oct, 1p.m.  taking delivery of compost and filling the half barrels.  Family-friendly, come along and help.

Lucy's special day

With three children you are inevitably outnumbered, invariably outsmarted and,  quite often, simply run out of hands, parents and ears.  To make sure each child gets some quality time with a grown-up, we have a 'special day'.  Today was Lucy's special day which she chose to spend with me.

After a shift in the Small World (first purchase of the day=keyring), we caught the train to Edinburgh.  First stop was Toddle In to buy some caramels.  Second stop in Cockburn Street was a tiny shop called Enchantment that sold incense sticks, dreamcatchers, polished stones and other new age, ahem, items.  Lucy bought a fairy/pixie/angel thingy (it had wings).

In the Royal Mile we ventured into the PDSA where an oinking, flashing plastic keyring took her fancy.  From there we went to Forsyth's Tea Room for afternoon tea of ham sandwiches, scones and cake.  Then came the first disappointment of the day: The Edinburgh Brass Rubbing Centre, which Lucy had especially asked to go to, was closed for the season.  Undeterred, we went to the wonderful Scottish Storytelling Centre where Lucy enjoyed playing with dressing up box.  I really loved the 'Painted Stories from Bengal' exhibition of scroll paintings by Gurupada Chitrakar.

Without a plan, we sauntered down Jeffrey Street until Lucy spotted a sign for Old St Paul's Scottish Episcopal Church and we spent quite a bit of time there (she's going through a godbothering phase).  I'm glad we went in - it is a beautiful building which you could easily walk past (there's an interesting piece about the congregation's links to Prestonpans and the Jacobite Rebellion here).

Next we went to the Church of St Claire's Accessories (five items for a fiver) followed by a visit to the Parish of Poundland (loads of tat include self-adhesive moustaches).

Back in  Prestonpans, we were reunited with Emily and Nigel when we went to the Community Centre to collect Georgie from a classmate's birthday party.

It was a special day.  However, as an antidote to the unimaginative stuff I saw (and bought!) today, I will spend some time perusing the rather splendid Supermarket.  I'm loving the weird Geemo toy and the cute Wiener Dog.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

"Heave awa"

My first thoughts on waking this morning were "Have the Chilean miners been rescued?". Like most people I've been moved by the extraordinary story and uplifted watching them being reunited with their families.

Under the central oriel of Paisley's Close, 99 High Street, Edinburgh, is a carved portrait head by John Rhind.  The inscription "Heave awa' chaps, I'm no dead yet" commemorates the rescue of a boy buried when a previous building on the site collapsed in November 1861.

Thirty five people were killed when the then 250 year old building collapsed and there was thought to be no survivors.  As debris was being cleared away, a voice was heard and, with renewed hope, local people started to remove the rubble as quickly as possible and shouted words of encouragement to the trapped Joseph McIvor who, in turn called "Heave awa' lads, I'm no deid yet" (his vernacular was anglicised on the carving).

As a result of the tragedy, the issues of building standards and overcrowding (and the resultant insanitary conditions) were finally addressed by Edinburgh Town Council.

Thankfully, no-one was killed in the 2010 Copiapó mining accident but let's hope it brings about some changes.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Pots and Pans

This weekend, at a Northumberland saleroom, over 200 hundred pieces of Scottish pottery will be sold by auction.  There are several lots of Prestonpans pottery including these lovelies:

A Watson of Prestonpans elliptical slipware dish

Lot 19

A Watson of Prestonpans elliptical slipware dish. (8.75in)
£20 - £30

More Details & Bid Now
Nineteenth century Bellfield & Co Prestonpans Marjolica teapot and cover

Lot 20

A nineteenth century Belfield & Co Prestonpans majolica teapot and cover. (5.25in)

£80 - £120

More Details & Bid Now

A nineteenth century Scottish Bellfield Prestonpans Marjolica barrel and cover

Lot 54

A nineteenth century Scottish Belfield Prestonpans majolica barrel and cover. (7in)
£80 - £120

More Details & Bid Now

If you are celebrating National Chocolate Week why not go guilt-free and make it a fair trade indulgence?  I really want to try Ian Marber’s recipe for Divine Pots au Chocolat (from :

Photography by Lisa Barber

40g Divine 85% Dark Chocolate (available in The Small World, Prestonpans)
2 tablespoons hot water
4 tablespoons fromage frais
Heaped tablespoon of toasted hazelnuts, crushed


  • Slowly melt the Divine 85% Dark Chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water).  Stir in the hot water and mix well to make a thick, shiny paste.  Allow to cool then stir in fromage frais.
  • Divide the chocolate mix between two espresso-sized coffee cups and put in the fridge to chill.
  • Toast the nuts by cooking them in a hot, heavy dry pan for a couple of minutes and then grinding them in a pestle and mortar.
  • When the chocolate pots are chilled, top each portion with half the nuts and serve.

(If you prefer baked beans to chocolate beans - today is Henry J Heinz's birthday!)

I've finished reading Poor Things
which I really enjoyed.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

42 Day

At 10:10 on the 10th day of the tenth month, Sandra and I were setting out our stall at the Multicultural Day at Prestongrange Museum.

Our market place neighbours were the Edinburgh Chinese Culture Association, and East Coast FM.  It was really nice to meet our fellow Fair-Traders from The Green Gift Company and the One World Shop.

It's a learning curve for me.  Things to remember for next time:

  • Other stallholders had items packed in individual containers which made good use of the table space. I'm going to start looking out for interesting boxes, suitcases, portmanteaux...
  • A 'bag of tricks' including hooks, sellotape, scissors is very handy.
  • Take a flask and snack.
  • Taking orders (on a pay on collection basis) for higher priced items worked well.
  • Upturned crates make good platform for boxes of things in front of table
  • Cards take up too much room on the table
  • The things with very obvious price signage sold well - people don't like picking things up to see price.
  • It was a financial success, however the stall was free and the event was very well advertised and organised - we cannot expect the same at other events.
  • Success can't be measured in items sold - we met potential customers, networked and learned a few things.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Cultcha Vultcha

It is amazing that you can walk out of Haymarket Station, cross the road, walk up Magdala Crescent, walk down some steps...and see a heron in the Water of Leith.  Amazing.

Some day we will do the 6 Times trail of all the Gormley sculptures but today we were visiting the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art so only saw the contemplative figure (#2) in the river and the one (#1) sticking out of the pavement outside the main entrance to the SNGMA.

In the main gallery, Robert Therrian's 'Table and Four Chairs' was quite an arresting sight.  The last time I saw something on a giant scale was Ron Mueck's huge human sculptures at the National Gallery in 2006.   There was a special Big Draw event and kids were asked to draw something for a giant's tea party.   

The girls love the Serpentine-esque lake and pretend that Eduardo Paolozzi's Master of the Universe is a Cyberman. 

We saw another Paolozzi artwork in the form of the stained glass in St Mary's cathedral before making our way home and watching the real Cybermen on tv.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

There once was a grrl from Nantucket....

In celebration of National Poetry Day, here is one of my favourites:

We shall not escape Hell, my passionate
sisters, we shall drink black resins––
we who sang our praises to the Lord
with every one of our sinews, even the finest,

we did not lean over cradles or
spinning wheels at night, and now we are
carried off by an unsteady boat
under the skirts of a sleeveless cloak,

we dressed every morning in
fine Chinese silk, and we would
sing our paradisal songs at
the fire of the robbers'camp,

slovenly needlewomen, (all
our sewing came apart), dancers,
players upon pipes: we have been
the queens of the whole world!

first scarcely covered by rags,
then with constellations in our hair, in
gaol and at feasts we have
bartered away heaven,

in starry nights, in the apple
orchards of Paradise
––Gentle girls, my beloved sisters,
we shall certainly find ourselves in Hell!

(Marina Tsvetaeva )

Poetry is everywhere.   It's in the discarded shopping lists and altered adverts, it's in the misspelled graffitto and the lost love letters.  If you want to discover some I advise looking up.  Alternatively, you could just look up the Global Poetry System.

D/Anger on Global Poetry SystemBowl of Welly Boots. on Global Poetry System

The girls bought books from their respective school book fairs today: 

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

Thank Hades that's over. 

I am of course talking about the tory conference.  I have never wanted to punch someone in the face quite as much as Michael Goves.  It's not just the utter shite he comes out with about education but his actual face.

There's only so much stress I can tolerate over a couple of days so it was perhaps unfortunate timing that my outlaws should be visiting Prestonpans at the same time David Scameron and the Eton trifles were hitting Birmingham.

On the positive side, they brought with them my youngest brother-in-law, his girlfriend and her lovely wee girl.  Our girls had been so excited at the prospect of having a two year old stay with us and we were all very much looking forward to meeting them.

The girls got on really well and played happily together.  Over a cup of coffee, C cleared her throat and said "We could do with some more space now...." and before she could finish the sentence my dragon-in-law interrupted with "Before you hear it from anyone else, C is pregnant...with twins".

I'm thrilled at the exciting news new sister-in-law had travelled over five hours to tell us the news - talk about stealing someone's thunder!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Big Bulb Plant

 After days of heavy rain showers we were fearful that the day of the Big Bulb Plant might be another soggy one.  |However, we were very lucky with the weather and it stayed dry and bright.

Lucy shows Fiona O'Donnell MP a worm
The task in hand was to plant one thousand purple crocuses (kindly donated by the Longniddry & District Rotary Club as part of their Focus on the Crocus campaign) along with a further 50 Ruby Giant crocuses, 50 Purple Sensation hyacinths, 50 Remembrance crocuses, 50 Queen of Night tulips and 50 Curly Sue tulips (which were given to us for being one of the first 100 groups to register for the Big Bulb Plant).

Luckily, help was on hand in the form of the 1st Prestonpans Guides, the Rotarians, Friends of Cuthill Park, our MP Fiona O'Donnell, and an assortment of friends and families.

I can't wait to see the blaze of purple next spring!

Thank you everyone for mucking in - you're blooming brilliant!

Friday, 1 October 2010


Listen!  the wind is rising,
and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings,
now for October eves!
(Humbert Wolfe) 
We often rent tv series (e.g. Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Wire) from Lovefilm because it's difficult to find time during the week to watch a feature length film.  Included with the weekend papers was a collection of short films including Amelia and the Angel, a short (26 minute) early Ken Russell film.  Perfect for unwinding at the end of the day.

The film Made in Dagenham is being released today.  It's billed as is a 'feel-good' film which is normally a big turn off but how could I resist a film about Essex grrrl equal pay activists with a 1968 soundtrack? 

I predict it will kickstart a craze for Dagenham Fordite jewellery.  If you don't know about the automotive enamel,  it is made from the layers of paint that accumulated at the old car plant. When polished it reveals all the hues that were used to spray paint the cars.   As the process that produced the slag material has changed, once this stuff is gone, it's gone.  So, if you want to buy a piece of British automotive, equal rights, feminist history that will become an investment piece, you could do worse than buy summat like this ring from Silver Meadows.

We celebrated World Vegetarian Day with a homemade pizza topped  with kale, spinach, egg and beetroot.

It's also World Smile Day when we are all encouraged to do an act of kindness to help one person smile.  Hmmm.  What have I done to make someone smile today.  I don't know but the day isn't over yet...