Category Archives: Hobbies

To Puzzle or not to puzzle. That is the question…

Do you like working jigsaw puzzles? I do. I don’t do it often enough, but when I do, it’s almost always a family or friend affair, which is most often the best part of puzzling. 🙂

So, when I open a new box, I start by sorting out all the edge pieces. (I know people that do those puzzles with no straight edge, but I like the definition of corners and size.) In a 1,000 piece puzzle, that takes some time. My friend’s daughter suggested, when done with a puzzle, putting the edge pieces in their own baggie. Is this cheating? I don’t think so. You’re not leaving them together, you’re just eliminating that initial sort. I like that idea!

The first puzzle was designed back in the 1760’s. John Spilsbury, an Englishman and cartographer, mounted a map on a thin sheet of wood and cut around the county boundaries to form “dissected maps” for educational purposes. But, I read that adult puzzling for entertainment didn’t become a fad until the early 1900s. Wood puzzles were cut manually using a jig saw. Hence the name.

Nowadays, the puzzles are cut with a die. A sharp, metal ribbon bent into the correct formation. It can take 400 hours to shape the die, then the cardboard adhered picture is sent through the die cut press and the die is forced down under high pressure, making the puzzle cut in one pass. The puzzle “sheets” go through a machine that breaks them up and they get packaged.

Of course, the future seems to be moving toward digital puzzles, but I like the tactile feel of physical puzzles. Not just because they help me clear my mind and think (great for problem-solving), but also for the times I work them with family (like at our winter cabin each year) or with a friend.

Speaking of which, this puzzle is one a friend gave to me. She and her husband visited this town, Manarola, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terra in Italy. So, as we got together over the course of a week or two, I got to learn more about their travels and the town and area, along  with the usual discussions about kids and life. These are the life memories I love, spending time on a project like this with someone who’s friendship I treasure.

Manarola. Photo courtesy of Doug Benedetti

So I highly recommend grabbing a big board and a puzzle. Invite a friend or loved one to join you and start sorting. It’s good for the blood pressure, for the brain, for dexterity, and, well, I can’t see a down side to doing jigsaw puzzles at all. Except maybe the time suck. They can become addicting. 🙂

Happy puzzling!

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Late for a Date…

Apologies for being a little late with today’s post but I had a very important date that couldn’t wait. With my garden.

I had hoped to show you the finished article but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant we could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So Dave and I pulled on our gardening shoes and gloves, and with him in the front garden, and me out back, we set to work. I’ve the long border to widen, which is tough going as the ground is still very wet, but I’ve managed to get some plants in, the three obelisks erected and the border almost dug.

You may be able to spot a white slab in front of one of the obelisks – this is where the new birdbath is going. I spent almost a year trying to find the one I wanted, couldn’t, so we improvised and purchased a tall blue glazed pot and a matching saucer, and placing the saucer on top of the pot – voila! One new birdbath. As you can see on the patio, we have lots more to plant although all of the hanging baskets are done. Can you spot the new bird bath among the plants ? The birds haven’t as yet, but hopefully once it’s moved back to where they are used to one being, they’ll make good use of it.

Despite all the rain and cold last month, Dave has been busy laying a new path in front of the new fence along the front side garden. He’s also kept himself occupied in making six wooden planters. These this morning he planted up with lots of colourful annuals and massive of sweet peas to grow up the netting he’s erected along the fence. It should look fab once they all grow.

We’re slowly getting there and hopefully by next month we can sit back and relax a little to enjoy it all. Meanwhile the rest of the borders and pots have provided us with some welcome spring colour.

So forgive me for being late today, hope you think my excuse was worth it!

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Snap Happy

Untitled design(5)I’ve just taken up a new hobby – photography. Well, it’s not technically new since I’ve had an interest for many years, but lately I’ve been doing more of it and find it increasingly enjoyable.

Creatively, writing has become all consuming, so I wanted something I could pick up and put down as a kind of switch-off from the head-pounding that comes from battling with plot holes and building character arcs. Photography fills that role and takes me out of my head and into the lens, so to speak.

In the past, whenever I took on something new or got enthused about it, I headed straight for the how-to books, or the search engines, and threw myself in at the deep end in an effort to learn everything possible about it. But not this time. I want to learn organically. So, no books, no courses, no internet searches (well, maybe the odd one). It’ll just be me and the camera. Learning together.

20170820_113332Doors and gates have always fascinated me. They beg the question ‘what’s behind there?’ and off goes my imagination (yes, the writer is never far away). Playing around with visual effects is fun, too. This gate from a neighboring village, found while out on a walk with Vivvy, is pretty romantic, but change the hue and tone and it becomes almost spooky. Two potential stories in the offing for the price of one snap. That’s not a bad investment of time and effort.2018-03-27 15.58.00

Of course, if I’m ever in any need of visual inspiration there’s my stalwart companion and favorite photographic subject always ready and willing to oblige. Especially if there’s a treat in her immediate future. 20180326_174036

Gallery

Rock Painting

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Last month, I talked about our annual family winter cabin adventure. One of the things I forgot to mention is that we painted rocks. A while back, in my walks at a local park, I began seeing painted rocks in … Continue reading

I’m An Addict

Having previously admitted to being a book junkie, I also have another addiction, so thought it time I ‘fessed up. It started out innocently. Something I thought I’d try, and as it was free saw no harm in dipping in once a week, but this soon turned into daily indulgences, sometimes several times a day. What am I talking about? Pinterest. Yes, I’m hooked on it.

Initially I was seeking inspiration for my paintings. Whilst I have hundreds of photographs, there are many places I would love to paint but haven’t had the opportunity to visit nor probably will. This progressed to having a board to show my paintings in the hope of sales. Thus one board soon turned into two, then three, then more. I saved pictures of landscapes, of gardens and flowers. Of beautiful places abroad. Of my favourite place: Greece.  Then several for books: those I’ve read and loved, authors I recommend, hoping to help boost their sales. Books I had to read at school. And school led to childhood memories.

Then I found all the rabbit photos. And I never could resist a bunny rabbit, particularly after my own dear Bunny decided life in Rhodes was better and thus dived into the hotel laundry basket never to be seen again.

Bunnies led to squirrels, particularly our native red ones. My board for them is slightly different. Squirrels are so endearing with such expressive postures and faces I couldn’t help myself. I put words into their mouths. Thus my Sssshhh Secret Squirrel board is loaded with my take on what they are really saying or thinking.

Pinteresting for hours on end made me hungry so I had to do it. I started a board based on food and recipes. This is also for research, you understand, in that I have this week started a sister blog: Kit’s Kitchen based on recipes that work for me, some I’ve created and others borrowed.

What I shouldn’t have looked at was all the beautiful jewellery photos. And what woman doesn’t drool over jewellery? In the end I had six boards devoted to the different coloured stones, diamonds and opals, pearls and everything else in between. It was getting out of hand. So in the end I deleted all my precious jewels but it still leaves me with 50 boards!

Now I restrict myself to dipping in only of an evening when all my chores and other things are done, and on days such as today when the wind is howling and the snow falling it’s a harmless pastime, if time devouring.

 

Is anyone else addicted like me?

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

Keeping me on my toes…

Untitled design(1)It’s been just over a year since I joined an adult ballet class and I have to say that I’ve absolutely loved every moment of every class. Like many of us, I attended dance classes as a child but put those dreams away as I grew up and the realities of life intervened.  But I never lost the love of ballet and have taken the opportunity to see as many live performances as possible over the years.

The classes I attend are friendly and relaxed with a great teacher and fab mix of fellow dancers. We always enjoy a good laugh or two, while doing our best to improve each week. Alongside the sheer joy and pleasure of dancing, it is such good exercise and has many benefits. Some benefits I’ve found are improved balance, better coordination, stronger legs and ankles, and more flexible hips. I’m sure it’s good for the memory, too, as I now seem to remember new step sequences and routines far easier than when I first started.

I’m so glad I took the plunge last year and enrolled for the class. Just goes to show it’s never too late to rekindle old loves and pleasures. Never in a million years did I ever envision that I’d be arabesque-ing and petit jete-ing (or at least attempting to) at this stage of my life.

So, this very enthusiastic amateur will leave you with a look at how the professionals do it, with my favourite dance from my favourite ballet: the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

A Daffodil for a Dreary Day

So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. Next, we hear some other bad news, upsetting us both. And this morning, though nothing as bad, nonetheless annoying, my dishwasher decided it’s had enough and promptly went bang, knocking out the house’s electricity.

The power’s now restored (hence why I’m a little bit late with this post!) but it’s back to dishpan hands and soap suds for me this weekend. (Dave, where’s the handcream?) One bright start to the month was having a lovely lunch with Tricia. The okay food was more than made up for by the company, conversation and laughter – it’s the reason why we meet, after all. Thank you, Tricia. Looking forward to the next time.

It’s been so wet, cold, windy and miserable here in Britain, that it’s been impossible to do anything for the last three months in the garden to restore it to normal after last November’s major overhaul. Instead, we’ve filled the house with flowers and bulbs, rooms filled with the scent of hyacinths and the amaryllis a giant at over 3ft tall with three magnificent blooms.

The gardens are now springing back into life. (Pun there, did you notice?) The front lawn a riot of snowdrops and crocus and first of the daffodils in flower.

Out back, primroses are brightening the pond and the hellibores up and coming. During the dark days of January, I’ve been plotting and planning and ordering new plants. I want the garden to be a blaze of colour this summer, in fact all year round if I can achieve it, and if the winds don’t take it all down.

I mentioned last time the birds are returning. I was so pleased, until… Last weekend was National Birdwatch Weekend in Britain, organised by the RSPB. As several of our birdfeeders were damaged, we bought new ones and stocked up with plenty of bird feed and treats. I was looking forward to spending a happy hour or so watching my delightful garden visitors. I think the birds must have known something was going on as both Saturday and Sunday, not one single bird arrived. It wasn’t just in my garden either. For some unexplained reason we saw none in other gardens, or in nearby trees, and none flying overheard except one solitary gull, and they don’t count. Low and behold, this morning they are all back, so I’m one happy bunny again.

PS: I was just about to publish this post when I received a bit of good news which has also cheered me up. Hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you?

Silly question, really…

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