Fun Frogs

Our froggy money-box has a new purpose.

There’s a new Facebook Group for our street. A lovely neighbour set it up to help us help each other during the Coronavirus lockdown. It’s good to keep connected. People have been sharing what they’ve been doing and lots of useful information and offers of support are being posted. We’ve also been sharing jokes (good, clean ones of course) – how lovely it is to be able to make each other laugh, especially while we are all going through this.

There are several young families here – there have been some brilliant ideas to keep the children busy. With no school and no playing out with friends, it can’t be easy for the children and their parents, trying to home-school and curb the boredom along with everything else. There have been offers of help with emailed activity sheets from retired teachers, gifts of toys and some really creative ideas. I think the “We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” idea has happened in a lot of places but ours was amazing – children out for daily exercise counted at least 50 teddy bears that our residents had placed in windows visible from the street, following the request on the Facebook Group. It’s amazing how many people still have their childhood teddies – we had a 61-year-old bear in one house (so we now know how old it’s owner is- there may have been older ones, but no-one was admitting to that! How could we follow such a great effort?

The next suggestion (chosen from a shortlist of creatures) was a little more challenging. If most people own a teddy bear (whatever their age) you can’t say the same about frogs! Cuddly frogs are rather unusual, so local residents have had to be more creative. Many have kindly given me permission to share photos of their froggy labours!

We didn’t have to think too hard about our frog as K owns a ceramic money box (see title photo) that is nearly as old as his ancient bear. We sat our froggy on an upturned vase so he could be seen more easily by passing frog-hunters.

It was great fun to go out and look at the other frogs.

This handsome chap was all dressed up and fully accessorised for a spot of fishing

Some were quite small.

Others made a bigger display. Isn’t this one brilliant! It even has a pond and lily pads.

It’s provided the children with some drawing and colouring activities too, some in windows…..

…some outside.

This one looked familiar. It took ages to realise that I used to have it as a screensaver.

…..and there were many more – here’s a few.

The next project is already taking shape after hearing about the Scarecrow at Home Challenge. Other villages in the area are taking part in this too. Several scarecrows have already appeared in some of our gardens and, thinking ahead, there’s also an offer of compost and seed for anyone here who wants to grow the biggest sunflower. With so many fantastic ideas there’s never a dull moment here!

Are you taking part in any “together at home” activities with your neighbours?

Frogs and Blogs

One of the most dramatic spring milestones is the arrival of frogs in our garden pond. They are late this year, by a couple of weeks but since yesterday the water has been seething with writhing amphibians seeking a mate. There’s no sign of frog spawn yet (just frog porn!)

In the last few days my little blog has passed a couple of milestones too: over 50 followers and 500 likes. I started blogging in November, but I’ve never written about why I started it.

Since I retired in 2015 I’ve made a point of trying to learn a new skill every year.

The first one was linked to my choir. Our musical director had brought a friend of hers to one of our sessions to run a beatboxing workshop. Beatboxing is simply making percussion sounds with your mouth. Of course unaccompanied choir music is just that – no instruments (including drums), but if you can add those rhythms vocally it can sound brilliant. If you’ve ever seen the Pitch Perfect films (which feature a lot of beatboxing) you’ll see what I mean. Anyway, I really enjoyed it and ended up doing the beatboxing part on our version of Seven Nation Army. It’s one of my favourite’s in the choir’s repertoire.

Another skill came about when I was approached by a friend for help. I’ve already blogged about my friend’s book Secrets and Guardians. Basically, She’s the creative one, I’m the computer-nerdy one and we worked together to get it published on Kindle. That meant learning all about how to format the text so it’s suitable for online publication and doing the uploading. I can now add online publishing to my new skills.

Skill number three was learning a bit about millinery, specifically how to make fascinators (hat blocking is a skill in itself). I started off doing a one-day course at The Amble Pin Cushion, in which I learnt how to work with sinnamay and made black and cream fascinator.

I decided it would nice to make some with pheasant feathers. These birds are extremely common around here. They aren’t very bright when it comes to traffic and you see as many as roadkill as you see alive…and they can do a great deal of damage to your car if you hit one. I didn’t really fancy picking dead birds off the road though. Then I had a brainwave – I asked a farmer friend (who runs a pheasant shoot on his land) what happened to the feathers after the shoot – he explained that someone comes in and plucks and draws the birds ready to go to the game dealer. I asked if he could save me a few pheasant tails. He suggested that the feathers would be better developed if I waited until the January and he’s get me some then. I’d almost forgotten about it when we saw him a while later. “I’ve got those feathers you asked for,” he said. There were two sacks full!I spent a couple of days preparing all the feathers, cleaning them, sanitising them with laundry disinfectant and drying them. I found the easiest way to dry them was to use those net bags you wash tights and socks in: put the feathers in and tumble dry on the gentlest setting. This is one of the fascinators I made. Not a great photo, but you get the idea.

Number four happened by accident in 20018 , really. When my friends told me that a ukulele class was starting in the next village and they were planning to go – I quite fancied trying that. There were instruments on loan for the first few weeks and it seemed like a great idea to do a taster session without making the commitment of having to buy my own ukulele. I have quite small hands and my wrists aren’t terribly manoeuvrable, which thwarted my attempts to play the guitar when I was in my teens. I really wanted to find out if I could manage a smaller instrument with fewer strings….and the course leader was called Barry White. I was curious!

It all worked out beautifully! I can do it! Some of the chords are rather challenging (and some are downright impossible) but it’s mostly OK. Barry White, is lovely (though not a bit like THE Barry White) and very patient with the us. We’ve now got a huge repertoire, have played a few concerts at local care homes and we always end up taking the instruments to any parties that happen and playing a few tunes. We have a good laugh.

I realised very late in the year (November) that I didn’t have a new skill for 2019 and racked my brains about what I could do quickly. I’d read a lot of blogs and was doing a lot of knitting at the time, so I set out to write primarily (though not exclusively) a knitting blog. I get very attached to the things I make and there’s always some story, whether that’s the reason I’m making that item, or where I bought the yarn. I also love where I live, here in North Northumberland, so that features in the blog a lot too. Since I started, the posts seem to be less and less about knitting, but that’s just the way it has evolved.

I have a couple of regular blog features: “Scone of the Week”, which has become a bit of a collaboration with my fellow scone-eater Mum, and “Knit and Natter Friday”. the other knitters are now quite used to assembling a display of their work for a photo to go in the blog. I was posting daily (sometimes twice a day) at the beginning, but now I’m a lot more relaxed about it and sometimes I might just post a couple of times a week.

I had forgotten just how much I enjoy writing. The brevity needed on social media just didn’t satisfy that need. I used to write articles for and edit community magazines when I was working and it was one of my favourite parts of the job.

The other thing that’s been really nice and unexpected is the feedback. I love reading comments from followers and always try to reply. Everyone is so lovely and that’s such a refreshing change from the bile that’s spouted on Facebook and Twitter. I always put links to blog posts on my social media accounts and get good feedback from that too.

It’s been a rewarding experience and I hope to keep it going throughout 2020…..and learn another new skill, which of course I’ll be able to blog about.

So that’s why I started my blog.

Fellow bloggers: why did you start yours?