Thursday, 23 April 2015

in the garden

Hooray for sunshine and flowers. And if rain is around the corner, well, that helps them grow.

snake head fritillary
We have been enjoying picnics, and eating outside in the garden, and the kids have been playing with their friends in the street – racing up and down on their bikes, playing football, climbing fences (we've had words about that) and drawing with chalks on the pavement.

And the garden was a mess. 

I had some seedlings to go in, but not enough. The top of the garden is boggy and the bottom is dry, and there's lots I want to do, but where to start?

A friend of mine provided some suggestions the other day. She sent me a link to Artful Parent which has lots of ideas generally for crafty things to do with children, but in regards to the garden there are some awesome suggestions. I particularly like the garden wish flags (like buddhist prayer flags, but with pictures painted on of what we wish for), the bean pole teepee (although I'm not sure where I could put it, but I'm working it out), the hula hoop loom (which looks like a giant dream catcher), and the beaded garden ornaments. I'm so excited to do some of these things with the kids, or even by myself, while they get on with the important business of having fun, that it's made me pull my finger out about getting the seedlings in. 

balloon flower (also called Chinese bellflower)
On top of that, I've got an intensely bored boy at home recovering from his small op (he's been given the green flag for returning to school on Monday, thank goodness), so I decided to head to the garden centre this afternoon.

Our fritillaries are doing great this year, but I would like more small daffodils, the big ones are rather brazen beside the fritillaries (although that can wait until Autumn). The lavender and fuchsias are not doing well, but the roses are OK. We also had lots of annual bedding plants which are dead and gone. Generally everything needs more care, and we need lots more plants! 

I feel like I should have a plan, but if I do that then the plan could go awry. Instead, we'll just get a load of stuff we like and hope it works. I don't want to spend too much or have anything too perfect because our garden's primary purpose at the moment is a space for fun and laughter, although not climbing over fences. I'm going to have to do something to nip that in the bud!

So, we had a look at climbers, but nothing grabbed our attention. We got some petunias and pansies, nastertiums and lobelia for filling up space. We had some brachyscome already, my son chose a green cordyline (going in a pot on the patio with some lobelia and nasturtium) and a lime green fir tree (also going in a pot for now), and I found a couple of beautiful plants which I couldn't manage to leave the shop without (the balloon flower, and a helibore which I could gaze at in wonder all day but can't take a decent photo of). 

I have been weeding and planting and carrying around pots since we got home until now... and I am not done.

What does your garden grow?

Monday, 20 April 2015

grateful for the little things

We've been spending much more time than I'd like over my son's health worries in the last few days, happily now everything is settling down, but I thought I'd share this, that I wrote after drinking on Friday, after not enough sleep, two Manchester hospitals, and a long drive home. I was going to scrap it, and do something different about things I like, like raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens (although I'm not fussed about those personally), but I thought I'd use it after all, because the other idea felt trite in the face of it. Enjoy.

Today was a day. A day and a half.

Today was a day when I was glad that my mother in law likes to cook a big family meal on a Friday.

Today was a day when all those annoying little fears that you can keep a lid on most of the time come to the surface. Come to the surface and party.

Today I drank a bottle of wine (pretending it was Dornish Red) while watching Game of Thrones and The Good Wife, I stroked my cat who had missed me, and I cried because I'm scared that people I love will die, which is ridiculous, because people I love will die and there's nothing I can do about it.
"There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'Not today.'" - Syrio Forel
Anyway, when I went up to bed today I found that my husband had charged my toothbrush for me, and I hadn't told him the light was flashing, he'd just done it just in case.

It's the simple things like that that show how lucky I am, and me gushing about them is why I shouldn't drink a bottle of wine.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

grateful for the Spring: 10 things I like

I've been busy over the Easter holidays, and now I'm playing catch up on the gratitude challenge. First up, week 15: 10 things I like about spring

  1. I like yellow daffodils, trumpeting the spring.
  2. I like patches of blue sky, and sun sneaking out to make rainbows.
  3. I like the greening of the world in tiny stages.
  4. I like putting away the winter woolies.
  5. I like practising songs at choir about the coming off summer.
  6. I like the nagging feeling (this might just be me) that perhaps a colour other than black might be good in my wardrobe.
  7. I like being able to go out without a coat on sometimes.
  8. I like the first picnics of the year.
  9. I like day trips.
  10. I like being warm.
See points 7-10

Saturday, 18 April 2015

sore! The tale of a painful testicle

We've just had a health scare with my boy, who's 9. He complained of pain in one testicle, and we gave him children's paracetamol and carried on with our day.

Curious, not au fait with testicles, and with heightened concern because my brother has had testicular cancer (although I'd stress that was not suspected here), I googled testicular pain while sitting in the park with a sad, sore boy.

The internet spoke with one voice. Get him to a doctor now, it said.

So we did.

We have spent a lot of time in hospitals over the last few days, much of it simultaneously boring and stressful.

The really bad thing that it could be if a boy gets testicular pain is torsion (this is a great webpage talking about it), this is where the testicle, or a bit of a tube connected to the testicle, gets twisted; restricting or cutting off the blood supply. If this happens doctors have to act very fast, or the boy will lose the testicle. For this reason we were told, boys should be advised to tell an adult straight away if they have testicular pain, and go straight to Accident and Emergency at the hospital. Do not waste time with a GP in this situation.

The doctors weren't sure if my boy had a torsion so he couldn't eat or drink just in case, and he got examined a lot, which wasn't comfortable, and then he had an ultrasound.

The glorious Doctor Tang, who did the ultrasound was very impressive. Friendly, efficient and gorgeous. She checked the blood flow which showed that there was no torsion, and checked for other scary stuff, and then looked for evidence of infection, which she found, but not of serious infection.

This is a brilliant result. It's also what most testicular pain turns out to be, however, it is always worth checking out. We're told that these things happen. Both torsion and random infections are most common in boys/men of 10-25 years.

So we got antibiotics and more importantly, food! And one very relieved family.

Unfortunately, those antibiotics didn't do the job. This morning the pain and swelling got a lot worse and we were advised to get him back to hospital. He had a small operation to let the doctor see what was going on. This showed that there is an infection, no torsion. The surgeon also found a fatty lump but this could be completely unrelated.

The boy is sore, bored, and fed up, but he's being really good, and we should get home tomorrow. 

Hopefully this will be a distant memory in no time.

On a related matter, as I mentioned, my brother has had experience of testicular cancer. Did you know that testicular cancer is more common in tall men? Anyway, please make sure that you, or the men in your life, check your balls on a regular basis. If you're unlucky you want to find out quick.

Friday, 17 April 2015

uninventing: if you could uninvent anything what would it be?

I made a list of inventions the world would be better off without and, one by one, I uninvented them all. - from And Weep, Like Alexander by Neil Gaiman (in the short story collection, Trigger Warnings 2015)
What would you uninvent?

It might be top of some people's lists but I love my phone and wouldn't uninvent it. 

My husband reckons he'd go for nuclear bombs. 

I think maybe ISIS, although I fear it's like the Hydra and every snake head you lop off has two grow in its place. 

Similarly with UKIP, if it wasn't them spouting their hateful nonsense it'd be Britain First or the BNP or some other hideous monstrosity.

Mind you, without nuclear bombs I think we'd have battled each other with anthrax or something.

We humans are amazing in our inventiveness when it comes to maintaining savagery.

So that's something to be proud of.

Have you got a good idea?

Thursday, 16 April 2015

using these apps: my 5 favourite Android apps right now - 2015

I did a post last year about my favourite apps, and noticed that they've changed, so thought I'd do an updated one for 2015.

What are your favourite apps at the moment? Here are my top 5:

1. Google Keep.

What my Google Keep looks like
So this is very similar to the Evernote app I was raving about last year. You can keep notes, photos, and lists together, and access them when you want. I use it for story ideas, blog post ideas, information that I want to keep hold of, all sorts. Why has it eclipsed Evernote in my fan list? It's more colourful. Sorry Evernote.

2. Remember the Milk

I used to love Astrid. Astrid was an amazing to do list app which worked absolutely brilliantly. It was so good that Yahoo bought it and moved all the staff to Yahoo's own projects, closing Astrid down. That is the main reason why I don't like Yahoo. I have never found a replacement app as good as Astrid, but Remember the Milk is pretty close. It does replicate tasks sometimes, but it is good for repeating tasks, and scheduling tasks. All the boring stuff which is much better done on an app than on paper (if you're me at least.

3. Out of Milk

This is a really useful app for sharing lists with my husband. He can add things to the shopping list as I'm on my way to the shops, and up they pop. We also share lists on things to do for holidays and the like. The folks at Out of Milk have changed things up recently, adding lots of categories, which would be fine, if the items actually went into the right categories, but mostly they end up under 'Other'. Still it's a good idea, which will reduce missing things when they get it sorted out. My other wish for this app is that you could copy and paste the whole shopping list into online shopping lists for Tesco, Asda and the like. But if they get too good Yahoo will buy them and they'll close down. Maybe.

4. Instagram

I was a latecomer to Instagram, but I love it. It feels like such a positive space on the internet, and I love jumping onto the photo prompt ideas. I also get to follow lots of inspirational people's photos, which is great. I love that you can't pinch other people's stuff (as easily) on Instagram as other platforms too.

If I don't want my photo to be square then I use No Crop to surround them with white (or patterned etc) space.

I like the photo editing you can do on Instagram, and don't tend to bother with other photo editing apps much. My favourite filters are Ludwig, Valencia, and Lo-Fi. There should be a blog post on Instagram coming your way soon.

5. Dock Clock

This app makes the phone display the time in big numerals on a black background. I use it while I'm in bed and the 'phone is charging, and it makes my 'phone into an alarm clock. To be honest, the 'phone displays the time anyway, but it is too small for me to see easily from a distance in the night, so this is great. Simple. Boring. And great. You can make the numberals red so they're not too bright too. Here's the time when I wrote this.

I am also looking forward to the Little Moment's App coming to Android.

So, over to you. What are your favourite apps at the moment?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

enjoying Easter

Finally! Thank goodness for the weather gods who brought sunshine and warmth to our Easter holidays. Yay!

We have had a busy and fun time during Easter. We've had my sister to visit, and we've been down to Manchester to visit my brother and his family (and, of course, go to Legoland Discovery Centre, thanks to our Tesco Boost tickets).

We have also had days at home, filled with crafting and hordes of kids playing near the house and in the local park, and we've done day trips.

We have done lots of Easter crafts, and made an unholy mess rolling/chucking painted eggs down a hill (I tidied it up, but I'm told when they do it with nursery the seagulls eat it).

We had a fun day out Easter Egg hunting at Kelburn, where we met their new chicks, enjoyed wandering about, and playing in the Secret Forest and the fort, plus the playbarn which has had a wee makeover and is looking much tidier.

The Lighthouse - one viewing
platform from the other.
We went on the train to Glasgow, and coaxed my sister into a lift (and then concentrated on not letting the boy jump!), to go up to the viewing platform in The Lighthouse. We also climbed the 137 stairs to look out across Glasgow. Happily it was a beautiful day.

We travelled over to Falkirk to meet the awesome Kelpies, which made me think I want a proper camera (I just use my 'phone - a Nexus 4 for pictures you'll find at @ohwedo on Instagram). We paid for a tour, to go inside the Kelpies which gave us the
A view from The Lighthouse
opportunity for a quick science lesson (on why the metal panels were hot on the sunward side and cold on the shadow side), and to take more pictures. The Kelpies are magnificent, and I love the idea of shape-shifting water monsters. They may make an appearance in a story at some point.

Added to that, we've been to see Big Hero 6, which was fabulous, especially the bit where they go through a small window. None of the kids wanted to see Cinderella, so I was glad Big Hero 6 was still on for a rainy day.

We've eaten out at Nardini's and The Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow - because my sister was visiting, and it was fun.

And we are knee deep in eggs from lots of generous people. Thank you!

So, what have you been up to?

Duke - one of The Kelpies