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Just a Gift

It is always nice to get a gift. In the current climate, a gift is particularly welcome. The “Just a Card” campaign sometimes uses the slogan “Just a Gift” and seeing that slogan this morning prompted me to write this.

With social distancing and shielding, getting gifts delivered is, for most people, the only practical solution. Obviously we need to think about delivery drivers and posties, but it seems to me the delivery companies have thought about this. Many are using contactless pick up and deliveries.

The Post Office has introduced procedures to protect their staff and the public. I was pleased to hear the local posties have got hand sanitisers, although their managers had to make a local plea for small bottles so the posties can easily carry it. Did you know you can get postage paid labels for things that fit in a post box? Going to the post office is more tricky, and the one in a local newsagent was a bit too cramped for my liking. The dedicated Post Office in the local supermarket looks more organised with a proper queue with 2 metre markings. However the wait looks quite lengthy (mind you it usually is in normal times).

What sort of gifts can we send:

  • Food gifts are particularly welcome to those in isolation. More and more butchers, farm shops and greengrocers are entering this market, having lost their regular customers, such as restaurants. My friend’s son sent her a vegetable box, with the biggest peppers she had ever seen.
  • I posted some socks I knitted to my daughter using a prepaid label. I also left some bits on Gemma’s doorstep as part of my daily walk. As a reminder to myself, that walk to their house is much better if you are allowed to have a break and a cup of coffee or a full meal when you get there. I hope those days return before long.
  • Last week Gemma and I did a virtual shopping trip. With a shared screen we chose yarn for her to make a rug for the baby’s room. The supplier warns there may be a delay in it arriving but it is something to look forward to. I snuck in a couple of balls of yarn for myself – so I may have to do the long walk to pick it up. I hoping to repeat the virtual shopping trip with my daughter who has a birthday later this month.
  • Buying gifts from online shops like Gemma’s is a way in which you can support small makers such as her. My son can pop small gifts in the post box. And Gemma is using a door to door delivery service to ship larger parcels. Have look at her online shop to see if there is a gift you would like sending to someone who needs cheering up. Or maybe buy something for yourself.

Take care of yourselves, and where possible stay at home.

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Life Guarding

It is only a week and a half since we went in to lockdown. The locked down population seems divided. Those people with kids are incredibly busy, whilst those without seem to be on the most boring holiday ever. There are also the heroic NHS staff and other key workers out there caring and supporting (life guarding) us all, to whom we are all immensely grateful.

Life Guarding

This week I was reminded of when my middle child was a life guard. While still at school he had got a job at the local leisure centre. They trained him up to be a life guard. When he came home from life guarding, I used to ask if he had saved anyone that day. His answer was always a variant on “Yes, by blowing my whistle I had stopped an accident”.

So in a similar spirit, when people in lockdown are asked if they have saved anyone, they can answer “Yes, by staying home”. Whether run ragged by small people, or bored silly, they’ve saved lives and they didn’t even need a whistle.

Take care and stay home.

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Grandma at a Distance

It is tricky keeping up the usual Grandma routine with social distancing. So I thought I would write about some of the things we are doing to keep in touch with the family and friends.

The family WhatsApp group is busier than ever, mostly with pictures of home schooling projects.

On Wednesday my granddaughter turned 4. I was glad I had the forethought to take her present over a few weeks ago. We had a family Zoom, her cousins sang Happy Birthday to her (and then Happy Anniversary to Grandad and me – 42 years!). There was lots of chatter about what the grandchildren were doing, and the grown ups got an occasional word in. When it finished I felt almost as exhausted as when they are all visiting us!

Grandad has started doing a story reading session with Mr 5 and Mr 6. He is reading Roald Dahl’s “George’s Marvellous Medicine”. Yesterday when the chapter was short, both boys asked for the next one.

Grandma at a distance

I did story writing with Mr 5 and later with Mr 6. I kept it simple and together we composed a story, much as we would have done face to face. Except this time we shared my screen using Zoom and they dictated what should happen. Mr 5 wrote a short story about “Grandpa at the Seaside”. Later he added a picture which his parents sent back to me. Mr 6 started an epic called “The Adventures of Stingray”. He told me this was going to be a book without pictures: picking up one of his parents’ books to show me the concept! We will see if he wants to continue the concept another day.

Keep fit has changed considerably. I am grateful that we are allowed out to exercise, and I am able to get somewhere close to my usual step count. My Pilates class have sent videos – I haven’t looked at them yet – but it is on the list. My Friday sport group are setting up a mail group. I did a virtual Knit and Natter with a lady I usually play badminton with, she is planning on extending that group, so it may not give the exercise but will give the socialising.

Usually, my Crochet group meets alternate Mondays but we are hoping to do meet ups online every week. Our lunch club meets monthly and we are planning to move to online weekly. I just need to work out if those not joining us, would like to and if they need telephone support to get the tech set up.

We have set up a WhatsApp for our small close. So far we haven’t had an emergency requests, but it is nice to know we can watch out for each others and help when needed.

I’ve sent a parcel to my daughter with some socks I finished and the children’s Easter books. She was pleased to get it. If you know someone who needs cheering up, Gemma can mail out things from her online shop, with the caveat that her family stays well and my son is able to get to the Post Office.

Hope you are all keeping safe – look after yourself and each other.

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Grandma, Granny, Nanna, Nanny or …

You may well have worked out that the author of “Grandma’s Corner” is called “Grandma” by her grandchildren. For me the name isn’t a happen-chance before I became a grandmother I chatted with my children’s mother-in-laws about what grandmother names they liked. One was already a grandmother and her family used the Tamil name for grandmother. The other two respectively like Nanna and Nanny which left the name Grandma free and it was my preference.

The prospective grandfather’s didn’t have this conversation, and so one lot of children have two Granddads. They used to be distinguished by car colour – but then they both got white cars. Now if differentiation is needed they are referred to as Granddad with Nanna or Granddad with Grandma.

I met someone the other day who had taken her grandchildren abroad and when they came back to the UK the children were asked about the adults they were with. One was asked about his granddad, and loudly said “That is not my granddad, my granddad is at home.” Fortunately he then pointed to his grandparents and added “That is my Poppa.”

Whatever grandmothers are called they will hope to be remembered on Mother’s Day or Mothering Sunday as I talked about last year. If you are thinking of flowers maybe one of Gemma’s pots or vases would go well as an extra gift.

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Xmas or Christmas

The other day Gemma asked whether people liked the abbreviation “Xmas” my natural reaction was that I didn’t, but I have no idea why – so I thought I better find out the back story of Xmas. As a child I don’t remember anyone talking about the abbreviation as good or bad but I do remember seeing it on Christmas cards. So I decided I had better find out a bit more about the history of Xmas.

According to Wikipedia the prefix “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is written as 𝛸 (that looks like a normal X). The suffix “mas” is an abbreviation for mass (a church service).

There are examples of the use of the term Xmas going back to the 16th century, historic authors including Lord Byron and Lewis Carroll used the term. While the BBC reports use in Anglo Saxon Chronicle in 1021, suggesting it would be a parchment saver… Indeed, the use of Chi as part of an abbreviation for Christ goes back to the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 300s.

So Xmas is a well established term, we can each choose whether we like it or now, but now when I see it I will remember it is steeped in history.

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It is not Christmas Time yet

Christmas is several weeks away, and in my opinion it is too early for putting up Christmas decorations. But if you are thinking about making your own decorations/gifts or buying from a crafter now is the time to act.

The tree (on the right – in case you didn’t realise it was a tree) was my first attempt at needle felting, which the help of the lovely Jan of Dye it Yarn Self. The Nordic Gnome is from Gemma’s Concrete Gems. I’ve also baked my Christmas Cake.

I’m planning to do some more Christmas shopping at upcoming Christmas Markets. I am wondering about what else I can make for Christmas…

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Christmas Fairs (Real and Virtual)

Shirley (aka Grandma’s Corner) says:

When I was young one of the highlights of the year was an annual fair held in the local church hall. My parents were involved in organising the event, and for months before we would be making things to sell. Knitting egg cosies and hot water bottle covers; decorating jars for baths salts; padding coat hangers; and nearer the actual day, baking. I remember the joy of seeing someone buying something that I had help make.

With this in mind I love buying from a small maker because I know that my purchase will make them happy.

If you are looking to buy gifts try to find time to go to a Christmas Fair and buy something from a local crafts person. If you aren’t able to physically go to a Fair there are virtual fairs you can join in. Now I have to admit, I don’t understand how these work – so I am hoping Gemma is going to add a bit below to explain to us how they work!

Remember when you buy from a small business you make somebody really happy!

Gemma (Concrete Gems) says:

There are lots of online craft events happening this year. The ones I am involved in are on Facebook and Instagram, but I imagine other social media channels also run them.

On Facebook, an event or group is created and images of products are uploaded with details of prices, sizes etc. On the day of the event, often a password is provided and you would use that password to comment on the item you would like to buy. The seller then contacts you to arrange payment and delivery, which can be through their website, PayPal, etc.

Instagram works in a similar way, except the items are just added as images to the business feed.

Online markets that are coming up as as follows:

Facebook Snowflakes and Keepsakes Christmas Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/516451422527464/

UK Crafters Online market: https://www.facebook.com/groups/459309824617879/ on Facebook, or https://www.instagram.com/ukcrafters_marketplace on Instagram

Facebook Stocking filler frenzy: https://www.facebook.com/events/336409273668553/

Concrete Gems will also be at the following actual Christmas markets:

Norden Farm Night Market, Maidenhead, Fri 15th November 5-10pm.

Willowbank Junior School Christmas shopping event, Woodley, Reading, Fri 29th November 6pm-9pm.

Etsy Made Local, ST Laurence’s Church, Reading, Sat 30th November 11am-6pm.

Reading University Christmas craft fair, Thurs 5th December 5-7pm.

craft fair virtual or actual set up at maidenhead

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MR & MRS

I love Gemma’s concrete letters. I think the “MR & MRS” combo would be great for a wedding table or as a wedding gift.

Mr and Mrs Concrete Letters combo

But I was thinking there are other combinations some couples would like. I submitted my PhD after we got married, so the “MR & MRS” combo worked. But if it was the other way round we might have needed “MR & DR”. Some of my academic colleagues might well have needed “PROF & PROF”, and other friends would have wanted “MR & MR”.

The wonderful thing about the concrete letters is you can buy the letters you need individually, and Gemma can do bespoke colours if you want (letters are already available in Grey, black and white, pink and green. Just send her a message with your specification or browse her shop for other ideas.

Or why not sign up to her mailing list, where you will receive special offers and new product updates.

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@: At Sign or Ampersat?

@ symbol, ampersat, ampersand, concrete gems

The other day I was talking to a friend about Gemma’s development of a concrete “&” and “@”. I pronounced these as “ampersand” and “at sign”. My friend said that “@” should be called “ampersat”. This was a new word to me and so when I got home I did a bit of research.

My dad had taught me about ampersand and so I knew it was not a new word. The symbol dates back to Roman times. The word ampersand (according to Wikipedia) is a mix of English and Latin and according to the Guardian

  • Until as recently as the early 1900s, “&” was considered a letter of the alphabet and was listed after Z in 27th position. To avoid confusion with the word “and”, anyone reciting the alphabet would add “per se” (“by itself”) to its name. Therefore the alphabet ended “X, Y, Z and per se &”. This final “and per se and” eventually ran together, and the “ampersand” was born.

The @ used to be used when talking about things like prices, such as 6 tickets @ £1 each, and dates back to the Middle Ages. In the 1970’s as the World Wide Web was developing it was introduced as a way of presenting email addresses username@domain. It is now in universal use. Now I remember that happening and how much easier it came to access my email box. At the time I was studying Computer Science and went on to work in the area, and I never heard anyone use the word ampersat. Wikipedia suggests that ampersat is a modern suggestion from the 1990s. So I guess i will continue to pronounce @ as “at” or “at sign”.

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Concrete Steps

A couple of weeks ago we were in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and we walked the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. Visiting a series of waterfalls (including Snow Falls in the picture) involves a lot of up and down. In some places there was an easy gradient in others we had to scramble over rocks. We stopped at one point for an ice-cream and the lady told us they had to carry their stock in rucksacks along the path to the cabin. When I saw these concrete steps I was relieved I didn’t have to scramble down the hillside, but I wondered how they got the concrete to the site, and how they managed to make such blocks in the middle of nowhere.