Day 992 – #56 Make an origami dachshund

So I was on a crafty streak.  I decided I’d finally give an origami dachshund a try.  I found a set of instructions on the ever helpful pinterest that didn’t look totally impossible and printed them off.  This is them:
img_0175Looks pretty straight forward, yes?  I thought so.  Until I actually looked at them with a flimsy square of paper in my hand…..  Then they didn’t seem to make any sense at all!  I could really have done with my sister being on hand for this one – she used to be able to make all sorts of weird and wonderful things out of origami.  I battled my way through, I think correctly, until the last stage to make the head.  It didn’t work at all.  I could make the pocket fold ok but it didn’t make the right shape?  I can’t figure it out.  But this is what I ended up with:

I don’t think it looks massively like a dachshund.  But then to be honest, I don’t think the one in the instructions looks much like a dachshund either!  Certainly not like either of my two….  Will have to try again and see if I can crack the head properly.  Origami – not a strong point of mine!!


Day 992 – #51 & #54 Make a birdhouse out of wood!

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I made a birdhouse for my garden!  I’m really pleased with how it turned out in the end.  I’d seen a picture of something similar on Pinterest that had been for sale on Etsy for $45!  The only similarity in the end is the cork covering but I think it works really well.  The body of the house is made from lolly sticks criss-crossed and glued together.  The base and door way is plywood and the perch & porch uprights are dowel rods cut to size.  The roof was a particular challenge as a) it wasn’t very straight and b) the cork slices weren’t exactly the same thickness….. but it all came together with a bit of patience and (quite) a bit of glue.

I’m delighted and I can’t wait to get it hung up in the garden 🙂

Day 917 – #44 Draw a self portrait

I’ve been putting this one off for a long time.  I used to love drawing when I was younger and several years ago I did a Drawing & Painting for Beginners course at college which was brilliant.  But I never seem to find the time to actually *do* it.  I have so many other hobbies and interests that it just falls by the wayside.  When I put this one on the list I was convinced that I would be able to produce something credible.  I even bought some books on painting portraits!  (Any excuse for a new book….)

When it came down to it though, I knew it would be rubbish.  I can do still lifes reasonably well.  But portraits are another matter entirely.  I can’t do it.  So I put it off and off and off.  Until I remembered a task we’d been set at college, which was to produce a drawing in just 15 minutes.  That was of my hand but I thought I’d apply the same principle.  At least then it would be done and I wouldn’t spend ages agonising over one tiny bit.

I don’t have many mirrors in my house and those that I do have are fixed to the wall.  So I ended up standing in the spare room with nothing to rest my pad on!  I realise I am making excuses before I even start….  I was in two minds whether to even post this as I know it’s terrible and I have a proper, proper artist who reads this blog who will be in stitches laughing at this effort.  So Rob, try and keep your sniggering to a minimum 🙂

Here it is (and yes, it was supposed to be me although you’d never know it! It’s my “concentrating” face):

Day 914 – #31 Go on a cruise (including #23, #29, #32, #36 and #43)

Oh yeah!  This is a whopper of a post.  I could have tried to break it down into individual parts but that would end up being quite repetitive so I’ve combined it all into one humungous post 🙂

We’ve been on a cruise.  Granted, it’s not the sort of cruise I imagined when I wrote my 101 things but it was pretty good.  We hired a boat from ABC Boat Hire from their Gailey Marina in Staffordshire (  I’ve never been to Staffs before and thought it was much further away than it actually was (only 2 hrs drive – bonus).  We picked up our boat Ivarr last Saturday and have been out for the week.  Our first day was short as we didn’t leave the marina until gone 3pm and we made it as far as Coven.  Here we moored up and watched Ireland thrash Scotland and England beat France to win the Grand Slam.  Good start to the week!

Sunday dawned clear and sunny and we had a lovely cruise along the Staffs & Worcs as far as Napton Junction where we did the world’s shallowest lock “down” on to the Shropshire Union.  This was literally to accommodate an inch difference in water levels!  According to a helpful local – the reason for the lock was because the two canals were owned by different canal companies who each didn’t want the other nicking their water!
Onwards from Napton we stopped at Brewood for a lunch break.

brewood 2 brewoodBrewood is a very, very pretty little village.  We stopped at the Bridge Inn for a drink and had a wander round the village itself.  A quick shop in the co-op and then back on the boat to carry on.

We moored up for the night at Norbury Junction.  Other than a pub, a cafe and a Hire Boat Yard there wasn’t a huge amount here.  A few houses scattered about – one of which had a flock of birds in the front garden that wandered out onto the main road.  Mark though they were very small turkeys or quails- I wasn’t so sure.  Following a quick google we discovered they were Guinea Fowl!



market draytonDay 3 was very cold and grey.  No break in the cloud at all which made it hard going.  Our next stop was Market Drayton (#32 5 New Places).  The wharf reminded me very much of Hungerford wharf so it was looking promising.  There was a footpath leading from the canal to the town centre so off we went.  It wasn’t like Hungerford.  I think that once upon a time MD would have been very nice indeed.  However, it’s a bit run-down and sad looking now.  Within a hundred yards of eachother you had an Iceland, 2 bookies and a Greggs.  That kind of summed it up for me.  Undaunted, we went in search of liquid refreshment… The first pub we came across had a couple of unfriendly looking men smoking outside the front door, barring the entrance and glaring at us – so we gave that one a miss.  The next had a sign out saying Dogs Not Welcome, so we skipped that one too.  We then found The Tudor House Hotel.  tudor houseWhich looked nice from the outside.  So in we went and found lots of old ladies drinking tea and Escape to the Country on the TV!  Not what you’d expect in a normal bar.  Little did we know, this was no normal bar!  The conversation went like this:
Mark: Can I have 2 pints of Guinness please?
Landlady: We don’t Guinness I’m afraid.  We don’t have much beer.  We’ve got lager?
M (slightly stunned): Ok, can I have a pint of lager and a gin and slimline tonic then please?
L: We don’t have any slimline is normal ok?
M: Yes fine. (getting fed up)
L: Oh, we don’t have any lager either.  I have some bottles.
M: Seriously?!  Ok, I’ll have bottle of Peroni.
L: Ok, here you are.  That’s £8.05.  Do you have the 5p I don’t have any change!
Complete and utter farce.  The Dubliners summed it up perfectly –
We decided to go back to the canal and visit the Talbot which is on the cut.  Only to find that they don’t open on a Monday!  Honestly, you couldn’t make it up.  So we left and set off once more.  We spent the night moored up just above Adderley locks ready for the descent into Audlem.

Day 4 dawned.  Still cloudy but nowhere near as cold as the wind had dropped.  We made good time through 20 locks and several miles to bring us to the visitor moorings at Audlem.  audlemThe Shropshire Union Canal is quite different from other canals we’ve been on.  It’s like a motorway canal – huge cuttings and built up banks to make it as flat as possible.  Even after descending the locks into Audlem, the canal towered above the housing and surround fields.  It was very odd.  Audlem itself was lovely (#32 5 New Places).  It had a very pretty church, several pubs (more of which in a moment!) and some useful and more unusual shops.  It was lunchtime and locking is apetite inducing so we went in search of food.

bridge inn#29 Go for 12 Meals – The first pub we found was The Bridge Inn which welcomed dogs with open arms!  It even had a carpet for Pedro.  Perfect.  We ordered some drinks and a packet of crisps for the dogs.  I chose the lasagne and Mark went for the Cowboy burger.  It was massive!  It was a big, fat beef burger topped with bacon, cheese AND onion rings.  My lasagne was lovely – just the right size portion and plenty of meat.  We left feeling totally contented and carried on along the canal where I deposited Mark and the dogs in the Shroppie Fly pub (bar actually made from an old Shropshire Fly boat – while I went next door to Audlem Mill.
shroppie flyYou can see the mill in this pic – it’s the red brick building just past the Shroppie Fly.  It’s a converted mill which houses a fantastic canal shop and a huge range of craft supplies.In addition to this, it had an art exhibition which is what I wanted to see (#23 Visit an Art Exhibition).  The exhibition was in association with the Guild of Canal Artists and was pictures of the canal in various different forms and media.  It was fabulous.  You had a whole range of images depciting the very different moods from the canal.  Some were bright, sunny, chocolate-boxy water colours and others capture the murk and mist of a cold morning beautifully.  There were even some more abstract/pop-art style pictures which weren’t to my taste but made a good contrast to the other works on show.  See here for more info about Audlem Mill –

Audlem marked the turning point in our week and so having gone down and back up the final 4 locks we were ready to set off on the return journey.  On the way back we stopped in different locations (mooring at Goldstone Wharf one night, Gnosall for lunch and Wheaton Aston the next day) and then got back to the marina late on Friday afternoon.

We had a brilliant trip out – boating holidays are very restful pastimes (if you don’t try to do a cruising ring!) and for most of the time we didn’t have any phone or TV signal.  Luckily we were prepared for that and took appropriate ways to pass the time.  Books, DVD boxset, puzzle books, playing cards and….. a colouring book!

DSC_0106 DSC_0107#43 Complete 3 Boat Scenes – This is my “Cool Canals” colouring book.  A book with loads and loads of canal images to colour in.  Some are abstract – just patterns.  Others such as these are actual scenes.  I had great fun doing these two and will look forward to completing more of them.  Get a colouring book – they rock!

Along the way we saw lots of wildlife – ducks, moorhens, storks and even lots of kingfishers.  It’s not easy to take photos of wildlife when you are moving along on a boat but here are a selection of photos that I took:

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Day 872 – #45 Complete 3 cross stitch pictures – COMPLETE!


I can finally reveal my final cross stitch picture for this challenge!  It’s been finished for a while but didn’t want to post until the recipient had seen it.

This was a real labour of love.  Due to the mammoth size of this one I struggled to get into it.  It sat mournfully on my cross stitch stand with just one lion & two monkeys completed for over a year.  Mocking me.  Guilt-tripping me.  Nagging away at my conscience.  Then in Feb last year (on Penny’s first birthday in fact) I thought I really have to get on with this or give up on it altogether.  Obviously the latter was not an option so I had to crack on.  Once I got back into it I found it ok and I made steady progress.  I had a break over the summer (too much going on in the garden) but once the nights drew in, I was stitching like a demon to get it finished!

It was finally completed in December and I took it off to the framers immediately  (mainly to get it out of my sight!).  I picked it up last weekend and handed it over to Penny on her birthday yesterday.  I think she liked it.  She certainly liked the bubble wrap around the edges!

I’m really pleased with the end result.  It’s the biggest picture I’ve ever completed (including Henry VIII and his six wives!) and I think it looks great.

Day 616 – #45 Complete 3 cross-stitch pictures


This first picture I did for my friend Hayley from work.  Her little girl Florence was born bang on time which I wasn’t expecting at ALL and so was nowhere near ready.  Luckily it was a couple of weeks before I met up with them to hand this one over so I just about made it in time.


This picture was for one of my oldest friends, Kim and her wife Megan.  Oliver was born *early*!  Which was cheating.  And because he was so close to Florence I was nowhere near ready with his.  It took some demon stitching and some last minute framing to get this one ready for our first meeting.