Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Little birdie #2 of 2

aka, "more custard, Vicar?"

As promised, here is the second CJ in a row in which I've been given a bird stamp to use. It's a good job we still had some spare ideas left over from the first one.

This idea was Jay's - "Bird's Custard" - genius :)

It was difficult for me to do, as it involved drawing, and I can't draw!

But I got there in the end...

Here's my page - complete with a multitude of shrink plastic custard birdies:

It's supposed to be a kind of aerial view of the jug pouring custard onto a slice of cherry pie on a blue and white plate on a red checked tablecloth....I'm not sure how clear that actually is....

The title was written with an embossing pen and embossed with some lovely creamy yellow embossing powder that I just KNEW I'd find a use for one day - perfect custard colour :)

And here's the sign in bit at the back:

This one went in the post today, and I have already received the next CJ in the chain - this next one has a FAB stamp, can't wait to work with it! Just you wait and see :)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some recent Geocaching adventures....

I've touched on a few of our Geocaching expeditions in the A-Z posts....but here are pics and stories from a couple more, including the mammoth (for us, anyway) 6-cache-trek that Jay and I took on on my birthday, the one where we risked life and limb not once but twice! :)

First - there was Pinkcombe Wood. We tackled this cache after a particularly huge meal at the local Hungry Horse pub (well, it was 'H' fortnight...), and needed a good walk to burn off some calories.

The cache is a multi - you have to find a small ("micro") cache first, and this contains the co-ordinates of the final treasure box.

Micros can be pretty small - reckon you could find this in the woods?:

We did :)

And no, I don't mean the big thing in Connor's left hand...that's our GPS machine, the clever bit of kit that helps guide us to the caches thanks to clever-as-anything satellite technology.

Nope, that's not the cache, the little thing in his other hand was the cache. It screwed open to reveal a little bit of paper with co-ordinates for the end result.

It was a fair old trek to the final stage, through some pretty woodland with no sign of another human (but Jay did see a deer, he thinks).

Reece found himself a good hiking stick:

And Connor got the hang of stiles:

(and overcame his rather random fear of mushrooms)

When we did reach Ground Zero (ie the rough area identified by the GPS as the location of the cache), we had a good hunt around and then one of our eagle eyed crew spotted the booty up in a tree. In fact I think it was me that spotted this one. I sent Reece up to fetch it though, that's why we take the kids with us, they are useful for tree climbing activities :D

You can just see the cache near Reece's right hand in the picture above, for a better view see the photo at the top of this post. This was a nice big ammo can cache, the best kind, plenty of room for swaps and a lot more fun than tupperware.

Next, I have started to pick up the occasional cache close to work on my Friday lunchbreaks (on Fridays we can wear jeans and trainers to work...much easier to go caching in than work clothes and heels :))

There's a Roman series of caches, designed to take in various sites around Cirencester (aka Roman Corinium) that were significant back in the day, which really interests me, so I'm tackling them first.

So far I have found two, Roman Roamin' - Ermin St - Next Crossing Up, and Roman Roamin' - The Amphitheatre

The first involved a stroll along one of Ciren's oldest and prettiest streets and a little amble along the banks of the River Churn - no piccies sorry, I forgot to take a camera or even my phone. It was a lovely way to spend my lunch break but the cache itself, just a bog standard film cannister micro, wasn't anything spectacular.

But the second one - the amphitheatre - well, this one blew me away, and was a brilliant example of a "now THIS is what geocaching is ALL ABOUT!" cache.

I mean, just look at this place:

(this is a panoramic view of just over 180 degrees, you might need to click on it to see it at a reasonable size)

I literally drive within 20 feet of this place every single day, and had no idea it was there!

It is huge, and stunning, and just reverberating with history.

I was actually so blown away by the place that I forgot what I was there to do for a while, and just sat at the top of one of the mounds (in the cheap seats :)), imagining the baying crowd sitting all around me, and the spectacle taking place in the round below. They must have fitted thousands of spectators in there. It would put some premier football attendance numbers to shame, I bet.

I did eventually remember that I was there to geocache - and it was a quick dash to get the find before the end of my lunchbreak. Luckily it was an easy one.

On the way back out to the road, I came across this huge obelisk -----> and I mean huge - that stickman is me - completely to scale - the thing was mahoooooosive!

(I did try to take a self timer piccie with real me instead of stickman me in it, but ended up taking lots of pics like this <-------- oops!)

There are no legible inscriptions on the obelisk, and no sign or anything to give a clue what it is there for, when it was erected etc. If anyone reading this knows any more about it, I'd love to hear...

Finally, on to my birthday, which was last Tuesday, I'm now 21 again, twice, plus one, ouch!

Jay and I both had the day off work, and with the kiddies in school it meant we could spend some proper uninterrupted time together, which is a rare enough treat.

Jay asked what I would like to do for my birthday and, the weather being as glorious as it was, I couldn't think of anything better than a caching expedition.

There is a series of 6 caches over to the West of Swindon along the route of a 2.5 mile circular walk which sounded perfect for us to do without the boys, as it would probably be beyond their interest levels. One or two caches a day is their limit really.

So off we set, to the first of the (Harry Potter themed) series, Hagrids "Beard".

We actually made a bit of a pigs ear of the approach to this one, going across country and ending up doing some Mission Impossible style clambering across a tiny little ledge high across a brook that was too deep to wade across. We later found that we could have walked the whole way along a paved cycle path lol

Never mind - first find of the day :)

Much as I'm not a fan, usually, of Tupperware style caches, I liked this little circular loc n loc box - it had kept all its contents clean and dry and was fairly spacious inside. I've already bought one like it since for a future cache of my own...

There was no time to sit around admiring the container, however, we still had 5 more caches to find, so on we walked, past the worlds largest UPS:

to the first of our life-and-limb-risking moments today (I'm not counting the narrow ledge above the river as if I had fallen off that, the worst I would probably have got was a sprained ankle and a soaking...)....

.....we had to cross a train track. A train track very much in use by very fast trains.

I was bricking it! Although not so much I didn't manage to take a very quick photo on the way across:

And I think I was right to be scared, look what hurtled past at about 100 mph when I was trying to take a pic of Jay in front of the track just after we crossed!

(to be fair he did announce himself with plenty of tooting from a pretty good distance, so you'd have to be VERY slow at getting off the tracks to get splatted)

The next cache in the series, Sharp as a Mandrake, was just a micro, but hidden in a whopping great big field, full of sheep, and very attentive bullocks. The cache description states: "Please use caution, there are bullocks in the field where this cache is set although they didn't bother us". Well that's as maybe, but they certainly bothered us!

There were about 20 of them, and they were big lads! At one point a handful of them started running right towards us, that was pretty scary! But luckily they stopped short of goring us to death (there were enough that did have horns to make that seem a distinct possiblity) and ended up just giving us dirty looks for the whole rest of the time we were in the field.

Which, as it turned out, was rather longer than we had hoped, because although the micro turned out to be an easy find, we simply couldn't figure out a route to cache #3, Fawkes. Our initial route took us to a dead end which would have involved trespassing on a farm (never advisable, those farmers have shotguns :)). We then decided it would be safer to trek back towards the first cache to see if the GPS could lead us a better way from there.

Nope, all it did was lead us to another dead end, which seemed to have been the site of a sheep massacre. The fox, or whoever it was who was responsible, must have had a feast! There were loads of skulls and other skeletal bits there :S

Eventually, with the help of Google Earth, we figured out where we had gone wrong. And we also figured out, reluctantly, that we needed to cross the bullock field yet again :O And this time, they were all gathered around the stile we needed to use, like an angry mob!

We didn't have any choice but to walk towards them slowly and unthreateningly (is that a word?), desperately trying not to make any direct eye contact. And phew! it worked, they dissipated, and we got over the stile to safety :)

All was pretty plain sailing after this. Well, almost. Jay did get a nasty scratch while digging around in the brambles near the river to find and retrieve 'Fawkes', it was quite a bleeder. But he's a big strong rough and tufty boy so he didn't make a fuss. He'd got the find after all :)

And his find, it may be, but I still got the job of filling in the log book:

Cache #4 in the series was called Ron rocks!!!, but I think it should have been called Platform 9 3/4, in keeping with the Harry Potter theme, as the hide was near an old railway platform, long disused, which has now been pretty much reclaimed by the forest:

It was a cool find - and another one of those "if it wasn't for geocaching, I would never have known this was here" moments. Just like with the Roman amphitheatre, I sat on the platform for a little while, and imagined people stood there with their luggage, waiting for a old steam train....

The fifth cache, Barty's Bridge was another film cannister micro. This one was in an area where there were a lot of workmen active, and we didn't want to be snooping around for too long looking furtive, so we decrypted the hint (something I HATE doing, and avoid unless desperate, as it always feels like cheating!), which led us straight to the location. Then it was just a case of picking it up as discretely as possible and whisking it around the corner and out of sight to sign the log...

Don't ask :) I appear to be meditating with it, no idea why :)

Finally, 4 and a half hours after setting off, having walked a hell of a lot further than the 2 and a half miles we were supposed to, we got to the sixth and final cache, Hedwig's Perch. This one took a bit of finding, as it was very well hidden, and also very much in view of the general public so we had to be as discrete as possible while searching.

Jay again took the finding honours on this one. His geocacher's eye is developing fast!

The series was very enjoyable, despite all the near death experiences, and I can't wait for our next opportunity to go on a nice long caching adventure together :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A to Z year : March 26th-April 8th : the letter G

I really should blog these fortnights more promptly, as we're now so far past the end of the 'G' fortnight that I can barely remember what we did :)

Thankfully, I have my "letter G" photos all filed away, and they should jog my let's see what's in the folder....

Aha! Yes, of course, during the first weekend, we spent an afternoon at glorious Gloucester cathedral, specifically looking at all the gorgeous stained glass:

The cloisters were especially breath-taking:

Oh, and we also saw some gargoyles :)

Then that Saturday evening, we went to a hockey game and saw our team score goal after goal after goal (we beat Manchester Phoenix 10-2, which was a brilliant result for us!)

The next weekend, we did a spot of geocaching - up near one of Wiltshire's famous white horses:

Jay found this one, his first solo find :)

Nothing to do with G specifically, but I got this nice pic of Connor up near the cache site:

And this 180 degree panorama of the view from up near the white horse - this is made from 11 separate photos stitched together, click to enlarge for a closer look...

A couple of days later, I took a day off from work, and Connor and I went to London to visit Grandad (aka my dad). It was lovely to see him, I wish we lived closer.

While still in London, we took the tube up to Greenwich to the Royal Observatory, it was a glorious sunny day and we really enjoyed walking around the grounds before attending an astronomy show in the Planetarium and looking around the time and space related museums - a perfect afternoon for a geek like me :)

We even got to stand on the prime meridian (the 0 degree line of longitude, and where Greenwich Mean Time originates), which was pretty darned cool.

A couple of days later, I took another day's annual leave (as it was the Easter holidays) and Connor and I went back to Chessington theme park.

We don't usually visit the zoo there - being adrenaline junkies, we usually just ride the rides solidly until kicking out time - but on this visit we felt duty bound, it being G fortnight, to visit the gorillas:

Sadly they don't have grizzly bears, giraffes or gnus.

And that, I think, just about wraps it up for the letter G, apart from this cool suncatcher that Connor made in a glasspainting session at his holiday club:

I'll be back soon with tales of what we got up to for the letter H....

a first go at earrings...

I made these a couple of weeks ago (seems like ages ago actually), but I was waiting until the recipient had them before blogging them, just in case she saw my blog and the surprise got spoilt.

This was my first attempt at making earrings, ear wires and all, and they aren't perfect, but I was quite pleased with them all the same.

The copper circles were textured with a cross-hatch hammer and then domed on a wooden dapping block. Then the lapis lazuli briolettes were "chaos wrapped" (apparently, according to Alison anyway), and the whole lot was hung from a copper jump ring on sterling silver ear wires.

I sent this pic ^ as soon as they were made to my best mate, with a one line question: "oxidise or not?"

And her reply came back along the same lines as my thoughts, which were that the shiny silver and copper clashed a bit, and might go together a little better oxidised, so that's what I did.

Here is the final product after a liver of sulphur bath and a wire wool polish:

An improvement, I think, do you agree?

As I was packaging these up to send, I was thinking that maybe I could make a similar pair for myself, as I liked how they turned out....but the trouble is I haven't worn earrings regularly for years and years (probably 20 years!), and whenever I have tried to, my ears complain a bit.

So I thought maybe I should make some plain silver earrings and wear them non stop for a while until my ears get used to having something in them again, so that's what I made next, a pair of teeny tiny hammered silver hoops:

(they are only sitting on an ATC because I wanted something for scale, and I couldn't find a coin....I figured most people reading my blog would know what size an ATC is :))

I've now had these in non stop for about 2 or 3 weeks, and my ears have totally healed up, which is excellent, as that means I can start wearing earrings....

....I guess I'd better crack on and make some more....