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Category: For fun

Making Ornaments

At this time of year I get very distractible, and trawl through the web finding Christmas ornaments to make. I have no shortage of ornaments — I just like making stuff — and I save patterns and possibilities on my computer, so I thought I’d share some here, starting with paper ornaments.

All the ornaments in this photo are made of paper, except the holly wreath, which is polyclay. I’m not terribly patient so most of these are very easy, even though they don’t immediately look it. Three of them are “german bells” — the red and white pointy one, the green one and the small red and gold one) and they can look really beautiful, especially if you use gorgeous paper. (I love the red and white paper which was wrapping paper I got in a shop.)  If you want to make some yourself, here’s a link. You can also hang them the other way up and they look lovely that way as well.

Years ago my Vietnamese students showed me how to make fat little stars out of the strips you used to pull off the sides of computer paper. (That’s how long ago it was *g* ) We made heaps and strung them on a line all over the classroom and staffroom.  I spray painted some gold and some silver and left most of them white, and they looked so pretty.

And one year I made a heap of these kirigami stars  —kirigami is like origami except you cut the paper as well as fold it. These are made out of the inside of envelopes. I was recycling, but also I kept finding more patterns inside envelopes and so kept making more stars. Until then I never realized that there even were patterns inside envelopes. There are made from 8 small rectangles. You can glue them together at the end, but I didn’t and they stayed together remarkably well.

I really liked the ones here made from old music sheets, but I didn’t have any music sheets, and if I did I probably wouldn’t have wanted to cut them up anyway. This site shows you how to make them. Believe me, they’re very simple — a bit fiddly the first time, but after that — well, I made heaps while watching TV.

And there’s a slightly harder version here that looks very spiffy. You can see how the choice of paper makes such a difference. Her stars are olive green and silver and look so lovely.

This is one of the easiest of all — a pinecone, from a Canadian site.  It’s just a matter of cutting out the pattern and threading the pieces with a bead between them to keep them separate. I don’t know how much like a pinecone they are, but they do look lovely and graceful once hung up, when they catch the slightest breeze. 

And this one is even easier — it’s just strips of paper glued or stapled together. Really easy but quite elegant, and would look lovely in silver or gold paper. I love the way paper ornaments twirl and move in even the faintest breeze.

I have lots more, but I don’t want to bore you so that’ll do for today. Do you like to decorate your home for the festive season? Do you make any ornaments yourself?

A book recommendation

I just noticed that on Kindle at the moment, you can buy all the Mapp and Lucia books by EF Benson for something ridiculous, like Aust. $2.42  ($1.99 in the USA)  It’s a bargain.

I love the Mapp and Lucia books. They’re about a small group of people in English villages in the 1930’s,  a closed social group, most of whom don’t work for a living, “who vie for social prestige and one-upmanship in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery.” (From the amazon blurb)  It’s not romance,  it’s slightly satirical social comedy.

The first book in the series is pleasant with a few smiles — Lucia is beautifully pretentious, and queens it over her subjects in the most delightfully ruthless and hypocritical way. The next book gets better — more pretension, more smiles — and then, when Lucia and her gallant cicisbeo, Georgie, decide to take a holiday in the picturesque seaside village of Tilling (aka Rye) and Lucia comes up against Miss Mapp, the current “queen” of Tilling society, the sparks (and the laughs) really start to happen.

I was introduced to the books many years ago, when I was travelling, and staying at a B&B in Rye, a pretty seaside village in the south of England. (That’s Rye in the photo below) The only other guest was a young American woman my own age, and at breakfast we started talking, and realized we were both big readers (it was just before I started seriously writing) and, comparing favorite books, as book-lovers do, we realized we had quite similar tastes.

So then she said, “Of course you came to Rye because of EF Benson.”
And I said, “No. Who’s EF Benson?”
“He wrote the Mapp and Lucia books.”
“Never heard of them,” sez me.

She was deeeeeply shocked at such ignorance, <g> and after breakfast marched me up the hill to the local bookshop, and stood over me until I bought the first book in the Mapp & Lucia series. The bookshop had masses of copies of all the books — apparently Rye (and the bookshop) was a bit of a place of pilgrimage for fans of the books. EF Benson actually lived for some years in Rye, in Lamb House, the very house in the books that first Mapp owns, and then, eventually, Lucia gets her mitts on.

I read Queen Lucia (the first book) that night, and at breakfast the next day, my American friend said, “Well? Did you read it? What did you think?”
I had to admit that while I’d enjoyed it, I didn’t really see what the fuss was about.  Which of course disappointed her.

So we headed our separate ways and I didn’t give her or the books another thought until several months later, when I was on the island of Corfu (Greek, Kerkyra) and as usual, had run out of books to read. (By this time I’d started writing.) Then one day I spotted a bookshop that had books in English! And there, amazingly, were all the other books in the Mapp and Lucia series. (There are six.) So I bought the next one, and a day or two later I walked back into town (I was staying in a little hut well out of town, near Paleokastritsa if anyone knows it) and bought the next one — and then I was hooked. 

I bought them all, and brought them home with me — and since I was backpacking and had months to go of carrying them around places on my back, you can see how much I valued them. I wasn’t sure they would even be available in Australia and I didn’t want to risk not being able to reread them when I got home. I still have those copies with the Greek price stickers on them. And now I’m buying them again in kindle, so I’ll never be without them.

They’ve made two separate TV series out of the books, but neither one quite got it right IMO.

My fave was the first series, where they had Geraldine McEwan (later Miss Marple) as Lucia, Prunella Scales (who was Sybil in Fawlty Towers) as Mapp, and  Nigel Hawthorne (who was Humphrey in Yes Minister) as Georgie. (In the photo, that’s Lucia and Georgie in front and Mapp waving from behind)

But it was a bit slow for non-fans, and the later series didn’t work as well for me, either. But then, for real book-lovers, rare is the film or TV series that ever compares well to the books.

If you do buy the books and find you enjoy them, you might want to look for Tom Holt’s “Lucia books” especially Lucia In Wartime, which has some very funny scenes about rationing and hoarding. He wrote them to entertain his mother and her friends, who were all Lucia fans. So were Noel Coward and Gertie Lawrence, by the way, so if you do enjoy them, you’re in good company.

Rooms with a View

I’ve always loved windows, especially those that frame a view. When I’ve traveled, I’ve often been lucky enough to score a room with a view, and so my photo collection has a lot of photos taken through windows, using the windows as a frame.     I even wrote a blog about my love of windows on the Word Wenches once. It’s here if you’d like to read it.

But today I discovered what might well become a new addiction for me — it’s a site called Window Swap, and it’s simply a live feed from windows around the world. You click on the link and it takes you to a window somewhere in the world — Scotland, Poland, India, The USA, Slovenia, France, Hong Kong, Russia, Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Australia, and many more.

So you watch rain falling through a screen and plants in Mumbai (that’s the photo above), then a view of trees and a busy road in Canberra, hens scratching around a quiet backyard in the US, a courtyard in Brazil, a tranquil scene in Ireland, a cat washing itself in Holland, a park in Poland, sunrise in Istanbul, an apartment view in Mexico, a view over Sydney Harbour, and so on.

Some showed an outlook over city construction sites and high-rise apartments, but the variety was wonderful. And it’s live, so you see places at different times of day. You see things move, and hear the rain on the roof, the wind in the trees, the birds calling, the trafffic . . . 


I found it fascinating. The photos really challenge your perception of how people in different countries live — you get an impression of places, gleaned from TV etc, but honestly, for so many of these, if it didn’t have a label telling you where it was, you couldn’t always guess. 

As well, it was a really peaceful and pleasant way to spend five or ten minutes. I’ve bookmarked the site because I know I’m going to pop back there again. You can also see more of these, though not live on their instagram page. And all of these images are screenshots I took.

Above: Sunrise over Istanbul.

Below: boats in Sweden.

Below: Tucson, reminding me of my friend Vicki’s garden there.

Below: Beautiful bougainvillea in South America (I think Brazil, but I forgot to note down all the places.)

The website again? Window Swap.  Or for a swift impression, without movement or change, or sound, instagram.