Wednesday, 30 January 2008

We are not alone .........

I watched a very interesting (Horizon) programme last night , all about gravity and the quest by Quantum physicists to explain its existence . It's all such thought provoking stuff ; this is looking at "The Bigger Picture" in a gargantuan way with a really wide angle lens ..... I always begin to feel uncomfortably insignificant when contemplating the cosmological (phew , now that was a quality sentence !!) Anyway I came across this mind-boggling thought , in the paper at the weekend , so in the interests of dragging everyone else along in the wake of my wonder and awe I thought I'd share it here ...

Australian astronomers have calculated that there are more than 70 sextillion stars in the known universe . That's a 7 followed by 22 zeros !!! Or pictured this way ; there are 10 times more stars than the number of grains of sand in all the earth's beaches and deserts .

Puts us in to perspective doesn't it ???

T.T.F.N Ruth ( waving to the Universe !)

Friday, 25 January 2008

Which Jane Austen heroine are you ?

I saw the picture link to this amusing quiz on Lisa's Q.D Patooties blog .You can see it here on mine now , at the bottom of my bear photos . Well don't be silly , of course I had to have a go straight away !! I was delighted to be pronounced "Elizabeth Bennett" - although if you know Jane Austen's novels very well you need to be mindful of choosing the most truthful responses , and not the ones which obviously pertain to your preferred female principal character !
So "Yay" for Elizabeth B ; much as I love the book Mansfield Park , I wouldn't want to be pronounced a Fanny Price ! I'm just not that much of a passive self-sacrificer , and Marianne Dashwood's a bit too ninny-like ; although she's only supposed to be 16 . The poor girl ages with every film/tv adaptation. I shall make no mention here of Andrew Davies' recent mashed-up and stuck back together (not necessarily in the correct order) tele script effort . Tsk tsk , it took "writer's licence" to a whole new meaning - I occasionally wondered if he'd actually read the book !? Oh dear , I seem to have mentioned it now ...the scenery was .. "nice" . No , as E.B. I'll settle for all the wittiest lines of dialogue , and the upper hand in a verbal punch-up with toffs any day . Sigh ......
just call me a Jane Austen Anorak .....

T.T.F.N Ruth x

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Lady in Waiting !

I decided to add a sneaky small glimpse of this little 3 incher .She is connected with the Teddy Bear Scene magazine article about my Flutter-By Bears (not sure which month's issue it will be in. ) Apart from that little snippet of information my lips are sealed ... sshhh ! It's a secret !

Ruth x

Friday, 18 January 2008

(Mis)Adventures of an Ethical Shopper (part 1)

So , chicken is popping up everywhere all over the media after last week's chicken welfare crusade by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver.
I think the worst bit was seeing audience members unwittingly separating male from female chicks ; which once collected were instantly put to death by oxygen deprivation ,live on television . The males that is . At least there is a legitimate use for these tiny "by-products" of the egg business . They all go to feed zoo animals and exotic pets and none are wasted , but seeing film of these little creatures being divided on an industrial scale ; the tiny hapless males tumbling off conveyor belts in to crates , was stomach churning .To see any baby animal (for me) whether it be up close , through a t.v screen or in a photograph , is to bond sympathetically with it . I dare not even cast my mind back over the other method of dispatching them ; going live straight in to a grinder ....

I've bought Free Range eggs since I owned my own fridge ; getting on for 20 years . The horrors of battery egg production have been well documented through all this time , so half a hurrah for the phasing out of this unnecessarily cruel and restrictive system by 2012 , but why has it taken that long ?
The part of this campaign that really stirred my sleepwalking good intentions was the FACT that most of the chickens we EAT fare no better ; indeed in cheaper products they are discarded battery-egg layers.I decided it was high time to buy ethically sourced chicken , so took note of the brand names which represent poultry raised under the RSPCA's Freedom Food scheme . This is "Oakham" in Marks and Spencer , "Willow Farm" in Tesco etc . Whilst it may not be wholly free range it is a huge stride in the right direction . Chickens have more room , light , perches and distractions to allow them to express natural behaviour .
As a family we really enjoy a roast chicken on a Sunday , but from now on it will be ethically sourced or it won't get to my table ! I am a concerned consumer ; an ethical shopper , who tries to put their money where their mouth is , but after Saturday's usual food shop I was left utterly disillusioned . What's more annoying than having the rug pulled from under your feet when they're already standing on the moral high ground ? Yes , and where ARE your organic / RSPCA Freedom badged birds Mr. Tesco ???

I bought an "Oakham" chicken from M+S , but once home noted that whilst it's guaranteed to be "juicy" it isn't actually guaranteed to be humanely reared . No mention of enriched living conditions on this particular poultry "unit of production".
I'm left wondering (hoping) if I've done the right thing - from now on I'm not going to bolster an industry founded on indifferent , or at worst inhumane animal husbandry , that has lead to chicken becoming a preposterously cheap meat ; costing less pound for pound than dog food .... well , if I can avoid it ...

Back to Tesco...

Take a trip around the familiar aisles of your usual store once the blinkers of
supermarket anasthaesia are wearing off - you'll be depressed .
Most shoppers plough a weary furrow around the shop , picking out the same items week on week . We've all become divorced from the reality of just what we're eating by the sanitised little polystyrene trays . Small children probably expect a live chicken to have 10 legs (the better to be neatly packaged up together ... well , less the bit of leg showing tell-tale ammonia burns from its living conditions)
I usually buy breaded chicken strips because they're quick and convenient , and sit in the freezer for those occasions when I haven't got time to make a proper meal from scratch (something else I could get really evangelical about !)Right ... so no chicken strips this week because there's no such thing as organic or RSPCA approved ones ! I searched , increasingly frustrated , for an alternative , having rejected the unappetising veggie options . Finally I plunked a box of mini salmon en croutes in the trolley - MINI SALMON EN CROUTES !!! How bizarre ! It really doesn't help my intentions when I have an 11 year old who is stubborn to the point of being utterly intractable about his (limited) food choices . For that meal he had to make do with a Free Range egg !

It seems I'm going to have to expend a lot more shoe leather to search out acceptable chicken choices from this point .I mean , just because I care about the state of my food when its still running around , doesn't mean it has to be all sackcloth and ashes does it?
Before I realise , I've already compromised my enlightened ideals by putting the usual tin of mexican chicken soup in the trolley (hell-shed broiler) then there were those cajun chicken burgers the kids like sometimes on a Monday ("rubbish-tea night") um ,no won't buy those anymore . Eleven yr old pulls a face . Pressed chicken for sarnies ? Er , not this time . Chicken pies ? No. Kievs ? Uh-uh ! Chicken Tikka pieces for wraps ? NO ! Look , I don't want to start buying happy chickens only to spend miserable whole days myself , cutting , breading and freezing it , or virtuously simmering vats of soup and lami-foil bagging it !! The frustration of Hobson's choice set in (as in you can buy it or not . That's your choice !)

It is lovely , heart warming , that two of the children in the household are right behind me in my efforts . My (nearly) 18 yr old thinks it's all eye-wash , and in any case "chickens are ugly and deserve it !" Good grief , I've spawned a sociopath !
Mind you , I think older teens fall in to two categories ; those who carry the woes of the world firmly on their politically sensitive shoulders , and endlessly remind you of the fact , and the tribe my son comes from ; who wish the world and its woes - including any kind of reality - would just bog off and be tragic elsewhere !

I suspect I shall be thwarted in my ethical endeavours in many ways - eventually there's bound to be a Part 2 to this .I may have to settle for some sort of compromise ( 2 ethical poultry products for one that isn't ??)I'm certainly not seeking to be preachy - this is my own "courage of convictions" moment only .I may be in a minority ... but I'm determined not to just chicken out .......

T.T.F.N Ruth

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Expanding Horizons of 2008.

Time to wish everybody a very "Happy New Year !" I spent the crucial seconds of the changeover in bed reading a good book (Rhett Butler's People if you're remotely interested !) . However , I was accompanied in my endeavour by resounding fireworks from , apparently , all over the estate - so obviously a lot of folk had an extremely jolly time of things !

I had barely had time to ponder on where this year will lead me with my bear making , when I was surprised to get an email from a UK bear magazine ..... a very , very nice one that I was so pleased and excited to receive !! So watch this space !
I hope that I can continue to build on my achievements of last year , and another Artist Profile will be a great start . I will be giving June's Teddy Bear Artist
Event lots of my attention as well - so much to plan and produce ! I'm sure people can hear my brain clanking ! LOL

As this is a quick post , I hope you'll enjoy some of Ashley's end of year photography . These pictures were taken on Wicken Fen which is about 3 miles from my parents' home , where we spent a peaceful Christmas .
It is a landscape my husband returns to often ; recording change in the seasons and more subtle conditions . The National Trust manages the land which is a protected habitat , and stocks it with these hardy Konik ponies who run wild , and graze down the vegetation performing an important role in the area's ecology .

T.T.F.N Ruth x