Wednesday, 27 December 2017

No Spring Chicken

Most people, when they hurt their back, apply heat, Deep Heat, wheat packs, warm baths etc, but although that gives temporary relief it is entirely the wrong thing to do.  ICE ICE ICE.
At the beginning of December I repainted my kitchen. I could get a decorator in. Yes I should get a decorator in, but I don't. Last time I had a decorator in, and any time before that I am disappointed with the results. Paint splashed, surfaces not prepared, shock/horror bubbles in the wallpaper.  So up and down the ladders I went, taking down and washing venetian blinds, washing ceilings, prepping, glossing, rollering.    To cut a long story short after four days of slog I have a lovely bright fresh kitchen. And a bad back. I can't remember a specific incident where I felt something go, but for three weeks I have been suffering, cursing my lack of healing, popping pills, wearing ice-packs and having treatment for a trapped sciatic nerve.  John reckons I did too much, I think I did twist something at some point, but whatever caused the pain,  I am no spring chicken and I don't recover as quickly.  It's quite (very) depressing knowing that you are probably past doing some things but I can't give in gracefully.  Luckily I work in a back pain clinic - treatments, proper chairs with support, plentiful supplies of ice. Apart from extending my holiday by two days, I haven't lost any time at work.

These past few days over Christmas have been great.  I operate a no-fuss Christmas. Everything was prepared on Sunday. No over the top, just in case a hoard of locusts descends, purchases. Just what we needed for three days. Not sure if my plate proportions match the perfect proportion of vegetables to meat on this one....
It's taken some years to learn this approach but it works.  I have nothing to throw away at the end of it. I boned a turkey and stuffed and rolled it,  so a perfect carving joint. Lovely cold turkey sandwiches and bubble and squeak for Boxing Day. It's all gone now, apart from some Christmas pud, which, martyr that I am, I will finish.

We went to John's on Christmas morning to deliver the presents. I gave money this year for their savings.  They have so many toys. I can feel a soap-box moment coming on so I'll stop there.  Suffice it to say it was nice to get back to the calm of my little house! I loved my time with young children and the excitement of Christmas but I get very frustrated with the Spendfest that Christmas has become.

I spent Christmas night preparing and stitching a lovely heart ornament from a kit that I bought at Harrogate in November.  Its about 7" high and part of a series of wonderful designs from Mandy Shaw
 It has inspired me for all sorts of designs.
I finished it on Boxing Day, listening to the start of the Stephen Fry's 79 hour reading of the complete tales of Sherlock Holmes. That won't be a binge-listen though! is really good value for me. I read about 40-50 books on my Kindle every year and some paperbacks that people lend me. The audible books are for car journeys to work and when I'm stitching and want something other than silence.
This is from Alex, who has similar reading tastes. It's about Rene Descartes, bit sad though. Paperbacks tend to come from Alex or Karin. On my Kindle I'm reading Dark Skies by LJ Ross

This has kept me going through some of the sleepless nights I've had because of the back problem. Gosh I do so hate not being a spring chicken. Did I mention that already?

2018 is going to be the year of finishing more than I start. (Karin said, yeah right, when I told her - she knows me so well!)  I've lots of ideas buzzing around my head for projects for my classes in 2018, but I must finish some of the UFOs lying around too. I must.

I'm off now to heat up a nutritious lunch of Christmas pudding. Waste not want not, and,  come to think, it's finishing something I've started. Ha!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

New stocking designs

I was asked to make two elf stockings for a friend's first grandchild, one for home and one for the said grandparents (the same baby as the rather bright baby quilt I made a little while ago).  They wanted them the same but different.
I enjoyed doing a slightly different design - most of mine have snowmen and trees and Father Christmas designs.  Not sure about the name, but I know that's a matter of personal preference.

However when my Best Friend became a grandmother for the first time on 16th December and sent me a picture of the minutes old baby Harry with his little Christmas Pudding hat,  I knew exactly what design I wanted and spent a happy afternoon drawing out the design and cutting out and fusing the pieces.
I put it in the post straight away in the hope that they will get it in time for Christmas.
He was supposed to be born between Christmas and New Year but she was induced three weeks early because of some problem with her gall bladder. Mother and baby doing well and home safe now.

Talking of snowmen......

Making marshmallow snowmen heads for melted snowman cupcakes.
Vanilla cupcakes with marshmallow and cream cheese frosting and little chocolate twig arms. Last week we had cupcake trees, decorated with little jelly pieces
A little less topping in the New Year will be the order of the day I think.  January - the month of diets and resolutions.

As you do when there is limited time I decided to make some little stockings for people at work, seeing as this is my first Christmas at the Clinic. I love doing these little ones, which are about eight inches high.
People are always very appreciative of the work you put in to these but I am always taken aback by the monetary value they place on these things. (They often say I should sell them).  We are so used to paying Far East prices for inferior goods that we have no real idea of the value of domestically produced items.  For a full sized stocking I use half a metre of fabric, plus the decoration fabric, fusible web, wadding, buttons, thread and ribbon. They take about six hours to make, very often more.  Claire from work thought I could sell one for "at least £10". That is no bad reflection on Claire, it's just what we are used to.  £10 wouldn't even cover the materials!  When you figure in the amount of time for even designing some of the images, selling them doesn't make sense.  (Some of the above designs are from Nancy Halvorsen - a designer that has inspired me for many years)

Talking about value and cost, I bought some cheese for John - Cuddy's Cave from the Cheese Farm at Blagdon in Northumberland.  It's locally made, absolutely delicious and in comparison with supermarkets, pretty expensive. I was indirectly criticised for buying it "you need to take out a mortgage".  We expect to pay so little for our food. We get rubbish - tasteless, uniform mass produced junk. I won't buy it. Period.  With my farming background I get really annoyed that we are content to buy a cheap chicken, or cheap tasteless cheese but are happy to pay the same amount for a sweet, salty, fatty burger with little thought about the production methods, or the effects on our health and the environment.  The chicken I buy costs about £7-8 but tastes gorgeous, makes Sunday lunch, sandwiches, chicken stir fry and broth. I don't waste any of it, I can't afford to and it makes me appreciate it more and I don't need to smother it in salt and other flavourings.  I actually don't spend any more on my weekly shop because of it. My mother's friend had a very apt saying - "I can't afford to buy cheap things"

Off my soap box now.

I've been making little stars for the tree - I love how quickly these come together. 
I made a little kit (enough for two stars) as a gift for the ladies at the quilt class. I enjoy the simplicity of the Scandi colours. Not to climb on my soapbox again - but who thought pink and turquoise represented Christmas?  

I have been sitting typing here, in the morning dark (yippee we have passed the Winter Solstice), watched the sky change from pinks and azure to a bright fresh blue with the sun beaming down on a crisp winter day. I think it's about time I did some wrapping of presents, maybe with a little mince pie and a cup of hot coffee.  Just to leave you with a picture of Ben's first Nativity Play - his class were Stars.
Watching him sing 'When Santa got stuck up the chimney' took me back a quarter of a century. Ben and John - two of my bright stars. How lucky I am.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Avoiding the Christmas Madness

It's all a bit quiet in Bogland at the moment.  I am no exception of course. Blogging is a matter of habit. You need to remember to take pictures and also to sit down and blog - strangely enough.  I'm convinced it's not about the time you spend - it's about the will to do it and the habit of doing it.  I never start Christmas early enough but I wanted to do some little stitcheries.
The first was a simple star, the second a snow-hug.
That is actually finished as is the third in the series, a ginger Mammy and her children.  The fourth is still on my computer. They are all becoming mini cushions. To put round the tree.  As Hilary observed - a tree needs cushions. Well I think the tree looks a bit bare when all the presents are gone....

It's been busy at work over the past few months so I've not indulged the cooking bug very much, preferring to stick to simple meals
Simple broth with rye bread is one of my favourites. A broth pack from the supermarket.  An added potato, bacon rashers (streaky - no namby-pamby back bacon).  Will bought me a soup maker a while ago (train set syndrome - he loves soup) so, get in from work, chop vegetables. Put in soup maker, 20 minutes later the most comforting soup in the world. Especially when made with homemade stock from the freezer.

A few decadent bikkies have come from the oven

Triple Choc cookies from the Pioneer Woman and Thumbprint cookies with white chocolate drizzle. Last week I made Choc Orange Cupcakes
And the week before it was Caramel Fudge Brownies - no picture. I'll make them again in the interest of fairness. They were gluten free, using coconut flour which you couldn't taste but they were gorgeous - drizzled with home made caramel. Bit of a chocolate theme going here I think.  It's difficult to make healthy cakes! You can make cakes with healthy ingredients but it's not the same is it?  I can have things made with the same ingredients that are delicious but cakes are not designed to be healthy - so we need to get over that and just eat them occasionally I suppose.

As I sit here in a week off work, putting off the "GRAND PAINTING OF THE KITCHEN". There's so much stitching and designing to do I can hardly bear to drag myself away, but the painting must be done.

I'll just leave you with a quick look at what I'd rather be doing,

I know I'll love having a fresh, bright kitchen but I'd rather be stitching....

Sunday, 8 October 2017

After dark - after eight

I think I can happily say I've got the black background quilt out of my system. Goodness it was hard going on my poor eyes. I do like the effect but - never again!
The back of the quilt is as bright. 
The trouble is I'm not that keen on quilt as you go blocks. It seems like a good idea at the time but then when you try to match them up it never quite goes to plan, no matter how identical they are when you trim them. This was going to be a four by four quilt but I ran out of the black fabric - probably had enough for twelve blocks but nine was as far as I could bear.  Marilyn at the quilt class felt the same.  The photo doesn't do the quilt justice colour wise - her background is deep rich purple and looks gorgeous.   She is a very neat worker too.

The other lady that is doing the same project is doing twelve blocks - her colour scheme is totally different - I'll  post that when she's done.

I had an urge for after eight mints this week so decided to do some mint choc cupcakes.

It's probably not my favourite combination but I run out of ideas sometimes (well quite a lot of the time really) and I haven't done this before.  I thought I might go on a sweet shop cupcake theme, although the time for pumpkin pie is looming - should it be pumpkin pie flavoured cupcakes or pumpkin pie itself?

I'm trying to make the most of the light as the nights draw in - I know we get an hour of light at the end of October but that eats into my morning time more.  It's time to get the crochet out which is a little easier on the eyes.

Steph is in full wedding planning mode at the moment.  They have booked a villa in Spain in June.  At the moment though my mind is on stitcheries and all things 'seasonal'.  I have so many things floating around in my head that it's a real skill to just choose one or two and do them.  Sometimes I end up doing lots of thinking and no doing.  There's just not enough time is there?  At the moment I just feel exhausted and am looking forward to a week off work at the beginning of November. Apart from the Easter bank holidays and May days I haven't had a day off since Christmas last year. A week will seem like a long time.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Making pixels

Aren't the minds of games designers marvelous? For years we have been trying to get cameras with more and more pixels for a sharper picture.  To the point of it becoming bragging rights on phones - mine's got 22 billion pixels, that's nothing,  mine has 22 billion and one.... and yet one of the most popular games (Minecraft) is made to look like extra large pixels. A boring blocky landscape that a four year old can build. That did make for an easy birthday cake though for Ben's fifth birthday yesterday.
After cutting out hundreds of 'pixels' (each measuring 13mm) the vanilla cake was covered and filled with chocolate ganache
It was so simple to assemble - a building block covered in greens and browns with another block on top with reds oranges and yellows to represent a lava flow (or yava as Ben calls it).  On top is the pickaxe used to cut  blocks. (or Pigaxe as Ben calls it - he has a language of his own).  Ben and Grace fought over the pigaxe but they settled for one to have the handle and the other the blade.

I also made some pecan shortbread this week - although  I had to use Choc Chips on half the mixture because nuts make Will gag.  He took some down to Alex's, some went to the Thursday night Quilt class and the rest went to work. It was gone before lunch, in fact one of the osteopaths had a piece for breakfast. Health Care professionals eh?

So not much on the stitching front this week.  I trimmed all the blocks I made for the Quilt As You Go demo quilt. I won't be doing another black background for a while. 
The one in the centre was a mistake - I made a nine inch block instead of a twelve inch block and had to add extra edging. I should be to get this assembled this week, on my strange day off. My weekends are Sundays and Wednesdays. It's taking some getting used to.

The baby quilt was delivered this week - she loved it thank goodness. I was a bit worried it would be too bright. She has ordered a Christmas stocking for the baby which I can make but not assemble because she is not announcing the baby's name until he is born. I hope it's not a really long one!

So I need to go and get ready for work now. It's blowing a gale outside - plays havoc with my hair.  I take Ben to school on a Monday and then get to work for 10.  

Until next time. B xx

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Bright Baby Quilt

A friend asked me to make a quilt for her soon to be born first grandson.  "Pastel colours or bright" I asked, secretly hoping for bright. "Bright" she said. So I hope she isn't going to regret it!

I cut and stitched last weekend - after having had the fabrics for a few weeks and not being able to come up with a design.  Zara is a maths teacher so I though she might like tessellating shapes.
I chose a simple quilting design as I was running out of time. I think sunglasses might be required!
Front view

And back view.  It's all made in cotton so will wash easily.  It can be a cot quilt or used as a play mat if she prefers.  I just need someone to have a baby girl who also wants  a pink and pretty broderie anglaise type quilt.  Everyone is having a boy.

I've just been to the airport to pick Steph and John up.  They 'popped' over to Spain for the weekend to search out wedding venues. They are going to get married in this country - just them and their witnesses is the plan at the moment. The Spanish trip will be a blessing ceremony or whatever it's known as.  They are hiring a villa for everyone for a week. 20 - 30 people. Some people are staying the whole time and making a holiday of it and some are just staying a couple of days. They've found a villa in the mountains about an hour from Malaga Airport with views of the mountains and sea, safe for the boys and other little ones and pretty enough for a wedding celebration.   June 2018 is the probable date. Plenty of time to lose some weight and get fit - apparently it's very steep!

I looked after the boys on Thursday night as they needed to get up at 4am for the flight out, took them to school and nursery and then went to work. Steph's mother took over on Friday afternoon  and Saturday while I was at work. ( I think I had the easy stint!).  They had to get up at 4am again this morning to get the flight back which arrived in Newcastle at 9am.  It was the first time John has driven and it sounded like a baptism of fire as the roads in the mountains are primitive to say the least!

Unlike Steph and John though, I'm having a lazy day finishing things today:
The star table centre (22") is finished with a simple quilting in the ditch. It proved a little difficult for the ladies at the class who took it home with them. I think they're on the straight and narrow now though. Theirs are being made in 'true' Christmas colours. The sample is not Christmassy at all although I love the duck egg blue.  Everybody is wanting to sell fabric at Christmas, every Christmas, that they make up new colours every year and it's difficult to get soft old fashioned greens, golds and reds now.

I can feel some gingerbread designs coming on and they really don't look good in duck egg blue or pink or whatever colour the marketing departments say are 'on trend' (how I hate that expression).

A lovely drive around my beloved  Northumberland last weekend culminated in lunch at a farm shop near Corbridge. (Brocksbush Pick your Own Farm)  Home-made pie and salad for lunch - yum. Some lovely bread, cheese and fresh picked strawberries provided a lush breakfast the next morning.

and some jam for the Victoria Sandwich Cupcakes I made for the Thursday Night Quilt Class
 Cupcakes are easier for individual portions
A little Creme Fraiche instead of buttercream ( I also put some in the cake batter to make it extra moist)
Actually there is a lovely farm shop less than 10 minutes from work.  I discovered this on Friday when I went to get a strimmer for the garden.  I've been there before, but from home which is 35 mins from work. The Milkhope Centre has gorgeous shops, home decor, a kitchen shop, a garden tools centre, gallery, clothes store and a restaurant that makes quiche to die for.  Junction 80 on the A1(M) if you're in the area. All the shops are in converted farm buildings with a walk through the woods next to them. Especially needed to work off the calories taken on board in the cafe.  Try the local cheeses and vegetables grown on the farm if you go there. They don't get more fresh and local.

It's Yarndale this weekend but in no way could I justify the cost of going down and buying more yarn, much as I would have enjoyed it. I have so much to be getting on with. Now the Autumn Equinox has passed I will be doing more yarn work as this is easier to do in the darker evenings. 

So now I must go and do some household chores.  I might just have forty winks first though, or come to think of it I might pull out me yarns and see what is left to finish and what is waiting to be started. Squeak - that sounds like a good idea. Household chores - what household chores?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Hot on the Heels of the Boxes

I had some fabric left over from the boxes shown in the last post so I decided to make a table centre:
 This should work about 24" across when it's finished
It consists of four diamonds (made eight times). I have actually finished piecing this but didn't have a big enough square of wadding without breaking into one that I have set aside for a Durham Quilt.

The wadding is summer weight cotton which I got from the Sundown Quilt Show in June. It is really soft and drapy but it came off a roll and I can't remember who makes it. Not the normal companies.

Pictures of that when I either find or buy some 80/20 wadding.

Had an urge for custard creams this week but I didn't have time to chill the dough before cooking so I made little round ones that I rolled into balls and flattened - they tasted the same but looked very home-made!
I saw something on Pinterest this week and decided I HAD to do it.  Hilary at High Street Quilting has some gorgeous cotton lawn in at the moment which is just perfect.  I made a paper mock-up because I wasn't quite sure of the measurements
 I cut out one and stitched a sample ( I like to tack but I could have starched and/or used fabric glue)
 I love the delicate feel of the lawn.
 I cut out more centres (iron on wadding would help this process)
 I cut and tacked the outer hexagons
 Then spent a happy afternoon assembling them.

I loved doing this - you have to be incredibly accurate with cutting and stitching
 All seams are on the bias

I might make a Christmas version too.....  sorry did I say that word in September?