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....