Wednesday 30 April 2014

My Month in Numbers - April

You see that whirlwind that wooshed past you on your way in?  That hurricane that almost knocked you off your feet as you walked up the path?  That was April.  It went by in a flash didn't it?  I decided to use the Tagxedo programme to make a shape out of my blog posts for the month and this is what it came up with
Let's see what it picked out, sewing, fabric, crochet, dog, photo, quilt.  Yes, that seem to have summed it up fairly well but let's get down to the nitty gritty.
Just a moment while my trusty secretary gets into position to type for me and we'll be good to go.
OK, she's ready - Let's start with a lovely surprise one:
  • 25 - the number of pounds I won on the Premium Bonds.  That was a good number to record.  {note from typist - you'd have thought they could have bought me a new collar or something with that new found wealth wouldn't you?}
  • Talking of records CDs.  There were 3 CDs in the Trevor Nelson collection that I bought.  There are so many great tracks on this collection and it is getting much airplay as I drive to work in the mornings.  If you're ever in the car in front of me and you see me in your rear view mirror singing along at the top of my voice, this is probably what I'm joining in with. {note from typist - I've been in that car with her, and all I'm saying is that she won't be joining any choir anytime soon} 
  • 2 - the number of weeks holiday I had for the school Easter break. {note from typist - lovely to have the humans around to tend to my every need for two weeks.  I think it's time for her to retire to be my full time carer} 
  • Factor 15 - the SPF of the suncream I needed whilst sitting in the garden during those Easter Holidays. And if anyone was wondering, suncream on your legs is irresistable to Cavapoos.  {note from typist - I can't help myself it smells AMAZING}
  • 18 people commented on my 1000th blog post.  I still can't believe I have posted so many.  I remember starting my blog and wondering if I'd ever actually use it - if only I could have known how many blog friends it would bring into my life. {note from typist - I wasn't around for the first few years but all those blog posts have done wonders for my typing skills}
  • 5 days of antibiotics for the dog.  She is a monster for picking things up on her walks and munching on them.  Goodness only knows what she had eaten that made her tummy rebel.  I think she does it on purpose to get lots of attention and not to mention home cooked chicken/rice/pasta/fish.  {note from typist - Uh oh, I've been rumbled}
  • 1 quilt made as a runner for my bed.  72 squares of fabric in total. {note from typist - runner for their bed!  Oh they crack me up.  It's not their bed, it's mine and it was so nice of her to make me a new quilt to lay on} 
  • 3 the number of granny squares I have finished. There's a fair few I've also started but NOT finished due to tension issues but let's ignore those for a while. Tension as in loose stitches followed by tight stitches as opposed to tension as in 'grrrr I can't do this' tension.  Although, to be fair, there was a bit of that before I realised US instructions are different to UK ones. {note from typist - she was a bit tense, trust me.  And yelling at the youtube lady to slow down or hang on is ridiculous, just press the pause button. Humans eh?}
So here is the month in pictures, and whilst we watch April disappearing over the horizon, let's pop over to Julie's to read about what happened to her in April. {note from typist - no, let's celebrate the end of the month with some chicken and a couple of gravy bones}

Sunday 27 April 2014

Let's sit and share a cup of coffee

Do come in and take your coat off. The kettle's almost boiled, so let's sit and get ourselves comfortable.  
Excuse the mess - I've been busy sewing in the Easter holidays and the dining room still has the evidence to prove it.  Cottons and threads, scraps of leftover fabric and the sewing machine in the corner.  That bag on the chair? That's full of bits and pieces for my latest challenge.  Crochet. I learnt crochet about 30 years ago but never really got to grips with it, so it's time to try it again I think!  I discovered to my cost that US crochet youtubers call some stitches by different names - total confusion!  But once I had that information things got much easier. Please don't actually look in the bag, there is evidence of failed attempts but after a lot of effort I did manage these  
Granny Square One
Flower one
I think it will be quite a while before I feel confident enough to actually make something, in the meantime I will keep practising. And filling up that bag with little samples of 'could do better' and 'need to really work on my tension' squares.
Back to sewing, I have almost finished the giveaway prize. Would you like to see what it is? Well, I can show you in secret but can't show a picture on here until Susanne has received it! I am so excited that May is my month to be the person who gets sent the friendship quilt squares. I shall be stalking the postman on a daily basis for sure! If you could see my postman, you would visualise me being the talk of the neighbourhood if I did literally stalk him.  Very long ginger dreadlocks.  That's all I'm saying.
Ah, I see you have noticed the dog sulking.  Yes, well might she be looking guilty and in trouble.  You see, after dinner we cleared the dining table, and went to sit in the lounge before tackling the loading of the dishwasher.  My husband went back into the dining room for something and all we heard was 'What on earth are you doing?  Get off there NOW!'.  Rachel and I looked at each other and rushed into the dining room to find the dog ... standing in the middle of the dining room table.  WHAT?  She has never done that before!  How did she even get up there?  She's almost three, not a puppy!  But there she was looking very pleased with herself and a sneaky little triumphant look in her eye.  Shortly before the 'uh oh, I'm in trouble this time' thought crossed her mind, when she jumped off, ran through the conservatory, did three laps of the garden at speed, jumping in and out of the flower beds, before coming back indoors, covered in blossom, grabbing hold of one of her toys which she then threw on the bean bag and then flopped down beside it.  She really had the mischief in her.  We bought her a new bed.  A nice soft bigger bed.  It's snuggly and lovely and she can stretch her long legs out beautifully.  She sleeps in the kitchen at night so that's where it stays, safely tucked away under the breakfast bar.  So we're sitting in the lounge and we can hear her doing something in the kitchen, further investigation found one medium sized Cavapoo dragging a large sized bed along the floor by one corner into the dining room. 
And there was me thinking my parenting was over once R & J grew up. And suddenly here I am with a puppy going through the 'terrible twos'!

This post is written as part of the meme started by Abi, who knows what other bloggers are waiting for us with a cup of tea/coffee and a chat?  Let's pop over there and find out!

Wednesday 23 April 2014

40 winks and other randomness

Do you sleep well? Do you spring out of bed, full of the joys of spring, refreshed and ready to face the day?  Seems that I have reached an age where sleep quality is often up for discussion.  I have friends who wake at 5am and can't get back to sleep and others who struggle to drag themselves out of bed when the alarm goes off.  Do you fit into either of those groups? There's a new app that is causing interest and controversy around here. It's called Sleep Cycle and it monitors your sleep patterns. I have a theory that my quality of sleep depends on many other factors. One of which being the fact that I am married to a snorer ;-)
So we have both used this app, and it takes 5 days to calibrate before it can give you details of your sleep patterns. My graphs are totally different to my husband's. Mine are like this
Whereas he has much longer periods of deep sleep. I thought that meant his was the better nights sleep, but it turns out that it isn't. See those peaks of almost being awake? That equals times when he was snoring - aha, I now have proof! 
We were back to school yesterday after the two week Easter break. Boy did it feel bad to be back. Oh well, only 4 weeks to half term! However, I did discover that the new member of staff who has joined the English Faculty is quite a character.  He's Australian and is an ex-circus performer.  He looks a little eccentric with a beard and moustache that is curled up at the ends (think Hercule Poirot) I think the girls are going to find him quite different to the person whose job he is replacing.  She was middle aged, shorter than me (yes, I know!  Who would have thought it was possible?) and a vicar's wife.  He gave me advice on my failed attempts to hula hoop.  How can someone who is quite proficient on the Wii not be able to keep a hula hoop at waist level for more than one rotation?
I'm on the search for a new craft.  Sian has planted a seed of inspiration to learn a granny square in my brain and of course Denise is a super crocheter.  So I hunted through my knitting bag,and lo and behold I found a crochet hook and some wool from the 80s when my friend Linda and I went to evening craft classes.  I left my husband downstairs watching some tv programme that held no interest for me and went upstairs with hook, wool and ipad to do a bit of 'you tubing'.  It was late.  I was tired.  Things did not go well.  My hook was tiny (2.5mm) and my wool was fluffy.  Things did not go according to plan.  The lady on the video spoke and crocheted really quickly and although I soon remembered how to hold the wool and the hook and do a chain, other things didn't seem right.  Then she said 'Don't forget, I'm American, if you're watching this in the UK, we call things by different names, what we call a double is a treble over there.'  Well that explained a lot about why I was confused!
So, today.  Day off.  Hobbycraft is calling.  I've been in touch with the crochet guru (aka Denise) and she's told me what I need.  I've warned her that she may be hearing from me quite a lot.  She said she didn't mind but I'm wondering if she realises just how many questions I may have?

Thursday 17 April 2014

Giveaway winner

Drum roll please ... 
I had 18 comments ...

And I've put numbers 1 - 18 into a random number generator ... And that chose my winner for me 

So S from Snaps and Snippets is my winner! Thank you for joining in and reading my rambling blog posts. Susanne, I will be in touch to get your contact details. I have an idea of what I am going to be making but will keep it a secret until it's on its way. 

Today has been the most glorious day here, blue skies and sunshine all the way. Well after the stress and strain of a six monthly dental check up that is.  The dog and I have been laying around in the sunshine (Coco) and reading books in the sunshine (me) all afternoon. 
We had a lovely walk over the park, despite the fact that there is a 6ft tall South American Rhea on the loose fairly nearby. Apparently they can disembowel with their claws, run at 40mph and peck at eyes with their beaks if they are approached. I'm hoping that this escapee will soon be found and in the meantime is sticking to open fields rather than public parks and lakes. Why would you keep that as a pet?! And if you must, why not have a very secure pen to keep it in?
So as we head towards a glorious 4 day Easter weekend I'm hoping that the sun will keep shining but the weather forecast is sounding a little bit 'iffy' at the moment.  Better make the most of it while we can! 

Monday 14 April 2014

Karaoke Quilting

I've realised that there is a distinct pattern to my method making of things. Also known as the Sing-along method (bear with me)
First I need the idea. The 'my life would be so enhanced if I made a ...' thought. The Aretha Franklin stage. 'Think! Think about what you're trying to do sew for me'
Then comes the 'this is what I need to make it'. Which involves diagrams that only I can decipher.  Workings out and calculations that make no sense at all. This moves onto a more streamlined drawing and the realisation that I have mixed metric measurements with inches so all my calculations are wrong. This is also known as the 'back to the drawing board stage' or The One Direction stage. 'You're insecure, so half of four, your old brains are not what they were before'

Impatience then sets in as I rearrange my plans so I can visit the fabric shop or delay tackling the ironing pile until I have spent at least an hour trawling the internet. Fabric is bought.  Fabric is stroked and folded. Laid out in various orders to work out which one sits best next to another. The Grease stage.  'We go together like grey stripe, squirly blue, rama lama ding dong'

Calculations are checked and double checked. Fabric is smoothed out and measured. Rotary cutters are held. Rulers are moved around. This is known as the 'Rod Stewart' phase.  'The first cut is the deepest, baby I know ...' And so the cutting begins. There is always one anxious moment when either the ruler moves or the lack of maths knowledge brings doubt.
There is then a longer pause, while I contemplate the task ahead. This frequently causes a delay. But I know that this is followed by the 'Dinner is going to be late because I've lost track of time' or the 'I'll just do one more row' phase. Yes, this is the Diana Ross and the Supremes stage 'You can't hurry quilts, no you just have to wait ...'
But we are approaching the burn out stage, I've quilted for too long without break and I'm hitting the 'I've still got so much to do' part which means that we do actually get to eat dinner and shirts do get ironed as I have exhausted the initial excitement.  After giving myself a good talking to, I battle on and reach the The Sylistics Stage 'Let's put it all together'.
Also known as the 'Coco get off that fabric' phase as we all know that anything left on the floor is an easy target for a dog who loves to lay on soft things.
Backing is smoothed, wadding is laid on top and the pretty bit is added. This phase is best carried out while the dog is either in the garden or out on a walk, because at this point, the newly emerging quilt is irresistible bedding potential.
Pinned and sandwiched together we are heading for the homeward straight. Just in time for the 'I can't remember how to fit this walking foot on the machine' phase. But then it's on and the almost finished quilt is on my lap and being fed through the machine. The Kate Bush stage 'I'm running up that hill, I'm stitching in that ditch ...'
We now enter the 'I will never make anything this wide again' phase as huge folds of fabric threaten any chance of sewing a straight line. 
But we are nearly there now, binding is cut and Mr Google is consulted for how to mitre a corner. This is known as the Sound of Music phase 'Doe a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun. Me a name I call myself, Far a long long way to roam, Sew a needle pulling thread ...'
I sit in the sunshine, with quilt on my lap, dog by my side and with the final few inches of hand sewing to do we reach the 'I'm so sad this is finished. What can I do next?' 
And so the circle do crafting is complete!

Wednesday 9 April 2014

One photo & 20 words & 1 giveaway

My 1000th blog post! To mark the occasion I am offering a giveaway prize.  Interested?  Leave me a comment below!

Joining in with Abi's meme again this month.

I honestly can't believe I have written one thousand blog posts!  All I'm saying about the giveaway is that it will be something handmade/sewn.  I'll draw a name in a week's time.

Sunday 6 April 2014

April so far

I'm guessing that the unpredictable weather we are having at the moment is totally my fault.
That odd rainstorm that brought across the Saharan sand?  That would be because I washed my car the day before. 
The dull drizzly weather we've had after almost a week of sunshine?  That coincides nicely with us taking delivery of a new outdoor sofa for the patio.
So that's it.  I'm not planning any more fair weather activities so maybe the warm dry weather will return.
In between washing cars and building sofas I have been doing creative things but I can't share what I've been up to on my blog because they're going overseas to someone who reads this so my creative activities will have to stay a secret until they have safely arrived to their destination.  They haven't even made it to the post office yet so don't hold your breath! In fact, getting them packed into an envelope would be a good start wouldn't it?
After mentioning Greek Easter Biscuits recently, a few people asked for the recipe so without further ado ... Recipe from Luke at The Lemon Tree Restaurant
50g pitted medjool dates
50g Dark Chocolate - any dark chocolate will work but Chef recommends Willie's Venezuelan Rio Caribe Chef's chocolate drops
125g pecan nuts (I used pistachio)
125g plain flour
75g cold, diced unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
Vanilla seeds from a pod or vanilla essence

Place the dates and chocolate in a processor and blend together. Place in a mixing bowl and use your hands to make small 1cm sized balls of the date and chocolate mix. Set aside.
Clean the processor bowl then place the pecan nuts in and blitz to a fine powder. Add the flour, butter, sugar and vanilla to the nuts in the processor and blitz together to a fine breadcrumb.
Place the mix in a bowl and add about 2 teaspoons of water and mix it in lightly with your hands. Take a handful of the shortbread mix, pop a chocolate ball in and carefully mould the mix round the chocolate aiming for a biscuit the size of a walnut.
Place the biscuits on a baking tray covered in parchment paper, and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees for 30 minutes. Leave to cool until the biscuits are able to be handled.
When they are ready roll each biscuit in a dish of icing sugar being generous with the covering. Leave to cool for a further 30 minutes then re-roll in the icing sugar. When the biscuits are re-rolled they are ready to eat and will keep well for days in an airtight
And that's just where Luke is wrong - Mine did not keep for days due to the fact that they were so popular they got eaten very quickly!

I've been in a bit of a cooking frame of mind this month, having received the new Mary Berry recipe book for my birthday.  I have made about six things out of it and every single one has been a total success.  Have you seen any of the episodes of the series that is on BBC on a Monday?  This is the book that goes with the series and I wholeheartedly recommend it.  The family are a little pleased, yet amused by my enthusiasm for all things Mary, especially  on Monday evening when I was heard to say to the dog 'Come on Coco, let's get comfortable, Mary Berry will be on any moment' and as I settled down on the sofa, she (Coco, not Mary) snuggled up next to me as if she were watching it too.

The Italian lessons are still going well, and it's surprising how much we have picked up.  Did I mention that my husband and I have downloaded the Duolingo app and are preparing ourselves for our summer holiday?  Try it, you'll be surprised how good it is for a free app. We have a family who live in our cul de sac whose mother is Italian and the other day when I was coming back from a dog walk, I heard her say something to their little girl about the lovely little white puppy.Il bellissimo cagnolino bianco.  This is my chance, I thought, I'll practise my Italian on them.   What should I say?  Should I talk about the weather?  Ask her what her name was?  Then the mum continued talking to the little girl and was speaking at 100 miles and hour.  There was no chance I would be able to converse.  Even if I could make her understand me, I would never understand her reply!  So I resorted to a smile and a 'Ciao' and ran indoors.  Things have got to improve a LOT before July ...