Sunday, December 31, 2006

A good walk and a new project

After stitching that red and white star block with the heart in the centre it set my creative juices flowing and as I have a heap of all different fabrics cluttering up my sewing area from all the different things I've been stitching lately I thought I'd go for it and do a scrappy quilt using this block design.

Here is the initial block complete with hand appliqued heart - one down, 35 more to go! However I did make a start on the gross of geese blocks I will need and as of last night I'd stitched all 144 in completely random fabrics - lots of the muddy country style that I'd got out for my ongoing ostrich, but mixed in there are some red and whites, some Christmassy ones and also the odd bit of blue and white and pink, grey and purple from the two quillows - a real scrappy mix

It was a bit difficult at first not to plan what went next to what but I gritted my teeth and ploughed on - in fact occasionally if two neighbours were too similar I actually substituted one of them.

Yesterday we spent the day with friends - the first family we made friends with here in Taunton. Nikki is a great friend and thinks alike to me on so many things - the only difference being she's not a quilter but I may work on that in the future, her husband Alan is a quiet soul when you first meet him and is naturally reticent but like Nigel has a wicked sense of humour once you get past the reserved initial impression. Their two boys are the same age as Nick and a year younger than Louise and the whole family love to walk and camp like we do so we designated yesterday as our Christmas get-together day and whereas last year they invited us to theirs for lunch after a walk in the country we returned the favour this year.

Because they are both Taunton born and bred they know the area all around very well and have introduced us to lots of lovely walks in the vicinity.

Yesterday's was no exception - a walk round a couple of lakes in the Blackdown Hills to the south of the town. Tucked away with very sparse signage we'd never have found them on our own. The weather wasn't perfect but luckily kept dry until the final dash back to the car park.

Back home I'd had some mulled wine simmering away in the slow cooker so that made a welcome reception on our return.

A lunch of chicken casserole, jacket potatoes, roasted root veg which were absolutely scrummy and cauli and peas was a real warmer. This we followed with Eton Mess which is an inelegant but delicious mix of whipped cream, crumbled meringue and raspberries and an afternoon of lots of laughter, impromptu quizzes, the odd glass of something alcoholic and liberal quantities of chocolates made up for the low key days we had over Christmas itself.

Yesterday evening after their departure saw me back at the sewing machine putting together a few more of the blocks - what fun!

Tonight we shall spend the evening with this same family at a party held by the parents of another of Nick's friends. They hire a small local hall which is usually used for a youth club, bring in a disco and invite all their family and friends from nought to ninety odd years. Each family puts in a nominal sum of £10 to cover the hall and the disco and then everyone takes their own food and drink. Kids are all included so the problem of babysitters doesn't arise and everyone has a brilliant time at minimal expense to see the New Year in amongst friends in a party atmosphere akin to a family wedding or similar within walking distance of home.

Maybe this afternoon before we head off up there I'll get a few more blocks put together.

However let me take this opportunity to wish all of you a happy, prosperous, healthy and most of all peace-filled 2007.

See you all next year!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Leukaemia Blocks all done

Here are the rest of the blocks I've made to send to Clare for her Leukaemia quilts.
This makes nine in total and that'll be it for now because I'm bored of red and white - time to have a play with something different.

I quite fancy a totally scrap quilt - apart from my first bullseye I've never actually done one and the concept of just picking up and stitching the next piece in the pile regardless of colour or pattern is quite alien to me so it will be a bit of a challenge.

I've never been a great fan of piecing - struggle with triangles big time - but the flying geese that I've done for bits and pieces lately have been less tricky as I have a set of clever rulers to make them with so I think I might go for a star quilt using the block you see above on the RH side of the centre row with the heart in the middle of the star and go for totally in scraps just using darks and lights as the differential.

I shall make the points (the backgrounds of the geese bits) in the dark and the hearts in dark too with light backgrounds and then dark sashing with light cornerstones. Probably a 6" or 8" block with 1" or 2" sashings.

Mind you don't hold your breath I may well get bored before I've done enough geese to give it sufficient variety - we'll see!

As for Emergency Ward 10 in the Bebbs household, we're all improving, some quicker than others. The doc decided that Sarah was the victim of a very nasty tummy bug and thankfully nothing worse like say her appendix so that's a blessing but she's only returning to normal very slowly and feeling pretty washed out which is not surprising as she's had little of real sustinence for several days now. Still we are all on the mend which is the main thing.

Looking forward to the New Year now!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blocks for Leukaemia

Well here's a little bit of stitching I've been doing over the last couple of days in and amongst watching some of the Christmas tv and generally chilling out.

Clare in the Dordogne (well she is usually, if not strictly at present as she's Christmassing back in the UK) has asked for red and white 8.5" blocks for her leukaemia quilts

Here are four that I've put together and will post them off to her in the next few days - who knows they might even get the odd mate or two to join them.

We've had a very mixed up unusual Christmas as a nasty tummy bug has been rampaging through the family over the past week to ten days.

Nick started it the weekend we went to my brother's by vomitting all over their downstairs loo floor - lino thank goodness!

Then Lou had a session on the Thursday evening before Christmas.

Fortunately both of these happened late evening and the respective child went straight to bed with the appropriate bucket and seemed to sleep off the ill-effects and woke up the next morning tired but relatively unscathed

Unfortunately for her Sarah got off a lot less lightly and started in the early hours of Christmas Eve morning - she still isn't right now and I shall take her to the GP later this afternoon as I feel four solid days is a bit too long for just a simple d&v bug.

Nigel was also pretty grotty but thankfully no explosions from the upper end - he's big enough and ugly enough to deal with the other end thank goodness but he has returned to work this morning still feeling pretty grotty if a little better - having felt like he'd been run over by a steam engine that is.

I also had a day like I'd been acting as Muhammed Ali's punchbag on Thursday so all in all most of us felt pretty much unlike any of the Christmas fare that's been on offer. In fact we were still deciding as we prepared for bed on Christmas Eve whether to cook the Christmas lunch the next day or save it for Boxing Day. Christmas Day won by a very short head.

Of course this year I just happened to buy the largest turkey we've ever had - in error I might add! and of course catered for the 5000 as usual so we have loads of leftovers loitering in the fridge. We've not bothered to touch the Christmas Cake, mince pies, sausage rolls etc and I didn't even bother to warm up the Christmas pudding after Christmas lunch - it's still in the packet. We shall save it and enjoy it when we all feel 100% again - probably on New Year's day when Nigel has another bank holiday off work.

The two younger kids have made inroads into the chocolates around the place but the three older members of the family really don't have much heart for them.

Still despite the lurgy we had a quiet but pleasant Christmas day trying out Lou's new scrabble game and watching the offerings on the tv - and to be honest because no-one's been 100% it's probably a good job we weren't planning any visitors or house guests.

Hopefully the doc will sort Sarah out over the next day or so and we can then look forward to the New Year's celebrations with a little more relish.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Compliments of the Season

I'm taking the opportunity of that haitus of time between setting the turkey off and opening the presents and then continuing with cooking the lunch to wish all my fellow bloggers out there and very Merry Christmas and a pieceful 2007

I participated in a made and a purchased Secret Santa with an online group I belong to and as always it was a delight to open my surprises this morning

The purchased present was a lovely set of fridge magnets in a pretty little tin which are way too nice to slum it with the kids ones on the fridge in the kitchen so I've commandeered DH1's redundant metal notice board which I shall persuade DH to put on the wall next to my sewing area so I can enjoy and use them on there - they came with a sweet little emery board with a quilting design on it - just the thing for getting rid of those snags on your nails that catch on all that lovely fabric when you're playing :o)

The made present was a set of 6 placemats in a lovely line of fabric which will go with my dining room - a real treat

Thank you to both my secret santas - have a lovely day everyone!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Preparations

Preparations are almost complete for Christmas - presents wrapped, shopping completed, tree up courtesy of the kids mainly, which only leaves the turkey to stuff and the veg to prepare today.

This tends to be a whole family affair now the children are a little older with sprout peeling, carrot chopping and yards of bacon being wrapped round the lovely farm shop sausages all around the table together. Christmas carols or Handel's Messiah in the background and a little glass of sherry at the elbow (this last one only for the adults you understand!) - what could be more festive?

We will have a quiet close family day as we're way too far out geographically for the rest of the family to travel to in the short window of holiday they have from work. But it actually suits us like that - it's very relaxing, the kids are free to play with their presents all day if they wish and there's little pressure as far as the cooking goes as it's just another roast dinner for the cook albeit with a few more trimmings but no pressure to feed the five thousand.

On a stitching note - this is the rear of the cushion front with the feathers I showed you the other day. Up to now, while I admire the beauty of the handiwork on wholecloth quilts, I could never quite understand the fascination. However having done this cushion front and then looked at the back of it I can quite imagine why someone would enjoy making a bed sized version - probably not me though :o)

The little tree in the turquoise and sand you see here (if you can get past the blinding flash in the mirror - with Sarah on the stepladder behind me fastening something to the light fitting) is one I made for last Christmas to match the colour scheme in my (then) new lounge. That's one of the nicest things about decorating the house for Christmas - bringing those boxes down from the loft and reacquainting yourself with all those friends, old and new. While the children were putting all the decorations on the tree there were repeated cries of 'Look Mum I've found the ...........' or 'I remember this .........'

All part of the special Christmas preparations.

And finally here's my newest Christmas baby - first of all I must apologise profusely for not acknowledging the source of the original idea. I spotted the cross stitch design earlier in the year on someone's blog and saved the photo for future reference but naughtily omitted to record the source - if it was from your blog I apologise. I loved the cross-stitch design for it's simplicity but changed the little white doves beneath the tree on the original design for our traditional British Christmas bird, the good old Robin Redbreast. I then surrounded the aida panel with some random plaids and added bigger buttons in the corners to echo the salvaged tiny shirt collar buttons I've used for the tree decorations. It will be just as delightful to uncover this one next year when we get those boxes down again.

But hey I must go - there's a turkey to stuff!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A foggy old day

Today was a foggy dank dark dismal day - the sort of day that turns cobwebs into crystal necklaces strung amongst the bushes as if by magic. The sort of day that once you've walked the children to school and back makes you wonder why you bothered to wash and blow dry your hair - especially if it's prone to crinkling like mine. The fog didn't lift at all today and it was quite chilly, becoming even more so this evening as you can see from the ice that's accumulated on the car aerial on the short round trip to the supermarket for the heavy non-perishable Christmas foodstuffs - the fruit and veg will mean another visit at the weekend :o(

Today was also the last day of term for both the kids and I which this year feels a little close to the wire although I do believe some counties aren't breaking for Christmas until Friday - now that is leaving things a bit late.

The cold dampness today also came as quite a shock for a lot of the garden plants - I have an early spring clematis in full bloom - it's about to get a rude awakening I think

This morning before I went to work at 10.30 the stitching bug still had a serious hold on me and having virtually finished all the Christmas sewing I decided that, having been in the house over 15 months, it was time I made some cushion covers for my lounge to match the aqua, sand and cream decor rather than the scruffy ancient red and dark green ones that matched the old house.

I've never been a great fan of piecing, always preferring applique but I've really enjoyed the flying geese I've made in certain Christmas presents so set to and stitched my first cushion front. And that was all before heading off to work.

When we returned this evening I decided I'd quite like some texture so merrily sandwiched it and stitched away thoughout the evening between more boring tasks like fixing tea and a romantic trip for two without the kids with DH to, of all places, the supermarket!!!

I've never tried a feather design before or for that matter any micro-stippling but I just decided to leave the coloured sections unquilted and puffy and to stitch away on the cream areas. The feather was totally freehand and isn't totally even but I'm delighted with the result and with a quick back and some fasteners it will be able to replace the first of those tatty red and green numbers.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas is creeping in

Yesterday was my day off but also the Secret Santa lunch at work so it was a very nice feeling to drag myself away from the stitching and the housework and go into work without having to actually do any work for the buffet lunch and pressie exchange

This little chap was my secret santa present - he's a little wooden carved santa sitting on a painted tin box - and best of all when you take off the lid he's filled with Green and Black's organic chocolate - Heaven!!!

The stitching took the form of using up some orphan flying geese from my brother's table runner. My dearest friend from Taunton has just inherited her mum's dining table and sideboard and I thought a short runner would look just great on the sideboard.

As it is only 4 blocks long I decided to quilt it in the pattern rather than allover holly leaves and so I've left it with the green star points and the red border standing up puffy - I will get it bound tonight and give it to her at end of school tomorrow when all the children break up for Christmas

Monday, December 18, 2006

"It'll be ready by Christmas.................."

he said...................

"I'm just not saying which Christmas!!!"

Well two more false starts for completing the conservatory this week.

The guys turned up on Tuesday with the end roof window panes

For technical reasons that I won't even begin to bore you with the glass panel has to have a join in it, however the pieces they brought with them had the join in the middle of the length rather than to one end to match the adjoining panes. Oooops!

So we refused to accept this - not to surveyors initial drawings. The fact that the plasterer was hot on their heels ready to start finishing the internal walls was a bit of a sickener.

After much discussion we agreed with the firm that the fitters could complete as much as possible and the plasterer could crack on with the walls on the understanding that, when the roof panels were finally replaced with the correct ones, if the plastering got wet the company would pay for its replacement.

Ok - all fine and dandy - the plasterer worked like a demon for Tuesday and right up to 8.15pm on the Wednesday and completed the walls.

Saturday morning, a beautiful thankfully DRY sunny morning, was then scheduled for the fitters to come and replace the glass and fit skirtings etc for the final fix

Simple! ............. wouldn't you think???

Nope, sadly on this job nothing has been that straightforward!

New glass fitted - join still doesn't line up with it's neighbouring pieces of glass - unhappy customer - totally cheesed off fitters - no answer from the company - it's Saturday of course!!!!!

So here we are again still waiting for the roof glass to be completed, it will probably be in the New Year now - hence the comment about which Christmas.

However, in a bid to try and advance the job in another direction, Nigel decided after they'd left that he would put some paint on the plaster to seal it and the first coat is complete. Another coat of paint needed, the electric sockets and light switches to be connected up and two radiators fitted will complete the interior

I was toying with the idea of painting it the same pale aqua as the adjoining dining room but as he's painted it white first of all to cover the plaster I actually quite like it white - it blends in with all that uPVC - it'll probably stay white I think - after all once we've put the allocated furniture in there you won't see much of the walls anyway.

We've had a whistlestop weekend including a 500 mile round trip to Yorkshire to play Santa

Nick had football on Saturday morning and then a friend's birthday party in the afternoon. So, as Sarah's county match for the Sunday had been postponed, we took advantage of a relatively free weekend and set off for my parents at about 5.40pm

Luckily we had a speedy uneventful journey which took three and a half hours with one loo stop.

Initially we dropped into my parents' house for a drink and to collect my brother's spare house key as they were in Sheffield at a concert so we were to let ourselves in.

Late night for all of us once we'd caught up on the news with them too.

Next morning saw a beautiful sunny crisp start to the day, so we made the effort to walk down to the village pond and feed the ducks - sadly I didn't have the camera to hand. Tickhill (the village my brother and his pregnant wife live in) is one of loveliest and most desirable in the area and it was a pleasant interlude in an otherwise 90 miles an hour trip.

Then quickly back to my parents to hand over their presents and have a snack before heading back off down the road at about 12.45 pm in a bid to avoid the usual late Sunday afternoon/evening exodus that plagues English motorways.

I think we must have timed it just right as with three loo stops this time we made it back in almost exactly 4 hours with the only aggravation being the low winter sun in our eyes.

We have now said though that it's a trip we won't be repeating except in an emergency - just too far and too tiring for such a short stopover even with two drivers to share the load.

However it was great to see two thirds of my close family and reassure myself that my dad is well on the way to recovery - he was doing lots of his usual grumbling so he must be getting better :o)

After that trip last night and an easy tea of chicken casserole (previously taken from the freezer and left to defrost in the fridge) jacket potatoes and frozen veg all I wanted to do was something a bit brainless.

Stitching, in one form or another, always fits the bill and here is the result

I spotted a similar design a few years ago for an advent calendar with numbered squares all round the outside so adapted the idea for a Christmas wallhanging to try and capture the real meaning of Christmas.

It's been sitting on the back burner for easily three or four years and I only unearthed it a few weeks ago from a box of ufo's hiding in the loft.

So once the hand applique of the buildings and the star was complete I decided to do some 'Tonya' style hand quilting for the lettering which says 'Oh little town of Bethlehem how still we see thee lie' taking the first verse from that lovely Christmas carol. Then I added a couple of little music notes at the start and finish and machine quilted the rest very simply completing the picture with a cream and gold starry binding.

Done and in time for this Christmas .......... unlike the blessed conservatory!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Stitching done in the nick of time

All done and dusted - well the ones to be transported up country that is anyway.

I put the last stitches in at about 9.15 this evening and then got them all wrapped up.

Here are the two quillows both opened out and in cushion format - hope they like them :o)

Louise said as I was converting the purple one into the cushion 'Mmmm I like that, can i have one?'

My retort was 'Yes, but not this side of Christmas!!!'

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tim's Quillow Top ready for sandwiching

A bit more progress on the Christmas gift front.

I bound the table runner this morning at our final quilt meeting before the Christmas break and then we all had a lovely ham salad lunch together where we meet. Not particularly Christmassy fare but actually rather refreshing for all that. One of the ladies lives near a wonderful old fashioned butcher who does fabulous cooked meats - that's where the ham came from and it was the nicest ham I've ever tasted without exception, simply melted in your mouth - yummeeeee!!!

Once I returned this afternoon, in between ferrying kids to and fro I've got the borders onto the quilt part of my nephew Tim's quillow. You can see the fabric design a little more clearly in the close up photo. The sailors are possibly a little bit young for him but I like the overall effect of the crisp navy and white design - very masculine.

Now to sandwich and quilt but that will have to wait for tomorrow as I'm out tonight on a get-together of the secretaries of most of the local primary schools. A nice meal out in a renowned pub south of Taunton. I have volunteered to drive as I seldom drink. Any suggestion for a collective name for a group of school secretaries?

Tomorrow I have a day off in lieu of a previous governor's meeting - Nigel will also be home as (I'm saying this with everything crossed and holding my breath) the conservatory fitters are due back to put in the correct roof panels and then the plasterer should be able to finish off the walls. On recent performance I'll believe it when I see it :o)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to 'Holly' for Fiona and anyone else who might be curious

Fiona asked about the free motion holly leaves on the table runner in my last post.

I vaguely remember from my own school days in the dim and distant past (Jacob Marley speaking here folks) a teacher showing me how to draw lifelike holly leaves.

You start off with a curved line for the spine of the leaf and then draw a series of curves along each of the two sides to make the points. Don't worry about having the same number of points on each side, apparently holly leaves are seldom symmetrical and of course having the initial 'spine line' curved gives the leaf much more fluidity.

Well the holly leaf free motion stitching is exactly the same principle - if you look at the diagram you start at the bottom in the red and stitch a curved line in the rough area you wish to fill with your leaf - then once you've reached the far end of the leaf change direction (the line turns to blue) and stitch a series of curves back to the start of your leaf. Once you've joined up with your spine at the start of your leaf change direction again (this time into green on the diagram) and work the corresponding set of curves to join up at the end of the leaf (matching up with where the red turned to blue).

That's your leaf completed - now all you need to do is continue with another curved line for the next spine and repeat the process. The leaves all continue along from each other in a little garland really, so just keep stitching and filling those spaces with leaves as large or small as you like til your area is full.

So go on then - deck the halls with boughs of holly girls!!!

Oh Pooh!!! Eeyore for the high jump :o(

Well I've definitely been a busy little bunny - stitching my fingers to the bone.

My niece's quilt is bordered, sandwiched and quilted. However as is often the case with best laid plans the microfibre cloth for the backing was less than successful. Too stretchy and way too heavy. Had it been light weight and stretchy I could have coped but the weight of all that fabric just pulled every which way but loose and so I gave up very rapidly having to spend part of Friday evening unpicking - yeeuuuuchhhh!!!

Saturday was pretty busy with shopping and football so most of the work had to be done today.

Never mind I reverted to the good old wadding and backing fabric and ploughed on with the quilting today in a very large meander.

Whilst on the quilting run I sandwiched and then quilted my brother and sister-in-law's table runner in 'bottom line' thread all over with holly leaves. Had I had more time I might have done something that fitted more with the actual piecing but I don't think they'll mind and the leaves are seasonal.

So then onto the quilt for my nephew - something blue my sister said - I have half the world's supply of blue fabric in my stash - how difficult could that be I asked myself - but no, virtually everything I touched had flowers on it - definitely not right for a 16 yr old boy.

So I settled for some crisp navy and white fabrics which have little sailors and anchors - a bit young but definitely better than flowers.

You can see the blues in the right hand star block.

I'm afraid there was one casualty today - the reality of how quickly I have to get these things finished finally hit me this afternoon and Eeyore was the casualty - even as quickly as I can hand applique there's no way on this little earth that I could get him done and everything finished for Friday. So I took the chicken's way out and plumped for a star to match her brothers in Eeyoreish colours like the quilt.

Never mind maybe I'll get round to doing a proper Eeyore cushion (minus the quillow bit) for her for next Christmas.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A good start on Eeyore

Yesterday evening I cut, stitched, pressed, cut, stitched and pressed again. Merrily working away in short bursts between sorting out feeding my brood and going to Sarah's school for an open evening about arranging her two weeks work experience next summer.

And voila! Eeyore's quilt top centre is done....... sort of scrappy but to the main colour scheme.

I intend to put a simple 2" border all round in the darkest of the greys and bind it in the purple with the little red spots on (sorry you'll have to look a bit closer for that)

Our local cheapie supermarket Lidl often sells obscure non-food items. I went in last weekend to search for stocking fillers and came across some lovely microfibre cloth throws in a variety of colours. The fabric is that beautifully soft sort of very fine velour which feels so gorgeous - a bit like 'minky' fabric which costs an arm and a leg in fabric shops over here - often in excess of £20/metre.

These throws measure 150cm x 200cm so that's the equivalent of over 2 yards of 45" fabric at the princely sum of £7.99 for the item or about $16 to you in US money - by my reckoning that comes out at £4 per metre which is cheap in anyone's book.

Never one to turn down a bargain I bought six of them - deep grey, light pink, bright turquoise, navy blue, honey brown and duster yellow - a strange assortment of shades but just the ones that were left.

I shall use some of the grey for this eeyore quilt and some of the navy for my nephews. The others will come in handy for something I'm sure.

Now I have to work on the Eeyore applique for the cushion front.

Nigel announced last night that he has to go up country next Friday - a week today - for work and could try and arrange to meet my brother somewhere mutually convenient if he's free for a handover of Christmas presents. My parents live quite close to my brother and my sister will be calling on them sometime before Christmas so could collect her pile. We're the only one's who live miles away and just can't see any other way of getting the santa sack to them.

So that puts the pressure on to stitch a bit more speedily - still Sarah's rugby match this Sunday has been postponed to an unknown future date so I can spend all Sunday locked onto the sewing machine to make more progress.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

And things drag on

Well I had rather hoped that after a bit of a delay with the conservatory roof I'd be able to show you an almost completed addition to our home by now. Sadly due to the incompetence of the order department at the conservatory firm I'm unable to do that.

Our fitters, who I hasten to add have been terrific and are as displeased with their employers as we are, arrived on Tuesday with most of the roof glass - the two end triangle panes had been overlooked (again). In addition two of the main roof panes that butt up to the roof vents were 45mm too short and the panes for inside the roof vents were 45mm too long. Plus the replacement for a small window pane they'd broken last week had been delivered but amazingly disappeared into thin air before the poor fitters could get their sticky little mitts on it.

So after much deliberation, discussion and some very heated telephone calls to a less than helpful main office it was decided that they'd come back the following day (yesterday) with temporary panels and then return next week with their proper replacements. Only, and we mean only, once all the correct sized glass is safely in it's correct place will we give the go-ahead for the plasterer to complete the internals. The floor is down but they've covered it with a heavy duty plastic sheet just in case it's raining when they return next week to redo the roof.

With all this it looks like there's no way it'll be even remotely usable for Christmas as Nigel has to do all the electrical finishing off and our plumber friend has to put in the radiators too - I can see that spreading into the time between Christmas and New Year, although I am tempted to put the tree out there as we always have a large real one which seems to take over the lounge - we'll see.

Last night - the first weather-tight test - was yet another horrendous night with high winds and heavy rain which woke me more than once. Amazingly this morning the place seems dry so that's got to be a good sign - roll on next week, although I have to say we'll be in no hurry to pay any more of the installments - they can jolly well wait on that score - and we feel that we should retain some of the total payment as reimbursement for the aggravation factor.

So as I speak we have a dehumidifier merrily humming away out there (hired by us and using our very expensive electric) trying to get rid of most of the damp the walls have incurred this past week or two with all the rain we've had.

On a different note Sarah had a County rugby match on Sunday in similar horrific weather conditions. The pitch was so muddy and soggy that by the time the first 5 minutes of the game had elapsed you couldn't actually tell which number shirt she was wearing she was so muddy. Nigel had to literally scrape the mud off her shorts before he dared put them anywhere near the washing machine. Sadly they lost the game against her old County side of Gloucestershire 27 - 5 but she was instrumental in setting up their only try. You can see from the picture that the match wasn' t the only casualty as she's sporting a cracking but very sore black eye - what a thug she looks! That's what comes of high speed contact with someone else's scrum cap - to be honest I think she's lucky it didn't actually spilt the skin - she will insist on playing this rough game.

She's heavily weighed down with coursework for school at the moment and is feeling more than a little pressured so we get the occasional 'fly off the handle' moment - no-one ever warns you about that at ante-natal classes either. It's tough trying to juggle the committments of school work and the pleasanter things in life like hobbies and a boyfriend - who'd be a teenager again - not me!

However for her Food Technology (whatever's wrong with the term Cookery, I ask you?) work this week she had to make a Chocolate Orange Cheesecake - and here is the result. Her teacher never gives higher than 9.5 out of 10 but she earned the full 10 with this sumptuous creation - and absolutely delicious it was too :o) She's more than welcome to make another for over Christmas if the urge takes her.

I've been busy on the stitching front - finishing off lots of cushions and my Joy wallhangings.

Now I'm merrily stitching simple rail fence blocks of three 2" x 6" finished strips in grey, pink and purple to go together for an 'Eeyore' Quillow for my niece who even at 19 still loves Eeyore to bits. I've found a simple picture of the afore-named donkey and hope to try and hand applique him onto the front of the cushion part over this weekend.

Then I have a similar one to make for her 16yr old brother but that will be a simpler affair in shades of blue - just right for a teenage boy. Thankfully he's not into any particular cartoon character so I can use a pieced block for his cushion front.

The Christmas countdown clock is ticking ever faster and I haven't even started to write a card yet or even to compose my Christmas family news letter to go in them so if I want to be able to post them all out at the less expensive second class rate I'd better get my skates on ........PANIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Let the countdown begin

There is a great air of excitement in our house this morning.

The 1st of December means the start of the Christmas countdown.

When Sarah was tiny I had a friend with twins 18months older than my daughter. We would get together as part of a small coffee morning group each week at each others houses. In the run up to Sarah's first Christmas I was round there for coffee and spied the gorgeous perpetual advent calendar her mum had made for the girls. 24 little pockets each with a little decoration to hang on a stitched tree.

I decided to copy her idea the following year and the red wall hanging you see here was the result. Looking at it now there are lots of things I'd do differently - I knew little about patchwork and quilting and even less about applique then. But it comes out in our house every 1st December to start the countdown for Christmas.

Subsequently I purchased a couple of beautiful books which opened up to reveal 24 little books to hang on your Christmas tree and they gradually tell their story day by day. One tells the Christmas Nativity, the other the Nutcracker ballet.

Reading the blogs of some of you girls in the States I notice you start to put up your Christmas decorations straight after Thanksgiving. So you could hang up your little books on your tree - however, in our house, the Christmas decorations and tree don't see the light of day until at most a week or ten days before the 25th so I had nowhere for these little books to hang.

So I put together another wallhanging to take them all - the snow fabric is leftover from my sister's wedding dress and the sequins on it are from the leftovers from my wedding dress. The navy night sky is from the bridesmaids dress I made for my friend's wedding.

In addition to this we also have an ever increasing collection of Christmas books that we've gathered over the years - I do try and add at least one each year - some are very babyish from when they were tiny, others more grown up. The book box also emerges from the loft with the advent calendars and they all go away with the decorations when we strip the house in the New Year. The kids (that's both big and small) love to look through and revisit old favourites. I guess this has become a tradition in our house and I hope it will continue down through the generations with their children eventually.

It always feels like a real voyage of discovery all over again when these things all come out again each year

I have to say it's the only time our kids are allowed to stand on the sofa!!!