Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My pupils are making slow but good progress

My two stitching-babes worked for another session yesterday teatime

Boy, isn't progress slow when you're dealing with newbies? You certainly appreciate how quickly you can get things done if you're not showing someone else how to do something

However both of them stitched and pressed all their strips for the rail fence blocks and cut the nine sub-blocks. They'll stitch them together next week and finally have their first block.
Here is Sarah's in pink, purple, yellow and green
And Megan's in pink and turquoise
Both fun and funky - as they should be for teenagers :o)
And here is evidence of my negligent attitude to task, showing my dreadful 'teaching area'
However did they manage to get anywhere near to that machine to stitch?
Mind you I might add that the water bottles near the drawers and the medikit bags in the foreground are actually from the Fillies Rugby Team - so down to Daddy and Sarah. Sometimes I feel my sewing area is just a general dumping ground for everyone else's rubbish!
However I can't deny it - the rest of the debris is actually mine.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Log Cabin Apples

I'm still suffering with my cold today - so much so I decided not to go to my quilting group this morning - my fellow quilters are all elderly ladies and, as is often the case at their ages a cold can often turn into something much more serious, so I felt it best to keep my germs to myself.

I had to go into town to do the school banking but was back home again by 10.30 and have spent the rest of the day pottering on the sewing machine.

I promised a Pay It Forward to three people several weeks ago and I was acutely aware that this is still outstanding - sometimes not having a specific deadline is less than helpful at getting me into gear.

So I've pootled along stitching logs around some applique apples I did before the summer holidays.

These blocks turn out at 11" finished with 5" centres and 1" logs - they will become scented pot stands filled with cloves and other spices which when heated by a casserole dish scent the room beautifully. I made six blocks in total so will have three spare to keep in the cupboard just in case an emergency gift is needed.
Sarah had her first rugby match of the season yesterday against probably the strongest team in the extended area - we lost 63 - nil which was a bit discouraging but the opposition did have an England U19's player in their squad plus several Regional players and our girls played better than the scoresheet would have you believe. The opposition were just much bigger and stronger than most of our girls and in a game which is part skill and guile but lots of brute force that counts for plenty.
Sarah put in a very spirited performance and regularly decked the much bigger girls getting straight back up to tackle the next one. Her new boyfriend of one week came to watch her play and made a comment about how 'stupid' he thought the game was - big mistake - for new boyfriend now read ex-boyfriend. Nothing much comes between my girl and her sport. Boy is she sore this morning though.

Another busy week for me this week at work with a Governors' meeting and two Finance Officer visits - no rest for the wicked - and on that scale I must have been very wicked - I just wish I could remember it!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Before they hit the post office.......

Just thought I'd drop by for a couple of minutes to show you the runners up gifts in my 300th post giveaway
The chicken wall hanging is going to Meeri in Finland
These two needlecases will go to Juliann and Leah in America - as Juliann sent me her address first she got to pick the colour and plumped for brown - hope you like purple Leah
Still need Meeri and Leah's postal details so come on girls get that email sent and I can take the goodies to the post office.
I am partway through another four of these little cases so if anyone out there fancies doing a swap for some fabric (read my last post for reasons for non-fabric-buying regime - and it should have read £165 not £120 pcm as the bank statement showed this morning) then I'd love to swap with you.
I'm going down with DS's rotton cold - I always get what the kids have had and usually feel pretty lousy which in turn makes me feel like a really mean mummy for sending them to school when they had it before me - my kids need to have a leg hanging off before they get a day off in this house.
Work is frenetic at the moment with lots of things pulling me in different directions all equally important - I am trying very hard not to slip into 'stressy' mode and did successfully bat something back to the Headteacher which she'd tried to offload onto me yesterday but I will be glad when next week is over and things should calm down a little - Nigel says I'm starting to get the hang of 'managing my manager'
Stitching has been slow over the past few days and yesterday evening I sneaked upstairs onto the bed, ostensibly to read my book, but ended up sleeping from 7 - 9 pm. Fortunately DH is around this week so picked up the taxi duties.
Roll on teatime and the weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Personally I blame Jane

You know it is Jane's fault
For quite a while I've been trying to resist spending very much at all on fabric.
The financial situation across the world's markets this past wee while has meant our monthly mortgage payments on our house have increased by over £120 per month in gradual stages since we moved in two years ago last Sunday. Now I fully realise we made the choice to buy this house and take on this level of mortgage and I'm not moaning or blaming anyone, just giving the reason why I'm being extra careful about spending on fabric and non-essentials.
However when I read about Jane's purchases from ebay I couldn't resist taking a look and here was the result.
Now before poor Jane thinks I'm having a go at her I must state I am an adult and thus totally capable of looking after my own purse strings - at no time did she twist my arm up my back and force me to spend any money.
Mind you the piece including postage and packaging only cost £5.24 which works out at £3.49 per yard so I reckon it was a good buy as English prices go - so actually thank you Jane you did me a favour really :o) but don't tell Nigel!
And on top of that look how nicely it plays with the fabrics Siobhan sent me the other day - now I'm sure I must have some matching pale pink in my pink box somewhere.....................

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Busy little bees - two birds with one stone

The other day I showed you the pictures of Sarah participating in the practice expedition for her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award

The award is in four parts: Expedition, Skill, Service and Activity

As you can see from previous photos the expedition is pretty much self explanatory. Two days walking and orienteering 15km each day (about 10-12 miles) and camping out the night between carrying all supplies with you.

Sarah just has to participate in the real thing now, without hands on guidance from leaders etc, to complete the expedition part of the award.

Going back about a year or so Sarah helped out at a Church Children's Club once a week for a minimum of an hour each time for a total of three months. This fulfilled the 'service' section of the award

The activity part is usually a physical activity - Sarah chose trampolining as you're encouraged to try something you've not done before.

With any one of the three sections; skill, service and activity, you can choose to extend your three months to six. Unsurprisingly Sarah decided to do the activity item for six months.

She now has to do a three month stint at a skill. Lots of deliberation went into the subject for this section and initially she was pretty amenable to the idea of doing patchwork and quilting under my guidance.

Then she went off the idea and thought she might like to have a go at building a doll's house.

Finally, when we looked at all the pro's and con's, she returned to the P & Q idea, she'll save the dolls house idea for a higher level in the future, but pinning both her and I down to a specific hour each week was almost impossible. So much easier if you join a club and go to a certain venue at a set time and day.

Then I had a brainwave!

Sarah's friend Megan is very interested in fabric and sewing and often looks longingly at things hanging around my sewing area. So as the pair of them usually hang around our house for an hour or more after school gassing to other mates on MSN on the computer I suggested that both Megan and Sarah might like to have a go at each making a patchwork quilt one teatime each week. Megan was delighted and of course having her mate working alongside her will keep Sarah's nose to the grindstone.

The hidden bonus in all this is that Megan took her Art GCSE a year early (getting an A by the way) and so, although I hadn't realised when I made the suggestion, is doing Textiles this year. The P&Q will be an added project for her to put towards her final assessment.

Double Whammy - two birds with one stone!!!

Here are the two girls putting together the start of their initial block - Rail fence.

Sarah has 2 metres of a lovely deep pink fabric with yellow and green flowers and purple spirals on. She's matched this with a checkered yellow, a mottled lime green and a deeper purple. Megan, on the other hand has had to take pot luck with my stash, so although she's working with a palette of bright pink and turquoise hers will be slightly more scrappy.

We've decided they'll do nine 12" blocks which, with sashings and borders, should give them a 4ft square lap quilt each.

It was lovely to pass on my skills to a willing audience but boy is it harder teaching than actually doing it yourself.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

One tired little hen........

Here she is my tired momma hen sitting trying to lay yet another egg

The wall hanging is finished and ready to send to Finland - I'm merrily stitching away at the two needlecases to send for the two runners up in the US
Thought I'd show you some pics of Sarah's D of E practice expedition the other weekend
This shot shows you how glorious the heather is looking on the top of the Quantocks - stunning! We are so lucky here to be within a short drive of the coast and to have this stunning 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' (AONB) backdrop to the town.
Here's my big girl leading the pack on the second day - still smiling despite the weight of their packs and a few blisters.
And finally when they got to their destination a group photo - some very tired but duly proud teenagers with Sarah goofing it on the floor

Friday, September 14, 2007

Flutter by little butterfly!

I've obviously been so quiet this week that Clare has even emailed me to check I'm still on the planet

To be fair I've been busy settling back into work, getting the kids back into the term time evening activities, successfully sorting out an issue at the senior school with a particularly obnoxious little toe-rag who has been making Nick's life a misery and of course watching a fair amount of World Cup Rugby
Enough said about the English efforts so far - I can't see us keeping our title by any means. However the highlight so far has been the Ireland v Georgia match this evening where Georgia came within more than one hairs breadth of achieving the greatest upset of the tournament so far. The men from a country with only eight rugby clubs and 300 signed up players whose team members are paid the princely sum of £40 per week almost showed the Irish the door - entertaining rugby at its best! More where that came from please!!!

As for stitching, the chicken wall hanging for my 300th post giveaway is complete and I finally got my baby to draw the winner

Meeri from Finland will find it dropping through her door in the very near future. I wish I could have made 39 of them but I did decide to pick another two runners-up who will also get a little something. These are Leah and Juliann - in between yelling at the rugby on the tv (a pointless exercise as the referee can't actually hear me) I've been working on the stitchery for these two items

Over the past few days there's been a few little treats dropping through my door too

Butterflies abound as Karol-Ann sent me the leftovers from her gorgeous pineaple blossom quilt.

Paula exchanged a lovely selection of fabrics including more butterflies for a pattern and some bits and bobs

Beth sent me a lovely wall hanging as my 'stitchery swap' piece and with it were a lovely piece of butterfly fabric and a little butterfly magnet

Finally Siobhan sent some lovely lengths from her surplus pile as she tries to declutter - the smoky light blues are right up my street

So thank you to one and all for your kindnesses - now can somebody please inject a little life into the English Rugby Squad - or is that just too big an ask?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A bit of a quilting void!

Nothing much stitchy going on here at the moment

A busy weekend with the kids (as usual) Sarah was on a weekend expedition as a practice for the real thing for her Duke of Edinburgh award walking over the Quantock Hills for two days and camping the night between carrying everything they needed (including the kitchen sink!)

Rugby and football prevailed on Sunday afternoon even though Sarah wasn't playing and we spent Saturday afternoon with the two younger ones down at Exmouth on the beach

My chicken wall hanging is still sitting patiently on a piece of wadding on my sewing table waiting for me to find some backing and quilt her

Last night I went Line Dancing with some of my colleagues from work - I'm seriously not a fan of Country and Western music but I thought it would be a giggle and give me a bit of exercise. I was right - I was concentrating so hard on getting the steps right I only took note of the beat of the music! Mind you I was surprisingly knackered at the end of it - so it must have done me some good and even more amazing my knees and hips aren't killing me this morning so I shall definitely go back next week.

Nothing to show in photos today - the camera is playing up but Jeanne's lovely post with a picture of her and the dogs made me think of her request for more info on the Pork with Honey and Mustard I mentioned the other dayso I thought I'd share that with you. Here goes........

Take some nice lean pork - I use fillet as there's no fat and no waste

Slice it or dice it into medallions or chunks - whatever the meat lends itself to

In a non-stick pan dry fry to seal until lightly browned - you don't need oil but use it if you wish

Once all the meat is fried and put into a casserole fry some chopped onions and garlic in olive oil in the same pan until soft and golden - I always use garlic puree because I'm idle

Transfer the onions and garlic to the meat

Deglaze the frying pan with hot chicken stock but add wholegrain mustard and honey to taste - I always use twice as much honey as mustard - for a single meal for say 4 - 6 people I'd use 2 teaspoons of mustard and four of honey but I seldom cook that small a dishful as I always freeze the leftovers so I shove loads in

Then use a proprietary gravy thickener or flour or cornflour (I use chicken flavoured gravy granules in the UK) to thicken up the sauce

Add to the meat and cook in the oven at 180 degrees C which is about 350 F for between 1.5 and 2 hours

None of the measuring or cooking time is crucial - you could use a slow-cooker/crockpot all day if you wished - just cook it nice and slow

Often I will add veg like carrots and butternut squash or pulses like tinned cannelini or flageolet beans - whatever I have really

I haven't a picture but to be honest it just looks like meat in thick gravy with a few dots from the mustard seed - but it is delicious - try it and see what you think

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The giveaway is half done

I merrily stitched away last night and got this little chicken wallhanging to the 'finished top' stage for my 300th post giveaway

Sarah reckons the hen has been smoking some sort of illicit substance and is stoned - personally I think she looks like every other busy mother on this earth, totally knackered and jolly glad of a rest :o) or at least that's the sort of impression I was trying to convey - you make your own mind up on that one. She also told me that I'd got the bottom RH egg the wrong way round - do these kids have no soul or quirkiness - I meant it like that :o)

The kids all survived the day especially Nick who loves Secondary School - long may that continue

So really it's all down hill now to Christmas - now that reminds me I have several quilty things in mind to make for Christmas presents - guess I'd better give them some consideration over the coming weeks as it's sure to creep up on us sooner than we'd like

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A new year begins

You know we all make a fuss about New Year's Eve - the parties, the countdown, Auld Lang Syne, the symbolic change of that number at the end of the date. But to be honest I think if you have children or grandchildren, or you have any connection with a school environment, the start of the new academic year has far more profound effect on you.

Cathi and Suzie have waved off little people on their first day of school. Clare tells of the French school Rentree for her daughter and Jeanne is thinking wistfully that this is her very last 'return to school' for her children. In our house this year we have one young man starting his very first day in Secondary School and two girls starting their final year in their own schools. There's a young man here who will feel very strange all day not least because he has to wear long trousers and hates to do so.

In addition I returned to my school this morning with trepidation. I'm fortunate to work in a very nice place with generally lovely people but I'd far rather do something with fabric to earn my living. However needs must and this is not to be.

In true 'New Year' fashion I've made a resolution. All last year as I was learning the job I'd find so many different priorities and calls on my time and often found myself dashing and flitting from task to task never able to successfully prioritise and often getting either very hot under the collar or downright depressed as I failed to sort my work pattern out to get through things without stressing.

During the summer break I've given this lots of thought and I've now decided that, no matter what, I will do what I can at the time on the job I'm focussed on and not constantly 'butterfly' disappearing in ever decreasing circles up some unmentionable orifice achieving the square root of nothing. I will also not let myself stress and fret if something I've set out to do in a certain time scale doesn't get completed - it will always be there waiting for me tomorrow.

Accordingly as I tried to do a petty cash reconciliation/claim to fulfil my own set target for this morning I was constantly interrupted by all and sundry as it was the first time they'd had chance to call on my time. They were all a bit surprised when I explained that I'd do what they asked but not necessarily just righ now. There were also some unexpected tasks which just had to be attended to and of course they also bit into my production slot for the day. So as you can imagine the claim wasn't quite completed - but hey! - it will be there tomorrow and I can sleep easy on that tonight.

Thank you for all the lovely comments you left on my last post. I have started the little wall hanging for my giveaway and almost completed the stitchery part of it. I'm not going to show you until it's completed. The draw is now closed and I will endeavour to draw the lucky recipient later this week or at the weekend. If I carry on at this rate I shouldn't be too long in sending it out.

I've also got all the borders onto my 'Four Seasons Swap Block Quilt' and started the applique names too.

My joins aren't too brilliant where seams are 'matched' - I told you before that piecing is my least favourite part of a quilt - but in true 'Laid Back' mode I refuse to stress and will disguise them in true Dorothy Stapleton fashion with buttons or something else if they annoy me too much once it's all near to completion. After all just because a couple of seams don't line up won't make it any less snuggly will it?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A different four seasons and a giveaway

I've just looked at my dashboard and realised that this is my 300th post - what a gas bag I really am
Anyway for all those of you who leave a comment before I go back to school on Wednesday 5th September I will put your name into a hat for a giveaway - not sure what it will be yet but probably a little wall hanging with some stitchery.
As for today I spent the best part of the afternoon cooking in bulk for the freezer - a huge pan of chilli con carne which we had some of for tea (the rest will freeze into family sized portions to make easy meals during term time) and my largest casserole dish of Pork Casserole with Honey and Mustard - this will be tea tomorrow and of course the rest into the freezer.
Anyway once I'd finished all this I felt like a little stitching
You may recall the block swap I did with three other ladies in the UK depicting our interpretation of the Four Seasons. Mine has been sitting on our notice board for weeks, nay months, with no further work on it.
However DH and I have taken on the role of joint managers of Sarah's Rugby Team and so Nigel decided he really needs to reclaim the notice board to put the planners on to work out all the fixtures.
This was sufficient impetus for me to try and get my Four Season Swap quilt a bit further down the road instead of just taking it off the wall and stuffing it into a bag in the cupboard.
Here it is with all 16 blocks put together with their relevant seasonal sashings and cornerstones. I managed to get the first of the two outer borders on. This one measures 2" finished width.
I now intend to put a four coloured 4 or probably 5" border around the outside, one colour for each season but still with the relevant matching corners. On each of the four colours I shall applique the relevant season's name in the same fabric as its sashing to the RH side of the corner block and applique a relevant collection of objects to the LH side. This will be butterflies for summer, acorns for autumn, snowflakes for winter and...... who knows for spring, maybe little lambs or chicks. A bit confusing I know but at least I understand what I'm talking about.
I do now have to get Nigel to bring down some boxes from the loft to select these four main background fabrics as they will each need two pieces 5.5" x 23.5" so I can't raid the scraps for that.
Tomorrow morning we have to be up bright and early as it is Registration Day at the Rugby Club so apart from taking peoples membership forms and payments the Fillies are running the barbecue making sausage or bacon rolls (luckily we do have some parental help for this). Registration starts at 9.30 so we need to be down there by 8.30 at the latest. So much for a Sunday Lie-In.
Still we should be finished by lunchtime so as tea is already cooked from today that should give me the chance to sweet-talk Nigel into heading up into the loft for those fabrics to at least finish the piecing on this quilt top.
Then I can applique the writing and the objects and of course make that 300th post giveaway gift