Thursday, November 30, 2006

Oh what a beautiful morning

The back of our house faces west as did the back of our two previous houses - we often get beautiful sunsets and it's one of the things I'm most looking forward to - being able to sit in my conservatory (with roof, she says hopefully) and watch the sky change through all those beautiful colours in an evening.

The photo shows something a little rarer. A fabulous sun rise - not sure I'm so keen, as the old wive's tale says 'Red sky in the morning, Shepherd's warning' so maybe we're in for an unpleasant day weather wise. However it looked so pretty I just had to get the camera out.

Yesterday when I arrived at work we had the news that, as a school, we'd all been dreading - we are to be ofsteded next Monday and Tuesday. We are overdue but it's a bit mean to spring it on us just before Christmas.

For those of you unfamiliar with the UK education system each school is visited from time to time by government inspectors to check that we are doing all we should. The process has probably been going on since schools first began in some format, but, over the past decade or two, our 'nanny state political set up' (of all persuasions I might add) decided that teachers had no idea how to teach or run a school and so would have their premises, work and practices gone through with a fine tooth comb every five or six years at the very least.

When the process was first introduced it turned out to be a dreadful thing to undergo with hoards of people sitting in on endless lessons and delving into all manner of things like where you bought your loo rolls from and at what price etc etc ad nauseum.

Failing schools obviously benefitted from such close scrutiny but good schools endured endless stress, aggravation and often trauma just to put statistics on the league table obsessed government's figures.

Obviously, with such a labour intensive and expensive process, reality has finally had to kick in and current inspections have become more humane as the powers that be have realised that the whole system was just unsustainable.

So while an Ofsted inspection isn't the blood chilling spectre that once sat on the horizon it's still not a pleasant process and of course yesterday the headteacher was doing a fair impersonation of a headless chicken.

I have to say that maybe ignorance is bliss and, having never been in post in a school office when such an inspection is happening, I'm not losing any sleep - if they ask me difficult questions I shall have to refer them to our area finance officer and plead ignorance due to my novice status.

Roll on next Wednesday!!!

Stitching wise I've been chipping away at my Christmas list.

Parent's In Law's cushion fronts completed and one of the 'Joy' wallhangings bound. Loads more to do - so must keep stitching!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

And the rain came pouring down!

Phew! What a busy few days.......

Louise ended up having Friday off school as well as Thursday - great for getting some Christmas stitching done - not so good for keeping on top of my paid job - never mind back again this morning to face the fray!

Saturday saw a morning of cooking while Nigel watched Nick play football - a home game against a neighbouring village who they thrashed 18 - nil! Even Nick scored a goal and he's usually in defence or goal.

Then the afternoon saw us helping a dear friend of ours move into a house about 400 yards up the road from us - she's moved from Banbury in Oxfordshire and we helped her with the offloading.

Then it was nine of us for tea as we fed her and her helpful other friends with the cooking I'd been doing in the morning - Chicken Tarragon Casserole, Jacket Potatoes, Veggies and Apple and Raspberry Crumble with cream and ice cream for afters.

Sunday was an odd day - Sarah had a rugby tournament in the afternoon playing a pool arrangement for the first round of the National Cup. Sadly they lost both games but they were no pushover and one of the teams actually presented them with a box of chocolates because Sarah's team had given them the hardest match so far this season.

Because it was Nick's birthday party in the afternoon neither of us went to watch her play which felt very strange.

Nick had a 'Climbing Wall' party at our local leisure centre - a wonderful way to occupy twelve 11yr old boisterous boys and girls - one and a half hour's climbing with a qualified instructor and then half an hour to wolf down a picnic box type tea - brilliant!!! They all had enormous fun - even the adults!

Then Monday dawned bright and showery with the Conservatory fitters here to add the top half to our conservatory.

All okay until they confessed that the company had forgotten to order the roof panels ................. grrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!

So we now have a very fine conservatory al fresco!

And of course we've had record rainfall over the past few weeks - last night being no exception - so now we're putting a call out for any local Noah's to come and bail it out.

Fortunately we have one of those wet and dry vacuum cleaners which sucks water up so Nigel has been valiantly sucking out the 'lake' over the past couple of weeks and will obviously have to continue to do so until they return with the roof panels next Tuesday.

A slight delay but at least the top matches the bottom in size and eventually all will come right - sadly because of the delay we won't be in there for Christmas but never mind these things are sent to try us - and try us they jolly well do. Just glad we weren't having it built before a big family occasion like a wedding or something.

The stitching has been coming along great guns - here are the fronts for the two cushions for my brother and SIL - lots more to do but making good progress

Right I'd better head off and get ready for work............

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Celtic Knots for Christmas

Well I did get quite a bit of stitching done today - MIL and FIL's Christmas cushions are well underway - okay the centres are done. I mentioned before about using the striped fabric for the bias tubing. I'm quite pleased with how it's turned out. It does make it a little more difficult to see the unders and overs but you can tell if you look closely. I shall put a 1/4" strip in the infill green round these and then a two inch border in the yellow space dyed fabric.

The furnishings in their conservatory are in a pale buttery yellow so they should go quite well.

I'm going to do a couple of cushions for my brother and SIL next in natural neutrals. Same format, same celtic knotwork but possibly piecing the background as I have a whole bunch of FQ's in the same shade of stone with a different cream pattern on each. The pattern is a bit too pronounced on the front but will work well using the reverse side of the fabric - I often prefer the reverse of fabrics and use them often - in fact the green infills on the photos here use the back of some Sprayway I had which wasn't subtle enough for this project.

Wonder if little girlie will be well enough to go back to school tomorrow - who knows I might get some more bonus stitching time - really need to go to work and clear the pile on my desk - but we'll see what the morning brings.

Tidings of Fairies and Joy!

Well as you can see I've been a busy little bee - no shirking here.

All blocks completed and stitched together on the Christmas Fairy Table Runner. Plus the appliqued holly leaves and berries done on the centre block and the ends. I'm pretty pleased with how it's come out - mind you I'll bet it will look a whole lot better against a newly pressed snow white cloth than my tatty old waterproof table cloth we use for everyday to stop the kids wrecking the table surface, even if the colour matches with the runner.

Now I have to do my least favourite bit - sandwiching - hate it even on manageable sized pieces of work but hey-ho I'll just have to grit my teeth and get on with it because I certainly can't wrap up the runner as it is :o) I think I will probably just machine quilt all over with a large holly leaf design and then bind it in the dark green of the geese backgrounds. I also intend to make them a couple of cushion covers similar to the burgundy and cream ones I did for my sister's birthday but this time on a subtle beige/mushroom shade with cream bias celtic knotwork to go with the mucky light brown colour scheme (my mother's less than complimentary description not mine) in their lounge. I would have been a little more descriptive using words like driftwood, mocha, cafe au lait etc etc :o) On a different note my sister was so delighted with her birthday cushions she dropped a great big hint on the phone the other night for a couple more to accompany them - they won't get done for Christmas but she might have a surprise new year present in the post.

I also had a bit of a play with the first of the three 'Joy' hangings - didn't quite judge the positioning of the appliqued bells so had to continue the sides of the hanging down into the red fabric - but never mind the recipient won't have any idea that I didn't intend it that way in the beginning. Another thing to sandwich. I sure wish those Christmas fairies would wave their magic wands and miraculously have everything in the house that needs it sandwiched - after all I have several bigger tops in the house they could do while they're at it!

In addition to these items I've also made a start on MIL and FIL's cushion covers which are in a space dyed yellow to match the furnishings in their conservatory but with the celtic knotwork in a candy striped fabric which cut on the bias is giving a lovely effect as it twists over and under itself - I'll show more of that as it progresses into something a little more photogenic.

I have some unexpected stitching time come my way today - some of you may be thinking why is she blogging when she should be at work.

I headed into the office early this morning, as I was expecting a visit from my area finance officer to hand-hold me through some month end reconciliation stuff, only to receive a call from the children's school asking me to collect Louise - tummy pain again.

Amazingly I managed to get a short notice doctor's appointment and whipped her in there straight from school.

Doc reckons she has inflammation of the the lymph glands in her abdomen - I never even realised you had them there - not a major worry - liquid paracetamol, warm quilt on the sofa and a bit of TLC til they go down - possibly a few days. So mum will be watching over her whilst stitching.

Heaven only knows when I'll get the paid work done though!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A little more Christmas progress

Having Louise at home yesterday gave me the perfect excuse to stitch away to my heart's content. She's better this morning which means that sadly I'll have to go in to work at 10.30 :o(

My SIL (brother's wife) loves fairies - she's never a problem to buy for as this is her main love plus she makes handmade cards so I can always get her supplies for that too.

I picked up some Christmas Flower Fairies fabric earlier in the year specifically with her in mind.

Here you can see it forming the centre of these stars. The corner squares are a different fabric than the geese as I only had a FQ of the geese fabric but I think it looks ok.

Once I've got 8 of them completed they'll go together in a long line to make a long Christmas table runner - the type that goes the full length of the table and hangs down over each end. The burgundy fabric they're sitting on will form the sashing. I shall probably put an applique block in the middle with holly leaves and berries on a cream background and maybe even similar applique triangles at each end to make it finish in a 'V' shape.

Talking to my sister last night and gleaning the fact that my niece loves Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh gave me the idea of making her a quillow with an Eeyore on the front of the cushion. I've never made a quillow before but have some printed off instructions somewhere so I guess I'd better dig them out and give them a good read.

I know I'm a quick worker but I shall have my work cut out completing all the things I want to finish before Christmas - no pressure then!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Birthday Boy!

Well the other man in my life has reached the ripe old age of 11 today. He was delighted to find, among his presents,- the Liverpool Champions League away strip - he's modelling the shirt in the photo - over the top of his clothes - what a wally! Bless!

It's difficult to believe that it's eleven years ago as I write this that I was laid on the operating table in theatre undergoing an elective caesarian.

I had a difficult and prolongued labour with Sarah three and a half years earlier which resulted in an emergency C section under epidural. This time I was hoping to go for a trial of labour. The obstetrician had said he would permit me to go to a certain date and if babe didn't arrive by that time I must have another caesar.

Friday 17th November 1995 came and with it a visit to the ante-natal clinic at Gloucester Royal Hospital to do all the prep work, bloods etc for my caesar on the Monday morning - no sign of baby arriving under his own steam.

However what none of us bargained for was the fact that the little imp had been creating his own veritable swimming pool in there and hence he was actually a transverse lie. No wonder in the few weeks leading up to then nobody could be quite sure which way he was laid - he'd been whizzing around for weeks with all that room and liquid to play in. More to the point no wonder my ribs were so incredibly sore at each side - at times he'd been laid across me stretching out for all he was worth. Even today, all this time on, my ribs are still tender if I press strongly where he was pushing.

By this time we'd passed the 39 week mark and the hospital, fearful of spontaneous labour decided I must stay in over the weekend up to his scheduled arrival on the Monday morning just in case he arrived under his own steam and trapped the cord killing himself and quite possibly me.

Serious stuff and more than a bit disappointing as it was DH's birthday on the 19th and I wasn't allowed out even for a quick meal down the local pub :o(

However Monday morning dawned bright and sunny and DH, my local midwife and I had a gentle stroll down to the labour ward for them to prep me up for his arrival.

Epidural in place and there he was a bouncing baby boy weighing in at 8lb 12ozs with a shock of red hair and a face covered in vernix - he certainly wasn't quite cooked enough to come out under his own direction.

When Sarah was born, Nigel secretly hoped all along for a boy - of course, once she was safely here especially after such a long labour, he was delighted that she was with us alive and well with all the right number of fingers, toes etc.

As I was awake for each delivery Nigel was able to watch their arrival and the moment he heard the surgeon announce that baby number 2 was a little boy his delight was absolutely electric - it was like one of those children's helium filled balloons bouncing to the ceiling.

My reaction was grateful tears and the thought 'Thank goodness he's got his boy I never have to go throught this again'

It took me precisely one week - yes just one week - before I thought 'Mmm another one might be nice'

And of course Louise came along fourteen and a half months later :o) to complete the family. All three of them out of the sunroof - I never got that natural delivery I hoped for.

Looking at the three of them now it's really hard to remember they were ever that young and that small.

Sarah, at fourteen and a half, has just started going out with her very first boyfriend - you can see them in a huddle over the computer - where has my first baby gone.

I suppose this is nothing in comparison to what my mother-in-law must have felt yesterday on realising her first baby had reached his 46th birthday.

The third photo shows the bag I made earlier now complete with handles all ready for wrapping and posting off to its secret santa recipient - hope she likes it.

Other than that I've done virtually no stitching this weekend - birthday shopping, rugby and a general feeling of total malaise have meant I've had little time and even less enthusiasm to pick up any fabric over the past few days. Coupled with the fact that my sewing table is piled about a foot high with fabric preventing me from getting anywhere near the machine means that I've only just returned to it this morning to put those handles on.

Monday is usually my day off and I get to play out with the girls at my quilting group - lovely but it does eat up most of my day before the kids return from school and the peace is shattered once more. However today Louise is complaining of feeling sick and stomach cramps so has stayed home with me. Hence no playing out but more time to put away all that fabric and crack on with more Christmas gifts.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A little bit of festive spirit

Yesterday was sadly a fabric free day - the old fabric itch was no way going to get scratched - work and, in a very long way second place, the kids took up all my time. As you can imagine I'm suffering severe withdrawal symptoms today - seldom go a single day without some kind of fabric contact.

I started the day walking the kids to school and received a phone call on my mobile half way to school from my colleague in the office. Could I go into work early as we already knew she wouldn't be in the office for most of the day but both her and the head had forgotten that neither of them would be there before 11.30.

So I walked home from school, got changed into work clothes and headed straight for work - bang went my plan to sandwich the 'stars' baby quilt. Best laid plans eh?

My usual hours are 10.30 to 2.30 four days a week but as I was clerking my first governors meeting in post last night I was still at school finishing off the paperwork at 2.55 and dashed off just in time to collect the kids.

A very swift tea and help with times tables etc etc and then I returned to work at 6.15 until almost 10pm.

As you can imagine with concentrating so hard to make sure I noted all the relevant details in the minutes my mind had turned to midway between scrambled egg and mashed potato by the time I got home just after 10 o'clock.

A quick 15 minute update on the day with DH and I was ready for the journey up those stairs to my snuggly warm bed and off to the land of nod. I hadn't actually seen Nigel previously that day as he'd been in Essex the night before and hadn't even arrived home before I left for the governors meeting - a bit like ships that pass in the night but with frantic telephone calls en route to make sure he would be home in time to take DD1 to her rugby training. Mercifully the gods and the traffic were with him and he returned home in one piece on time - just!

So I thought I'd show you what I was working on at our quilting group earlier in the week.

Browsing round blogland a little while ago I came across a lovely Christmas wallhanging on Norma's blog. A lovely simple yet effective design that appealed to me particularly.

Oddly in our family my sister, my elder daughter and most unusually my father share the same middle name - JOY - what a cross to bear for my dad for all those years, especially as his first name is Basil which might not be a person's first choice either.

Apparently the reason for him being given such an unusual handle is when he was born in 1930 he was almost a 10 month gestation, his mother had a terrible labour with a brutal forceps delivery from which he still sports various dents in his forehead 76 years later and they both nearly died. In gratitude he was named after the midwife who brought him safely into the world and her surname just happened to be Joy.

My parents then named my younger sister Lorna Joy - my middle name is Patricia after my paternal aunt, Anne Joy would've sounded just too silly! - and Nigel and I then went on to give Sarah the same middle name - almost a family tradition in infancy here.

So when I spotted Norma's 'JOY' wallhanging I thought I'd make three of them - one for each Joy in our family. I particularly like the heart shaped 'O'

I decided I'd quite like the banners to have a 'V' shaped bottom so will add a red triangle to the base once the squares are in place and the bells will be the focal point of that.

Another few items on my home-made christmas present list underway :o)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The stars have it!

Well the first star is our builder Neil. Yesterday he completed the bottom half of our conservatory and with a little bit of imagination you can start to picture what it will be like with its top half on (Please ignore the light blue dust sheets draped artfully over the airer through the dining room patio doors). We now have two weeks to wait for the second half of the proceedings when the men with the uPVC framework and glass will arrive on Monday 27th November. They should take the first three days of that week to complete the outer shell and then the balance of two days will involve the internals, plastering, floor etc. Nigel has booked that entire week off work to be around for supervision purposes and of course to put in the electrics and, with our neighbour's help, the heating radiators. God willing and with a following wind things should be near completion for the beginning of December :o)

It is wonderfully exciting and hopefully the second phase will go as smoothly as the first - fingers crossed.

The baby quilt is now to 'finished top' stage - I loved ForestJane's ideas of appliqueing little cars and trucks but had already made a start on the stars so stuck with them. As you can imagine, as I'm heading for bed shortly, it won't be completed for the kids to take in for their teacher's return to school tomorrow. However as he doesn't even know he will be on the receiving end of it, on behalf of his new son, it won't matter if it waits a couple of days because tomorrow will be virtually totally unproductive for me on the stitching front. This is because I have to clerk a Governors meeting at the school where I work. Clerk to Governors is my other role along with Finance Officer. In real terms I will work tomorrow between 10.30 and 2.30, come home to feed and sort out the kids and then return to work from 6.00 til probably around 10.00 pm for this meeting - no rest for the wicked eh?

Nigel (the lucky dog!) has pencilled in a work trip to Madrid for the last three days of next week - I am very jealous! - the farthest I shall go is work, the supermarket and playing taxi driver for the kids - there's no justice in this world! :o)

Monday, November 13, 2006

The border's on

Well after going to quilting group this morning, where I sat and hand stitched a little bit of a Christmas project I'll maybe show you in a day or two once I've done a bit more on it, and popping into the bank whilst in town with some school paying-in (in my own time I might add!) I came home to stitch and cook.

Cooking will be for tea tonight - Chicken and White Bean Casserole.

This comprises of browned chopped chicken breast cooked in a 'gravy/sauce' of chicken stock, chicken gravy thickening combined with three tins of various soups lurking in the back of the cupboard - ie pea, lentil and mixed vegetable. Then to all this I added tinned cannellini and flageolet beans, chick peas and green lentils. The final top secret ingredient is white turnip and butternut squash boiled up in chicken stock and mashed to obscurity prior to adding it to the casserole complete with cooking water in the vain hope that my almost totally veggie-phobic son won't twig that it's in there. At least this way he'll get some of the vitamins from them because the ONLY veg I can get past his lips is garden peas - pain in the rear little chap he can be!

Then onto stitching and as you can see from the photo the border's on the baby quilt - I'm not sure - I think it looks a little bland and might just hand applique some light and dark blue largish stars in two opposite corners to lift that boring border up out of the doldrums. Then to sandwich, large meander quilt and bind with the duller light blue - just like that!

Zig-zag baby quilt

Well after watching DS play football on Saturday - they won 8-1 against one of the strongest teams in the league, YIPPEE! - I thought I'd better make some progress on the baby quilt for their teacher's new baby son.

I fancied working with blues and naturals as I said before and had a reasonable amount of sandy shades downstairs as I'd been using them on my ostrich row quilt but as I'd had a major 'put-away' session a few weeks ago there weren't many blues downstairs.

As DH was busy outside I didn't think he'd appreciate being dragged back in to play 'fabric-shuffle' with the blue boxes in the loft so I went with what was to hand. I wanted it to look a little scrappy but only had two fabrics in each colour to play with. This is the result. It's okay, not as scrappy as I'd have liked and I think the 2" wide stripes might be a bit on the big side for a baby quilt but it's done now and I'm not changing it. I've always loved rail fence and the zig-zag effect you get.

I only have enough of the starry sand to put a border round so will add a 4" plain one in that all round - a step away from the norm for me as I usually do multiple borders and my gut feeling would have been thin sand, thin navy and then thick sand but I didn't have enough of the fabrics to do that and didn't really want to introduce another into the equation.

I'll then bind it in the duller of the two light blues for the same reason - I feel the navy check would have looked better especially as I always do a bias double binding so would get the checks on the cross but as the fabric came from a charity shop pair of men's pyjamas and I've not got much left that's not an option - shame :o( Need to get it finished for the middle of the week so it'll be another large meander pattern.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What a difference a day makes :o)

I never seem to get the hang of which order to load photos onto this thing - I add them in the order I'd like them to appear - sometimes they come out like that, other times they wiggle around and sit where they feel like. Sorry girls you'll just have to do a bit of creative viewing :o)

I said yesterday morning that the builder had got the base slab of concrete down (the darker photo before it got properly light yesterday morning) - well just look how much he got done yesterday. The outside half of the dwarf walls all up and looking very smart indeed. He will be back on Monday to do the inner blockwork and finish off the step - boy is this whizzing along nicely :o)

Dad has settled in back at home and is feeling much better than before the angioplasty - he did admit to me on the phone last night, that the night before he came home he had another fainting fit in the hospital, which I feel confirms my suspicions that they may well have dramatically improved the blood supply to his heart but haven't actually completely tackled the problem he was originally admitted for. I have this deep misgiving that things will continue as before once he gets up and moving about normally. We will see! Mum knows to dial 999 as soon as anything happens and at least if it does and he's back at the hospital they might sort it out this time. Only time will tell, but it has made Mum very nervous and she's loath to leave him for any length of time for shopping and errands etc.

Well in the hour and a half before heading off to work yesterday morning I was as busy as our builder and whizzed along with my sister's birthday cushion covers. I'm very pleased with the result and hope she likes them too. I can't believe they're all completed, wrapped and ready for posting this morning before I go to watch DS play football. Her birthday isn't until Tuesday so, Post Office willing, she should get them a day early - a minor miracle for me who is usually right on the wire.

Sarah had a letter this week saying unfortunately she hadn't got through to the next stage on from the rugby talent identification day she participated in during the half term holiday. She was quite pragmatic about it on opening the letter consoling herself with the fact that she is only just 14 and there will be plenty of other opportunities in the years to come. It was a different story later on in the evening when she learned that a friend of similar age from Cornwall had been selected, the flood gates opened then. But now that a couple of days have passed she seems okay with the whole thing and did admit that Lucy had been playing since she was 7yrs old which might have had some bearing on it. This weekend there's no match but she has County training in Wells (just under an hour from here) starting at 10.30am so no lie-in for me tomorrow.

I've spent a little time this morning cutting 2.5" strips from my dark and light blues and sands to make a very quick triple rail fence for the new baby of Nick and Lou's teacher. I pinched the basic idea from Siobhan - it should come together nice and quickly ready for them to take in to him when he returns to work on Wednesday.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Progress in several directions

Well the conservatory moves on a pace - you can see the footings are well and truly coming on - these photos were taken first thing yesterday morning and in fact he spent his time during the day putting down the damp proof membrane and then putting in the concrete floor slab. You can see DH in the background still in shorts in one photo - the weather has been pretty mild again after last week's cold snap. Probably just as well with concrete setting here and there.

Dad is home from hospital. It appears from the experts that they have sorted out his angiopathy and the fainting fits should be controlled with changed medication. They seem more concerned with his post heart attack care - I guess we just have to trust their judgement and hope they've got it right. Maybe it's just me being suspicious but I can't understand why they even mentioned the defibrillator when they'd already changed the medication but then I'm not a doctor - merely a very nosy lay person who likes to ask lots of questions and get good honest answers - after all how do you know what you're dealing with if they won't let you 'into the club' ?

He was very, very weary at home last night and didn't even want to talk on the phone which is quite understandable - however he did tell mum that his chest feels 100% better than it has been for some time so they've obviously sorted something out. Only time will tell if they've covered the whole picture. I truly hope so!

The applique I showed you last time has miraculously developed into a bucket bag but minus the handles - they will go on next. The more I look at it and see other people's creations in blues and naturals, the more I really like the colour combination. Nick and Lou's teacher's wife had a baby boy on Tuesday night. None of us even knew she was expecting as he's kept the information out of the children's radar screen. However I may try and cobble together a baby quilt for them this weekend and as it's a little Lloyd I think blues and naturals would be rather nice - we'll see, still got to finish my sister's cushions to post on Monday.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

OK lets see if I can get the photo to come up here then!

Yup - there we go.

For the accompanying text read on down please :o)

The builder arrives

OK Guys I'll apologise in advance for no photo and try and publish it on the next posting on its own! Typical of today really!!!!!

Well at 7.30am on the dot a man with a van arrived at our house - he merrily squirrelled away digging holes, taking deliveries of skips and building supplies and then filling the aforesaid hole with concrete and left again at 4.20pm

Doesn't sound much but a real start has been made on the foundations of the conservatory.

I would pop in a picture of this concrete except I'm not quite that sad and of course it's dark out there now so I can't :o)

Nigel has decided to have tomorrow and Thursday off to supervise so things are moving along nicely now

Neil (that's the builder) should have the dwarf wall completed on either Friday or next Monday. We then have a weeks gap before the men with the glass arrive and please God the top fits on the bottom. Nigel has been out there tonight already with the measure tape to check everything looks about the right size.

Then the week after the glass men the final fit men come along to do the internals, plastering, finishing the floor etc

Whilst he was off over half term Nigel got all the electrical works sorted out ready for them so we're all on schedule

God willing, with a following wind we should be finished by 1st December but I'm counting no chickens until we're a bit nearer.

Someone asked me about mitring the corners on my celtic knotwork. It's a little difficult to explain in words but I'll have a go.

When I get to a corner I tack nearly up to where the mitre will be. Then I fold the tubing back on itseld exactly on the line that the outside edge of the following bit of tape will take. I then fold back the tape over this and tuck any excess in under itself and tack it down quickly before it has chance to slip. Sounds a bit fiddly and I suppose it probably is until you've practiced a lot (which I have) but it works for me. Then as you hand-stitch the two sides of the tape down you secure across the mitre line in ladder stitch making any final adjustments with the needle turn edge of your needle as you go along. I have to say if I get any choice (and obviously with the twist and turn of a celtic pattern it isn't always possible) I always endeavour to stitch the outer edge first thus securing the point of the turn before having to faff about with the mitred bit. Hope this is a bit clearer than the mud on our building site :o)

A few developments with my father this week.

He was transferred to Sheffield by ambulance this morning with a view to them carrying out the angioplasty procedure this afternoon. However best laid plans and all that, unfortunately they had too many emergency procedures to carry out and so he never got as far as the operating procedure. They have assured us he should have it done tomorrow.

We were under the impression that the fainting fits he had been suffering were now thought to be due to his heart beating irregularly - sometimes it races uncontrollably, other times it goes on strike and is too slow to send sufficient oxygen to his brain - hence the faints.

They had led us to believe that the insertion of a 'defibrillator' at the same time as the angioplasty would tackle this problem.

It now seems that, as this little piece of kit costs in the region of £30,000 they can only insert it once the expenditure has been approved by the NHS Trust Finance Body. Accordingly he may well be sent home and put on a waiting list until they've authorised the spending basically!

The real question is what happens if he keeps having faints as before - Mum is not strong enough to keep manhandling him and it could happen as he crosses the road in front of a 40 tonne truck!

So we'll see what tomorrow brings - it sadly all boils down to resources and the NHS is currently very strapped for cash indeed across all departments. There have been some very sad high profile cases of people not being funded for breast cancer drugs, alzheimers drugs and a host of other expensive procedures in the media of late. It must be awful to be a pawn in such a political funding game but that may be exactly where we are about to be.

I've told mum that if they do send him home without one and he keeps fainting that she has to dial 999 for an ambulance each and every time - eventually they'll get so hacked off with carting him in there to the Casualty Department that they might sort it out for him - I do so hope it doesn't come to that.

I went back to work today after the two and a bit weeks half term break - I was not at all keen to go back at all - as expected it was yet again three steps forward and four steps back. I keep hoping that eventually, once I get the job and its procedures under my belt, the forward steps might outnumber the backward ones but at present I'm wading through treacle with my snorkel getting ever longer just to maintain the air supply :o( To quote Winston Churchill 'I'll just have to keep buggering on!'

Lets hope for a better day tomorrow - please!

The photo shows a little bit of hand applique I did for the centre of the Christmas present bag I'm going to make for our Secret Santa group in blues and naturals.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Christmas cometh!

The big day arrives tomorrow!

No you're alright girls - don't panic, not Christmas - the day the builders arrive to start our conservatory.

DH will be home to get them started in the morning, but from then on the supervision will be patchy by me in between working - gulp!

I'm sure they'll be fine - but if I'm not here I can't see that they're getting on with everything according to plan and sort out any problems as they arise.

Never mind DH seems to think this arrangement will work okay so here goes ........... watch this space - the photos show our before photo after DH lifted the existing patio slabs.

The conservatory is a massive financial undertaking for us. (Isn't all building work?) As you look at the back of the house it will stretch from the right hand side of the patio doors along the back of the house for 6.5 metres covering the kitchen window nearly up to the back door out from the utility room and then out from the house 3.5 metres as far as the back line of the garage. It will make a wonderful large extra living space.

When we searched for a house in Taunton a conservatory was a big part of our wish list. Unfortunately none of the houses we viewed ticked every box. The house we bought came closest but didn't have a conservatory so we took the decision to add one ourselves and borrowed extra money to cover the cost.

Not having done our homework quite as thoroughly as we needed to we didn't borrow enough to cover and have taken out additional borrowings for the complete package - after all we'd have looked pretty silly if we couldn't pay for all the glass wouldn't we :o)

So the rest of the household is now on economy drive mode! Belt-tightening is most definitely the order of the day for the foreseeable future

I've taken the decision that everyone will receive homemade presents this year starting with my sister's birthday this month

When Lorna was down in the summer she purloined bits of my old cross stitch fabric etc and started a celtic knotwork design in burgundy on cream to go in her new living room - she loves Scotland and Ireland and is very fond of this type of design

So her birthday present from us will be a couple of cushion covers with the centre pieces of the two knotwork designs you see above which I've merrily stitched this weekend in front of the tv - I shall surround them with a very fine burgundy border (about quarter inch) and then a 2" border of the same cream with fine gold spot

Now I have to decide what to make for the other family members for Christmas - no pressure there then eh!?!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A lovely send-off!

"Somehow in the depths I feel sure that life is continuous through the grave. It is like a stitch of embroidery which appears above the canvas, runs along and is seen, then dips back below out of sight. The thread, the wool is continuous and only appears to disappear. Indeed I had a strong feeling that only humans need starts and finishes, beginnings and endings. In the real spiritual world there are no starts and ends, all space, time and life are boundless and eternal."
Peter Tatton Brown (From Quaker Faith and Practice 22.85)

This was one of the readings at Cicely's celebration service yesterday. A very fitting passage for a lady who spent much of the last third of her life with a needle in her hand. God Bless Her

Looking around other people's blogs I came across a lovely bag on Dawn's blog

I've always wanted to make a bag to take all my bits and pieces to quilting group on Mondays. I've looked at lots of ideas, discarded most of them as I hate following patterns and generally coped with dragging everything along in a supermarket carrier bag - not very stylish!

So when I spotted Dawn's bag I thought aha! this is something I could have a go at and here is the result - a bucket style bag with the oval base size and shape determined by a pyrex casserole dish I just happened to have in the cupboard :o)

Of course being the 'dash in and get on with it without thinking it out first' kinda girl I always am I didn't bother to read Dawn's comments that went with her picture til after I'd started stitching - so I made a little extra work for myself having to sandwich and quilt the fabric afterwards instead of adding strips to the wadding and backing as she had done 'quilt as you go' fashion - mental note to remember that for next time.

The sharpest eyed of you might spot the orphan block leftover from my ostrich second row, and of course I already had all the homespun/folk art type fabrics out for that too so I cobbled this together from them over the past couple of days in and amongst lunch out with friends on Thursday and of course Cicely's service yesterday.

It's very simple - no fancy clever pockets or fastenings like Dawn's but it's ideal for keeping whatever I'm working on at present in an easily identifiable holder to just pick up and grab as I go out of the door to quilting

Might even have a go at something similar for a surprise Christmas present I have to make :o)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Funeral Attire :o)

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago our recently departed group leader has requested that all of us who knew her through quilting should wear something depicting patchwork and quilting to her funeral.

A bit of a poser for me as I've made loads of quilts but nothing wearable - no lovely waistcoats or bags or anything.

So what to wear - I did think about wearing my Somerset County Quilters badge as that is where I first met her but felt on its own it wouldn't make the statement she so obviously wanted us all to make

I was pondering in bed last night, during those gentle moments before sleep, about making something at such short notice - the funeral is Friday - and realised that a waistcoat is most definitely out of the question, firstly because of lack of time, secondly because I don't have a decent pattern and thirdly because I couldn't be sure of getting it to fit and would have been really miffed after putting in all that work for it not to fit properly.

I finally decided on a sash to wear over my normal dark funeral outfit and then came the question of what to make it from

It just so happened that I was going to make a wall-hanging for our lounge and had put together a number of 4" blocks in a ziplock bag

Perfect - I'd sash between them, add a backing and Voila! the result you see above :o) pinned together with the afore mentioned badge - absolutely fit for purpose - I think she'd like it :o)

Just as an aside - the church has granted her family permission to hang all her quilts in the church for her funeral - a really fitting tribute

Treats of different kinds

Halloween isn't anything like the big event that American kids delight in on this side of the pond. People seldom bother to decorate their houses or even their front doors and porches.

English kids have only cottoned on to the whole concept of Trick or Treating in the past decade or so.

Sadly in some towns with the older teenagers it degenerates into groups of them paining the life out of any old dears they don't really like with the emphasis most definitely on trick rather than treat.

The main local news story on the tv last night was about Avon and Somerset Police force mobilising every officer they have to counter the nuisance element of gangs of young people marauding round throwing eggs and flour at houses and generally showing anti social behaviour. I'd like to think this is only a minority element but nevertheless it is a real nuisance factor later in the evening in some urban areas. It's a shame that the situation has escalated to this extent - indeed some shops and newspapers have been providing posters for people to display asking 'Please - no trick or treaters at this house' - understandable, but still a damning indictment of the way the generations interact in some parts of our land.

Fortunately for us on our little estate we don't see any of that - we do sometimes get groups of youngsters hanging out in the park behind our house after dark but they're generally un-threatening and don't pose us any problem. As a nation we are appallingly bad at providing fun things for kids to do to keep them out of mischief - people generally agree in principle that there should be more skate parks, youth clubs, activity zones etc but when push comes to shove they don't want them 'in their back yard' and aren't prepared to help with the provision.

It was with my heart in my mouth that I allowed Nick and Lou aged almost 11 and 9 1/2 to go out with two of Nick's 10 year old mates just around our little estate to trick or treat for an hour or so - the first year they've gone on their own. I also had a mixing bowl of goodies on the hall cupboard ready for any little people who might call here. It's always difficult to know how far to allow them a little freedom and independence.

We only probably had a dozen or so kids call on us, plus our own who called in on the way round, but they were all very polite and it was such fun to see them all dressed up

It occurred to me about ten minutes before they were due to go out that the only thing I could find for them to collect their treats in were supermarket carrier bags - I mean, what sort of mother does that make me? So as I had some black starry fabric from another project to hand and a piece of lovely orange space dyed fabric too I rustled up a couple of bags for them - DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT look closely as there are no edges finished off and I used the selvedge strips for handles. They served as a temporary stop-gap for the evening - in fact Lou did tell me she was worried that hers might not hold together once full of goodies (I did say they were thrown together) so I shall make them some proper ones for next year - but they were delighted with them and my elder daughter just shook her head and laughed with incredulity at me just throwing something together in a couple of ticks - she obviously doesn't know me as well as she thinks she does.

As you can see from the other picture the Rugby Baby Quilt is completed for Sarah's Coaches new arrival. Jack Cockayne entered the world last Wednesday at 8pm weighing in at 9lb 9ozs - no small chap there - definitely destined to be in the pack! The irony of him arriving right in the middle of training was not lost on the girls. We did have a quick peek at him on Sunday afternoon when his parents brought him down to the club for his inaugural visit. Jenny (his mum) will be at training tonight so I had a deadline for the quilt - I completed it last night and am very pleased with the result. I decided on a big meander all over in a thin white thread and I think it's worked pretty well. Hope they like it too!

Better news with my Dad - the CT scan of his head showed no abnormalities - and as a bonus they have decided he still does have a head and a brain! :o) Result!!!

He had his angiogram yesterday which shows a couple of vessels in need of angioplasty - this will be carried out probably next week in Sheffield and, as his heart had a funny racing session while they were in there looking, his consultant is also considering putting in a pacemaker at the same time - they feel that the irregular heart rhythm is most probably what is causing his funny turns and the pacemaker will help with all this

When the picture wasn't quite so bright a few days ago I broached the subject of their accommodation with both my mum and my brother (at present they rent his old terraced house complete with steep staircase and no downstairs bath or loo). They are on a waiting list for sheltered accommodation down here near us and have been since they lived in the wilds of West Cumbria before they moved to their present home.

However the good news is that the medical team are of the opinion that once these procedures have been carried out Dad should actually feel considerably better than he has for some time and that the stairs shouldn't pose any problem. Catastrophe averted for the time being

I am of the opinion though that we should still continue investigations for something more suitable eventually, whether it's near me or my brother - my sister is worse than useless and would be of little help or support. So I shall continue with my covert investigations and broach the subject with them at a future more appropriate time.