Monday 25 September 2017

A little of this and that

I keep hearing stories that the UK is supposed to have an Indian summer but I'm starting to think it's just that..a story. When I headed out of town this morning it was grey, very cool and raining. It looked and felt more like a winters day than late September. It was a little better on the way back home but not enough to get me excited.  I love trying to drag out summer for as long as possible but I also like to be warm so I hunted out my thinner jumpers and my sweatshirts in anticipation of cooler days. In the cooler days of autumn, particularly when driving I'd rather wear a jumper than turn the car heating up. Back in the spring as the weather was warming up I went through my wardrobe and got rid of a lot of skirts and tops that had been around a very long time. I told myself this would galvanise me into making some clothes over the summer in preparation for the winter. Well that didn't happen but I did start a green jacket. 

The jacket was made to the point where the lining needed to be added and since then it has sat around hoping eventually to be finished. When I bought the main fabric I didn't purchase the lining fabric and it was a while before I got to the shop. However the lining and the buttons were bought quite a time back but still the project hasn't moved forward so today I hunted out the lining and got it cut out. It didn't take long as there were only 4 pattern pieces. I couldn't go any further with that as Lucy was back at the dinning table working on her dissertation. She's in work on Wednesday and I'm on a day off so I'll stitch the lining together then.

At the weekend I made apple chutney and I forgot to show you the completed jars. It made about 4 pounds of chutney. There were two small jars but Richard has already given one to a friend. The chutney is perfect with pork and I love it on sandwiches with cheese.

It wasn't until I took the photo that I realised I hadn't wiped the drips off the one jar properly. The outside of the jar is now sticky free. As well as our two miniature apple trees we have a crab apple tree. John picked a lot of the apples yesterday and the plan is to make crab apple jelly. I've never made Crab apple jelly or any type of jelly preserves before and I'm not sure I've tasted it either. This will be an interesting experiment.

I sat and had a little nap with Scamp once I'd cut out the lining as last night was rather disturbed. When I lived in a more rural area of England I very rarely saw any foxes but here in London you often see them. They are right scavengers and argue amongst themselves quite loudly when trying to get scraps out of the bins. Last night they succeeded in getting into one of the rubbish bin across the road and made a huge mess and a lot of noise whilst they did it. The foxes woke up Picasso and Scamp who woke me and John up. I hate having a disturbed nights sleep, it leaves you feeling very dull the next day.

After my nap, I decided to work on Mathilda. I plan on finishing her handbag, stick and her hand this evening. I'm working again tomorrow and it will be a long day so I probably won't feel much like stitching tomorrow evening. Still haven't found the blue thread to finish her coat but I've got all the other threads I need.

It's also time I did some stitching on my Christmas tree cross stitch but I need to finish Mathilda first.


Sunday 24 September 2017

A fun evening

Yesterday evening was the annual harvest supper and barn dance at our local church. It's always a fun event and a chance to catch up with folks that we don't see very often. I remembered to take my camera with me which was great until I tried to use it. The little message on the screen told me I had forgotten to put the memory card back in when I downloaded the last lot of photos. Grrr it's annoying that my memory is still letting me down but thanks to the wonders of my smart phone i was able to capture the occasion

When we arrived there was a dance about to begin and it all looked peaceful as everyone listened and walked through the dance. 

Once the music started and the dance was underway total chaos ensued as people got their left and their right mixed up and forgot all the instructions. The caller kept on calling out what to do but it became a do your own moves dance.

The important bit was that no one got annoyed and we all spent the evening laughing, so much so that as we walked home at the end of the evening I commented how much my sides hurt from all the laughter.

The hall is part of the church which is a very large Victorian building. Many years back the south aisle was turned into a hall with stage. During weekdays it's used by a nursery and in the evening and weekends provides the venue for social functions and meetings.If I'd remembered to turn and take a photo behind me you would have seen the 'bar' where those of us who had just arrived were enjoying a drink before joining in with the next dance.

The supper was very tasty with chicken curry, vegetable chilli or lasagna. I think most of us opted for a little of everything. There was also a great variety of desserts to chose from. I would have taken a photo to show you but we were all too busy eating and chatting to think of it.

Today was the Harvest service in the church and I loved the floral arrangement. perfect for harvest and Autumn. It looks very simple but very effective.

Walking to the common I spotted a couple of trees with lovely autumnal coloured leaves.

Most of the trees are still sporting green leaves or the leaves have just turned brown, curled up and dropped off. I'm reliably informed this is because there wasn't a lot of rain earlier in the summer and back in the spring. For the leaves to give the glorious autumn colours the trees need a good intake of water early in the growing season.

On the common there are several clumps of these pretty Neapolitan Cyclamen. They aren't wild so have either escaped from a local garden or more likely been planted here by a local resident.

You can see what I meant by the leaves just turning straight to brown. Last weekend the tree above this clump was covered in green leaves and now its branches have some green leaves but the rest have turned brown and dropped off.

Today being Sunday it's time for some hand stitching. I did a little earlier today but this evening I shall enjoy some more stitching and I'm hoping to find something fun to watch on TV whilst I do it. Currently there are a lot of repeats being shown prior to the new season of shows starting in October. I'm not adverse to repeats but get a little cranky when they show the same thing every other week.  Anyway here's what I stitched earlier today on Mathilda. 

I must hunt out the blue thread I was using for her coat. I put it somewhere and now can't find it. I think Scamp may have hidden it as he gets grumpy when I'm hand stitching. He likes to sit on my lap in an evening and he's perfectly happy with me stitching so long as the fabric doesn't touch him. If it does he gets up and turns round which means i have to stop stitching whilst he resettles himself. If it happens a few times he jumps down and finds somewhere to curl up very small and behaves as if he's been told off.

Although it's Sunday, a day for slow stitching I may get my machine out. Lucy has commandeered the dinning table for work on her Masters dissertation but she has finished what she wanted to get done today and gone out to meet up with friends so I should be able to get some sewing in. She's in the final stages of finalising everything and proof reading as it is due in on the 2nd October. After that I can have the table back for sewing but next week I want to give her space to finish her work.

This weekend was the first weekend of ignoring work and getting on with family life. I'm pleased to say I haven't opened my work bag or my work emails. I did spend a couple of minutes considering my travel choices for tomorrow as I am going to a meetings at one of the hospital Trusts that we provide training for, but that was for my own comfort and peace of mind. You can't leave your travel arrangements until the last minute.

I'm linking this post with Kathy of Kathy's Quilts for her Slow Sunday Stitching link up. Pop over and see what everyone's been up to this week.


Saturday 23 September 2017

Work gets in the way of fun

I had a lot of fun during my two weeks sick leave following surgery. I had minimal pain and nothing that paracetamol wouldn't deal with and I had some strange altered sensations due to nerves being damaged or cut but other than that I felt very well and was able to enjoy my time at home. Before you all start telling me I should have rested let me assure you I did. I have very little difficulties with sleeping at night except when I don't get enough exercise and I was able to go out for a walk every day. I took time out to read and watch TV and also to enjoy some sewing time. Projects started to move forward and I finished my Mariners compass top. Because I am so well I decided to go back to work not because I can't do without work but because I have new groups of students starting the course in the week beginning 3rd October and I need to make sure all the preparations are complete. Explaining to someone else what you want done is more time consuming than doing it yourself and certainly more tiring so I went back to work. I'm slowly getting everything finalised for my new groups and my current groups are very happy I was only missing for a short time. However it is surprising how quickly you get into a routine at home and therefore how much you can achieve. I allowed myself time each day for piecing blocks and some time for hand sewing. Last week I missed sitting in our living room with Scamp on my lap hand sewing. Our room faces south so on sunny days it is filled with light and just makes you feel very happy. I will get back to that happy place again as I sort out some urgent jobs which includes marking. The marking came in on 1st September, whilst I was off sick but it was waiting for me on my return so that took priority over everything. Once these urgent jobs are sorted I have a plan.

My plan is very straight forward. Once the marking is done for this round weekends become a private time filled with me and John plus our family when they want to join us. This was always our rule years ago when the children were small but once they were grown up we didn't always stick to it but from now on only major or catastrophic work emergencies will sway me from my plan. This gives us time for going away, for walking, theatres, exhibitions, cosy dinners and our hobbies. Work has seriously got in the way of my hobbies for long enough and it is going to stop. I don't mind doing some work on a weekday evening since as a teacher at any level it is difficult to fit everything into a working day. However even work in an evening is going to have a cut off time so I can chill out before bedtime.

Today, Saturday is the first day of my plan. The two weeks I've been back at work have been hectic but I'm more or less organised. In order to relax during the evenings I've been doing a little hand stitching. I love hand stitching and have a range of projects on the go but mainly over the last two weeks I've been working on Mathilda, one of the bag ladies. I made a start on her last week and here's where I left her.

I've been busy and tired so some days there has been no stitching and on others only a few stitches have been added but I'm pleased with how Mathilda is progressing.

In the garden we have two miniature apple trees and this year we have had a good crop of apples from them. One of the trees is a cox's Orange Pippin variety and the other is a Russet. The crop was so good that I needed to use up some of the apples and so today I made apple chutney. First I needed to peel, core and dice the apples.

That was soon done and then it was onto the onions, all 1.4 Kg of them 

By the time I'd peeled them my eyes were streaming and so I pulled my trusty food processor from the cupboard. No chopping onions for me, the peeled onions were cut into smaller chunks and had soon been turned into small chopped pieces. Using the processor for this job is so worth it even though it means I have to wash the blade. I'm always pleased if I manage this job without incident.

It was then a quick job to add the sultanas, demerara sugar, lemon juice and malt vinegar before putting it on the hob and bringing it to the boil. Whilst I'm writing this it is simmering nicely and will be finished in the not too distant future.

Whilst stirring the chutney I was gazing fondly at my kitchen tiles which I just love because they look like mini quilts. This is the wall behind my cooker.

I had hoped to go to my local fabric shop today as I need some fabric for a border so I can get a top finished but I'm not sure I'll have time and I think I may add another row of blocks to increase the size. I'm also not sure if I love it enough to finish it up at the moment so it may just be folded back up and put away in the cupboard. The top was made using scraps for the rainbow Scrap challenge in either 2015 or 2016 The hexagons are appliqued onto the background fabric.

This evening we're going to a harvest supper and barn dance. This is an annual fund raising event and we usually go. The food is always excellent, there's wine, beer and soft drinks and of course lots of dancing. We're going to walk to the venue so I hope the rain holds off. I'll tell you about it tomorrow and hopefully I'll remember to take my camera with me this year.

Lucy is sitting at the dining table working on her dissertation for her Masters. It's due in on the 2nd October and she is looking forward to catching up on her sleep once she's finished it. It's never easy when you're working and studying at the same time. It does mean of course that I can't get my sewing machine out at the moment so the weekend will see more hand stitching..

I think my chutney has reached the point of being ready to bottle so I'd better go and sort that out. I can't wait to taste the finished product.


Saturday 9 September 2017

A quiet Saturday

It's two  weeks since I had surgery and today I had to make a decision, was I up to a 9 mile walk? Now normally I'd have jumped at the activity but I think I may have finally discovered that I'm no longer 20 years old. I can hear cheers from my family but I feel it's only fair to warn them that the discovery will probably fade from my mind over time. Anyway back to the walk. Each year our church has a walk in aid of the Children's Society and today was the day. The walk is usually about 8 to 10 miles but there are usually points where you can cut out early if the distance is too great. I've done some of the previous walks but looking at the statistics, more often than not the walk has been very wet. Now I'm not adverse to walking in rain especially if I'm only walking 4 or 5 miles. Walking 9 miles in bad weather is a whole different game. The forecast for the day was very wet with thunder storms so Scamp and I made the decision to stay home. I had a few jobs I needed to do, a trip to the vet to pick up some food for Scamp and Picasso, go the post office and the pharmacist. Otherwise the day was my own.

I decided to get the chores done first so Scamp and I headed out to pick up the pet food. The company that make the food have a loyalty scheme. They give £5 off the first months supply and then the 6th purchase is free. When we got to the vet I realised I'd left the card at home so we had to go back and get it before I could get the food but it was worth it as this months supply was free. Next the post office, the pharmacist and a quick stop at a couple of shops in town to check out the new skirts and jumpers that had come in. I didn't find anything I wanted or needed in the shops but I enjoyed looking.

Next I got the machine out and made the next block for the Austen family album quilt. This makes 16 blocks completed.

I had to unpick a couple of the seams as the points just weren't working. I'm reasonably happy with them now. I had intended making a second block but it started to rain and there was some thunder. Scamp gets very nervous when it thunders so I had to spend time playing with him to calm him down. Picasso is totally different as he loves thunder and particularly enjoys sitting at the window watching the lightening.

Once the storm had passed Scamp settled down on my lap for a sleep so I made a start on Matilda, the September bag lady. I started with her coat but didn't get very far as Scamp was so warm and cuddly that I ended up asleep as well.

This is the 9th bag lady but so far I have only finished 3. 

Another 2 bag ladies are very near being finished and I think I may be able to get at least one of them done this month.

When John got home from the walk he told me they had only had rain for a few minutes over the day and otherwise they had sunshine. Seems Scamp and I would have missed the thunder storm if we had gone walking. 

Tomorrow I plan on cutting out the next two blocks for the Austen quilt but I'll leave the sewing until Monday. I want to sort my scraps a little as they are starting to get out of hand and if I have time I want to look at the instructions for my dolls house. The house was my Christmas present a couple of years ago but because we have been doing a lot of work on our house it is still in the box. it would be great to get it out and start work on it.

Please stay safe if you are in the areas of the hurricanes or bush fires.


Friday 8 September 2017

Mariner's Compass Top

I'm feeling very pleased with myself today as I finished the Mariner's Compass top. John bought me this kit for my  2016 Christmas present 

The kit was featured in Today's Quilter and was the result of a collaboration between The Quilter's Guild of the British Isles and Marcus Fabrics. The Guild has built up a collection of antique and contemporary quilts from around the British Isles. One of the pieces in the collection, the Mariner's Compass Coverlet provided the inspiration for the quilt and the fabric range.

The Mariner's Coverlet was made by Mary Dennis who was a farmer's daughter. She made the coverlet before her marriage to Richard Cann in 1828.The quilt inspired a fabric line called Elizabeth's Dowry and Sally Ablett used it to design and make the compass quilt.

Today I finished the cornerstones and added the final borders. I lay it on my bed to take a photo since the rain had set in so no  chance of a photo outside.

I'm pleased with how this quilt has worked. there are a lot of points involved and whilst one or two of them are not completely accurate, the majority of them are. I was worried by the 80 flying geese needed but in the end even they went together easily. This top will now be put away for some time as I need to rest my right arm following surgery and build up my muscle strength slowly. I'm not to lift anything heavy for two to three months and with the size of this quilt once the quilt sandwich has been made it's going to be too heavy for me to handle easily.  

My other sewing today was to make another block for the Austen family album quilt. The block still needs to be trimmed but I'll do that once I've finished making them all.

I'm linking this post with Amanda Jean for Finish it up Friday


Thursday 7 September 2017

Work in Progress

If you have several projects in progress how do you decide which to work on at any point in time? Do you start something new and just leave your previous projects hanging or are you someone who works on projects for a specified time period and then switches to something else? Maybe the question should be why do we start a new project before finishing up the current one. I've spent quite a bit of time thinking about my projects and how I approach them over this year. When having chemotherapy I found some projects more relaxing and less tiring than others to work on. At times I couldn't work out how to put together complex blocks or follow knitting patterns, the effect of chemo brain. Then I may have felt unwell when i worked on a particular project so put it to one side. Add to that feeling generally tired which made me lose interest in working on any of my projects. In short there is a whole mountain of reasons why projects end up at the bottom of pile waiting to be worked on.

On Monday I decided I needed to get back to sewing and thought I'd just go through my various projects.  The first bag I pulled out had the blocks I'd made for the Austen family album quilt. I had forgotten about these 11 blocks and lay them out on my bed to see what they looked like. Over the day I made block 12. The blocks finish at 12 inches and generally make up quite quickly. There are 24 blocks to make and if I made one a day the top could be finished by October.  So today I decided to make a couple of blocks.

Unfortunately the colours are not showing as they do real life. Tomorrow I'm hoping to make two more blocks.

Yesterday I had my follow up appointment with my surgeon. The surgery cleared the bit of the cancer that was left with a wide margin of healthy normal tissue round it. The wound is healing nicely and I am feeling really well. I'm going to be having radiotherapy in October to help reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Yesterday evening we took a family trip to our local dosa restaurant to celebrate the success of my treatment to date and to enjoy a family evening before the next stage. My hair is also starting to regrow. I've had short baby soft hair for a while but it is now thickening up and starting to gain length. It needs to grow faster as the cooler weather leaves my head feeling really cold but I do love my fluffy head and prefer it to wearing my wig.

The other project I want to finish in the near future is my mariner's compass quilt. Here's the last photo I showed you.

Since then I have completed the flying geese blocks and attached two sides of this border. I need to make the cornerstones in order to add the other two sides. Once that is done there is just a final border to add to complete the top. There is no piecing involved in the final border but I do need to cut the strips for it. Following my surgery I am not allowed to lift anything heavy with my right arm so once the top is complete this project will be put away until after I have completed my radiotherapy at the very earliest. 

I've been watching the news about hurricane Irma and the destruction it has caused so far. My thoughts are with all of you affected and I pray you all stay safe.


Tuesday 5 September 2017

Kandersteg, Switzerland.

I said I'd tell you a bit about our trip to Kandersteg, Switzerland. The Scout county that covers some of the same area as our Guide county does an international trip roughly every 4 years. They invite Guides from our county to join them and for the last 5 trips I've gone to Kandersteg and Lucy has been on the last 4 trips. Kandersteg is in the Bernese Oberland and is located at 1200 metres above sea level. In the summer people go to Kandersteg for the walking it offers and in the winter the winter sports take over. It is surrounded by high mountains, with The Balmhorn being the highest at 3,698 metres (12,133 feet) Kandersteg itself is a village with approximately 1200 inhabitants. Tourism is its main trade as the scenery is spectacular. The Kandersteg International Scout Centre (KISC) is about a half hour walk from the village and this is where we were based. Our trip was under canvas for the 10 days but the centre does have some indoor accommodation. This is the main chalet on the site.

This second building was the main base for our expedition team and acted as a place where we could get tea and coffees plus fabulous cake and enjoy a few minutes adult time away from our youth members. It also had internet (limited) and leaders could recharge our phones which was vital as they were the emergency numbers for the girls and their parents. The girls loved having a mountain in the back garden!

KISC is the World Centre of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement and was started in 1923. Whilst there we encouraged our girls to go and meet scouts from as many countries as possible. The crew who work at the centre are also from around the world. This is Andrew looping up the rope following our Jacob's ladder activity. He is from Ghana and was very excited as one of our guides is from Ghana and she was the only person he had met from Ghana during the summer. On our last day he came to our camp site and gave the international scout scarf of Ghana to her which made her very happy.

We travelled to Switzerland on Tuesday 8th August, leaving Heathrow in rain and landing in Geneva in rain. When we finally arrived at the camp site we pitched our tents in rain. Rain was the on and off story of the first 3 days

We had a quiet day on the Wednesday so we could all get used to the altitude. The girls took part in a backwoods workshop and cooked dampers over open fires and built shelters whilst we confirmed our activities and got the campsite sorted how we wanted it. We took the girls into the village in the afternoon going the back route along the river and after this if they had free time they were able to go into the village without a leader so long as they went in small groups.

On Thursday it was still raining but we had overnight hikes booked. The older girls were going with Lucy and a mountain guide up to a mountain hut. Once there they were going to do some rock climbing on the mountain, sleep overnight in the hut and next day hike back to base via 3 valleys. They set off in fine spirits despite the rain but ended up hiking in snow. All groups were called off the mountain due to the bad weather but as they were nearer the hut than base they went on. They spent the night there with two groups of scouts before walking down the next day. No climbing or 3 valley hike.

They had the group duck mascot with them and posed next day before heading back. By then the snow had stopped and it was back to rain. Here's a photo of the hut.

Although they missed out on the climbing and main hike they learnt a lot about themselves and what they are capable of. One learnt that she doesn't like snow! The mountain leader said it was the hardest hike they had done because of the weather. Especially in August the snow here arrives very quickly but also melts quickly as the weather improves. Meanwhile John and I took the younger girls along the Gasternal valley to Seldon. We got very wet but didn't have any snow. Unfortunately I left my camera back at our base camp. By the time we all arrived back at camp on the Friday afternoon the rain had stopped and the sun appeared.

Saturday morning we had booked the Jacob's ladder.  Several of the girls made it to the top but I kept my feet firmly on the ground. From Saturday onward the weather improved and we enjoyed sunshine and high temperatures. We enjoyed watching the mountains appear from the clouds in the morning.

We all went on a trip into Bern during our second week. This is a beautiful old town

We came across giant painted Saint Bernard dogs across the city. This was part of their 2017 art exhibition and there were 102 dogs on display. I didn't see all of them but the ones I saw were fun and colourful

We spent some time at the Bear Garden. This is a large terraced enclosure for the bears of Bern. They were very obliging and wandered round and even took a swim so we could take photos. Then they settled down in the shade for a nap.

The bear garden is next to the river and we sat by the water to eat our lunch. The girls sat on the river bank cooling their feet in the water.  

Many of the old buildings had beautiful decorations on them

There were also a lot of fountains.

Lucy missed out on the trip to Bern as she had an essay she needed to finish. John and I enjoyed looking round the town and the cathedral and then found ourselves a good coffee shop. The girls were allowed to go off on their own so long as they stayed in small groups of no less than 3. The older girls headed to the shops to eye up Switzerland's latest fashions and to get themselves coffees.

We went on an evolving alps hike where we learnt how the alps had been formed. At first the girls thought this would be a bit too much like school but Belinda our guide, who was from France, soon had them enjoying the hike as she gave them fun activities to do every time we stopped. The hike took us to an open meadow area at the Hotel Waldhaus

There were a lot of waterfalls and this waterspout

At the Hotel Waldhaus we enjoyed a cup of Swiss hot chocolate here before we continued our hike. This is the last hotel in Switzerland that is not on the electricity grid. I love all the cow bells at the front of the hotel.

Outside was this cute carved owl

This was the inside of the dining room of the hotel. More bells on display.

Cows walking along the jousts. I love these carved cows.

In the corner was a large cut out figure of the owner's son who breeds and shows the cows that were enjoying the lush grass in the meadow around the hotel. 

I hope you enjoyed sharing these photo. The girls had a great time and we will be joining the expedition again in 4 years time.