Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Family Therapy

I am not going to discuss opinions in favour or against the Public Sector walkout today, other than to say that the girls' school was closed and they had a day at home with me. In my mind it is sort of like a snow day - nothing has to be done, and lots of fun to be had. It is a gift of time to be enjoyed.

With me staying off the computer as much as possible, and away from the sewing machine, there was certainly lots of time to do things in. The three of us went off to town this morning and stocked up on some necessary food items for tonight, and new slippers. How nice that you can make your children grin and be happy with new slippers!

Home again and it was straight to the kitchen for us. Lunch was first on the agenda. Emily and I whipped up a no kneading, no rising 'bread'. It is full of cheese, ham and spring onion so really like lunch in one big dough ball.

 If we tried this recipe again I would make it a much flatter ball to aid the cooking in the middle, but it was tasty and very, very filling!

Then I set the girls to work on dinner. They were willing participants and also well rehearsed in the art of making Japanese gyoza dumplings so I let them get on with it. An hour later we had four dozen dumplings for cooking later (No, we will never manage to eat that many!) and I had been able to get on with something else.

Dumpling factory.
First tray produced.
My job while they did dumplings was to turn Emily into an angel - no mean feat! We were lucky enough for her to be given a gorgeous white, frilly Monsoon dress recently and this was the basis for her school play angel costume. All I needed to do was add some wings and a halo. Some netting, feather trim and elastic plus a little hand stitching and the job was done.

Stripy socks optional!

I am hoping they deem her enough of an angel, rather than fairy princess, and this is acceptable. Because I really don't want to go out and buy a costume that will disappear in a heap at the bottom of the wardrobe for ever and ever the day after the play has been performed. If they prefer a silver halo I can get some tinsel, and she does have white tights and sparkly shoes. Fingers crossed that they are happy with this.

And that is all I am doing today. Other than cook dumplings and a few small bits to go with them for our dinner. I have stayed away from the computer as much as I am capable of over the past few days. I do appreciate the wonderfully kind comments you have sent me. I am very thankful for the friends I have made through this blog. You lot make me smile. Thanks!


Tuesday, 29 November 2011

It's All About Me, Me, Me

What a crock! Of course it is not all about me, me, me. We all have equal share of this world, and if one of us doesn't feel up to par and wants to stop playing for a day (or two) then this world will not stop. It will keep on turning and everyone will keep on getting on with their lives. Which is a good thing. And it keeps things in prospective.

So, I have decided to take your kindly given advice and step off the merry-go-round today. Enough of pushing myself and feeling grumpy because of it. In the scheme of things one day is not so important. And if a Christmas present is late, it is still sent with love and - hopefully - received with love as well. Again, the world will not stop. If I feel grotty and go back to bed and stay there most of the day I will benefit from the rest. Everyone else will benefit from the silence!

Thank you for all the kind comments. I am not ill. Really, I don't think so. And I apologise for bringing my grump into this space. Right, that's it for today then, I'm off to bed. I leave you with this sage piece of advice - Do not baste a quilt when you are in a mood like this. You will only have to redo it. I am living proof because the backing of said basted quilt has more wrinkles than I do! Not the look I wanted for the quilt or me.


Monday, 28 November 2011

Backing Track

Today I have dedicated to sorting out the backing for the Etchings quilt top. Easier said than done because somehow this quilt has turned out bigger than planned (if ever there was a plan) at about 60" square. I had the yardage for the backing, but needed to sew in a pieced bit to make up the difference between the width of the fabric and the width of the quilt. The problem lay in the fact that I had little fabric left and no budget to get more.

So I gathered every last scrap together. Including the half pieces from either end of the sewn together jelly roll strips from piecing the front.

I stitched my little heart out, searching for more scraps as I went. Eventually I came up with two strips which I have sewn into the backing fabric.

I know it is quite a mishmash, but I think I did okay with what I had. All that's left now is basting, quilting, and the binding - for which I have seven jelly roll strips to use for that purpose. Should take me no time at all. (Yeah, right!)

I am sorry I am sounding a little apathetic. I would prefer to be sleeping if truth be told. Thank you for all the kind comments I received. I haven't responded to many emails yet, but I do believe that I am not ill so much as a little bit run down. Oh, I do hate that phrase! I'll be right as rain in a day or two. And I did get unexpected post today which really brightened my mood. Because who wouldn't be brighter when faced with a package containing this -

The lovely Catherine, over at Sew Wonderful Life, sent it as a thank you for organising the Modern Christmas Tablerunner Swap. Just the fact that the swap seems to have been a success and I was so lucky to have the most wonderful bunch of women sign up and participate so actively was enough for me. But I never say no to chocolate (as some of you may know) and aren't those gingerbread men just adorable? The girls are going to fall in love with them when they come home from school! So a huge thank you to Catherine for the treat and for cheering up a rather dull day.


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Borders On

I think that my body has been exposed to the combined germs in this family for long enough. It is rebelling. Last night I was in bed before the girls and this morning I couldn't have dragged myself out of bed again for love nor money. I dosed, and I read, and I dosed some more. This is not a common occurrence. Usually as soon as I wake up I get up.

When you start your day at 11am you do not get a lot done. But if you are with your family, laughing a lot, and listening to your children playing schools for hours on end this is no bad thing. I have been delighted in the girls play today because I just love that sometimes the age old games are the best and they have been playing the same game for three hours now. Their soft toys are getting quite an education, and himself and I got told off for being too loud!

The Sunday dinner is slow roasting in the oven and the house smells good once again. For those of you who are curious, this week it is lamb belly. If you like lamb and you don't like the price of lamb then try this cut sometime. It is far cheaper. It needs a long, slow roast to melt away the fat and leave your with meltingly tender lamb. Much like you would cook belly pork - without the crackling!

I was going to veg in front of the telly and watch some recorded programs - Kirstie's Handmade Britain - or something. But it went against the grain to have nothing to show for the day other than a full belly. So I finished the quilt top instead.

It needs a bit of an iron, as the border is not as ripply as it appears here. I do think that the red border has made all the difference and helped the stronger colours pop out at you. Some of my cornerstones around the edge look great.

Some, less so.

But this desire to sleep rather than do must have addled my brain, because I really don't care. I am happy with the way this quilt top is looking and believe it will make a nice Christmas present. My desire for perfection has been overridden by apathy contentment.

So I have folded up the top, turned off the sewing machine and iron, and I am going to go finish the dinner so I can put my feet up and relax. Watching Formula 1 - silly me forgot to plan ahead for my viewing pleasure! But it is the last of the season so I guess I can snooze through it.


Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Typical Saturday

Around here any given Saturday is busy. Well, for me at least. Today would be no different. Hit the floor running and keep going. But it has been a good day so not complaining, just getting on with things. Laundry, dishes, making soup for lunch, and then - horror of horrors - cleaning up the dining room as my MIL was coming for lunch. Sorting out a myriad of fabric scraps and counting the days until I get my storage unit for Christmas. I even hoovered in there. I need a sewing room with a wooden floor that I can sweep. For one, I hate that sound the hoover makes when it finds a pin in the carpet. Eeuuggh! And I hate the very thought that another pin has managed to fall without being noticed.

But all that is beside the fact. Tidy my sewing space I did. If I am perfectly honest - it needed it. It needed it very badly so maybe my MIL coming for lunch was a good thing. It made me get on with something I had been ignoring for far too long.

Whilst all this was going on I was also supervising Emily in her baking. It was her turn today. She got right to it this morning, still in her pyjamas.

No prizes for guessing what sort of cake.
And that undone button just makes me smile.

Next came dance. Into Banbury I went with Emily. And was I excited, because I saw something that I have heard many of you talk about but had never seen myself. Just opened in Banbury is a Dunhelm Mill. Right, spill  your guts, what is the best things to look for there and how good are the savings? I have heard the name of this shop so many times and now I have one of my own (sort of, well you know what I mean).

Home to feed the lot of them, and then to sample Emily's cake. Which was brilliant. Both girls are now more than capable of producing cakes as good as anything I make.

After my MIL headed home, and everyone else distracted, I managed to make something and get it into the freezer before anyone could notice. I am very proud of this because if any of them had realised that I was making sausage rolls the numbers would have been decimated. I like to get things like this into the freezer in advance so that when Christmas rolls round it is as stress free as possible. Sausage rolls are the easiest thing in the world to make and way better if you make them yourself - in my opinion.

2 packs of ready rolled puff pastry, a half dozen sausages and one egg.
Unroll one sheet of pastry, brush with beaten egg, then remove the sausage skins and spread the meat of three sausages out along with width of the pastry evenly spaced apart.

Cut the pasty between the rows of meat, and roll each strip into a tube. Brush the outside with beaten egg, lightly slash the top on the diagonal with a sharp knife and then cut into eight portions.
Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and place in the oven (200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6) until golden brown.
In no time flat you have yourself four dozen sausage rolls ready for freezing.
One more item ticked off the list of things to do before Christmas.
I am sleepy tired now. It is just 4:30pm but completely dark outside. I could try and motivate myself to do some sewing now, but I don't think I will. Supper to cook soon. I'm happy with what I managed to accomplish. That's enough for today.


Friday, 25 November 2011

I Have Officially Started

A little later than most years, but I finally started my Christmas shopping. I guess the fact that I am using some of the things I made for presents took away some of the urgency but it struck me this morning - about the time that Helen squealed to Emily, 'This time next month we will be opening presents!' - that I had better pull my finger out and get on with it. So I did. No word of what I bought as someone sometimes reads this blog. I wouldn't want to give anything away.

Stocking up on groceries and searching for the first of the presents took up my morning. Actually, I tell a slight fib. I stopped at the sewing machine shop to purchase some bobbins. The man in the sewing machine shop put paid to the rumour that it is women who can talk your ear off. Very nice man but the only reason I got out of there was because John phoned looking for me, I had been missing in action for so long. I think I listened to Mr Sewing Machine Shop Repair Man's dissertation on sewing machines for about twenty minutes prior to John phoning rescuing me.

One thing Mr Sewing Shop Repair Man did tell me was that they don't sell many Bernina's any more. He said they were not as good value for money as they used to be. He said they haven't been as reliable since they started having them built in the Far East. Huh?! Swiss made, thought I. Not any more, says him. So obviously the first thing I did when I got home was to have a look at my machine. Mine is indeed made in Switzerland. Has anyone else heard of this rumour that the machines aren't as reliable as they used to be? Because I love my Bernina. I have no experience with other good machines so really can't compare. I just know I love the one I have.

It will have become quite apparent by now that I did not spend the day nose to grindstone once again. But I don't feel too bad about it because I got stuff done. And I made a fab tasting - if I say so myself - seafood chowder for our dinner.

My recipe can be found here.
 I had a few minutes to do a little more sewing after all that and I am almost there with the quilt top. Almost!

Just the corners to sew on now.
Then to decide if I want to add a little red border,
which is totally dependent on how much fabric I have because I am not buying more.
I used the architectural print in grey on neutral for the triangle edge pieces. I thought any of the stronger colours would have detracted from other overall pattern of the blocks. I hope I chose correctly.

I thought that a little red border might bring it all together. Then I could bind it in the blues and greys, and I have one of the deep red fabrics for the back. Though I will have to piece some extra into that as this quilt is definitely wider than the standard bolt of fabric. I doubt I will get much done on the weekend as there are always too many other things going on, but I can but try.


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Nose to the Grindstone

I can accomplish thing when I have a deadline and a purpose in mind, rather than meandering through my day. Today, despite having an ill husband home, I plowed on with the quilt I started piecing yesterday. To give himself his due, he no longer expects nursing skills or sympathy from me. We have been married long enough for his rose tinted spectacles to be well and truly removed!

Now, I would show you more of my thought process and progress through the day, but have just downloaded my photos to find that, despite beliefs otherwise, I only took two photos today. I blame the man who kept making cups of tea and sitting down for a chat with me. All well and fine but apparently it affects my photography skills.

I finished making the small blocks, and then pieced four together to make a block that measured 11.5" unpieced. I thought about doing the diamond pattern but after my usual ponder decided against it. When I had enough blocks made I laid them out on the only available big enough space altogether. I didn't like them right next to each other. It was too busy with these fabrics. I think I would have had to have had some white strips in to relieve the eye some.

So I pulled them all slightly apart from each other, on point like this.

And then I drove to the quilt shop, leaving these on the floor of course, and bought some more fabric for backing and for sashing and cornerstones. And that is what I have been doing ever since. Cutting and sewing. All work and no play is turning me into a dull girl. I shall have to have a wee mishap or two along the way so I can get entertaining again. As of this moment I have managed to sash over half the blocks. I am pleased with the way it is looking.

Oh, there was this. A small warning for those of you who give their finger a very light lick when trying to abut seams and such when you piece things together. Do not ever try to dampen the end of  your finger while holding a pin. Really, do not do this. Trust me, it hurts!


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A New Start

I feel like it has been ages since I started a new quilting project. Which is weird because I made that quilt for John last week. But that top was cut out already, and half pieced. I didn't have to think about it. No pondering required. Today I started a new project and I have to say I am loving the feel of it, the cutting, the planning, the sewing. And this has to be finished quickly so there won't be a big hiatus halfway through making it while I drift off and do something else.

I took my jelly roll book -

And my Etchings jelly roll -

I decided on the Garden Trellis pattern, at least to start me off. Once I have the basic blocks cut I may decide to then do my own thing with them. I am undecided at this point. Following the pattern is dead easy, and it reminded me that I should use my quilting books for planning my quilts more often. Because this taught me how to make a simple block in the most incredibly simple way.

Most of you probably already know all about how to do this and are rolling your eyes at me, telling me to get with the program. But for me it is brand new, so please indulge me and I shall show you the easy steps I followed.

1. Take two contrasting strips and sew them together, then press seams to dark side.
2. Repeat the above stop, and when you have two sets of sewn together strips place one on top of the other -
right sides together, dark side matched to opposing light side. Sew quarter inch seams on both sides of the length.
3. Get your Omnigrid 98L cutting triangle. You don't have one?! Either do I. I got my 9.5" square ruler.
Place the 45 degree angle that runs diagonally across  your ruler on the edge of the strip.
Match the corner of your ruler to the edge of the fabric. Cut along the angle as shown above.
Slide your ruler down to the opposite edge to create the next triangle and continue cutting triangles until you have as many as you can from the strip. You should get eight.
4. Carefully remove the small line of stitches along the point of the triangle.
5. Press open and you have a perfect little 6" square.
6. Have a play with various layout like this...
... or this...
... or this.
7. Sew more strips together to make more blocks.
And that is as far as I got today. Though I can brag that I have clean loos and a lot less thread ends on the floor. I even have a clean cooker top! I would call this another great day.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

This One is for You 'Miss November'

Evidently taking away my freedom for a week gives me motivation. We'll see how long that lasts! Today I did more parcels and marched off to the post office before I could be distracted. Than there was a brief spot of time in the kitchen when I produced a banana cake - rather a good one I thought as I had a piece for lunch, still warm. One of the perks of the job.

The post came through the door and made the day for himself. Because we received a cheque we had been waiting for in regards to the business. I then had to hot foot it into town and deposit it into the account immediately. I don't always take instruction well but in this patricular case I was happy to.

The rest of my time was spent marking, pinning, sewing and trimming half square triangles until I had them all as required and could have a play with the layout for Hadley's Brit Bee Miss November block. She went with one large block rather than two smaller ones, crafty woman!

There was then a quick bout of chain piecing for England.

And I grabbed the last of the light for the day, one child and took a blurry photo.

Back to the post office tomorrow. I am going to be on a first name basis with them by the end of the week.


Monday, 21 November 2011

Back to Normal

I merrily drove the girls to school this morning. And they happily went in. It is amazing how being out of routine for a week can seem like so much longer. But all is right in our world once again. Girls gone, I continued driving and went to town. I needed two things from Tesco, but needless to say I came out with a whole lot more. And with a smile on my face. These days I usually come out frowning and squinting at the receipt, convinced that they rang it in incorrectly because there was no way what I bought could have totalled up to such a huge amount.

No, today I was happy! Because for once they actually had things on special that I wanted, and were not sugar laden treats. The star deals, though not the only deals, of my shop were the following (sadly I am going to tell you, and those of you who live near a Tesco can hightail it over and get the same deals).

The price of flour is down (!) and there was a buy two get one free deal.
That meant only £1 a bag for the flour. Nice change!
The pasta deal was fantastic. Buy one and get two free.
I might get some more next time I am in town.
This stuff keeps for just about forever in the larder.
Once a year I treat myself to a bottle of Baileys.
It is half price right now.
It is now wiating for Christmas to come out of hiding.
So I was on my own, getting great deals on stuff I would be buying anyway. Life was going great. I came home and had breakfast for lunch. Well, it was that late by then that it was one meal or the other. I then turned my hand to getting a few parcels ready for posting.

I needed to make another bunting for one of the parcels. I picked up some more of the red gingham ribbon in town to be able to do this.

I dug around and found every selvedge cut off I own and gathered them together as they are destined for Australia.

I sorted out all the parcels, got the girls from school, made their dinner and we are about to go to dance. Doesn't seem like much, does it. But I am happy with what I accomplished.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Productive Day - Ha!

I had grand intentions for the day. Okay, maybe that is overstating it slightly but I did intend to get on with a couple of things. After I read blogs and replied to emails (still not caught up). After I made omelettes for the hungry ones. After I did the ironing. I was going to do 'stuff'.

Instead I got waylaid and ended up lying on the kitchen floor with the girls until we completed the puzzle. It took a while, mostly because it seemed I was the only one actively inserting puzzle pieces in the correct places.

It might be said of today that this puzzle is my only accomplishment other than a well fed family - which is no bad thing at all. I did get out some fabric. The November bee blocks need doing still. I have visions of getting to the post office tomorrow (alone) and posting a myriad of things that need to be sent off, and I thought that if I got the bee block done then that would be one more parcel I could add to the pile.

It is Hadley's turn this month. Some people (I am naming no names here!) finished their block - it is one large block this month rather than two smaller ones - before others even had their fabric! Now that really put the pressure on. Hadley sent all our fabric in a delightful charm square tray that she had made for each of us. I love that touch.

The fabrics she chose are brilliant as well. Lovely contrast with the oranges and the greens and blues.

I think by now you probably figured out that I didn't get this block made. No, because while I contemplated my pin cushion and which child did this -

- they, with their innate sense of timing, snuck behind me and started sewing things for themselves. I didn't stand a chance! I'd show you what they are working on - cushion covers I believe. But Blogger just decided it doesn't want to play any more and has frozen trying to load photos. I don't care. The house smells lovely of roasting chicken. Plus there is still birthday cake left.

And tomorrow! Well tomorrow I am going to be alone. All alone. By myself. Not that I am looking forward to it at all. I would hate to give that impression!


Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Finally, the girls are perking up. Not perfect yet but we got out of the house today and they did stuff. Physical stuff that tired them out totally. It was good for them and good for me to be out. They have not asked to be medicated once today despite saying their tummies still hurt some. They spent two hours in the swimming pool. My friend, the one who has the pool in her house, says that the chlorine will take care of any lingering germs. Yeah!! The swimming was followed by a dance lesson and then we were over at a friend's house for a few hours. They are going to sleep tonight!

I truly believe that the girls will be back in school on Monday. It couldn't have happened last week. Emily sobbed over  her homework on Thursday. Complete brain and emotional breakdown.She was not ready to return at that point! We are just about back to normal and I am so pleased. It has been a long week.

Now that my attempt at Christmas fairs is over, and the quilt for himself is made and given I think I need to turn my mind towards Christmas making, of the present giving kind. I already owned this book.

Now I own this fabric.

And I am in love. These are no not the typical fabrics I go for and not the typical colours I go for either, but the more I look at it the more I love it.

My sister-in-law likes deep reds, and blues, and greens. I looked at the different lines of fabric and contemplated some of them, but I found them too dark for me. I know that the sofa they own is dark brown leather so I am hoping a throw in these colours will compliment it and that the reds and soft blue in these fabrics will appeal to my SIL.

The maps and the text appeal to me, and even that lush dark red is calling to me. Well, I can't always do brights, can I?! So I am going to use the book for inspiration and hope to come up with an idea of my own that uses the charm pack as well as the jelly roll, but it may turn out that there is a quilt in the book that is just perfect and I go with that. I am not used to using patterns. We will see how that goes.

And for those of you who wonder why us UK quilters complain about costs sometimes, this one charm pack and jelly roll combined cost me over £40. That converts to almost $65. This is why I end up buying most of my fabric from overseas and why I really shop around for it. It just isn't in the budget to be spending this much very often. I only got this because in the long run I end up saving on the actual money spent at Christmas. And as the first gift made with this has to be sent to Canada I needed it now, not in two or three weeks time.

But at the end of this day - my girls are bouncing back and I have new fabric. Life is good!


Friday, 18 November 2011

Those of Delicate Nature Look Away Now

Himself is having a birthday today. I won't say how old, but he is older than me. Ha! And I made him cry this morning. In a good way.

This time last year I received a commission for a quilt for someone, throw size. They want natural colours, autumnal, hints of brights, etc. They had a particular fabric they liked and they showed me. I based the quilt on the fabrics they liked. That's what you do for a commission, right? Himself loved the quilt. It was the first one I made that he genuinely and truly loved. When it came time to deliver the quilt the person it was for lost their job the same week. No sale!

Most people would think that I then turned to my husband and told him that since he liked it so much he could have it. I didn't. My mother liked it too. And I didn't know what to give her for Christmas so I gave her the quilt. Himself went without. I know, I am a horrible wife!

So this week, surrounded by sick children I made another quilt finally. For himself. And when he got it this morning I knew he liked it because he welled up. (Good thing I know he doesn't read this blog!)

You may well wonder why I am telling you to look away if you are someone of a delicate nature. Well this quilt is a b**** quilt. No, not that five letter 'B' word. Worse!

I'll whisper it. It is made with batiks.

There, I said it. The forbidden fabric of the quilting world. But I still had enough left to make another quilt so I crossed over to the other side and made him this.

It's a stack and whack quilt. I don't think that is the proper technical term, but it is how I think of it. A handy dandy way of making a quilt, I must say.

I did a quick stipple on it. There wasn't time to do anything complicated or that I had to ponder about. John was already in his car headed towards us when I finished the last stitches in the binding.

Four feet, one head. Something went wrong here!
I am on day five of sick kids. I ran out of patience and sympathy three days ago. I am not the natural nursing type. I fervently hope they are better soon because I really, really need to be alone. I had to drag them out to Waitrose with me today so that I could get the necessary foods for the birthday dinner. (In our family you can request whatever you like for your dinner on your birthday.) I do not recommend taking children to Waitrose - whether they are healthy or not. It cost me, big time! Far too many tempting things in there and this was one mother who just wanted to get them home again so did not have the willpower to say no the whole time.

I now have pork ribs slow roasting in the oven in a delicious tangy tomato sauce. The starter will be seared scallops with crispy pancetta. And the cake is cooling, ready to be filled with raspberries and cream soon. All this was accomplished while I tried not to tread on the entertainment. Why do children feel that they must be as close to you as possible when they aren't well? So, I cooked and they worked on this under my feet.

And that brings us to the end of the post leaving one last question. What is my Favourite Thing Friday? Well, that is easy this week. Making my man cry - in a good way!!


PS: Apologies to all those who I traumatised by making them look at b***ks. I shall endeavour to make sure it doesn't happen again.