Sunday, 29 November 2009

Building memories...

It's funny how the weeks turn in to months and I realise that I haven't really talked about much else on this blog than cake and quilts for ages. Way back in July I mentioned that I had done some training at Helen House to help support other bereaved parents. I haven't been allocated a family yet but I have helped facilitate a workshop for more newly bereaved parent with the theme of 'How grief changes over time.' In spite of being nervous about talking about my experiences to a room full of strangers, I found the whole day extremely fulfilling.

Yesterday I helped out at another workshop at the hospice, this time for parents who are using the hospice now for their children, called 'Building Memories.' My biggest fear this time was that I was a bereaved parent rather than a parent of a life-limited child and I was worried that this may seem insensitive. I hope it wasn't.

When Tom first became ill, it felt a bit like we had become public property. That sounds so ungrateful now, but I felt that I owed a lot of people something for the support we received. After the first three months in hospital, Tom was transferred to The Children's Trust in Surrey for rehabilitation on the unit for children with an acquired brain injury. He arrived there in October 1997 and that was when I started writing a diary for him. It had the most unoriginal title of The Secret Diary of Tom D******, aged 4 1/2. Pilfered straight from Adrian Mole! I wrote it in the first person, as though Tom were telling his story and each month I posted it out to all the people who had helped us get through the first few months. I designed a little logo heading and set myself boundaries of 2 sides of A4 paper in a generous pt.14 font.

Little did I know when I started it that I would continue writing it monthly for the next 8 years, sending out over 60 copies around the world. Some of the copies I sent were to people I didn't even know but had somehow got wind of it through other family and friends and showed a genuine interest. It never felt like a burden to write it and the actual writing process was surprisingly cathartic. As I became more experienced with the computer and technology allowed, I began to include photos and so nearly a lifetime was recorded in those pages.

I talked yesterday of Tom's diary and of my plans to maybe self-publish it so that it is more than 5 folders from WHSmith full of memories. I have been looking at Blurb and Lulu and it remains on My List of Things to do.

I also shared my other book with the parents who attended and I hope it will inspire them to do similar things for their children.

Then I got onto the subject of blogging! I suppose had I known about blogging, or had it been around back then, Tom's diary would have been online. How times change. I talked about the sense of community I had found as a result of being a blogger and that the world is there at your fingertips. When you have a disabled child, time is precious and isolation is a real issue and so being able to connect with people who have similar interests or experiences is sometimes difficult. In the early days of my life without Tom, the Internet became my friend: always there and something I didn't have to make an effort for, other than to switch my PC on.

It's all about sharing for me. I shared Tom's life with people through his diary and I am sharing my life and others through blogging. That is what does it for me. Sharing.

Yesterday, my day was rounded off perfectly by sharing a welcome latte with a friend I have made through my blog - Julia. Julia and I have been reading each others blogs for quite a while now and we finally met in person. A last-minute arrangement, hastily made by email on Friday evening! We talked of blogging and how I had covered it during the workshop, and also of all the pros and cons we have both experienced from our own blogs. We talked of sharing. I have a feeling we could have talked for hours.

It was so lovely to meet you Julia, and no, I didn't mind driving an extra 5 miles! I drove back to London with a smile on my face having had a Good Day.

I just noticed that this is my 200th post, and probably my first post without a single photo. Quite a milestone!

ps. have a look at the Christmas cards on the Helen House site, I thought they were really nice and bought all mine from there this year... Or why not have a look at these...

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Seriously good cake...

If you've got a couple of sad looking apples in the fruit bowl that nobody wants to eat, here's just the cake.

It is Seriously Good Cake.

From this book. My copy is now well used, particularly in the loaf chapter.

The recipe suggests making it the night before you want to bake it, just leaving it in the fridge, but I'm not really sure why this is! Any suggestions? It is delicious eaten when still warm with a big mug of tea or coffee and stays nice and moist for a good week. I used a mixture of flaked almonds and chopped hazelnuts - it's great to use up any bits and pieces in the baking cupboard and the last bits of jam that seem to always seem to be lurking in the back of the fridge in spite of new jars being opened.
I didn't really need any more baking books, but I was powerless to resist this:

Check out the malted cupcakes for Fathers Day - YUM!

Friday, 27 November 2009

FMF surprise...

My FMF obsession is gathering pace and I have had a lovely, lovely surprise through the post all the way from Australia.

I am now the proud owner of this:

I'm not sure if I will ever be able to use it, which seems a waste really, but at the moment I am just enjoying seeing it neatly folded! It was wrapped up in purple tissue with a little thank you card enclosed which read:

Well, I just ripped that paper apart! And look what was inside!

An extra piece of fabric from the collection! Thank you so much Kelly! I absolutely love the grey colourways because I am building a quilt for my loft bedroom in greys and greens and so these are fabrics that I will definitely cut in to!

My collection is steadily growing and these also arrived from here.

I am a happy bunny today!

A quick update on my neck for you: I went to see my surgeon yesterday and as it was still quite swollen, he aspirated it for me - yep, needle in the neck again! Thank goodness it's still numb! Anyway, I have managed to massage all of the glue off now and can concentrate on making the scarring fade. It looks much better now, not gory at all, but I suspect I may need it aspirating again... We'll see...

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Through the keyhole...

My living room has always been a calm Kelly Hoppen inspired room. A room where taupe is the predominant colour that gives a neutral background to the carefully chosen things in there. It has always been an 'adult' room, laid out for talking and reading as well as watching tv: an oasis of peace and good taste (at least, I like to think).

It houses my most favourite books in a bookcase that I had in my bedroom as a child.

There are two wooden elephants that I fell in love with in a shop in Warwick and had to buy.

There are shelves of old magazines that I don't seem to be able to get rid of. They were my bibles when I was working.

When I first left home and bought my first house, my Dad gave me a stuffed little owl as a house-warming present. An unusual choice you may think, but he was a great collector of taxidermy and it seemed the most natural thing in the world. I now have 3 owls in my living room but this one remains my favourite and is always a good talking point.

There are carefully chosen soft accessories - with all-important textural details.

And the family piano, sadly no longer played.

In this post, I mentioned that my parents were in the process of moving house. They are down-sizing and so there are things that need to be got rid of or found new homes for. One such item has been made a space for in my oasis.
It will give the room another dimension. A sort of party atmosphere...

I have been sorting through boxes, reminiscing, waiting for a new arrival, coming via Hampshire where it's been for a bit of refurbishment and restoring.

Can you guess what it is?

Sunday, 22 November 2009


When I made my first quilt last year, I had been on a little journey around the 'net looking and finding inspiration from blogs and other recommended books and websites. I noticed that virtually every quilt that caught my eye had a common feature and that was Denyse Schmidt's seedling fabric from her now-out-of-print Flea Market Fancy collection. I don't know what it is about this fabric that I find so alluring - it is simple but the colours are rich in their own quirky little way.

I even had a lovely email conversation with one of the sales people in Purl in New York as the fabric featured in Last Minute Patchwork Gifts, and that was who broke the news to me that it was discontinued. While we're on the subject of Purl, I have been to New York twice and walked past this wonderful little shop having admired it BUT NEVER WENT IN! What a fool I am. It was before I started quilting, so that's my excuse, but I kick myself every time I think of those two wasted opportunities! Still, I do order from them now and then and I can recommend both their fabric selection and service.

While I have been on my new-found journey of fabric-love, I have been searching for anything that is Flea Market Fancy. I have a satisfying little stash but for some reason, I can't quite bear to cut into it and use it! You see the lime green posy and the red and pink dotty fabric? I got that a couple of weeks ago when I visited The Quilt Room in Dorking... just saying...

Then a while back when I was lost in another blog-led thread I came across this site and so of course, joined the petition to get FMF reprinted. I've just added the button to my sidebar, if you want to click and see what all the fuss is about.

Now it seems that every new quilting blog I look at is a Flea Market Fancy Freak too! They are doing a giveaway at the moment so this post is dedicated to that. Just click on the picture to see if you'd like to join in too:

It is the biggest carrot-being-dangled in front of me! In fact, I am waiting for some of the pink seedling fabric to come from an Etsy shop in Australia right now and some others that I managed to track down on Friday coming from the US. I am obsessed! All I need to do now is find the courage to cut into it and use it...

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Go on, treat yourself...

That's what the barista said to me in my local Costa coffee shop.

So I did.

It was de-licious! Just ask for a crème brûlée latte... know you want to!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Watermelon, perhaps...

There seems to be a theme to the quilts I make, or maybe an association to another love of mine - food. Jasmine's quilt is the Batternberg quilt and while I was making this one for my next-in-the-quilt-line-niece, Tia, the word that kept springing to mind was watermelon.

With the endless squares of pink and green, it's easy to see why!

This quilt measures 64" x 80", an easy measurement to work with in my mind; this time with 4" squares and 2" x 2" 4-patches. 800 squares in all - phew!

I started off with a fat-quarter collection from the fabulous Cia's Palette of Joel Dewberry's Aviary collection in, wait for it, pink and green and then added some other fabrics that I picked up along the way. I've got the hang of ordering from the States now with the customs allowance and so bought some Erin McMorris Wildwood from Purl too.

For the binding, I used a Heather Bailey bright pink print that I spotted on a whim in John Lewis after having already bought something else in Liberty! I always love the way that the binding brings the whole quilt together, frames it.

For the backing I used Amy Butler's Dandelion Field which reminds me of vintage sheeting. I'm sure I had something really similar when I was young on my bed. I hand-quilted around each 8" section of the quilt front which leaves a lovely regular pattern on the back.

So it is neatly folded, awaiting wrapping, alongside Jasmine's one.

Yesterday, the sun didn't really help me out in the photograph department and the wind kept lifting the quilt off the deck, so this is the best I could get of the whole thing in all it's pink and green glory:

Looking a bit darker than it really is, but never mind...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Being (a) patient...

Thank you for your get well comments. My surgery went well and I came home on Saturday as planned. All my worries about having a general anaesthetic were unfounded and my care was amazing. Other than a bit of a stiff neck due to the swelling and some initial pain on swallowing, I'm feeling fine but tired.

I managed to cast on another pair of socks from my (fancy, electric) hospital bed much to the interest of virtually everybody who came into my room! Much more interesting than the surgical stockings I had to wear the whole time!

Back at home I can while away this week doing what I like doing best - hand-quilting. I prepared a quilt before I went in. It is the last one for my nieces' Christmas gifts. I am waiting for the low November sun to move round a bit so I can photograph Tia's one out on the deck. I finished it last week. I gave a sneaky peek in this post and hopefully, I'll be able to show you in all it's pink and green glory tomorrow.

So, I'm waiting patiently to be back up to speed with things. And behind the wheel of my car - I don't like being stuck indoors very much. I look out of my conservatory door and tell myself that there is no point sweeping up leaves when there is still this tree-full to come down yet!

I'm so glad I made my scarf - I'll be needing it! Look away now if you're squeamish!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Actually, not One Skein...

I felt the need to crochet or knit something for myself, just a quick project because I was desperate to use this yarn. I bought it in John Lewis Oxford Street a couple of weeks ago.

I had a browse through Ravelry and hit on a pattern that by luck I happened to have and in one of my favourite books. The great thing about Ravelry is that you can find patterns made up in different yarns to that stated in the pattern with amazing results. The scarf in the book was (to me) totally uninspiring and more of a short cravat-type affair. I needed a longer, softer scarf so I used 2 balls instead of 1.

The thing I love about crochet is that with just a few basic stitches used in different combinations you come up with such wonderful patterns. Added together with the most gorgeous multi-coloured yarn and what's not to love?

This scarf hardly took any time to make and was perfect for biding a couple of dark evenings away with a big hook in hand.

It looks so lovely on my weathered garden furniture don't you think?

And goes perfectly with a dress I bought on aforementioned shopping trip!

Scarves are going to be accessory of the season for me as I am going into hospital on Friday (the 13th...I know...don't even go there...) to have a hemi-thyroidectomy which will leave a scar on my neck which I will be doing my best to conceal until it becomes less noticeable. Hopefully, I will be able to come home on Saturday with half a thyroid gland that I am hoping will be able to manage my thyroid hormone production without the need to take a replacement.

It will be my first time in hospital as a patient (other than having the boys) and I am a tad nervous about the anaesthetic as I've never had a general either. For the best part of this year I have been up and down to an endocrinologist about a cyst that has grown in my throat. I had it biopsied (it was benign) and aspirated twice but it is persistently reforming so surgery is my last resort.

Luckily, there is a coffee shop round the corner that I can send my visitors out for a gingerbread latte while I'm lording it up in bed... I am dying for a cup of coffee as I'm off it this week while I'm taking some arnica to help with bruising. I didn't ever consider myself hooked on caffeine but it may be true. Roll on Saturday!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Out to lunch...

I'm off out for lunch to my parents.

They are in the process of moving house so the stress level is tangible.

Hopefully apple and blackberry pie will comfort everyone.

Personally, I cant' wait for a rock bun for tea.

Although I know that my sister prefers banana loaf.

I've had a busy morning! There is also a bag of parsnips and sweet potatoes from my box to roast...

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Out with the old...

It felt almost criminal to pull up my pink geraniums while they still had a few flowers brightening up my deck, but I had bulbs to plant as a priority this year having not got round to it last autumn and regretting it this spring.

As you can see the geraniums I kept inside are still flowering - who knows, maybe I can keep them going until next year.

There is still an abundance of dahlias at my local nursery for the picking and these ones looked like they were enjoying this November morning sun.

It's all looking pink in my conservatory with these lilies too...

Unintentionally, I have managed to keep the colour scheme consistent for the coming spring!

I planted 2 varieties of tulips in the planters to string out the flowering period a bit and made a hasty exit from the garden centre when I was only charged £8 for £24-worth of bulbs!

Once they were in, I put some festive looking (sorry!) white pansies and red cyclamen on top for a bit of instant colour.

I love the variegated leaves of cyclamen. These pink ones are for one more tub just outside my back door and that's my lot now til next year. Well, apart from a bit of general tidying up...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

I'm glad...

...that in spite of the rain and greyness that is today...

...and that I am administering medicines every couple of hours or so...

...AND that I have run out of stuffing for my crochet project...

...that I have a little bowl of necessities...

...for doing some relaxing hand-quilting...

...did I mention that I love it?