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Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Have Fire, Will eat (and eat and eat and eat!)

Oh it's been a while again hasn't it?  If I'm honest I'm struggling to find things to write about that aren't about care homes, hospital stays, trying to sell houses and the general fedupness that is sometimes life.

So, when I found that a course on Deer butchery for his nibs for Christmas, was preceded by a course on Cooking with fire (which very much sounded like something I would like), I decided, as all good women do, that his Christmas present should include me (:D) and be a weekend away for both of us to return to the things we love doing together and just for 48 hours (if we were lucky) forget about everything else.

Turned out that it worked really rather well.

We travelled half way up to Yorkshire on Thursday afternoon and stayed overnight in a travelodge and ate KFC at a service station (totally yucky! but a little fun!)  On Friday we drove past our final destination and spent the afternoon in Whitby and then the early evening in Scarborough, driving back across the North Yorks moors later in the evening to find our accommodation for the weekend in a wonderful little village only about 15 minutes from the courses over the weekend.  We had a lovely evening meal and settled in early for the night as the travelling and the sea air had worked it's sleepy magic on us (OK the guinness and wine helped a little :D)

The next morning the irony of being totally grateful for smartphones whilst driving towards a course to teach us how to be more "back to nature" wasn't lost on me, when I found I had lost (in the space of 20 minutes!) the course paperwork which had the directions on it.  Luckily I still had the email on my phone!

We arrived on site for the course start at 9:30 to be greeted at the gate, led down a little path and immediately made a cup of tea and whilst drinking it, a shoulder of lamb was rolled and we were shown how to put it on a spit and what kind of fire that would need - I was going to enjoy this!

There were 8 of us on the course. It was drizzling rain and already the thought of lighting fires - whilst appealing in that they would keep us warm, was worrying in that everything was wet!  Not a problem (so we were told!) And indeed Chris proved with only his second strike that if the rules were followed a fire can easily be lit in the rain. - Could we do it?  Turned out we could!

All that fire making had taken us rather miraculously to elevenses, so a skillet was laid on the fire and drop scones with some elderberries frozen from last autumn, were made with another cuppa....... No photos of that particular interval - they were made and gone too quickly :D

I think after this was when we wrapped some red onions in clay (naturally occurring in the soil up there - I'd have to buy, as I don't think our sandy stuff would have quite the desired effect!!)  They were then put in the fire under the spit

We were then taken a little further into the wood to learn about cooking in a pit - and that fire was got ready as it would be used later to cook an afternoon snack (you can see why I liked this course can't you?)

Then it was time to finish preparing lunch - the lamb was still on the spit doing it's thing, the onions underneath it. To go with it we were to have flat breads, smoked halloumi, feta cheese wrapped in wild garlic leaves, and baba ganoush.  All of them cooked on the open fires we had made around the place.  Me and himself were in charge of the "cheese course!"  The halloumi first was hot smoked over oak chips:
and then I wrapped cubes of feta in 2 wild garlic leaves each turned 90 deg to each other, which were secured with a couple of beautifully hand made skewer ends (well ok, MrNoo was let loose with a knife and a couple of twigs - but he did a lovely job!) which were then fried in a skillet over the fire for a few minutes, turning now and again.  (Could also have been done on a toasting fork, but possibly not for 10 people in good time!)  You can also see the aubergines in the bottom of the fire there ready for the baba ganoush.  Meanwhile someone else was making the flatbreads, which sadly I didn't see any of because i was too much enjoying what I was doing, and also another pair were making fruit soda bread which was put on the fire after we had finished which we later had for tea.

All done, lunch looked a little like this:
Hot Smoked Halloumi

Shoulder of Lamb
Clockwise from Top: Onions still in clay jackets, Flatbreads, feta wrapped in wild garlic leaves (skewered by MrNoo's handiwork!) and natural yoghurt which we didn't cook!

Clockwise:Baba Ganoush, a little of the bare roasted onion, lamb, halloumi

Now unfortunately what didn't follow this was a short after lunch nap, oh no, we had to go back and tend to our pit and put the fish and tomatoes in, and also learn how to light a fire if we couldn't find all the bits that we'd learnt about before........ so we made feather sticks. And again lit fires and had a giggle.  It had stopped raining so for the most part the lighting of the fires was a little easier, and certainly more fun without being dripped on at the same time.

All the while a marvellous kitchen fairy had been tending to the soda bread in the dutch oven, and when we had all mastered the knife art of creating feather sticks and striking fire steels we were presented with afternoon tea:

Trout and beefsteak tomatoes cooked in a pit
Fruit soda bread from the dutch oven: Served with butter!!

The course was such a great day, I can't recommend it highly enough.  It was informal enough to be fun and so that we (well certainly I) didn't feel awkward asking questions, and yet structured enough that by the end of the day we had covered a remarkable amount of information. (I think I only realised that after the event!) And somewhat miraculously - I can still remember at least some of it. We learnt a little about using knives on wood (for the purpose of fire lighting!), Cooking, choosing wood, different ways of using fire and how to get the darn thing started in the first place (pretty important).  A full and rewarding day!  The food was amazing, the location was beautiful (even in the rain) and the company was exceptional :D

After we left the woodland we walked up the side of the White Horse just up the road (didn't realise at the bottom how many steps it would be to the top - one of those moments where you wished you'd done the joined up thinking!) But it was totally worth it. The view is incredible and armed with our binoculars we spotted a peregrine which we managed to watch for several minutes.  The circular walk was a mile and a half, and despite it having been a bit of an outdoorsy day we both enjoyed it.  Then - because obviously we hadn't crammed quite enough into the day, we went back to Whitby and walked around the town..... when i suddenly got quite a thing for wanting pizza (Which luckily we found in a gorgeous proper italian restaurant)......... I'm totally blaming looking at this all day:
Handmade pizza oven  - another course for another weekend??

I will review the deer course another day - I think this post is long enough already ?

T'il soon ♥︎

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Life is made of memories (in memory of Russell Bennett, and Margaret Lowman)

A year ago tomorrow, we sent my dear old Grandmother (Mama as named by me!) on her next journey to whatever afterlife, or not, there may be.  It seemed appropriate that it happened on Bonfire/fireworks night. Always one for mischief she had often told me and my sister (and I expect my cousins too) that thunder and lightning were just parties happening in heaven for new angels, and when it was her turn we would hear a piano playing as well!  As it turned out that wasn't the case (still can't understand why not!) but our journey home after her funeral was punctuated with fireworks, bangs, claps, and pretty bright lights.  Not a bad send off and I think she would have appreciated that fate dictated that we will always remember her on fireworks night.

During this week my sister has somehow ended up making our family "loop de loop" (a leftover soup from a lamb roast) and I have felt compelled to make toad in the hole, complete with well mixed up yorkshire batter.  Why? well, I am sure for both of us it was subconscious, and at 4 years apart our memories of our grandmother are "the same but different".  I was always (but ALWAYS!) given the job of mixing the batter for puddings whenever we were at Mama's for a Sunday or Christmas dinner. - Possibly just as a way of keeping the oldest grandchild occupied, because apparently it had to be whisked with a fork ........ for hours....... (or so it seemed!). My sister's memory is of Monday mornings when, in the school holidays, we would often go to Mama's for a few hours instead of being in Mum's shop. And if Mama had a lamb roast leftover then she would be chopping, mincing, grating for the soup. So we make these dinners now, with love for our current families and with intense and wonderful memories of our past families.

I am grateful, honoured and blessed that i had a vivacious and strong grandmother in my life for 46 years. Even in the last few years, as her health deteriorated.... you wouldn't argue against her! I cannot begin to recount all the memories, of course, but they are plentiful and wonderful and there is barely a thing that happens in a day that doesn't remind me of something she taught us, or said to us, or did with us.

Last week, I went to the funeral of a far younger friend. As one post has put it "A jazz legend in his own lifetime"  Russell Bennet (Russ) was only 43 and died as a result of a brain haemorrhage. We travelled to Bude for a funeral service last Friday, and there was a smaller family service on Saturday (Hallowe'en!!!!) .  I stood in the pub after listening to his friends play wonderful music, and we laughed and danced, and sang together..... and as i pushed through the crowds to the ladies, or the bar, all i could hear was "I remember when....." "Were you there when......" "Do you remember that joke he told"

And here are where these two stories join.

I've known the Bennett brothers for 15 odd years. We have been to festivals, and gigs, just because these boys would be there.  In those 15 years, we have taken Mama to a few of the festivals, and like the rest of us, though at the sprightly age of 85, she stayed up til sunrise at the jam sessions, she clapped and smiled and sang to the music.  I watched my parents dance, and we all sang and cried and laughed at many many many of their songs.  We sat on the steps of the Glenburn hotel on the Island of Bute, when there were no seats left, we stood at bars, we danced in the tiniest corners of rooms because sometimes you just can't help but jiggle.  We camped with them at Dove Holes and watched them for all the past years, as they have grown, at the Preston Cross.

And the very best memory of all....... on 5th January 2014, a year and a fortnight after Mum had her brain haemorrhage, Mum, dad and I went to the Preston Cross and Mum and Dad danced - quietly and carefully in the corner of the room. And that is a sight I will never forget in all my life, and it was given to me by this band.

I will never forget that Russ is pretty much the only person I know who could make MrNoo belly laugh....... the stories, the mischievous acts, the "joie de vivre".  That Russ would run across a room (or a campsite) with his arms outstretched, that he never forgot our names, (although had significant difficulty in remembering where I lived - phoning me once to see if I was "popping down" to a gig in Great Yarmouth ..... I live in Surrey!!), that almost everything was "Splendid" and that when he sang he had no idea of his own ability or presence.  That he did an uncanny impression of a pigeon carrying home his fish and chips, or that he told the same jokes time after time and they were still funny.

So, Russ, and the rest of the band gave my family some of the most precious gifts we can ever have. Memories.  And now my parents are both in a care home, and to be honest, their mobility suggests that we may not be going to many more jazz afternoons and it is unlikely they will be dancing in public again, but by the grace of whichever force of nature you care to believe in, we do still have all our memories.  We can talk about holidays, festivals, and songs. We can sing and remember where we heard something played. We can laugh at jokes that we heard so many times we know them word perfectly. And, in the safe confines of a care home lounge, we can stand together and hold hands and dance/sway to the CD's we have collected and each of us will be in a different place in our heads, but all of us will be together.

Thank you Russ, for mending our hearts, for giving us laughter, music& dance,  and our dear, beautiful man....... for the memories.

Margaret Lowman 1920-2014

Russell Bennett 1972-2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The bits we don't share - Parkinson's awareness week 20-26 April 2015

I just found this post that i had drafted in April 2015 for Parkinson's awareness week. I have no idea why I didn't publish it. Maybe I decided it was too personal? But in reading it again i have thought i would. It's about awareness, about my little journey with my daddy. And about an illness from a relative's perspective and that's what awareness weeks are about. It's not all an easy read. But it's true and from my heart.  Love you daddy xxx

It's been so long since I posted here - too much to catch up on really, but this week is Parkinson's awareness week so i wanted to share a little of our lives.

Most of you who read this follow me on twitter or on Facebook, or know me through forums or ravelry or some such. You generally all know that life changed for us as a family in December 2012 when Mum had a brain haemorrhage, and generally you know that my Dad has Parkinson's. This post is hoping to be an insight into a relative's perspective.

Dad was diagnosed in 2002. He was 60 years old. It was the year my baby sister got married, the year  we went to Mauritius as a large family for a holiday. The year my Mum and Dad retired. We said at the time "It could be worse" "It's not terminal" etc, etc.... Tried - and mostly succeeded to put a positive spin on it (it must be said in varying degrees - as a family we deal with things differently - from head in the sand, to unrealistic optimism, to realism..... generally we don't do a lot of pessimism, but we all took it a little differently) We all went off to our own corners of the internet to research what we could, and came back with our own interpretations of what might happen. At least I think that's what we did - because I realise now that we didn't talk about it all that much. Dad was lucky, he was pretty healthy, quite physically fit in every other way. And to begin with really it just affected his gait slightly, and little things like I remember noticing how he struggled to get money out of his pocket in shops, But generally he was quite well for quite a long time.

Mum and Dad bought their dream home - an acre of garden and a beautiful 4 bedroom home. They knew it would be unlikely that they would live there forever...... it would become unmanageable. But they wanted to enjoy what they could. And I admire them for that - and in hindsight, I'm eternally happy that they did!

Years went by, Dad got a little worse year on year - but not hugely.... and again we didn't much discuss Parkinson's. His meds were altered a little here and a little there to give him the best balance they could - a balance between being able to move freely, and not displaying too overbearing an amount of dyskinesia.

Dyskinesia - that's something they don't tell you a lot about.  Remember the video ad by Michael J Fox, the actor who has Parkinson's disease, in support of Democrat Claire McCaskell and stem cell research, which was also seen online, and caused controversy when talk-show host Rush Limbaugh said Mr Fox had exaggerated his symptoms to get more sympathy?  Well I can't definitively say he didn't exaggerate, but i can say with no doubt or uncertainty whatsoever that he and many Parkinson's sufferers have symptoms that bad on many many days. - And it's the drugs that cause them. I think Mr Fox commented later that he was probably over medicated. But often that's choice you have to make to get through a day - over medicate and look like you have ants in your pants or don't and run the possibility that you will freeze or tremor so violently you will fall over or spill food and drink? Either way you look like a looney to the outside world. - What a choice? Dad spends most days with that level of dyskinesia now. It's the safer alternative for him, because he falls much more if he is freezing. When freezing his feet refuse to move, but the tops of his legs, almost do - and his torso does! Before long he has literally gone head over heels. And as he gets older that's not something we want to be happening too often, the dyskinesia is the better option.

So, (I digressed didn't i?!) As time went on, dad regulated his meds mostly based on what he wanted to achieve in a day, maybe under-doing them if he wanted to sit in a chair or work at a computer, and upping them if he needed to be outside or was socialising. He had a suggested amount and he played about to live the best life he could - and by and large I think he succeeded.

In the summer of 2012 Mum told me and my sis that they had put the house on the market, that it had become just a tiny bit unmanageable for them both, and Dad was struggling to keep up the maintenance. Given the size of the garden and house, and the fact that they had no help I'm surprised that they managed as long as they did, but stubbornness and a desire to succeed will take you a long way in this life. But they had clearly reached a point - 10 years after diagnosis, when Dad was beginning to realise that he couldn't manage everything, and was struggling round this large garden.

of course at the end of 2012 Mum herself became so very ill, and my sister and i became part of the story of our parents' lives in much more of a way than we could ever have expected. I moved in to Mum and Dad's house to take Dad to visit every day. It became clear immediately, that the trauma and shock of what had happened had taken a massive toll on dad, and it has continued to do so. When Mum came home, I took care of them both.

The things they tell you about Parkinson's are that the sufferer may have tremors or freezing, may shuffle and walk with a slow gait, may struggle with buttons and zips and tight clothing, may become quiet in voice and articulate less clearly, may not show expression on their face so may be easy to mis-read their emotion or feeling, may struggle with delicate tasks as their dexterity declines and they may develop addictive personality traits.

What they don't tell you is that Parkinson's and the meds that treat it cause severe confusion and lack of focus and concentration. I can have a conversation with Dad and when he replies it is clear he has only taken in a tiny part of what I have said (and it's usually not the relevant part!). He gets confused using tech that he has used for years - even using a tv remote is now beyond him on some days.

They have little understanding of time passing so something you said 3 weeks ago may take precedence over the thing you said yesterday. 

They have little or no insight, either into their own situation or other's. So they may endanger themselves more than you would expect because they don't understand their own limitations or see the bigger picture around the safety of a particular situation. Or they may endanger others because of the inability to appraise the entire situation. For many many months Dad thought it would be ok to take Mum on holiday. (it never would have been - but it was so hard to keep saying it)

They often suffer from double vision due to muscle rigidity, and their eyes not focussing at the same speed.  Reading/signing papers/watching tv can all be affected. 

They suffer from depression and social exclusion. As Dad's speech has become quiet I have realised he doesn't bother trying to be heard very often, so he can retreat into his own little world. 

Nobody tells you that you will have to be rudely blunt and at times downright cruel to make them understand how dangerous or daft something is. Nobody tells you that you should sort a power of attorney out as soon as they are diagnosed, because at some point they will be too confused to run their household, and you might not have seen it coming until it's too late. Nobody tells you that you will be so very very frustrated at the total inability to see that walking down the middle of a country lane with a walker and a bad case of dyskinesia is dangerous - in so.many.ways! Nobody tells you that you will have to remind your father to talk to you and not to his feet, and how very very much that hurts. Nobody tells you that when you go out and people stare, how badly you will want to stand up and tell them "Our excuse is Parkinson's, what's yours?"

But what I can tell you, is that despite these little inconveniences, our daddy is still such a gentleman. That he still loves our Mum with every fibre of his being, and he shows it day after day. That although this illness is a nasty beast, we still have him with us and that is something to be truly grateful for. That he managed to fight it so very very well for the first 10 years, and they did indeed live in their dream home and milk every last bit out of it. I can tell you that you should talk about Parkinson's with all your family for now and for the future. I can tell you that no one person should take sole responsibility for care - even with a new diagnosis, because it's hard and it could destroy you and leave that person alone. That plans should be made and thoughts discussed..... in the hope and maybe belief that they will never be needed, but they should be talked about. That worst case and best case plans are in place.

And most of all, that no 2 cases of this illness will run the same course. So take the book of your life and treat every page as a new adventure, some will be crappy adventures and some will be good ones..... but live every page

Too long

It's been too long since I wrote here. And truth be told it's not good for me not to write (so it turns out).  I stopped writing because life got personal and I couldn't see past that. But then, life is personal isn't it? And of course you don't all have to read about it if you don't want..... but maybe i do need to write sometimes.

Anyway there is no point going over the last year as there is way too much to talk about.  Mum and Dad are now in a wonderful little residential care home in Guildford. And slowly... very, very slowly, i am beginning to get some form of a hold on our new lives.  Such a massive and sudden illness has had such an effect on us all and it takes a long while (and a bit of counselling, apparently!) to come to terms with the changes and implications for all of us.  Learning to support each other in different ways to anything that has gone before. Learning to deal with disability and the complications that throws up (people's ideas of having disabled access vary wildly!) Changes in relationships. Changes in our own needs, which, certainly for me, have surprised me.  I thought i was coping, but I wasn't. I was just treading water whilst i needed to. And as soon as I no longer needed to, i began to drown.

That's all behind me now. I am stronger (on some days) and more aware of the days i'm not.  Sometimes it is still too much and it hurts so bad. Not just because Mum got ill - that happens to millions (maybe billions?) of families every day. But it hurts because I wanted to look after them, and couldn't. It's taken me a long time to accept that it's ok that I couldn't. And maybe that's where writing what actually happened day on day might have helped. To have read back and realised what i was trying to achieve might have made it easier to accept that it would have been pretty impossible for any one person. But I didn't write - on some days I probably barely spoke!

So, anyway. Here i am! Mum and Dad have been in their new forever home for a year and a fortnight! and it feels like it's time for me to get back to doing those things that make me feel normal. (whatever normal is! LOL)

Miss Spot is still with me - although older and slower and with many old lady lumps and bumps. But can still hear her dinner biscuits being poured at a 20 yd radius!  We don't walk as much as we used to, so we've both got a bit old and fat! But now the temperature is easing off a bit, walking for an old lady is a more acceptable past time.

I'm still knitting and crocheting (no shock there really) and occasionally sewing too.

So, let's see what happens. I hope i will write here often again. It feels like a strange and hard thing to do at the moment. But writing is quite cathartic, and it's good to document the good things i get up to, so the crap doesn't overwhelm. It's very easy to slip on to self pity, and from there - certainly for me, it's hard to get back up off the floor again.

T'il soon 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Well earned break (if I do say so myself)

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but like everything in my life it has gotten sidetracked.  That's kind of why i needed the holiday in the first place. I needed time for me!
It was a late booking and I went to trip advisor to get some ideas.  I had a checklist!  I wanted a sea view, and a bathtub! Possibly an odd combination, but after a year and half of living at Mum n Dad's with only showers, I wanted to wallow in hot water for as long as I chose. And as for the sea view, well I find it calming and grounding. Looking out to sea is something I often yearn for in times of stress (and yes to be fair I was stressed)
It didn't really matter where in the UK, although at then end of the week we were going to the Dove Holes Jazz festival so the far north of Scotland would have been sightly inconvenient but other than that I had no agenda.  

Eventually after a bit of searching and comparing and fussing around I found this property:Parth-y-Gwyddwch, and it ticked all my boxes.  Secluded, a sea view and a bath!!! The cottage is beautiful.  We were met at the gatepost by a buzzard, who continued to entertain us all week. And there was a red kite now and again too.  We travelled to Barmouth, Tywyn and Aberdovey in the days to have lunch (boy did we eat some amazing lunches) and settled back in our cottage in the late afternoon armed with our binoculars to watch the evening wildlife.  We tried out our new Cobb oven one night and made a good effort of roast chicken, veg and potatoes.  And ate more ice cream in a week than we normally would in a year.  We walked, talked, stayed quiet. Sat on beaches, sat in woods, sat by rivers. Met sheep! MrNoo went fishing once or twice in the evening, and left me to the peace and quiet of the cottage, and I knitted and breathed and didn't have anyone calling my name. The week was everything I needed it to be. 

Full of good food, peace and no demands. I would go back in a heartbeat.

So here, in no particular order is a brief photographical synopsis of our week.
Our home for a week.


Another perfect sunset

A little stroll

8am view. Fantastic

Roast dinner on the patio?

Early evening view from the cottage


Barmouth view from the welsh coastal path

Took a photo to identify this little one, beautiful song. 

Best kind of neighbour

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Hoodie (Craftsy Sewing with Knits Class first pattern)

*All Craftsy Links in this post are affiliated, and I may receive compensation if you click or buy from these links*

(Phew what a week we've had! - luckily as I am so far behind on the blog I don't need to tell you about it, but in summary, 2 days in A&E, 2 hospitals, 3 wards, and ITU. Mum's fine though, mostly precautionary and she's now home and resting well)

So to backtrack a little. I recently noticed that Craftsy had some sewing classes on sale. (They often have sales, they are worth hanging out for).

I signed up for the Sewing with Knits class (*ahem among others but we'll come back to them)

The reason I liked the look of this class was that it seemed quite "complete" in that I would receive a number of patterns for different weight knits and be talked through sewing each of them. Now I should add at this point that I've only got through the first garment, because mother seems to have other ideas! (See above!) but here is my review of the first few lessons.

The introduction and summary of knit fabrics is quite interesting and worth watching one evening when there is nothing better on the TV, or while you are cutting out your pattern pieces, but personally I dived straight into the hoodie lesson ;) (impatient? Moi?) The lesson was super easy to follow and I had managed to cut out all the pattern pieces before settling down. The idea of patterns in PDF form for you to print and re-print is genius! (I know many people do this now) To be able to print off another size next year or make a pattern for someone else without re-buying it is such an amazing idea.  It did take me an hour or so to print it out and tape it together but in some ways it was good as I learnt a bit more about the construction of the pattern because I needed more concentration that to just hack my way through a tissue pattern.

The Hoodie is a very simple construction, only 5 pieces. Front, back, 2 x sleeves and the hood.  The video walks you through the order of construction and you are given an idea of what stitch and setting to use (given that you would likely be making the hoodie out of a fleece type material)

My only criticism of the course is that a little more could be explained about zig zag stitches and how they should look and what might encourage you to change stitch width or length. As it happens the stitches suggested seemed to work fine with my fleece, but I'm not sure I really had a handle on how to adjust them if I hadn't had enough stretch or if it puckered or some such.  Maybe by the time I have finished the other lessons I will have grasped the fundamentals a little better, or maybe they anticipate someone having a little more sewing experience than I do (Which would be practically none)

Anyway, in only two hours I had transformed a pile of fleece into this:

I'm thrilled with it.  In fact I was so thrilled I made another ;)

The next pattern is a round neck and then v-neck tee shirt. I'm really looking forward to making them, although I'm not quite sure when that's going to fit into the schedule. I have some knit fabric which i originally bought for a pair of trousers for mum but isn't really suitable.  It'll work well as a tee shirt or two though ;)

Craftsy's BIG Summer Sale: Save Up to 50% On All Online Classes!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Sewing with Mother

Well OK not exactly "with her" more being told that I was doing it mostly wrongly.  (For someone who is cognitively challenged, Mum is still apparently very able to correct mistakes that other people make LOL)

Firstly we have made a few pairs of pull on trousers.  I got so fed up of seeing Mum in tracksuit trousers. And to be fair, she was always a very elegant dresser and moping about in trackies (whilst there is a good time for them lazing around the home) wasn't doing her self esteem any favours. So we chose a viscose and a reclaimed sari and made two pairs of wide legged, elasticated waist trousers.

The top photo is on my birthday last week when Mum wore the green pair, which are the ones made out of the sari.  The paisley style above are a viscose from an Ebay seller.  We have two more saris, although one may not be suitable as it seems to crease a lot. And we also have a viscose jersey, but in hindsight that may be better suited to a cowl top or tee shirt or tunic top or some such. Watch this space for what they become.

I should add that I had a little help with the cutting out of the Sari pair:

They didn't have this kind of problem on the Sewing Bee.

Next post I'll tell you about the Craftsy course "Sewing with Knits" and show you my hoodie.

T'il Soon ♥︎

Monday, May 12, 2014

Unravel 2014 (A little late!)

It's been so long since I posted there's little point trying to summarise the last 4 or 5 months. There's been good and bad, ups and downs, giggles and tears. But rather than dwell on that I want to tell you about Unravel 2014 (Which was in *ahem* Febuary!) at the Farnham Maltings.

I go every year to this wonderful wool and fibre festival. And this year it was a bit special as I decided (with a couple of friends) to make a weekend of it and stay in the Travelodge at Aldershot and take a weekend away from caring for Mum.

Unravel is my favourite festival. It's pretty local to me when i'm at my house, and even from Mum n Dad's it's not too far (although it's very very close to the Aldershot Travelodge! just saying')  It's full of indie dyers and shops.

I was fairly restrained:

 I failed completely on Saturday - it was very crowded and I just couldn't settle to look at anything (yes the small hangover may have contributed slightly to that)  So the only things I got on the Saturday were are the spindle bag (far right in the picture above and from Hill Top Cloud to protect the spindle I bought from there last year) and the T pins which I needed more of. 

However we went back on the Sunday, and altho some stock was quite depleted, it was so much easier to look and concentrate and I saw loads that I just hadn't seen the day before, consequently: 
BFL from Jilly bean to try to understand the concept of dividing colours and making spun yarn that doesn't look like a muddy puddle - well that's the idea - but luckily i like muddy puddles anyway so either way it's a win.: 


Sparkly fluff in a batt just because it's pretty: 


Fyberspates faery wings - which is more expensive than i would normally treat myself to - but it's to knit the infinity scarf song of the sea that I think we all bought (?) and i love the colours: 

And altogether with Rachel's book and the spindle bag and t pins from yesterday: 


It was a fabulous weekend. I laughed so much I hurt and my friends made sure that I enjoyed every minute of our time away.  

I am still here

Life as a carer has taken over just a little. But I am hoping to get back on track with blogging really soon.  I have a lot of craft to show you, and a few little product reviews.  Stick with me, I'm still here ;)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Car Safety & Security

As regular readers of my blog are now aware, my life and that of my family has changed somewhat radically in the past 9 months. I am now a full time carer for my Mum after her brain haemorrhage and to some extent for my Dad too who has Parkinson’s.

In a day to day sense I've sorted most things out – we have routine and our days are filled with as much exercise as we can manage without tiring and games to play so Mum can relearn some skills. And while I am at home that is all fine and dandy.

But I have found it very hard to go out and leave them alone, even for a few minutes. This situation will improve as Mum gets better, but at the moment I find it hard. Of course it’s totally impossible not to go out though. I need to get to the shops to buy food (lots and lots and lots of food as it happens as we are trying to build both Mum and Dad’s weight up) and also I need to get to the chemist to pick up meds quite often. And this is without even considering the need to just get out on my own for a half hour here and there to retain my own sanity, which I haven’t felt comfortable to do up until now.

So, I was thrilled when the lovely people at Tesco Compare car insurance asked me if I wanted to test and review a Tom Tom Hands Free car kit. I have never needed a car kit before as phone calls would never have been so important that they couldn't wait until I was parked or back home. But in the present circumstances I thought that it would go a long way to ease my mind to know that I could take a call immediately if needed.

The car kit itself is small and neat and comes with both dashboard mounting and windscreen mounting so you can choose exactly where you want it to go. As I already have a satnav (which I bought when we were making endless trips to hospitals all over Sussex earlier in the year), this was very useful as it meant I could pop it over on the dash well out of the way on the right hand side of my steering wheel, and without taking up half my windscreen (which is the only downside to all these gadgets). It comes with an external mic which is located on the front of the cradle and also an extension cable for that, so you can put it up on your sun visor if it’s easier or better. I haven’t found the need to extend the mic location at all, everyone has said the calls have been very clear, but I think the visor location would maybe be better if you travel on faster roads more. I was impressed that it came with the option straight out of the box. The cradle itself has two rubberised clips to hold the phone in place. They are strong and secure and there has been no wobbling around at all. I have an iphone 5 so I can’t comment on how other phones are held but they are full adjustable so I can’t see there would be any issues at all. The phone connects to the kit via Bluetooth, and located on the cradle are two buttons to answer and hang up calls. This is brilliant for short journeys when you can’t be bothered don’t’ want to rake around your handbag finding the phone. It works perfectly from somewhere in a handbag that’s thrown in the back foot well underneath three bags of shopping! There is a charger for your phone too so on longer journeys you could reach your destination with a fully charged phone (that in itself is quite something and extremely useful for the iPhone 5 which I don’t think has the best battery life in the world) I haven’t used it yet as I need to get an adapter from the micro USB which is supplied to the lightning dock that the iPhone uses. But again I am very impressed that charging facilities have been provided straight out the box.
The call quality seems very good. The speaker is great and I can hear clearly, and I've certainly had no complaints from callers at the other end so I assume the mic is good too. And really call quality is all that matters in a car kit.

There were only a few minor niggles and really they are hardly worth mentioning, but for the transparency of a review I will: Firstly if you put the phone in the cradle the two buttons for answering and hanging up a call are totally obscured. Now I assume that if you have put your phone in the cradle that you are expecting to use the phone buttons, but having the buttons accessible would be useful as touchscreens on modern smartphones are hard to use when you’re driving, a quick button press is easier. The only other little point is that within the packaging there are a plethora of little clips and tacks and adapters for attaching cables to this that and the other and extending the mic and the charger etc, but I didn't find enough detail in the user guide to understand quite what every little one is for. I've worked it out since, and as I say it’s hardly worth mentioning really.

It’s such a small gadget really, but it does make me feel so much easier knowing that I can answer a call while driving safely and never really be out of reach. It’s gone a long way to ease my mind when I need to pop out for a few minutes.

Model reviewed: Tom Tom Hands Free Car Kit for Smartphones

Friday, September 06, 2013

i Knit too!

I wonder if you all even remember that i knit?  I'm not sure that I do ;)  Well I thought i'd show you a few things i have made during these past months.  Some with a little story to tell and others just to pass the time.

These socks for example:
These were knit from sock yarn that  a friend sent when they first knew mum was ill and i had no yarn with me.  I made them for Mum, and they were knit during the hours/days/weeks she was in a coma and we were waiting. One of the first times she moved her hands properly was to feel this ball of yarn.  (If I remember it was merino - it'd make me move out of a coma too :D)

The next thing I made was a colour affection. made for Mum for mother's day. I bought Holst Garn Supersoft for this as I wanted to try their yarn.  I loved knitting with it (and it had that lovely sheepy smell that all knitters love) It's washed up lovely and soft (for a pure wool, it's not merino soft!!) and generally i'm really happy.  The only thing I would change is that i think the two shades of green are too similar. (in fact in the photo you can't even really tell there are two shades of green)  i'd make the shawl again.:

Then there was a Cinnamon Toast shawl made from Sparkleduck galaxy (Which does actually have a little bit of sparkle in it *squeeeee*).  Now this is my favourite make of recent months.  The ruffly edge gives it a real swish factor (you know like the good looking blond bombshell with the hair flick - well this is the equivalent in shawls!) and some weight which made it feel good to wear (and also alerts you to when it was falling off, which  I have found to be an issue with others (maybe I fidget too much?).  My row gauge seems a bit out, I did a full extra repeat on top of the full shawl depth, and still i feel it could have been deeper.  But then i'm very long from shoulders to waist so maybe it's just me.  I really love it though, one of my favourite ever knits.

I also made a second one in ice yarns merino viscose. This was a quick make for a weekend jazz festival. I knitted it on 5mm needles and i do actually have some yarn left so may at some point undo the ruffle and add an extra body repeat:

Finally I have a commission knit on the needles now. I needed to wait until life was more settled and I could concentrate a little, and also until the evening temperatures had eased off a little...... I've only done the back and one front so far but i do love knitting an aran. No photos yet - next on the agenda!

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Mum n Dad's house has many doors (it's a laugh when we get new carers, we leave them to see where they go, but no one ever gets the right door first time!) it was a cottage and was extended to the side so somehow it ended up with four doors, then mum n dad added a conservatory so now there are 5.  It's all good tho', doors provide mobility exercises - steps, narrow spaces, thresh-holds, so we find ourselves using as many of them as we can to ring the changes and keep Mum challenged! It's all good fun.

This is my favourite one tho'  ;)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Whilst some form of normality continued

Whilst having one of our now normal strange conversations with Mum a few months ago, She expressed a desire to have veg still grown at home so that when she was hopefully back for the summer there would be the usual produce available for instant gratification when you fancy homegrown veg.  Always one to try to oblige and being a dutiful daughter I took MrNoo to the local garden club centre and we bought just a few of the more obvious veg. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, runnerbeans, and courgettes.  Nothing too much, just a few little bits to entice Mum into the garden on her visits home. (It's a big garden, it constitutes an entire physio session just walking around it - this is a good thing!)

Also when offered an opportunity to work in a greenhouse like this:
with windows that open with an old turn screw like this:

Who could honestly refuse? (Not me!)  Plus let's face it .......... sometimes, just sometimes, it's really good to have a good, honest, valid excuse to go out into the garden alone for a little while ;)

And look, we have been rewarded ;)

The first cucumber - Mum will be pleased!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Life got in the way

You know how you leave a blog post thinking the time isn't right, and the longer you leave it the worse it gets? Well that's about how it's been here.

Suffice to say that our family's world was shattered 3 days before Christmas when my beautiful Mum suffered a massive brain bleed. The short story is that she is now in a rehabilitation centre, coming to the end of her stay there before coming home. The long story is that it has been (almost exactly) 6 months of emotional roller-coaster, deep despair swiftly followed by hope and expectation (repeat thrice daily) and endless hospital meals,  absolute exhaustion in the way that you can't even feel yourself any more, and the best kind of joy for the first hand squeeze, the first smile, the first words, the first (and every subsequent) hug.  The mourning, to some degree, of a life that will never be the same again (for any of us) snatched away in a moment without any warning, but the corresponding elation that Mum is still here, and while her cognitive state is somewhat impaired, she knows who she is, and who her family are and how many yards of fabric you need to buy to make a pair of lounge trousers (!) so although the rest needs attention, she's got the important stuff nailed.

So, that's been it for the past 6 months.  Within the next month she will be home and we will begin our next journey, honing the thinking skills, keeping her motivated to try new things and not get lazy or complacent. To restore her love for crafting in a way that she can achieve it. It'll be a challenge but one that must be met to ensure that her life is what I know she would want it to be, independent and full.

Needless to say crafting has pretty much been off the agenda. I have knit some bits and pieces, while waiting aside hospital beds for something (anything) to happen. And as part of Mum's progressive discharge she was home last weekend and we made the aforementioned pair of lounge pants. Mum watched me as I cut a pattern and affirmed my choices of which seams to sew in what order. (I think secretly she just didn't want to leave me alone with her fancy pants sewing machine! and quite rightly so)

My baby, The Crafters' Barn is still growing from strength to strength. Kris has been amazing and has taken on the contact side of the site and dealt with the (very few) issues that have been experienced. And I have place a few magazine adverts and tried to keep the social media side engaged, with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and a couple of Email Newsletters for sellers. We were a year old this week - that feels kinda strange but very exciting.  I have big plans for the site, but need more time and planning for them than I am able to give at the moment.

So hopefully now I've broken the ice i will be writing here again a lot more often. I have missed blogging.... but then i've missed quite a lot of things these past few months.  Onward and upward as they say.

T'il soon ♥