Saturday, 30 March 2019

Today I have been mostly . . .

Messing around.  Whilst my hands recover from too much pond weeding I have been tidying my study and the horrendous paper and scanning backlog has improved a little.

Today we were going to go out for the annual "we really ought to get some new clothes" shopping trip but it was so cold and miserable early on that neither of us were in the mood to buy cotton shirts and anything remotely resembling summer.   Instead I puttered around, and the grey cell flitted around all the trips I want to make in Bill.  But the grey cell is easily distracted and confused, and I realised I needed to be able to visualise my ideas as a whole.  So out came a couple of Caravan Club maps which I never use.

I have never blogged about a daft idea which was conceived last year.   I'm somewhat addicted to, and in complete awe of, various blogs written by the determined folk who are walking around the entire coast of this country.  I know I am never, ever going to undertake such a massive enterprise but I could drive it . . .

In a tiny, tiny way I started last year but did not get very far (although there are some draft posts hidden away, and even a label!)    Management is so supportive, bless him.  Everytime I look at a map and go "gulp, that's a long way, I can't do it" he says "YES YOU CAN".  So for once I am going to believe him;  2019 might just be the year it happens!

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Good days and bad days

Today is a bad(ish) day. Not because I am missing Daisy - although I am, dreadfully. We both are.  Today is a not the best of days because I did way too much in the garden yesterday and nearly all of me aches a great deal, especially my hands which makes typing a bit tricky, and I did not sleep well.

The good days were Monday and Tuesday, both spent outside, achieving loads and having fun. Which feels bad - because of that idiotic voice which says “ought” not to be having fun. Oh hell, it’s a mental mess. But this too shall pass . . .

Early Monday morning Management nipped out to town to collect a couple of things from Sainsbugs and I went down to the greenhouse. I’d not been there a minute when my phone rang and I picked it up thinking “he’s forgotten something” but saw it was LP. Nothing unusual there, we chat every 2 or 3 months and have a good catch up. The conversation went:

me - Well, good morning
LP - hello, how are you?
me - fine thanks, just in the greenhouse
LP - I’ll walk round then
me - WHAT?

And cheerfully walking down the path was our friend who we’ve not seen for nearly two years. Turns out he was in Cumbria for a funeral, sneaky boy did not tell anyone he was coming back and had decided to drive around surprising people! Well, he certainly did that so the rest of the morning was spent talking, and drinking tea, and talking a load more, and wandering around the garden. All the work we have done was approved of, but when I suggested he roll his sleeves up and help me with first job I had planned he suddenly thought of somewhere else he needed to be!

The next Monday surprise was that I actually achieved what I wanted to, and a little more besides. The messy area next to the greenhouse has been irritating me for a couple of years so I levelled it off with paving slabs, moved the now-rotted larch slab edge, laid out the last two 8” x 2” boards and created an instant pot-standing-area.

Why two people who eat virtually no carbs need this many tubs of potatoes is anyone’s guess, but last month I was overcome with a desperate need to have fresh Jersey Royal potatoes this year. These are NOT Jersey Royals, I am not allowed to call them that unless they are grown on an island 500 miles south of here, they are International Kidney. Each pot has just one tuber so that I will only harvest a small quantity at a time . . . we shall see how his diet and my glucose levels get on!

Need to move some slate chippings around, but that’s just cosmetic.

The second surprise was succeeding in potting up four huge tubs with purchased Lavender plants and some little pansies, plus one of the hayrack baskets. Need to finish off the edge of the hayrack, haven’t quite decided how to do it. On Tuesday Management cleaned the slabs with the Karcher and I’m very happy with the little area we’ve created, now all I need is some nice weather to sit out and enjoy it.

As I drew the curtains on Tuesday morning I was greeted with the sight of some very unwelcome visitors. Again. Two ducks have found our Big Pond and seem determined to move in. Much as I like to be kind to the wildlife who visit here, I hate these two birds with a passion - they are eating the frogspawn, eating the newts if they can get them, eating newly emerging pond plants, shitting all over the place and making the Big Pond dirty and messed up. (The other ponds which they do not visit are crystal clear at present, so I know who I am blaming for the murky water.)

It was clear that I had to do something about this, rather than continue to say I needed to do something so all of Tuesday was spent tackling the much needed weeding and thinning of the margins and rigging up my own version of Himalayan Prayer Flags. I suppose I could always call it an modern art installation, ha ha, but 24 hours on there are no ducks in evidence . . . so fingers crossed because if this doesn’t work Management wants to put netting over the water and that’s going to be a right pain.

The metal grid is to protect the tadpoles from Rooks and Crows who were thinking “yo, sushi!”

M. has cleaned the black deck as well, I’ll put the furniture back when I’ve pruned the laurel and wisteria.

I’m thrilled to have done so much, but I ran out of energy before finishing and need M’s help for a final large Carex which is going to be evicted. And I really overdid the pulling new rush shoots and secateuring everything else that needed cutting back. The tendons on the back of both hands are tired and sore, very, very tired and sore. Typing today has been slow and uncomfortable.

But in truth today is not all bad, I had a surprise visit from a neighbour with her 2 year-old grand-daughter in tow, and the little child was a delight. We dumped a pile of small quilts on the floor in front of her and she amused herself for over an hour with not a single moan or whinge. And I got to chat and relax for a while which is never a bad thing.

I thought might bimble off to a garden centre this afternoon, or I might not . . .

Monday, 25 March 2019


Spent all of Saturday and some of Sunday in the sewing room.  Before I started the Bee Kind quilt top looked like:

After 1½ days work it looked like:

No, you're not going mad, I am.  I spent all of Saturday making borders using a pack of 5" squares from the same fabric range.  As I went along I checked how it all looked with photos, squinting, looking backwards with a mirror, everything seemed great.  Until I finished the final seam, put it back on the design boards and knew in about a third of a millisecond that it was coming off.  It looked so wrong that there are no photos, you can have a sneak peak at a section of border but I don't want a record of the whole thing.

It took all of Saturday to make and affix the borders, it took an hour on Sunday morning to remove them.

So this top is staying 62" square, it clearly does not want to be any larger . . .  that was a waste of a weekend, sigh.

Friday, 22 March 2019

"Bee Kind" Trip Around the World quilt

I've worked on this every day recently, the weather is not conducive to getting out in the garden, and in the main it has been a pleasure.  Some quilts 'fight back' - I'm thinking of the Autumn/Halloween TATW which got unpicked and  moved around so many times.  Apart from the fabric quality, (but that's for another post) this one has been really straightforward and generally enjoyable.

Three fabrics with too much contrast were taken out, I thought they might have a role later in a border but I've since realised that the green and purple actually don't belong here - they are from the Bumbleberries range..

Things always look different after a half-decent night's sleep so on Monday morning one of the honeycomb fabrics was removed, easier to do it now (with only 16 strips and 32 seams to unpick ) than later with 32 [64 seams], 48 [96 seams] or 64 [128 seams - aargh]!

Tuesday was very repetitive, strip after strip after strip, constantly checking to make sure I had not muddled up the order, followed by lots of cutting and opening out of the sections.

A bit of messing around with PhotoShop to confirm that I did have the different colours/patterns in an order I liked:

After a quick haircut and sprint around Sainsbug's on Wednesday I moved one of the big boards closer to the sewing machine (pinning everything first!) and just got my head down to the repetitive slog of matching seams, sew, press, again and again and again.

Moving the boards is a bit hairy - even with the strips pinned in place!

Despite intending to get outside both yesterday and today it's still wet, cold and uninviting, and frankly it is not taking much to keep me hiding indoors at present.  And concentrating on a quilt top like this stops me thinking about Other Things, yes Daisy, I mean you ๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ’•.   I am also trying to ignore the fact that the mountain of bark chip on the drive has not been touched for a month . . .

However the upside of the lack of gardening is a new quilt top  ๐Ÿ™‚.  It needs a border, the top is currently only 62" square and that's a little on the slim side.  However, I have more of this fabric which is intended for a "similar but different" quilt, so until both are pieced and I see what is left over, borders will have to wait.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Weather dependent

The only 'normal' thing about our life at present is that what we do is totally dictated by the ever-changing weather.

(the pale clouds to the right of the rainbow above - snow!)

The glorious "Sham" Spring that we enjoyed in February is a memory, and it seems that every day in March has followed the same unpleasant pattern of wind, rain, hail and a brief burst of sunshine, only to be followed minutes later by more of the same, in differing amounts and a random order.  The wind has made it very cold and when it's like this outside I don't even want to go in the greenhouse.

Over the last few days I have sewn binding onto all the little quilts which were longarmed the previous week, with the last completed on Saturday.

The 'distant relative' to Daisy's Picnic Blanket is completely finished.   With a logic that only a madwoman can probably follow, you eat food on a picnic, so this quilt has a "food related" fabric on the back.  It amused me to orientate the print so that the narrow red strips on the quilt top matched the red printed lines on the back and I'm very pleased with it.  The neighbour I showed it to just "didn't get it" and left me shaking my head - one of those "it is me?" moments.  Management reminded me that I have noted before this person is a couple of eggs short of a full dozen.  One day I will learn.  He's claimed it for the kitchen table where it will drape much better once it has been washed a couple of times.

There is a limit to how much hand-binding I can manage in one session so the others will get finished as and when I feel like it.

A picture just for my benefit, so that next time I do something this silly I don't have to waste nearly an hour remembering how I did it last time (which, in my defence, was 2004 according to the label on a little Christmas runner with the same angles!)


The week Daisy died I did some 'comfort shopping'.   It was not an attempt to make myself feel better by acquiring things, I'm not stupid enough to think that would ever work;  the logic behind my purchases was "why wait?"   For a few weeks I had been eyeing up this fabric online, and kept telling myself I really needed to use more of what I already have before buying anything else.  Losing Daisy so suddenly and unexpectedly got me in a "sod it, do it now because you don't know what is going to happen in the future" frame of mind and a few days later a very large squishy parcel arrived and I will 'fess up right now that the picture below was not all of it.  There may have been more than one jelly roll in each design . . .

It is all absolutely glorious and there's a distinct chance that the bolt of paw-print fleece with a black background is going to get joined by a bolt with a white background๐Ÿ˜‰

I wanted some easy, semi-mindless sewing, but it needed to be pretty, so I cracked open one of the jelly rolls and was surprised, in a good way, to find that instead of 40 different patterns/colour-ways I had two strips each of 20.   That is a much, much better balance for another Trip Around the World Quilt.

The strips settled themselves down into a nice order surprisingly quickly, although as usual, there were changes along the way.

Spot the difference?

So that was Sunday taken care of . . .

(note to Eunice: I wrote this on Sunday night and decided I was too tired to publish it until Monday.  You're not going mad . . . ๐Ÿคก )

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Letting go, and moving on

At one level we will never be ready to let go.  But keeping beds, toys, coats and the immense quantity of food I had here does no-one any good.  It does us no good to have constant visual reminders that the Darling Girl is no longer here to use these things.  We loaded up Bill, shaking heads at the sheer quantity of items.

Daisy had a bed in every room where she laid down, plus our cars, plus the 'spares' that sat ready to go into the garden or on the balcony.   Being such a thoroughly messy eater, her little fleece blankets only lasted a day or two before they needed a quick wash, so I always had plenty of spares on hand.  As I thoroughly detest 'regular' shopping, her food was bought in bulk every 4 or 5 weeks, and of course I had recently topped up our supplies.  All these things can do a great deal of good for the abandoned and homeless babies currently looked after by Animal Care in Lancaster.

We might not be ready to take another four-paws into our homes, but maybe we can make things slightly more comfortable for those who are waiting for their Person.

Bulk buying food might have saved money, and ensured I never ran out of anything, but an empty cupboard is a horrible sucky, shitty thing:

It was something I had to do, even though it was horrible.  Then a slow and gentle drive home, taking my time, letting the emotions settle.

And back not a moment too soon; whilst I enjoyed a sunny view at Shap summit, tonight we are forecast exceptionally high winds and I have more than a little concern for the greenhouse.


But now I am home and we have to think about moving forward; we cannot live in the past, we cannot bring Daisy back, and we probably could not have prevented what happened.

We have survived, and that is in no small part thanks to you all.

The collective wisdom, kindness and concern which has been freely shared over the past couple of weeks is humbling indeed.

Every day I have been moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of spirit of friends around the world, who I have met through blogging.  The comments you have left - articulate, sensitive, gracious, insightful, patient and thoughtful have stopped me in my tracks.

Sometimes it feels like we cannot turn on our TVs or computers without learning of bullying or abuse carried out online, and are regularly warned that the internet can be a dangerous place.  Whilst that is true, not enough is made of what an amazing place it can be.  The friends who have been here for me as I struggled to come to terms with the sudden and unexpected loss of our darling Daisy dog - you held me up when I stumbled, picked me up when I fell, and have helped me see that one day I will be OK again.

You are all absolutely bloody amazing.

Saying "Thank You" is just not enough, but right now it is all I have got.

Sleep tight everyone, fingers crossed this storm turns out not to be as bad as forecast.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

New leaders and metallic thread, what could possibly go wrong.

Weather horrible - cloudy, cold, wet, bright for 20 minutes then very cold and wet.  "Rinse and repeat".  Every day since Wednesday.  I was already grateful that we had such a lovely February - I am even more appreciative of it now.

Cannot work in the garden, greenhouse 'mojo' went missing, so it's clean the house or sew.  Stuff the cleaning, fabric it is, but I knew it was time to quilt some of the recently pieced little tops before I created any more to add to the backlog.  At the beginning of February there were 10 tops in the queue, I'd completed the 'Puppy Quilts" but that still left eight, mostly small items, plus two more in the sewing room (hiding on the Shelf of Shame).

Wednesday:  Christmas table runners first. Small, should be simple requiring only two passes of a pantograph pattern on each, so why not make things extra difficult as the new leaders are still stiff and not 'broken in', let's use metallic thread.  What could possibly go wrong?  (If you are a quilter you know the answer to that question is "absolutely anything and everything, including the whole lot going in the dustbin".)

But this is where whichever Goddess is on duty this week decided I had gone through enough stress recently, and made sure everything played nicely.  I mean, REALLY nicely:  tension perfect from the off, not a single thread break, I never ran out of bobbin thread midway through a row, the new leaders rolled up fairly well and everything was straight and parallel.  By late afternoon I had - Ta Da:

Thursday:  Weather still 'pants' and I wanted to keep quilting.  Confidence to be rebuilt, muscle memory to be laid down again.

Friday:  I was "on a roll" (or on a mission, haven't decided which) and had a much earlier start than usual.  One done by lunchtime, the second in the afternoon.  By which time I figured I was well and truly knackered.

I rarely use plain fabric, and try to steer clear of big contrast between thread colour and fabric colour. Broke all those rules on these tops and absolutely love it, particularly the green which had me jumping up and down (sort of) in a (sort of) excited "crikey, I didn't expect this" sort of way; don't even normally like these colours.  The photos do not do them justice.

I need a little note here about the pattern used on the green and pink quilts.  It is "Ground Cover" by the lovely Keryn Emmerson.  I've used it countless times, always stitches up beautifully, interlocks really well and always looks fantastic.  I've probably thoroughly embarrassed her now ๐Ÿ˜Š

Neither of these quilts are wonky as the pictures would suggest - I was being lazy and held the camera over the table, so everything is out of whack.  Which is a shame because they are two of the flattest, most square, most accurate little pieces I might ever have made . . .

Before I quilted these I said to Management "not sure why the hell I am doing this, what will I use them for" and he suggested throws for the kitchen table.  He has since been told neither the green or the pink are going anywhere near the table and risking having fried egg on them!

There is now a lot of trimming and binding to do.

Whilst I am chuffed to little bits to have got through six items I'm also thoroughly sad, because the main reason I got so much done was that there wasn't a need to keep stopping to check on Daisy.  Of course, Management would never hesitate to take over all the 'parenting duties' if I wanted to go out or was busy, but just being in the house always meant I had half an eye/ear on what she was doing or might need.

But this is our life now.  I had a weird wobble a couple of days ago when I felt I wasn't sure who I was; if I wasn't "Daisy's Mum" who am I?    Had another wobble this morning which involved an out-of-control Jack Russell needing a new home.  But this will pass.  We have talked about 'another dog' and both agree not now.

Possibly not ever - which we said when Ollie died, and look how that turned out.

(not the same photo I posted last time - found a whole batch of these not yet processed from May 2017, yay!!!)