Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy 2014

Happy New Year to all of our lovely blogger and real life friends. Hope this one is good for everyone. Both cats are curled up cosily, Magic at my feet and Red sprawled across a chair. I am sitting cosily too and my gammy knee is very slowly improving, I hope. I'm still walking like a punch drunk sailor but seem to be lurching around slightly less. Thanks to everyone who sent me good wishes for my recovery too.

May you all be blessed with health, happiness and love, as well as enough money to see you through.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Pause in Advent: Week Four - Rest, recuperation and hope

I have thoroughly enjoyed joining in with Floss and the other wonderful bloggers participating the Pause in Advent. Now we are at the last one the big question is 'have my Pauses made a difference to my Advent period'? 
I'd no idea how this was all going to turn out. I was aware I was sharing much deeper thoughts than I normally do as my blogs are usually frothy fun places. As I reach the final Pause, there is a rather profound change in me as I reflect on this year and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to record some of my thoughts in these pauses.

It is hard to categorise this year as in all truth much of this year has been unpleasant, distressing, painful and unreasonably difficult and I would willingly delete it from my life in a heartbeat if that were possible.

However, to do so would mean wiping out the first half of the unexpected summer holiday as this was a shaft of sunlight I thought I'd not experience with someone I love dearly again and the amazing kindness and support of friends and colleagues in helping which has been humbling. I cannot bear not being in control or having to ask for help but this year I have had to and, despite all my fears and concerns, some friends have proved to be absolute rocks of support particularly in practical terms. Blogging and learning new crafts has also helped make me feel a continuing part of the real world while I was so limited and at times despairing. 

I face a very different Christmas this year which I didn't quite expect, nor would it be in any of my top ten choices for how to spend it. However, though it will not be ideal if I am honest, I have experienced worse and this one has much hope to commend it. It comes with no major expectations, the limitations are fixed and in many ways this is immensely liberating and I find myself looking forward to how and with whom I will spend the day.

My relationship with God has received a boost through writing these pauses. I have not attended mass regularly for nearly three years now since my life imploded spectacularly trying to care for someone who's needs and demands totally consumed and overwhelmed me. My faith sustained me through all of that but I still find my emotions can overwhelm me in church, and I am not a pretty or quiet crier! However, for me my faith is a personal value and ethical attitude which does not need a shop window to it. The strength of my faith exists between God and myself and by joining in these pauses and in reading the reflections of others has helped me recognise and reconnect more effectively.

I speak with God more often, I have offered up the worries and fears I have to him and let Him know that I am leaving it in his capable hands without fighting him for control and I am trying my very hardest to stop pushing for things to happen or fretting. Lack of control and acceptance are majorly challenging to me. So this Advent and Christmas I am letting go, not entirely without fear admittedly, but I'm trying. I have been using my Angel Cards before bed as a meditation tool to focus on a particular aspect or attribute and, this too has been helpful. It has helped me particularly in this last week as I finally underwent surgery and as I continue to recuperate I am more at peace than I have been. In all truth I am starting to suspect this has been a bit of a watershed and that there are indications of a time of change ahead but instead of fretting about it I am going to leave it in God's hands and let him guide the way.

So, as the celebration of our Saviour's birth approaches I want to send my love and thanks to my real life and blogger friends, to everyone who has been there for us this year, to Floss for arranging these Pauses and to God for being in my life and continuing to be there. May everyone have a beautiful, peaceful and fulfilling Christmas and look forward to a bright, promising New Year.

With much love,

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Round up of some little makes

Post number four today which I 'think' completes things to date!

The Green Dragonfly posted a wonderful little Mousie Tutorial which I decided to make to test my crochet pattern reading skills and just because he looked so cute. To save me standing on my painful knee I used some Flutterby wool that was within reach and a larger hook. I had thought it was also a good idea it might be more human hand sized and if the cats pinched it the mouse might not get munched so badly. It all worked out well and the pattern was very easy to read and follow so kudos to The Green Dragonfly. My mouse is not the bonniest but I think that is due to the trouble I had with his features and trying to hide the ends, which is also why he has the oddest whiskers! However, I love him, he feels great, I learned the popcorn stich and the cats don't bother with him apart from a disgusted sniff-winner all round.
Sizewise this is him beside Magic's front leg (she was giving him the intruder once over). Both cats are complete photobombers!

I haven't made pom poms since I was a child/teenager. I know you can make tiny pom poms with a fork but anything larger means all that faffing around with cardboard circles which always took the fun out of it. As I wasn't very sure if plastic ones would work, I didn't want to buy the more expensive Clover ones, so instead I ordered this 4 size set from ebay. They took a while to come from China but they are so much easier than mucking around with cardboard. 
Mine are sometimes not round, but I think this is my error as the makers are the right shape. What I didn't realise you could do is make heart shaped ones and so I've splashed out and ordered some Clover heart makers. I cant wait for these to arrive.

Lucy at Attic24 posted a lovely tutorial for her Little Lacy Stars which I actually think of as Little Lucy Stars now! Sadly these are apparently very chewable and Lucy's wonderfully arty display on twigs is disappointingly just never going to survive in this house. It is not even worth attempting with the furry muggers around.  
Star one is claimed and "Off the 'puter!!" ignored
 Jelly Wares also had a lovely star tutorial that I decided to try after my little Lucy ones and this worked out really nicely too. Thanks to both for their great tutorials.
This was my first attempt at making a lavender stuffed felt heart on the sewing machine. It is very wonky and made me decide to stick to getting better at straight lines before I go round corners. It made me laugh too as a woman in my Glass class only makes straight edged leaded glass projects as she says the trauma of the little dove's curves at the beginning put her off for life!

Finally I think, I had plans for doing a pin cushion and was plotting how to make a super pincushion that sat firmly, didn't move around etc. However, when making my tree forest I realised I needed one NOW as loose pins and cats are not a good combo. So, instead of my feature rich pin cushion I leap in and made quite possibly the plainest one possible from an off cut which I will no doubt use for eternity as it works!
If you've hung in for this deluge of posts today very well done and thank you for reading and commenting if you are not too exhausted!

Sew Confident- Weeks five and six

A third post today which has been waiting to be posted. It got rather lost in waiting for me to snip the stray threads from my week six makes and to photograph them. I've managed to get a patch of sun today but all I think it has done is add shade rather than light!

Week Five
Oh, dear Lord, it all went a bit horribly wrong in week five and was all my fault! Flushed with the success of the make up bag the week before I was so looking forward to making the piped cushion. I hadn't managed to be out of the house since the last class due to my knee injury and had even missed my glass class on the Saturday so I was raring to go. I tried ordering the piping cord online but due to some slow deliveries I was probably best not to chance it. To minimise walking I went to a local Remnant Kings and got some on the way to the class as it was a small one and had parking right outside the door.

Once I got to class I realised I had forgotten the other essential - the zip! My heart sank and I was so annoyed with myself. Jenny was great and suggested completing the cushion cover the next week as the zip was one of the later stages which did make me feel a bit better. However, I then managed to very carefully measure out my fabric and cut it, before realising my square was....a rectangle, and even worse neither of the sides was anywhere near the size I'd intended. Jenny very kindly suggested that sometimes stripy fabrics can be deceiving but when she measured it even she was a bit lost for words. I've still no idea how I got it so wrong!!!! However Jenny retrieved the situation and reckoned it was still ok and I just needed to alter my piping length to fit and could subtract some stuffing from my cushion inner. I'm glad I was doing this in a class setting as if it had just been me at home I'd probably have given up as the piping was supposed to be the hard bit NOT cutting a square!

Things went slightly better from here on in. I did have to be shown how to use a seam unpicker for a little section before re-sewing but I managed to finish the cushion cover. In the end I decided I just wanted it over and done with and to get finished rather than do the zip next week so I chose to slip stitch it closed later. Getting the inner in was quite some deal as I hadn't really left a big gap so it was a bit like midwifery in reverse! The cushion is now really plump which is actually how I like them as I cannot stand limp useless cushions. Despite the trauma over its creation I really do like it and it matches the summer cushions perfectly, tho' I may have to trade the wee ginger boy in for a coordinated all cream cat!

Week Six
Week Six and the culmination of our talents to date. I was really excited about this as this was the freestyle week where we could make whatever we wanted with support on hand. I wanted to make my own knitting needle wrap in the blue vine fabric and researched online for ages to find a pattern or ideas. Part of the issue is that I have 18 needle sizes and most available do not have enough storage. I debated doing one with lots of pockets for all needles, Tunisian crochet hooks and standard crochet hooks and notions but realised I'd never be able to roll it up, so a single wrap would be best.
The plan was to have everything cut and pinned so that I could make the most of my sewing machine time but I realised it needed done in stages and I'd only end up getting muddled. When I got to class I decided to design it without additional pockets. The large one for my knitting needles took me 2hrs, most of which was doing the pockets, and the small supplementary crochet hook wrap only about 30mins as I knew what I was doing by then. I am so pleased with these and delighted to see my yarn craft tools housed in matching holders sewn by my own fair mittens! It also makes it easy to spot them as they are all in the same print.

Objectively, my stitching could have been neater but it is vastly improved from some weeks earlier. The long pockets are a bit too long for 10ins needles but they are still kept safe. I could have put the bias binding round the edges if I hadn't left it at home, though I quite like the plain edges.
All in all, I have loved this class and Jenny's calm reassurance. We did tease her a bit though as her catchphrases were "No, its ok" and "its alright, that can be fixed" however, it was ideal to have her on hand and I think all of us wanted to take her home. Clydebank College is a great venue as it is new, clean and well appointed. It even has good access if you have a gammy knee and helpful staff. Six weeks is not a lot of sewing time and we badgered Jenny to run some more courses as she was great to work with. When I look back I am amazed at what I've achieved but am very much still a novice and want to keep going.

Sparkly snowflakes are falling

A second post today to catch up with what I've been making.

Once I'd got started making the snowflakes for the Christmas Decoration Swap arranged by Marianne at Ladybird Diaries I couldn't seem to stop........!

 ....And then there was the small forest of Christmas trees that followed....

Christmas Decoration Swap

I was delighted this year to join in with the Christmas Decoration swap organised by Marianne at Ladybird Diaries. I was paired with Jessie's Needle and we both made contact to arrange our swap. I was also delighted that Jessie's Needle offered her help and expertise with any crochet queries as I was just getting back into crochet again and my first attempts were seriously wonky.

I am trying to do some catch up posts as lots of things have got in the way recently and I have a backlog to share. I'm sure Jessie's Needle won't mind me sharing this as I know she has got my package and sent me a lovely thank you note. We were later in doing our swaps but were both happy to live with the delay. I know she has sent mine but I've been having dreadful problems with delayed mail here so will blog again once it arrives.

I loved doing the decoration and spent ages deciding what to do. I scanned Jessie's Needle blog to see if I could pick up some colour cues but couldn't spot any common themes. I would have liked to do something crocheted or knitted but my skills were not up to speed and I was too shy to send a wonky item. I can cope with some degree of sub-perfection within a  handmade item but too much pushes me over the edge. So I decided to go with jewellery making as it is full of sparkle, has endless colour combinations and I had bought some snowflake wire forms that I'd bought in a lovely bead shop in Perth at least two years ago that I had never tried.
As always, no endeavour should be unsupervised by at least one of the fur overlords
Many colour, texture, finish and size combinations must be explored till most of the dining table disappears 
 Eventually I found a pattern I was happy with which included elements I liked. The wire forms were a nightmare as they were so difficult to loop at the end and my first attempt was less than ideal, but I got there. This design is a mixture of faceted and coated rondelles and miyuki seed beads. The dangle is a blown glass puffy heart with a little chainmaille link. The tartan ribbon is a little nod to its Scottish provenance but mainly because it matched all the colours and seemed to peek out of my ribbon box.
 I found it hard to photograph the decorations when they were lying flat so I hung them on my little Yankee Candle Tart warmer.  
 I enjoyed doing the crystal snowflake but as my sewing machine had arrived (more of this later in a catch up post later) I wanted to try something machine sewn and personalised. I tried a heart but going round corners and machine sewing was just NOT happening. So I went with a mainly straight line simple embellished tree. Please ignore the wonky stitch on the right, it definitely didn't look that bad as I recall, so I'm saying it is all down to the Lavender filling.
 Hanging instead of just propped.  
 As I was in the 'zone' I decided to try another little lavender bag with some nice Christmas fabric and a matching ribbon. On the top left you can also see Magic's haunch as she was sitting with her back to me doing huffy snoopervising. 
 One of the trio with a snowflake punched card.
 I even decided to put a snowflake and little jewel on the envelope.
I had a ball making these and was delighted that Jessie's Needle liked them. I hope that we can keep in touch as she seems like a very nice person and I hope she has a lovely, happy and prosperous Christmas. I will definitely be joining in again next year if this is running again.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Pause in Advent: Week Three - Control and Letting Go

I am joining in with Floss and the other lovely bloggers who are participating in this third Pause in Advent. I do have to say a very big thank you to everyone who left me a comment as they were most heartening and I am so grateful to everyone who took the time to comment on what I had said or to offer advice or their wisdom. Thank you also to those who are now following my blog.

I wondered what I would write this week for my Pause in Advent reflection as my last two seem to have been very major and were written within days of each other as they seemed inextricably linked.
This week no lightbulb thought has presented itself; though to be fair the week has focussed on dealing with the unprofessional shambles that has become of my knee injury diagnosis and proposed treatment intervention. It has been tearfully frustrating and impossible to know who to trust in making the right decision with the safest risk profile in addition to being in significant pain. I genuinely don't know whether this delay is simply a competent clinician instigating a safety pause or a sign forcing me to another path with another consultant I can trust.
In reflecting on this, I think what I shall pause to consider this week is the balance between control, or self determination, and letting go and letting God deal with things.

I have always trusted God, otherwise I would not retain a faith, but I find it impossible not to meddle or to accept that things are not unfolding to my timetable. My coping strategy involves exploring every option, aspect, alternative and determining what the back stop is. Being detail orientated, accountable and planning for the unexpected is a benefit in my job; and in my personal life I need to feel the security of being assured I have made as good decisions or choices as I can at the time. Oddly though I often know the answer intuitively from the outset I spend ages considering all the options and alternatives to evidence or rationalise my way forward. In contrast once I have decided what needs to happen, I am utterly decisive, a complete perfectionist and turn things around in lightening quick time.
For many, many years I have struggled with the part of my faith which relies on letting go and letting God. When things are going ok I am content to believe that it is happening as it should but when something goes wrong or is slow to resolve, instead of praying and offering it up for God to deal with, I become frustrated and try to take back control to micro-manage the situation. An outcome is always achieved but there was probably a much less stressful route had I 'kept the faith'.
So, this is my pause this week as I face some very difficult decisions from tomorrow afternoon onwards. Tonight, I am going to have a very long conversation with the Man himself and try my very hardest to stop driving the bus and try the passenger seat instead so that I can enjoy some of the scenery of my life. 
I wish much love and contentment this Advent to all those involved in these Pauses and to everyone who reads them.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Size sometimes matters

Two epic underestimations when ordering online!

Riiiiight, so THAT'S what a kilo of lavender looks like. The picture on the web was very deceiving but it does smell very nice even if I did have to decant it into IKEA zippy bags and will be making lavender sachets till doomsday.
Aaahhh, ok then,....funnily enough, I'd sort of pictured £10 worth of polystyrene beads as being a reasonable amount and at least enough for two cat cushions, not half a wheelie bin liner full. It doesn't look half so bad in these pics as it has all spread out. I've stuffed it in the hall cupboard but it keeps 'oozing' towards me when I open the door. Wonder how many cat cushions this might make?

Hmmm, I'm beginning to think I might just call and check the actual size of the turkey I ordered in case it comes with five loaves, two fish and 5000 guests.....!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Just let it all out...!

Right, I'm having a grump and no one is going to stop me.

I was leaving this comment on Pom Pom's lovely blog and totally felt the need to expand on it as it has been bugging me for ages now. "I've been at home a great deal recently due to my knee injury and am at the stage if I see another heartwarming seasonal movie based on love, forgiveness and redemption of crabbit and unlovable estranged relatives then I may be forced to occasion harm on someone!!!"

I am a total Christmas lover and all things shiny, sparkly and seasonal totally do it for me. These last months have been difficult due to how lame I am right now. I can't get out to get my Gingerbread Latte, browse round the shops or Christmas Market or even just be part of the hurly burly of the town at Christmas as every step has to be counted to see it I can manage where I am going. This is why I've had time to watch Christmas Movie channels. However, I've rapidly reached saturation point. These made for tv offerings are depressingly similar, have the same premise and totally miss the point that sometimes there is a really good reason why you should avoid certain relatives and that the smell of a turkey dinner doesn't always cure people of their toxic personalities! Instead of managing to press my "Awww" button I am feeling totally homicidal and prone to muttering 'Ho, bloody Ho' as I switch over to some equally mindless programme which isn't covered in tinsel and fake good tidings.

Right, grump over and I feel much better now I've got that out there. I'm not naturally grumpy and in our family if anyone was having a grump they were put in their place by someone intoning 'lucky white heather'. So I think I will leave you with the source of this phrase from the very funny Rikki Fulton who was the master of the art of grump Late call - the rerr watter sketch and Lucky White Heather

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Pause in Advent: Week Two - Trust

Writing for last week's pause with Floss, which I only completed yesterday, got me thinking about what great or notable person or events I am awaiting and so I've decided to base my Pauses on some virtues or blessings that my life would benefit from right now. This week I think the next thing I need more of in my life is trust.

I have always found it exceptionally difficult when others do not prove themselves to be trustworthy. This is not to say that I don't manage uncertainty, as my life and work have all been based around responding to and managing uncertainty and effecting change. The kind of trust that I am reflecting on is having the security of trusting, of retaining a personal faith that my life is proceeding as it should be. I think we can underestimate the role of trust in our relationships. Love, in its most encompassing sense, is always held to be the ultimate achievement but perhaps it is a more random or incomplete emotion than it first appears. It seems that it is possible to love someone yet not entirely trust them; however, if we wholeheartedly trust someone then love seems to reflexively coexist. Till I wrote this I didn't even know that I thought this, so there may be flaws in my reasoning on the love/trust comparison.

I am not sure if I really believe that God actually orchestrates events to some predetermined plan as too many awful and inexplicable things happen in life. If he is the ultimate loving architect, or 'man with a plan', then you'd hope he'd have done a better job than create a world where his beloved are condemned to pain and suffering as a way to returning to him for eventual paradise. I can't quite rationalise that aspect. Instead I think that His power and strength is in guiding and supporting us to deal with what we face.

If I reflect over the past year, key events have made it very difficult to see His hand in guiding events or being there for me. I accept that bad things happen but I also have a belief that God places the right people and opportunities in your path as you need them and this belief is part of my trust with God. I have always felt the sentiments in the Footprints in the Sand poem were how my relationship with God worked. Sadly, over this year in particular this trust has been eroded, and it has been difficult not to acknowledge the frustration and hopelessness that have emerged at significant points with little to mitigate them or sense of a shared purpose.

I feel part of achieving or regaining trust needs a corresponding 'attitude of gratitude'. By this I don't mean trite Pollyanna-isms but real, genuine and heartfelt gratitude that there will be a resolution. However, sometime that the constant effort of making lemonade from life's lemons and reframing every disaster wipes authenticity from your life by not acknowledging the true reality of situations which can be just as damaging.

So, in moving forward through Advent this year, I would like to regain my confidence in trusting that my faith in God has simply become rather obscured and that by making time to reflect, to communicate and to create shafts of stillness in which I can hear His love and support that our connection will be re-established. I truly want this to provide hope for whatever follows and to allow me to mindfully find joy in the everyday.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

A Pause in Advent: Week One - Communication

I have joined in with Floss for her Pause on Advent. When I read about it, it struck a chord within me and I felt it was something I'd love to be involved in and Floss has generously allowed me to participate. Then, I had to think what I might say, or reflect upon....!

I didn't want to write something so deep I would regret sharing it in a blog or so trite and upbeat that it was meaningless. For this reason my week one of advent is being published only hours from my week two pause.

I have read all of the blogs who are participating for inspiration and each is very personal and different which is fascinating but didn't help me find the 'tone' or subject for mine. So I did what I usually do when I first start researching something I need to write and asked Google for a definition. It gave me this: "Advent - the arrival of a notable person or thing"; and this got me thinking.

Sometimes the thing we await was actually here all the time but don't always realise it. I suspect there are two lost people in this relationship right now, God and Me. I still feel I have a strong relationship with God and that He is a permanence in my life but I haven't actually had much time for him and have simply taken him for granted. By the same token he might reside here with me but I see few examples of where he has stepped up to the mark, put himself out or is pulling his weight. I am sure if we were in a human relationship we'd be having problems of feeling used, taken for granted and not being valued for the unique individuals we are. We don't communicate much or spend time just enjoying each other's company.

Life has been hard recently, and if I am bluntly honest, this year has been hell with much sadness, fear, anxiety and frustration. Some aspects have also been blessed with great people and assistance but at the point of action or inaction the burdens have been mine alone and very heavy they have been. I do feel very put upon, and although I do not 'blame' God as such, I am deeply resentful that the last eight years have been so hard and that each time it looks like the possibility of a corner being turned is simply to slam into another brick wall. It is not an exaggeration to say that the stressors have been significant, sustained and unrelieved. Yes, they change but over time they have only been replaced with new and sometimes even more dreadful events or decisions. This is partly why I think have been crafting so prolifically as immersing myself in new learning is a kind of balm, or distraction, to my soul.

What I think I would like to get out of this Advent in moving forward to 2014 is a sense of balance and stability. I would like to find peace and contentment which will allow me to relax and enjoy life without having to keep shifting  my burdens from one shoulder to another. My hope is that by establishing a greater communication with God will prepare the way for something better and to find comfort in moving forward.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Glass Christmas Tree

This a work in progress from my glass class. It is a simple Christmas tree tee light holder and is my first 3D sculptural piece. The work in progress bit is that I need to add on some chainmaille and little bells to make it look really festive.

One of the reasons for making it was so that I could have a tea light holder that could be propped in such a way that my longer haired cat wont set himself alight. I rarely use candles much now as Red is a liability in a way that Magic isn't.
 There is a little spider splat of solder at the bottom which I cant bring myself to remove as I actually really like it
The silver rings for the side to attach the chainmaille garland should really be soldered on but unfortunately, the class is now over so I may just resort to my trusty superglue to get it up and running for this Christmas.

I wanted to sign up for the next course of classes but I am waiting for surgery on my knee and am loathe to miss any. So I'll probably have to wait till the spring to restart. This has been a fabulous course, the tutor was great and I cant wait to rejoin the class.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Clutha Bar Helicopter Crash

Yesterday was St Andrew's Day - the Patron Saint of Scotland. It is not an enormously well celebrated event and it often goes unmarked by many Scots' including me. However, this year it has been marked by a tragedy. A Police Scotland helicopter came down on a well know Glasgow pub on the banks of the River Clyde called The Clutha Bar, or Clutha Vaults, as it was known.

The news coverage has been harrowing over the past two days. At the same time the courage and willingness of ordinary Glaswegians to help has been truly humbling in how they reacted at the incident and in the aftermath. This has included those in the bar listening to the band who turned into impromptu rescuers, a taxi firm offering a free service to the families of the injured to ferry them to the hospital if they have no transport, a nearby hotel acting as a casualty clearing station and rest centre and off-duty healthcare staff identifying themselves to assist with the initial care and support of the injured until the emergency services arrived and were able to take over.

Touching also were the reports of a Scottish Minister, Jim Murphy, who appears to have been passing and waded in to assist with no pomp or ceremony. Sadly, it is all too rare to hear of politicians who are willing to simply roll up their sleeves and assist without glory seeking.

These everyday heroes demonstrated the inherent kindness that I associate with the good people of Glasgow who don't think twice about helping a neighbour or stranger. Thoughts and prayers are with all those injured, bereaved or affected and the emergency and healthcare professionals involved.