Tuesday, February 9, 2016

let's all go to the circus

Image from Fireside Book of Favorite American Songs, illustrated by Aurelius Battaglia and found via this blog.

For weeks I've been meaning to blog about an amazing episode of Storyville that I watched, called The Golden Age Of Circus.  It's over an hour of old footage from various sideshows and circuses with no commentary, rather a musical soundtrack that the clips have been edited to dance along to.  There are so many beautiful sights in it and plenty of mouth-hanging-open-with-horror sights too, really amazing to see.  I think it's available on iPlayer for another seven days if you fancy watching.  I'm planning to rewatch if I can - no better way to spend an hour, I reckon.

Talking of circuses, Graham's mum took us all to see the Moscow State Circus a few weeks back and it was so good.  Being the clumsy oaf that I am, I find it fascinating to watch acrobatic types flinging themselves around with ease.  When a very elegant tightrope-walking lady got hoisted to to the highest point of the big top on an invisible wire, Dulcie actually turned to me and said, "Mum, I never knew you got people who could fly!"  Ahh, the wonder of youth :)

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Today was my six-monthly checkup in hospital, the one where I get my boobs lubed, have my heart scanned from every angle imaginable and then have to pedal a bike to the point of exhaustion and beyond.  I'd been dreading it, having been kicking myself over my weight gain and inactivity of the last six months.  Add to this the fact I've been tired (sometimes sleeping 15 hours a day) and puffed lately, that Dulcie decided she needed to chat to me from 3am onwards last night, that (as ever) I came down with a cold days before the tests... The scene was well and truly set for negativity and anxiety.

You might think a memoir about someone else's life-threatening illness would not be ideal reading material in such circumstances, but it totally has been.  Reading it in the long wait between tests this morning, I found myself veering between chortling into my sleeve and thinking, "Hey, it could be worse, at least you don't have tuberculosis in the 1940s."  It was really quite the morale boost!  Funnily enough, many things haven't changed and rang very true to my own health experiences - certain doctors doing a terrible job of breaking bad news, long-in-the-tooth patients with the same condition openly mocking your early-days optimism and revelling darkly in informing you of your imminent doom/demise, the journey from embarrassment over your naked body to becoming "like a native of Bali and feel[ing] fully dressed with only a skirt", the chasm between the wonderfully kind nurses and those who make you feel you are to blame for your own unfortunate predicament, the weird mixture of gratitude and resentment you feel towards medical staff.

And, as far as I can tell, my tests went OK.  The scan looked kind of ominous, but it never even looks like a heart to my untrained eyes so I'm not allowing myself to worry too much until I've spoken to my consultant.  The exercise test was fine, no worse than last time, maybe even slightly better.  And I'm back on the good behaviour, eating better and trying to get back into swimming etc, so hopefully I can improve from here.

Seriously, did you ever think I could be so rational and positive about my life?  I didn't.  It took a long time to get here, but these days I feel like me with the added experiences of wonky-heartedness rather than a 100% wonky-hearted time bomb.  I can do this.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

doo doo-doo doo doo doo-doo-doo-doo

I just heard this song on Lauren Laverne.  Can't quite believe I'd never come across it before...  Anyway, I'm off for a day's meandering round the charity shops, so I'll leave you to enjoy the music :)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

revenge is...sweet?

 Last night Dulcie had a "boys' night in" with my dad, so it was date night for Graham and I.  (No, that's not us pictured!)  We went out for dinner and used the final tickets from our last-year's GFT cinecard to see The Revenant.  Oh, my, it was so good! As you've probably heard, not exactly relaxing viewing, but I would highly recommend it.

The GFT has a seat-dedication scheme as one of its fundraising methods and it's always fun to read them.  I'd never noticed before the one that the lady above was sitting in.
It gave me a good giggle.
Phwoargh :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

jellyfish makers r us

 Today I accidentally colour co-ordinated Dulcie to match our living room, so we're having to stay at home this morning.  I joke, of course - the real reason is the rain and me feeling rubbish - but the colour co-ordination is an added bonus.

Dulcie had been asking about sewing recently and I promised we would do some sewing together today.  Really, I think she just wants to get her mitts on my sewing machine again, but I decided to start her off with some hand sewing and make these jellyfish.
 Originally I made these jellyfish with a class of six-year-olds while I was doing my teacher training and the design was inspired by an original design by Jessica from Aorta.  I had a few of the tentacle inserts left over (been in my ribbon box for nearly nine years - sheesh!) so decided to use them with Dulcie.  She stitched the orange one all by herself.  Pretty impressive, no?  I did the pink one.  We'll add some googly eyes later because, when you're four, googly eyes are always a positive addition.
And here's the girl herself, too proud of her creations to sit still for a photo :)

A few top tips for sewing with little peeps...

1) Use a doubled-over length of thread, knotted at one end, so the needle can't fall off and you won't be constantly re-threading.

2) Instead of using regular pins to attach the fabric pieces, use safety pins so there are less sharp end for little fingers to be stabbed by.

3) For real beginners, you can hold the fabric for them and let them use two hands (and all their concentration) for the actual sewing.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


 I'm not best pleased with my peacock.  I could keep fiddling with it, but I don't think it would make much difference.  The plan was flawed from the outset.  What I like about peacocks is their propensity to be made into a geometric pattern.  And what is free-hand felt not?  Yes, geometric.  Also, if you felt everything so much that it becomes uniformly flat, why not just draw a two-dimensional picture with felt pens or a computer or whatever?  What is felt adding to the object other than time invested/wasted?  I tried to rectify the unfelty texture by adding wild tufts to the ends of his tail feathers...but I couldn't resist stabbing them back into some sort of order.  I'm just not a free felter.
So, what have I learned?

1.  Choose subject matter with reference and deference to the materials.
2.  Keep texture and variation in mind from the design stage.
3.  Don't think repeated stabbing will make everything better.
4. It's easier than you'd think to mix your own colours from two or more shades.
5.  I'm probably never going to be an artist.
6.  Time to move on to something three-dimensional - a cactus or two!

Now what do I do with this peacock?  I might sew some beads and sequins on and turn it into a Christmas decoration.  This will hide hours' worth of felting, but I think a peacock needs bling.  Gah, what was I thinking?!  Also, what the flip am I doing with my life?  Cock :(

EDIT: Two hours later...
He did need some sequins and beads!
Much happier with him now.  He can live on our Christmas tree next year :)

Monday, January 18, 2016

handmade gifts of xmas 2015

 I'm very late to share (some of) the gifts I made this Christmas.  I'm having major problems getting pictures off my phone and have had to email these one at a time via Whatsapp, so apologies if they're not great pictures.  And, yes, I do bore my friends frequently with my crafty progress reports!  Ha!
 My sister and I used to make peg dolls quite often, but I hadn't done it for years.  I made these for Dulcie's best friend.  Some of them I deemed not good enough to include, but then Dulcie declared them her favourites, so in they went, into this old wooden tea box I had lying around that just happened to be exactly the right size.  Every time we've met Dulcie's pal since, she's had at least one peg dolly about her person, so I think they went down well!  I'm definitely going to try to make some more peg dollies in 2016, some for Dulcie and some more special/artsy/detailed.  Hopefully etc.

I found the idea for this car roll-up on Pinterest and whipped it up for afore-mentioned friend's lovely wee brother.  I got the cars for £1 in the charity shop and used materials I already had, except for the grey for the road, which I had to buy a small piece of.  Lovely gifts on tiny budgets bring me much joy and satisfaction and not (only) because I'm a skinflint.
 It turned out super cute and I'm told the new owner loves tidying the cars away even more than playing with them.  Aw!
 Also for Dulcie's best friend, we put together a mix CD of ten of Dulcie's favourite stories and made a wee cover for it.  Dulcie helped me pick the stories out and we made a copy for her too, which is great because it means we have one CD where she doesn't keep wanting to skip tracks etc, all her favourites in one place.  It was only after making the track list that I realised how many of Dulcie's stories feature strong/clever/brave women or girls, which I was very pleased about.  Hopefully she's blanking out marriage, kissing and handsome princes riding to the rescue and focussing on sisters doing it for themselves.
 I now have so many nieces and nephews that it can be hard to make handmade gifts for all of them and it seems unfair to make for some and buy for others.  For my four elder nieces/nephew in France, I bought a few wee bits and pieces then made them each a personalised Christmas decoration with their name on it plus a tin of these Buggles, again an idea I spotted on Pinterest.  They are made from those glass pebble things with paper glued on the back and googly eyes stuck on the front.  Kind of random, but really cute and I made a wee rhyme to stick inside each tin in the hope of making them seem like a cool craze instead of a crazy auntie's random makings:

Buggle hide, Buggle seek
Every Buggle is unique
Buggle go, Buggle stop
Will you keep...or will you swap?

 I'm told they were well received by the French contingency, but the set I made for Dulcie left her distinctly underwhelmed and she pulled they eyes off within ten seconds.  Jeez!

My new nephew, Ross, is too little for Buggles and hadn't had a handmade gift when he was born in November, so I spent a bit more time on his present and crocheted this sweet soldier rattle, AGAIN via Pinterest.  It was super simple and turned out really sweet, though I wasn't too impressed with the face I stitched on.  I find it so hard to embroider over crochet.  There was much hilarity as I was making this as my Whatsapp craft updates left my friends believing I really was making a willy warmer for Graham.  I swear I thought they knew I was joking...  I didn't realise my friends held my husband in such LARGE regard.  Ha!

There were a few more handmade gifts too, but I failed to get so much as a Whatsapp snap of them - lots of decorations made from clay or melted pony beads, as well as a few of these nifty cup-and-saucer bird feeders.  God bless Pinterest and all who sail in her, that's all I can say!  I did also make some things from my own imagination, but they mostly involved gluing magnets on various objects - vintage buttons and the like - so I'm not sure how much imagination you could really say went into it...

If you want to see more of what I've been pinning (be warned, I've pinned some truly AWFUL needle felting stuff lately) you can find me here.