Thursday, July 7, 2016


 As part of my new health and fitness regime (and just for the fun of it) I've started going to hula hoop classes.  So much fun!  And so much hard work - my muscles are aching!
 I'm HOOPING (see what I did there?) I'll get better at it so that it might become a lifelong hobby and also my first opportunity to show off any sort of sporting prowess.  So far I am pretty good at spinning the hoop round my waist (in one direction) and am occasionally managing a couple of the most basic tricks.  Definite room for improvement!
 But even just messing about and failing is good fun and good exercise.  
It's hard to find pictures of people hula hooping that are not joyful.  I think there's a reason for that.
This cat has the same hooping posture as me, which is apparently where my difficulties originate.  Well, practice makes perfect...once I can move again :)

P.S. You can find more info/sources for these pictures on my Hula! Pinterest board, as well as more cheerful hoop pictures.

Monday, June 27, 2016

get me my goddamn grammy!

I bet you can't look this cool with a crayon in your mouth.
Seriously, no shame...

Saturday, June 25, 2016

the appliance of science

If you're ever wondering where I am, the answer is probably the Science Centre.  Dulcie and I got year-long passes a few months back and are making the most of them.  It's such a fun place and easily fills a whole day, plus they change their exhibits quite regularly and everything is really hands-on and fun.  Nobody objects if you eat your packed lunch in the cafe and the staff are great.  Hopefully Dulcie is absorbing some science know-how, but even if she isn't, at least she's enjoying herself.

The year-long pass isn't cheap, but really works out about the same as two visits, so is a great idea if you live anywhere near Glasgow, especially if you have children.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

whyte (do girls love) horses?*

I'm never blogging these days, huh?  I'm not sure why, just a bit addled and disorganised and concentrating  Also, I'm secretly blogging elsewhere!  Don't worry, you're not missing anything exciting.  My consultant has given me strict instructions to lose weight so I'm focussing on that over the next few months and a friend and I have set up a private blog where we record our food and activity in the hope it will keep us both on track.  We started off great guns, but are dwindling already, I'd say.  She hasn't posted for days and I've been demotivated by standing on the scales and learning I've gained two pounds this month!  I'm hoping the scales were lying because I've been working really hard, apart from this weekend when Graham and I went to London and I boozed and ate loads of tasty food for 48 hours.  (You'd probably rather read about what I got up to in London than about what I haven't been eating?  Tough luck, but I will try to blog about it some time.  Maybe.)  Surely that shouldn't be enough to undo a whole month's work?!  Whatevs...

Anyway, in the absence of anything interesting to say, here's a nice song I heard on the radio this afternoon.  Enjoy.

*A little nudge for any Adam and the Ants fans out there, as well as a hilarious pun :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

say hello, wave goodbye

Did you hear that Claire of the Bellwether (and formerly of Miso Funky) is retiring again and this time I think she really means it!  She's been having loads of special offers (and even some giveaways) this month and today she's giving you the chance to browse her virtual aisles (ooh-err, missus!), fill your basket and make her an offer.  Plenty of bargains to be had, I'm sure, plus a beautiful range of independently designed and made goodies to choose from.  Kind of like Supermarket Sweep only much, much better and a bit less suntanned.
Claire supported me loads when I was an active crafter, encouraging me to try my hand at markets, selling my wares on her well-established website and always offering advice when I needed it, so hopefully someone reading this will help me return the favour by making her an offer she can't refuse.

  This link will be live from 9am today (Wednesday) and should take you right to her.  Go, go, go!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

been sewing

I've overcome my fear of sewing with stretch fabric and have discovered a new addiction in the process!  I made these sweet baby leggings and matching hats for my friend's new daughter.  After two weeks in limbo (and me thinking they were lost somewhere between here and Denmark - waaaaah!) they have finally reached their intended recipient.  Dulcie wants the far-left pair made in her size, so that's the next challenge.  Then perhaps hot pants for myself?!  Look out, world...

I'm very excited The Great British Sewing Bee is back on our screens, though I've yet to catch up with the first episode.  I very nearly applied this year (in a why-the-heck-not moment) but was away during filming dates, so didn't.  Hopefully they do another series after this and I can attach a photo of me in my hot pants baby hats and leggings to my application.

Should you be interested, I used a couple of free patterns to make these.  Leggings here and hats here.  And sewing with stretchy fabric wasn't nearly as scary/tricky as I thought, so you should give it a go if you're tempted.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

love love love

Last night Graham and I went to see Rozi Plain playing at Mono.  I nearly didn't go, feeling tired and grumpy and demotivated, but am so glad that I did.  Wow!  She was just so good - so, so good - and we had a lovely evening, drinking some beer and basking in the beautiful sounds.  And we got a seat!  Sitting down at a gig is my dream scenario :)

This cover of a Shirley Collins song was new to me.  Beautiful.  I've always been more of a fan of Rozi's upbeat songs, but it was the slower numbers that really struck me when she sang live, especially Red Dot, which she sang as an encore, all on her own on stage, just her voice and her guitar making something so incredible to hear.  I'm feeling all inspired to create...something (?) now.

Her support band, Yama Warashi, were really fun too.  Well, I thought so anyway - they kind of divided our party of two!  Rozi Plain sang backing vocals for them and then they came back on stage as the band for Rozi, which gave the evening such a lovely, friendly feel.

What a good night, just what I needed to spark my soul back into action.

Friday, April 15, 2016

portraits of self

 Hanging out with a child is a great excuse to create mindlessly and without any pressure.  I'm not a great doodler under my own steam, but really enjoy messing about and making images with Dulcie.  Here are some doodly portraits of me (found on my phone) that have been created over the past couple of months.  

This first one I made for Dulcie when we were experimenting with drawing pictures using one continuous line.  The resemblance to my real-life face is uncanny, but was no more than a happy accident - the one-line portrait I did of Graham made him look more like Bruce Forsyth!

 And here's one I made using a geoboard and some gymnastic bands (as Dulcie calls them).  Not bad, given the restrictive medium...?

I regularly find unflattering (offensive?!) portraits of myself lying around the house.  "O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us..."  Ha! Thanks, Graham...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

taking stock

 Vintage Christmas Lighted Cactus Christmas by vintagesouthwest, $25.00:

Making : a crocheted mermaid-tail blanket for Dulcie (very slo-o-o-owly)
Cooking : lots of new things, mostly healthy
Drinking : alcohol, even though I'm trying to be on the wagon (but currently a cup of tea!)
Reading: The Inheritance Of Loss (I realised part of the way through that I'd read it before, but most of it still seems new to me.  I'm not usually a re-reader and it's depressing to realise how little of a book can stay in my mind, especially when it's so good.)
Wanting: to get my healthy-living mojo back
Looking: at Pinterest and caravan sites for a potential summer holiday with my best friend (and our children)
Playing: make-believe games (haven't played Bananagrams in weeks! Shocker!)
Deciding: to take it eeeeeeeasy today
Wishing: for world peace (no, really)
Enjoying: having no to-do list in mind
Waiting: for my DIY hula hoop supplies to arrive in the post!
Liking: Dulcie's new and improved attitude to bedtime
Wondering: what to write for a lot of these
Loving: time alone
Pondering: who to vote for in the Scottish elections
Considering: freezing a hideous wart off my foot after this
Buying: sweets for a "midnight feast" with Dulcie later on
Watching: MasterChef and Creme de la Creme while crocheting
Hoping: that the slugs won't eat my peas that have made the transition to outdoor living
Marvelling: at my vastly improved culinary skills/repertoire
Cringing: at my inability to stop eating crap
Needing: a shower
Questioning: my personal hygiene...
Smelling: bad [I joke]
Wearing: bright pink nailvarnish for a change
Following: my favourite pinner
Noticing: the abundance of fringes and top-knots on ladies' heads
Knowing: I need to be good - exercise, eat well and save money
Thinking: about what it means to be female
Admiring: Cate Le Bon's music
Sorting: my bundle of go-to recipes into a folder I bought for this purpose around 7 years ago!
Getting: better at coping with misery in public places
Bookmarking: recipes I want to try supplies! (but they're hula hoop supplies to me)
Coveting: other people's lives (as usual) and that cactus light, which sold long before I discovered it
Disliking: the wider world and the arsehole minority :(
Opening: the door for the cats
Giggling: over the ballsack v ballsac conversation at work yesterday
Feeling: somewhere in between up and down, also lazy
Snacking: more than I should be
Helping: Dulcie to make a skirt for herself...hopefully soon
Hearing: a clock ticking - peace and quiet!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

somebunny loves you

I get quite a kick out of making things without having to buy any materials, I think I got bitten by the bug after my frugal Christmas making.  It helps that I've hoarded every little scrap for decades!  I made this sweet brooch for my niece Ruth's birthday recently, to add to a bunny-themed parcel.  Cute, huh?  And perfect for a girl who loves red, tartan and rabbits.  Don't tell Dulcie, but I stole the little pendant from her Easter chocolate.  She takes after her mother and was planning to keep it FOR EVER.

Monday, April 11, 2016

post pals

 I've been on something of a mission lately to make sure Dulcie remains a decent human being.  Like most four-year-old girls, she shows worrying signs of ingratitude, lack of empathy and covetousness.  [DISCLAIMER: She IS lovely, I'm just frequently stressed at the thought I could destroy her inner goodness by poor parenting.]  While chatting one night about children around the world who were not nearly as lucky as her, Dulcie's interest was aroused and she brought the subject up again a few times over the coming days.  She started expressing a desire to help or cheer other children up, suggesting she could send a postcard to a homeless orphan in India.  This was admittedly very sweet, but probably not the most effective strategy, however it did get me thinking.  Maybe Dulcie (despite having no money and no real concept of money) could genuinely do good for others and feel proud of herself for doing it.

I decided it would be a good idea to start small, pick up on her idea of sending some friendly mail, seek out a girl of a similar age/demographic so that she might find it easier to empathise.  A little bit of googling later and I discovered a fantastic UK-based charity called Post Pals.  The basic idea is that children who are unwell/in hospital a lot of the time (and their siblings) can add their profiles to the site and people who want to cheer them up can send a letter/parcel to them via a third-party address.  How simple and how good?!  I figured this was the perfect charity for Dulcie to be involved with, as it was tangible and straightforward.  I read through the profiles myself before showing them to Dulcie and steering her towards the children who sounded most like her.  She decided to write to a little girl called Isla.  

Dulcie dictated the letter to me and I wrote it down exactly as she said it, figuring she'd know better than me how to talk to a five-year-old My Little Pony fan!  Here's what Dulcie wrote in her letter...

Dear Isla,

I don't know if you like pandas or not, but I have a toy baby panda and a mummy panda and a big-sister panda.  I hope you feel better soon.  When you feel better I wish you could come and play with me.  And my name is Dulcie.  I have two cats called Poppy and Lola who love me very much and cuddle me sometimes.  My favourite colours are black, red, blue and pink and purple and I love vampires.

Lots of love from

P.S. I love My Little Pony too!

Eeep!  I love it, especially the bare-faced lie about the cats loving and cuddling her.  Ha-ha! She also drew a picture of Dracula being blown away in a cyclone like Dorothy's house (why not?!) and popped in loads of goodies from her collection of stickers, surprising me greatly with her generosity.

This was a really positive activity for Dulcie to do - she really enjoyed it, felt proud of herself and thought about things she wouldn't have considered otherwise.  Hopefully Dulcie's letter put a smile on Isla's face too.  Maybe you know someone who'd like to do something similar.  You can find your own Post Pal here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

a hex on me!

We have a humongous window in our living room.  It's taken me the best part of a decade to persuade Graham that curtains would be nice there, only to find out we can't afford the material, let alone afford to have curtains made.*  Years ago (in the pre-Graham days) my mum had ingeniously made curtains for said massive window from dustsheets - a clever plan, but they did look a tad...dustsheety and too neutral for what we want to do with our living room nowadays, which is quite a '70s space, I guess.  Unfortunately, dustsheets were really all we could afford at the moment, so I went ahead and secretly bought some with a vague plan to dye or embroider or applique them into something we'd actively like.  After much browsing around on Pinterest (see this board) I think I've decided that simple hexagons are the way I want to go, that they need to be quite precise/geometric and that I will still be making the curtains from beyond the grave if I do them sashiko style, so instead I've been making little "anchor stitches" where the corners meet and weaving another thread through these to make hexagons that sit on the surface. 

Above is my small trial run, in a random colour on a scrap of wrinkled white fabric.  I do like how it looks (surprisingly hexagonal/geometric) but I'm not sure whether it will work out on the real deal.  This method does mean there are large "stitches" sitting on top of the fabric which could probably be yanked and pulled and caught on things.  While it's fairly unlikely there would be any major pulls (they're not in a heavy-traffic area and Dulcie is quite well behaved these days, cats are another matter...) it's one heck of a big job to undertake knowing it could all be undone in a jiffy.  I'm only planning to stitch the design on the bottom two-thirds of the curtains, I think, but that still amounts to...erm...144 square feet?!  (Can that really be right?!  I'm fairly certain it is...)  Is there some other idea I'm missing that would work better?  Should I just bite the bullet and do it in real, little stitches?  I guess if I did the anchor stitches individually, knotting each one at the back rather than having thread running between them behind the fabric, then any pull would be fairly easily sorted...  But will they just end up looking a bit tatty?  Gah, I don't know, I'm really just thinking aloud now.  But if anyone reading this has any suggestions, please let me know.  Have a look at my Pinterest board and you'll see the sort of effect I'm  after.  We want curtains!

*Having made proper lined curtains for Dulcie's only-slightly-bigger-than-average bedroom window, I know I am not up for pattern matching and fabric wrangling on this scale, and the fabric alone would be mega expensive, so the pressure would be on to do a perfect job.  Plus we can't agree on a fabric!  Ha!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

fringe benefits...or the lunatic fringe?

I don't think I've posted any photos of myself for a long time (?) so here's one of me looking tired in a dirty mirror.  Hello!  Did I ever mention I got a fringe?  I asked a random hairdresser to fringe me back in December and I couldn't say I liked what she did, so I went home and cut it again myself immediately.  Very short, very weird-looking, but still better than the hairdresser's attempt, in my opinion anyway.  These days (since when I'm not sure) I have a very relaxed approach to hair, the it-will-grow-back-eventually mindset.  And that is what happened, but just as my own fringe WAS starting to grow back, I found myself in front of the bathroom mirror with teeny-tiny nail scissors in my hand and Dulcie beside me, saying, "Don't do it, Mum!"  But I did and my fringe was weird and super short and very wonky again because it's hard to cut in a straight line with tiny nail scissors.  But guess what? Just like before, my hair grew back!  Yay!  Personally, I think having a fringe is fun.  When they are bad (like in the rain or when in need of a wash) they are very, very bad, but when they are good they are awesome.  And whether looking good or bad, they are always a source of entertainment and something to fiddle with and wonder about.  ("Do I like it? I'm not sure. Maybe I like it?  But why?" etc)

I'm not one to consciously follow fashions, but I like spotting other members of the fringe brigade out and about and there are certainly a lot of us these days!  Last week I told Graham that my musical taste could be classified as "girls with fringes".  I was being flippant but I think it's probably true.  Here's a girl with a fringe I'm liking at the moment, both in terms of hair and music, but most especially for incredible whistling ability.

Monday, February 29, 2016

how to look good naked?

 On Saturday morning I was playing with Dulcie and her many and varied plastic people and animals.  These days playing with Dulcie generally involves her instructing me to "Pretend she..." or to "Talk her in a girl's voice" etc.  Well, Saturday's game was pretend the ponies keep getting stuck in various parts of the barn then rescue one another with pipe cleaners (you know, whatever floats her four-year-old boat) but then Dulcie picked up one pony and said, "Pretend she's not eating very much because she's a girl so she doesn't want to be fat."  Oh dear.  My jaw fairly hit the floor and I wondered where I had gone so wrong in her upbringing.  We had the chat about how some people, whether boys or girls, are thinner, some are fatter, the important thing is to be healthy etc.  But I'm pretty sure that chat is not enough to turn the tide of ideas really.  The poster above is one I had in my bedroom in the mid 1990s.  Seems as though not a lot has changed.  Ugh.

I should add that Dulcie is really a great eater, has a good appetite, a varied diet and will try pretty much anything these days.  She certainly adores most unhealthy food (especially if it contains sugar) but loves a lot of super-healthy stuff too.  The other day I realised that she had eaten ten different fruits and vegetables by lunchtime, and she's forever pilfering raw veg from under my nose while I'm prepping dinner.  All of which makes it doubly terrifying that she has somehow formed the opinion that girls need to be thin and that they achieve that by not eating...and by the tender age of four!  

I am always trying to lose weight these days/months/years and, even though I'm doing it in a fairly balanced and healthy way and because it has been recommended for the good of my wonky heart, I'm worried I could be giving her an unhealthy relationship with food.  Losing weight (when you're actively trying to) does make you feel really good, but maybe I should be making more of an effort to hide that side of it from Dulcie?  I guess I could make more of an effort to focus on the positive/pro-food side - that eating healthy food is making me feel strong and full of energy, as opposed to avoiding unhealthy food making me feel less fat and lethargic.  But I'm pretty sure I do that most of the time anyway (otherwise why would Dulcie flex her biceps every time she ate lentils?!) so my feeling would be that she's getting these opinions from the world at large and I really can't protect her from that too much.

I was worrying about teenage-type trials and tribulations when I was pregnant (much to the amusement of friends with teenage children) but I never imagined I'd have to deal with such complicated issues so early on.  Parenthood is an absolute minefield at times. 

If anyone reading this would like that poster (it's vintage, dahlinks!) then just let me know and I'd be happy to pop it in the post to you.  It does have some faint scratch marks on it (my cat Elvis used to scratch it to wake me up) but is otherwise in fairly good condition, no holes etc.  If I remember rightly, it came from a free Body Shop magazine or something?  First come first served.

Friday, February 26, 2016

bird's-eye view

Dulcie and I spent a lovely morning in the Botanic Gardens today.  It may have been freezing, but there was a definite feeling of spring being, if not in the air, at least on the horizon.  For some reason, all the robins were being really sociable, following us around and hopping right up to us, singing in our faces.  We spent ages with this wee fluffball.  I guess it's something to do with mating season being on the horizon?  Maybe they were trying to chase us out of their territory and we took it as affection!  Ha!  We also saw a squirrel gathering dried leaves and (literally) squirrelling them away in its nest.  Dulcie collected a wee pile of leaves for it and was delighted when it took them from her, folded them up neatly and stashed them in its hole in the tree.  So sweet.  Lots of birds were singing, doing that thing where they call and leave a gap before calling again.  Dulcie started saying, "Do it again, bird," during the gaps and laughed each time when the bird obliged.  I'm so glad our city has so many green spaces and equally glad that Dulcie was in such good spirits all day - it really does make my life so much easier.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

heard it through the grapevine*

This was me earlier today.  No, not really, it's Jane Fonda, of course, but I DID do an aerobics class this morning.  For real!  I didn't bother with Lycra and legwarmers, just chucked on some trainers and worked out in my jammies from the comfort of my own home.  I used this video, provided totally free of charge online by the NHS, and it was pretty good.  I managed to do the whole thing, felt hot and sweaty but not close to death, and there's room to add in a few extra moves and a bit more energy if I do find myself getting fitter.  There are also some other activities to choose from - belly-dancing, yoga etc.  If, like me, you are aiming to get fitter but don't have time, money or confidence required to go to real-life classes, I'd definitely recommend having a look at what's there.  I'm going to try to do this class (or something similar) at least once a week and keep swimming to a once-a-week thing too.  I think it will take less time, add more variety and be easier to stick to.  Very poor 59-year-old classification (see last post) here I come!

* If you've ever done an aerobics class, you'll get my hilarious joke, I'm sure...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

excited to be a below-average oap

Yesterday morning I had my six-monthly appointment at hospital to find out how I got on in my recent exercise test.  Like last time, the good news was that my VO2 (my capacity to tolerate exercise, basically) had improved.  I have to say, I found it hard to be as excited as the doctor who broke the news, who was really just excited not to be the bearer of bad tidings for once, or no new bad tidings anyway.  So I had to admit I was pleased (kind of) when I thought about things, though I was hardly overjoyed, but then today I was looking at this chart of normative VO2 values and really did get excited!  About two years ago, my magic number was 13.7, I think (13.something, anyway) which, as you can see above, doesn't even make it onto the chart, hence the possibility of heart transplant.  Boo.  One year ago, my number had risen to about 17.  Again, not even on the chart.  Six months ago it was 17.5 and I was on the chart at last, as fit as a "very poor" 60+ woman!  Woo hoo!  This time around, my VO2 was up to 18.9.  18.9!  I've moved up a whole category and am now as fit as a "poor" female pensioner.  And I know it seems ridiculous to be excited about that, but I really am!  Maybe next time I'll be able to get above 20 and start classifying myself as a "very poor" 50-59-year-old.  Or does a fair 60+ sound better than a very poor 50-59?  Well, I'll take either.  I can't really set these figures as targets because they're not really in my control (though I can certainly improve my chances) but while my number's rising, I'll gladly take the credit and spin it all into a positive package :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

keeping my head above water

 Image by Deborah Stevenson.  You can buy it here...if you're quite rich.

Just to say, before anyone becomes concerned that I'm stuck in a permanent mire, that I'm back in the room, back in the saddle, back on top of my game, back in general.  Yes, I've picked myself up, patted myself down, been to work, been back to the pool, been for a walk...  Not feeling great, but feeling OK.  Onwards and upwards!

Here's a song I've been loving lately.

Want to know what I'm having for dinner tonight? Of course you do.  It's the super-healthy taste sensation that is soba noodle and edamame salad with grilled tofu.  I've been trying lots of new recipes from BBC Good Food lately, all with a nod to the wholesome and healthy.  They've all been pretty good, but this has been one of the favourites so far.  I really enjoy cooking these days, which is an unexpected development.  Dulcie's being really good about trying new things, which helps a lot.  I'm trying to eat slightly less bread so have gone back to this granola for breakfast, which I make with about 80% less honey and maple syrup than the recipe suggests.  Still really tasty and more than sweet enough, especially when you slice a banana on top of it.  Talking of bananas...I was.  Talking about bananas, I mean, and in my sleep, no less!  I was obviously very proud of the enormous bunch I bought yesterday.  Such stuff as dreams are made on... Ha!

And I think that's about it for today.  Good stuff.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


mark smith:  
 (This image is apparently by Mark Smith, but any link I follow to find a source seems to have disappeared.  I think this might be him here.)

I'm home alone this afternoon.  Graham has taken Dulcie to visit his parents to give me a chance to rest because I've been feeling shitty in the extreme all week.  To say I'm fed up of it would be an understatement.  Basically, I went swimming on Monday evening (first time in a few months) and had a great time, swam 54 lengths with relative ease, felt on top of the world and enthusiastic about getting back on top of my fitness attempts etc...  Then the next day (and ever since then) I was utterly broken.  The same thing happened a few weeks ago when I pushed myself ever so slightly on my exercise bike.  To be honest, I've done a lot of resting this week and it hasn't made a blind bit of difference.  And that's what is pissing me off - I've given up alcohol, I've lost weight, I've been exercising, I've been resting, I've been taking my tablets and keeping my pacemaker in check, I've been getting ever so slightly more sleep, I've been sticking to my promise of not having any more children even though it crushes me...and I still have zero control over how incredibly shit I feel and I feel incredibly shit a lot of the time.  Plus feeling bad physically instantly undoes all the hard work I've put into feeling better mentally

Having a chronic illness is a bit like being on the Travelator at the end of Gladiators - you slog and you slog and you slog and then one little slip-up sends you right back to the bottom and you either stay there or start the slog again.  The difference between the Travelator and chronic illness is that I'm pretty much guaranteed never to get to the top - my life is probably going to be all uphill running and frequent falling down.  Well, until I end up stuck at the bottom permanently.  When I have weeks like this, I think I scare myself thinking about reaching the point when it won't be worth trying any more.  

You know I love the British Heart Foundation, right?  But one of the worst moments of my life happened soon after my diagnosis when I finally plucked up the courage to read my Everyday Guide To Living With Heart Failure, a gigantic volume provided free of charge by BHF.  After reading lots of doom-and-gloom statistics, I turned to the chapter called "The Future" in the hope it would cheer me up by outlining how all was not lost and research was adding options, extending life expectancy and improving quality of life.  And do you know what was in this chapter?  How to make a will and how to get a do-not-resuscitate order.  And that was it, my so-called future, nothing else.  Of course, since then I've learned a lot about positive thinking and I can see that experience for what it was - an ill-thought-out chapter title that slipped through the editorial net.  In actual fact, amazing research is being done and I'm already benefitting from that, with the medication I take and the machine that makes my heart work better and the incredible care (physical and emotional) I get from the NHS and the BHF.  But when I feel ill and find it hard to stay positive, that picture of the future as grim death always comes back to me.  Ugh.

But you know what?  Things are getting better all the time, it's just not a straight line to better.  There are dips along the way, for sure, but those dips are getting easier and easier to pull myself back out of.  And sometimes feeling pissed off at your lot is the best motivation of all.  So what's my plan?  Well, I'm going to keep trying and hope that gradually, over time, the general trajectory continues to be upwards.  If swimming once makes me feel ill for a week, swimming ten times might make me feel great for a month, so I'm going back to the pool tomorrow.  And I'll keep trying to eat better and think better and sleep better and rest more and move more, and I'll keep turning up to my hospital appointments and taking my tablets and congratulating other people on their happy lives and explaining to Dulcie why she can't have the siblings she begs me for.  I'm fine with that.  Yes, it's hard, but it's getting easier all the time.  

I have a nice life with lots of nice people in it and I laugh every day and find joy and interest in all sorts of places all the time.  I won't give up but I'm allowed to find this hard.  I am allowed to find this hard.

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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

she really is four now

 I've got lots of significant events from 2015 that I failed to blog about and I'm aiming to rectify that soon.  Here are a few snaps from Dulcie's 4th birthday, over two months ago.  I figured I could post them today because this should have been her 4th birthday, if she hadn't arrived so early.  Most of the photos from her birthday are blurred (it's hard to photograph a just-turned-four-years-old hurricane) but I liked this one because I think Dulcie looks like a number 4 in it.  We spent most of the day at home, opening and playing with presents, but also squeezed in a wee trip to the soft-play Jungle.
 In the evening, my dad joined us for cake and we headed out for pizza and ice cream, Dulcie's favourite things.  I made this Fab lolly cake at Dulcie's request.  It was a lot easier than last year's Billy Goats Gruff cake, which she claimed she wanted again this year since she couldn't remember how it tasted...  I stood firm in my refusal and I think the Fab turned out pretty well.  Dulcie didn't mind that I'd accidentally welded it to the cooling rack with chocolate icing, or that I served it from the living room floor.  Ha!

Monday, January 11, 2016

work in progress

Not LOVING this guy yet, but I think I know what I need to do to make me love him.  Unfortunately it involves a colour of wool I don't have, but I was going to have to break my no-buying vow to make my cactus anyway.

In other news...

Boo hiss :(

Sunday, January 10, 2016

plans are afoot!

Hot off the press, I just sketched up my next needle felting project.  Peacock!  Having been stuck in the office all weekend (subtitling mainly wrestling and old football matches - urgh!) I can hardly wait to get jabbing with this tomorrow.  After this, I'm going to attempt something three-dimensional and make myself a couple of felted cacti to go in a pair of lovely old egg cups I have.  I even splashed out on a couple of plant flair speech bubbles for them from my colleague, Claire of The Bellwether.  One cactus is going to say, "Hiya," and the other will reply, "Bonjour!"  I haven't yet decided whether to make them look like real cacti or whether to give Hiya a tartan tammy/googly eyes, and  Bonjour a moustache/beret.  Nothing like racial stereotypes to brighten up your pretend succulents, you know.

Needle felting is really getting my creative juices flowing!  Could you tell?!  Just a shame it's not helping me be tidy or useful in any other way...  Well, Dulcie is four now, I'm sure she can practically fend for herself.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I am needle felter, hear me roar!

Immediately after writing my uninspired-by-new-year post yesterday, I only went and made my first attempt at needle felting, something that has been on my resolutional to-do list ever since Craftathon 2011.  (See also the damp squib that was Craftathon 2015.) I think this was the first year since 2011 that I didn't claim I was going to try new crafts and...boom!  Maybe the trick is less promising, more doing.

Now, let me tell you, I am already hooked (barbed?!) on needle felting - so satisfying and so much fun!  I'm very pleasantly surprised by the results too.  This lion badge is super cute, I think.  I'm going to give him to Dulcie.  She probably won't appreciate it.  

[Last night I told Dulcie I was just going to make her a CD quickly before we played My Little Pony meets Frozen and Dracula and she said, "All right, as long as you're not making it from wool.  Every time you make something from wool it takes a-a-a-a-a-ages!"  Ha!  Well, it did take me two years to crochet her stripey dress and her Christmas mermaid blanket is currently more of a navel warmer, so she may have a point.]
 I think needle felting holds many possibilities for me, I'm just not quite sure what they are yet.  My finances are in no state to be buying craft materials at the moment, so I'm having to work with the wool I already have, which is a BRIGHT mixture.  Still, limits can be good, I think.  I took the use-what-you-have approach for the majority of the handmade gifts I gave this Christmas and they all worked out pretty well.  I'm hoping to share some photos of them soon, but apparently every photo I took on my phone is incompatible with everything but my phone.  Fingers crossed I can sort that out in the not-too-distant future...

So, yes, I sense a new crafty obsession (or interest, at least) in needle felting, evidenced by my not being able to sleep for thinking about it last night.  Watch this space!  Oh, what a good crafty start to the year :)