Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Bath, bed and stories all round

I did the bath, bed and story routine with Izzie this evening.  Whenever I get the chance I like to finish work at 5pm on the dot and get straight across to my sister's in time for stories.  I was there in good time this evening, plus bedtime is a little later due to the school holidays, so Izzie and I also managed a quick game of Bus Stop whilst watching Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy.  For the last couple of years I have always been sure to visit Izzie with a bag or basket full of fun stuff.  Usually I take stickers, colouring books and craft kits but just lately I've popped an Orchard Toys board game in my bag and Izzie loves them.  They are simple enough for her to learn but challenging enough to hold her attention.  Izzie beats me every single time and I swear it's not because I let her!  We like Shopping List and Pop to the Shops best.  Funny that the shopping ones would appeal to me most… Ha. 

After her bath, from which I got soaked from head to toe messing about with plastic colanders, Izzie picked out a book for us to read.  She chose, I'm sure, the thickest book in her collection.  We read a page each and it took us nearly half an hour.  It is fair to say that I am not a fan of the Buffin Street Gang.

Baby Ellie has spent all of my visits fast asleep so far and tonight was no exception.  We did get a good long snuggle together after her feed and Ellie snuffled into my shoulder, hiccuping softly (after the loudest, rudest, burp you ever heard).  She is almost enough to make me broody, that girl.  Everyone adores her.  It is a joy to see my sister so relaxed and happy with her second baby.  

I've been home for an hour, scoffed a posh fish finger sandwich and I think I'm off to bed now.  I am reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady and loving it.  It makes me laugh out loud; the unspoken competition she has with Lady B about 'the bulbs' has tickled me a lot.  Like an old-fashioned, married, Bridget Jones - I can definitely recommend it.

SO nearly the weekend.  Bring it on! 



Monday, 4 August 2014

A new baby in the family

Sewing [kitchen] trolley from Ikea.
Some pre-cut fabrics and FQ bundles in my sewing trolley :)
Fabric basket.  Lined with stiff interfacing to maintain shape.

My favourite quilting thread:  YLI.  Very strong, good colour selection and on pretty wooden spools.
I went to see my baby niece as soon as was feasibly possible: late afternoon last Monday.  She was 44 hours old as I held her in my arms.  She slept the entire time and I couldn't stop staring at her, she's perfect.

Izzie is 5 and totally enchanted by her little sister.  When I arrived at their house, she came running out of the front door to greet me, a giant smile stretching across her face.  She said breathlessly, "Auntie Nicki, the baby has popped out of mummy's tummy and I've got a sister - come and see!"  Ha! They'd just got back from the doctor's for Ellie's 48 hour check-up and Ellie was still in her car seat.  She is so small!  Izzie cannot leave her alone.  She plants big, wet kisses all over Ellie's face and - "look at her tiny little fingers and nails, Auntie Nicki" - pulls the sleep suit roughly up over Ellie's hands to marvel at the perfection of her baby sister.

My sister, though obviously still uncomfortable and sore, is blissful.  She and Ellie bonded immediately and Sarah seems content, relaxed and unbelievably happy.  She has always wanted children - lots of them preferably - and her doctor warned her it would be difficult to conceive due to her PCOS.  Her husband is looking after her well and they are the loveliest family.  I'm so happy for them.

The joy a baby brings to a family, right?!  Mum, Sarah and I group-message daily on Viber and it so nice to receive regular snaps of Izzie and Ellie; hear their news.

The sun continues to shine but it is definitely a little cooler, which is so welcome and makes me look forward to Autumn (I know, too soon).  The heat was starting to make me ratty.  I was fed up of feeling sweaty and unable to sleep at night-time.  I also have really bad hay fever this year - what's all that about?  I didn't get a whiff of hay fever until about four years ago and it seems to get worse each year.  Bizarre.  It's clearly a slippery slope to old age.  Ha.

I'm on a mission at the moment to organise and prettify my workroom.  I bought the [kitchen] trolley from Ikea a couple of weeks ago and it needed to be separated into compartments to help me properly sort my sewing bits.  I wasn't happy with the baskets available in Ikea and decided to make some fabric buckets on my return home.  I'm really pleased with the ones I made.  They were made purely by trial and error (they started off as just the one, quite shallow basket which didn't stand stiffly enough or fit into the trays) and I'm delighted with them now.  I used a Tilda charm pack and lined with pale pink tiny polka dot fabric (also by Tilda).  I am a huge Tilda fan.  I am planning a couple of Tilda quilts for myself, together with mother/baby hares and a mouse with a crown on.  The make-up bags, beach mat and sewing accessories are also on my 'to do' list.

Have a lovely week, friends.



Sunday, 27 July 2014

Slow summer days

Rustic heart on our front door
Our back yard; the pots are starting to look really pretty.

Current WIP.  These are hexies that I printed ever so slightly too small, by accident.  Not sure what they will become.
Pretty Tilda fabric.
Lizzie photobombing.  Again.
I am having a quiet summer and loving it.  The days are long and hot.  I am working, sewing, watching a little TV, reading and swimming.

Man, I *love* going off for a swim when it's hot outside.  I have started to meet an old friend at the pool on a Friday evening and I'm really enjoying our dates.  We meet straight after work and swim half a mile alongside each other then have a good gossip in the spa before we each head home.  K is getting married in September and it is so nice to hear her wedding news.  I didn't enjoy planning my wedding at all and wish, now, that we'd gone for a smaller affair.  Don't get me wrong, my wedding day was the happiest day of my life, but I did not enjoy being the centre of attention.  I've changed since we got married.  I care less about what I ought to do and more about what I want to do.  I think if we got married again I'd hold a bunch of wildflowers in the local church with just my close family and friends.  I'd wear a pale pink dress and we'd all spend the rest of the day squashed into in the garden at home with lots of fairy lights and amazing food.  Anyhoo.

I am keeping a low profile socially.  I'm lucky to have a lot of really lovely friends but I went through a phase of over-booking my social diary then cancelling and letting people down, which would ultimately make them (and me) feel bad.  So I've scrubbed the diary clear and I'm letting things happen spontaneously where possible, which makes me feel much more calm and, oddly, in control.

My book stash is severely depleted; I am tearing through it.  Really enjoyed Tracey Chevalier 'The Last Runaway' and followed it up with 'Falling Angels' which I also liked.  I've then read the latest Peter James' 'Want You Dead' (another excellent read) and have this afternoon finished Mo Hayder's 'Wolf' (which is a decent read but a bit slow and not as scary as I'd hoped).

J has been with us this weekend.  I fetched him on Friday afternoon and we spent a lovely hour or so on the swing seat in the shade, catching up.  His school prom was a couple of weeks ago and he showed me the photos of him and his friends.  He seems to have a really cool group of friends; fun and cheeky but with enough nouse to work hard at school and get good grades.

We went into London last night to have dinner and see Derren Brown live.  It was stifling in the theatre but it was such a good show.  Made a change to do something different and it was really nice wandering through the busy streets of London on a hot summer night, sipping cold drinks and discussing the show.

But I've kept my best news 'til last.  My sister gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl last night.  She went into hospital at 6:30pm and the baby had been born by 9:30pm.  She did it all with just gas and air, lost a lot of blood and I understand it was *quite* painful, but they came home this afternoon and all is well.  I am going to see them after work tomorrow.  I cannot wait.  I adore my niece and to be given another… well, I couldn't have had better news this weekend.  Happy days!

Have a good week, lovely people.



Let's finish with a little grumble, since I'm constantly hot and therefore a little bit ratty:
  • My make-up is flatly refusing to stay put in this weather.  My eyebrows melt off my face within an hour and hayfever gives me leaky eyes, ruining my eyeliner.  I look, frankly, rank.
  • Every day is a bad hair day.  My locks are well overdue a cut and colour so I am spending the summer resembling an aging rock star with long, greasy, dark roots and dry ends. 
  • I am still smarting from my doctor telling me that he will no longer prescribe the contraceptive pill for me after Christmas.  Feels like it is only a matter of time before he suggests a hip replacement and heart pills.  I am NOT old dammit! 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Weekend Edition: Iced Chai, Blueberry Muffins and Susie Watson

When it's warm out, I like to have the back door wide open the whole time I'm in the kitchen.  I especially like to prop the door open if it's warm and rainy - I find it relaxing listening to the rain.  As soon as the door is open, Lizzie makes a beeline for her watchpoint at the gate.  She spends most of her time outside right in that spot.  Standing or sitting.  Sometimes barking but mostly just sitting quietly, watching the world go by. Andrew had gone out to pick up coffees for us this morning and she was waiting patiently for him to come home.  

Whilst Andrew was running errands, I set to work making a batch of giant blueberry muffins.  I have been craving them (with a hot, strong, coffee) all week long.  I tuned into Steve Wright's Love Songs on Radio Two and warbled along to Whitney and ELO as I sieved, whisked and stirred.  I used the recipe from The Grand Central Baking Book and it was good!  I added a little more sugar to the mix just because I like sweet muffins - they were delish.  The house smelled amazing as they baked and Andrew arrived with our coffee just as they hit the perfect eating temperature.  We sat on the swing seat in the yard together, with Lizzie at our feet, chatting about nothing in particular and enjoying the sunshine.  (Ok, that last bit was a lie.  I was chatting and Andrew was semi-listening.  As usual.)

We went to Marlow yesterday.  Late to the party, I know, but I have become obsessed with Susie Watson pottery and textiles.  Obsessed.  I had read that the shop in Marlow was kitted out like a traditional house and I fancied a looksee.  Not only that, Andrew and I both like to go out at the weekends on mini road trips wherever possible, exploring different towns or countryside and trying out new eateries.  We set off super-early and picked up a Starbucks for the journey.  I felt kind of swanky in my new long white cotton dress but within seconds of being handed my chai latte, it was in my lap.  The barista (stupid word) hadn't put the lid on properly.  Thank gawd the drink was cold because although the ice cubes were a bit of a shock, a hot drink would have been a whole other kettle of soldiers.  I was calm about the frock (now see-through and a kind of dip-dyed pale beige) but we raced home for me to change, threw the dress *straight* into the washing machine (oh hello, Postie, don't mind me here in the kitchen in my control pants and granny shoes) and I couldn't bring myself to leave the house until I was certain the dress was OK.  (It was.)  We finally got to Marlow for lunchtime, headed for the cafe that had been recommended and promptly found ourselves eating mediocre quiche in a mediocre cafe which served unattractively large slices of cucumber and plastic sachets of salad cream.  

The day was saved by a very pleasant wander through the park and along the river followed by a little sit-down at a game of cricket as we ate ginormous waffle cones of Mr Whippy with flakes and chocolate sauce.  I came home happy with a big bag full of pastel crockery and linens, a posy of flowers and frizzy hair (it rained).  We will definitely go again.  Marlow is a lovely town. There are other cafes and restaurants I'm keen to try, as well as requiring several visits back to empty Susie Watson of pink polka dot goods.  

I've been sewing today, making little wrist pincushions that Claireybelle and I hope to sell at homebird & belle.  (So exciting.  News on that for another day.)  Lizzie sat in an armchair in my sewing room looking impossibly cute and didn't bat an eyelid at my swearing or the excessive sex grunts from Orange Is The New Black on my Mac as I worked. 

Finally, our perfectly ordinary dinner of breaded chicken with salad and new potatoes was made perfectly extraordinary by the presence of salty, buttery, homegrown, freshly dug potatoes. OMGosh. So delicious.  If there is one thing you do next year, I would so encourage you to grow your own.  We have got all kinds of veg growing in pots outside and they are all coming along superbly, so far.  The pair of us are embarrassingly inept in the garden, too, so if we can do it anyone can! 

Have a great week.



Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mandy Shaw 'Stitch at Home' - Cottage Sewing Case

Mandy Shaw's cottage sewing case has been on my 'to make' list ever since I bought the book (at least 18 months ago) but I never seemed to get round to it, as is so often the case with my craft aspirations.  Lynda made one a few months ago and having seen it last weekend my enthusiasm was renewed to crack on.  I expected it to be complicated because of the fiddly compartments but it was a lovely project, perfect for a warm, rainy, evening indoors.  (Which is a good thing, given the weather here this week!)  It was pretty quick to make.  I started it with Season 1 of Orange Is the New Black on Thursday evening and have been sitting in my craft room at night - after dinner and dog walking - with the windows open and a scented candle on the go, contentedly blanket-stitching.  I did make a small adjustment to the pattern and used an elasticated band for the thread holder rather than the felt one described in the book.  That way, it will still hold a spool of thread as it becomes thinner with use.  

I think I need to make a few more sewing cases so that I can have one per project (I usually have a couple of sewing projects on the go at any one time) and I am inspired to have a go at designing a case myself.  I have also bought a couple of other patterns, including one by Aneela Hoey and one by Lynette Anderson.  I have been using a vintage-style chocolate tin for hexes on the go and the cottage case will make the whole project perfectly portable.  I pop my thimble in the little gingham pocket and I have everything I need.

Jake is with us this weekend.  He finished his GCSEs on Monday and I am delighted for him. He has worked hard, especially over the last few months, and deserves a long relaxing summer.  It has been lovely to see him and we have had a nice quiet weekend.  I made dinner at home on Friday evening with peach bellinis (for the adults, obvs), a selection of cheesy and cool dance music (from my gym iPod  and Harry Potter Cluedo.  Then we nipped into Cambridge for shopping and fish finger sandwiches at Bill's yesterday.  It was pouring with rain and we spent a lot of time puddle-dodging, but Cambridge is still so beautiful, even in foul weather.  We've had a lazy morning today and we're about to cosy up in the living room and watch OITNB before Jake has to go home.  I am going to continue knitting my Princess Margaret scarf as we watch.  Perfection.

Thanks for reading.  Have a happy Sunday! 




Monday, 23 June 2014

'To Do' Lists

I have had a *really* hard day today.  It was my first day back at work after a fortnight away.  SO many emails.  SO much to do.  SO much sun outside and a temporarily misplaced Nintendo DS that I sold last week and needed to post.  Stressful.  I have been writing 'to do' lists all day long.

As a PA, I rely heavily on my to do lists.  I know that most people use them every single day so they are nothing new but, for me, they are sanity-savers.  We have a fancy system at work where we can log them digitally, track their progress and delegate them to other people (and, of course, there are loads of apps available on my iPhone) but I prefer a good old-fashioned paper diary, a notebook and a few pretty pens. 

I use a black Moleskine weekly planner to log my deadlines, meetings, travel plans and reminders.  I then have a regular black Moleskine notebook (with square lined pages - love!) for lists and notes (and doodles when attending lengthy teleconferences - ssshhh).  I run lists in both the back and the front of the book and methodically tick everything off as I complete it.  This, of course, is my favourite part.

I have five separate lists on the go at any one time: 
  • Urgent things to do (by the end of the day):  Today, for example includes: Complete my Health & Safety training online, rearrange a straight-talking session with our General Manager and carry out a Business Continuity test for our super-busy Payments team.  
  • Things to discuss with my boss:  I support my manager remotely for most of the week as he travels across the UK for his role.  I catch up with him formally once a day over the phone (we text/email in-between where necessary) and then we work together at a local office once a week so that we can chat face to face (and eat chocolate tiffin).   I'm seeing him tomorrow and I have a few things I need to ask him about including some recruitment issues and a forthcoming Glasgow trip.  As issues arise during the day I scribble them down ready for our catch-ups.  He's busy so I have to make sure I am prepared and concise when we speak.
  • Non-urgent but important things to do:  This includes a lot of forward-planning, such as the meetings I'm planning for the next few months, agenda items that I need to remember and HR deadlines that loom towards the end of the financial year.
  • Regular Admin:  I provide admin support to other members of the broader team and so today I've listed reminders for things such as the invoices I need to pay and the two telephone headsets I need to order for our Asset Finance team in Leeds.
  • Personal Admin: The obvious stuff is on my list at the moment like transferring funds from one account to another, booking an eyebrow appt, ordering a repeat prescription and returning two pairs of ill-fitting dungarees.
I put in a good day's work and, even though I haven't finished everything I need to, my head is clear on what I must prioritise.

But I feel flat tonight.  And a little bit teary.  It's the Monday and post-holiday blues combined.  Killer.

After dinner, Andrew and I walked Lizzie through the fields.  We chatty idly about our respective days.  I talked to him about everything that's on my mind. Bemoaned the enormity of my to do lists.  He asked me what would cheer me up (I think he was hoping for something naughty…. I told him I fancied a shower and a film).  

I don't feel as though I am getting the balance right with my personal life.  I spend too much time on social media sites and not enough time actually doing the things I love.  After a lot of chatting and daydreaming, it occurred to me that a fun to do list might be just what I need to get my mind focused on the things I really enjoy.  Ensure that I get the happy stuff done too. 

Love dressmaking.  This is a comfy linen dress in my fave C&R print, Catherine Rose.
Lynda and I were talking about diaries/stationery when we met on Saturday.  Lynda uses the same type of planner that I do but has one for work and one for - get this - craft stuff.  She clearly planted a seed in my mind.  I've been online and bought a large 'Peanuts' Moleskine planner.  When it arrives I will enjoy filling it in with my social engagements.  I will use it for lists of the books I want to read, the films I want to see and the things I want to make.  I will use it for blog post ideas, my writing goals and the fairs that I will be doing with Claireybelle for homebird & belle*.  

Love walks, road trips, mini breaks and holidays with my man. I'm going to fit more of those into my spare time.  
I am also going to schedule 'social media' time so that I steer well away during the time when I need to be most productive, whether that's at work or at home.  I feel much better for using my work skills to my advantage for fun stuff, and I feel better knowing that I will be formalising my personal goals.  I am certain that will make them more likely to happen.  

Thanks for reading. If you've got any top tips you could impart regarding 
self-organisation and self-motivation I would love to hear them. 

Have a fantastic week! 




*more on homebird & belle later, but I'm very excited to be doing something I love with someone who has the ability to make me belly laugh on a daily basis.