Saturday, 31 August 2013

Winding Down

Is it the last day of summer? September does sound more autumnal, though the weather seems not to agree with me - it's glorious out there! I am however back into teaching next week, and back to work proper in a couple of weeks time, so I can see myself starting to wind down. 

I had a couple of cysts removed from the top of my head the other day. I went to a surgery and they gave me local anaesthetic and there was a junior doctor there so they were explaining everything that went on in quite a lot of detail. It's funny because the area is numb but you can still feel things happening - a sharp tug here, pulling out things there - so it was interesting to know exactly what the doctor was doing. At the end, they asked if I wanted to see it and they showed me what a cyst is made of. It was exciting! Once the drugs had worn off the pain came back and it was bearable but not great. I had a couple of stitches in each one that need to be taken out once the wounds have healed. There is another one that needs an ultrasound. Oh bodies, they're so complex.

I was supposed to be at a rockabilly shindig this weekend, but my body being a little bit unhappy, as well as still being knackered from all the galavanting this week meant that I really didn't feel like it. It's such a shame because it would have been fun if I'd been in the right frame of mind but I think I need to rest up and let my body recuperate. I guess sometimes you need to listen to yourself and figure out what you need, and for me this is one of those times. I'm sure more excitement will happen soon enough, but today I think I'm going to do what I do when I need some down time - go to a cafe with some stitching, spend some time in the sun, read a bit and reflect on life. 

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Progress!

I had another sewing lesson today, and I'm still not finished with that dress but I'm getting there! The bodice is just about finished and I've put gathers in the skirt so next time all I need to do is stitch it together and put the zip in and then we're done. Wooooo!

In somewhat related news, I had a conversation with Jules the other day and she exclaimed, 'Your godson has inherited your fashion sense!'. It turns out that he really likes baking and sewing and dancing, which definitely sounds like me. When they went shopping for clothes last week, he said he wanted a tutu. She gently explained that's fine by her, but that maybe some of the other boys might tease him about it and asked if he is alright with that. He replied that he didn't want a pink tutu because that's a bit girly so he went for a black glittery one. When I spoke to her on skype he was dancing round the house in it. That's my boy! I'm excited to see what kind of a man he'll turn out to be.

Across the Border

A visit with Mr and Mrs Im has been long over due for some time, and since we had a bank holiday we decided to hightail it up to Scotland to see Miss C. I went over to Mrs Im's on Friday and we were going to drive up to Mr F's and stay there but there was a slight pavlova with the cats - the cat sitting company doesn't do that bit of the country now apparently, so they managed to get someone in for Sunday but if we put down food on the Friday then they would eat it all and then be sick and then by Sunday they would probably eat the person who was coming round to feed them. We thought it best to stay the night and then get up at 5am, (yes, 5am!) and drive up to Mr F's instead of staying the night.

So bright and early - though much more emphasis on the early, than the bright - we fed the cats, threw our stuff in the boot and then set off on our little road trip. We got to Mr F's at about 8am, and Mrs F was kind enough to feed us and give us lots of coffee before we bundled her husband up in the car and kidnapped him for the weekend. Five hours and a lunch break later and we rocked up at Miss C's place feeling a bit tired and a bit zombified, while Miss C greeted us by jumping up and down excitedly. 

It's been a while since we've all gotten together at the same time - mostly we just chatted and drank gin and ate things. I've known them all since I was about 14 years old so it feels utterly comfy just hanging out. When I see them it's like taking off a pair of shoes that you hadn't noticed were ill fitting til you get out of them. I get a bit weird when I don't see my friends often enough, they have a real grounding effect on me.

The tiredness theme continued throughout the weekend, as Mr F and I were sharing an air bed, which is quite customary - we usually have a nice little chat about life, the universe and everything before bed - in the lounge which was also where Miss C's pet rats live (Liquorice and Vanilla). Rats are nocturnal. I didn't know this, but I do now. As soon as the lights were out they had a good old jump about and a scrunch and a snuffle and a scamper and then they would fall silent for a while. I'd just be getting to sleep and then they'd start to party again. Of course, Mr F went to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, so it was just me and the rats. Sigh. 

On the Sunday, we went for a walk around Drumpellier park and had an ice cream. (Because you're not really on holiday until you've had ice cream! Mine was a 99 with a flake. 'How retro!', Mrs Im exclaimed). The lake and the forest were really lovely, and they had beautiful trees and thistles and interesting funghi. It was also pretty hot. We stopped in the house afterwards to get sun hats and sun glasses and sun cream and other related items before going out to the garden centre for tea. And even then we ended up not sitting outside because the wasps were being a little too friendly for our liking. Really friendly. But I managed to eat all my food without swallowing any wasps and all was well. In the evening, more gin happened, as well as some general smuttiness ('Ring the porn alarm!') and some dyeing of hair and some doodling with henna.

On the Monday morning, we got woken up by the Junior Miss C at 8am so she could watch cartoons. As it turns out I really like Phineas and Ferb, who knew? Everyone was having a lounge and chatting so I went through and made us all breakfast. Mr Im had already made a massive cheese sandwich with olive bread, Mr F just wanted granary with butter. Mrs Im had some left over tacos with some houmous and hot sauce. Miss C told me to surprise her so I did her some toast with marmite, houmous and chilli flakes. I had one slice of toast with peanut butter and beetroot, but I didn't want to use up all the peanut butter, so on the other slice I had marmite, guacamole, chilli flakes and cheese. I love weekend breakfasts! Once we were all showered and fed, I did some of the washing up while everyone else got air beds deflated and packed up and then we were away back down south.

On our way down, we dropped off Mr F at his, and got some chips for dinner while we were there. We all sat out in the garden and ate and drank lemonade and chatted. After that Mr Im suggested that the kids swing on the swings ('To aid digestion!') to which Mrs F did not look amused, but the kids were all over it before they could be stopped. To his credit, Mr Im did join in, and there was much swinging and laughter. Then we kicked around a football for a while, and I taught Miss F how to do a little jive and she showed me her knitting and a delightful time was had by all.

The whole family came out to wave us goodbye (and waved until we were out of sight). And then there were three. By the last stretch home we were all knackered and said next to nothing. We fed the cats, checked they hadn't eaten anyone, made some hot chocolate (with Grand Marnier and nutmeg) and went to bed. 

Perfect bank holiday.


Friday, 23 August 2013

Oh, That Dress!

The adventure continues! On Wednesday, I went into the shop for my sewing lesson with my lady, Fran, and we started making the dress. I already had some fabric, and I ran down to the sewing shop and bought a zip. We started off by having a look at the pattern, then spent a while cutting out and pinning various bits, and then finally got onto piecing bits together and did a bit of sewing. I thought I'd be nervous about the cutting out, but it was actually the sewing the scared me... this is it! argh! I got the darts done in the bodice and then we decided to call it a day. I forget how tiring it is learning how to do things! I was really excited by the end of the session though, it felt like we'd done so much. It was quite an easy going day, and being in the shop meant that I got to chat to the manager and we all had tea breaks together. The manager said I was fairly much part of the furniture by now - a big squishy armchair maybe.

I went back on Thursday for a couple of hours and we continued to work on the bodice of the dress. I was a little more tired and slightly less enthusiastic. Looking back on it now, we did actually get a lot done, but it was all little fiddly bits. I stitched the bodice together, we put the button loops on the shoulders and I cut out and stitched the facing. At one point I said, 'Am I nearly done with the bodice?' and Fran said 'Well, not really, but we're getting there.' Sigh! I think part of the frustration was that I'd done lots of small bits and pieces with no real overview as to where it was going so it's harder to appreciate how much I'd done. I also think that I give myself a hard time because it takes me a long time to learn mechanical skills compared to how easily I pick up concepts and other things. Most of the time I'm alright with it, but some days I get annoyed that it takes so long for the penny to drop. We really are nearly done with the bodice now, so all I have to do is press the seams and tidy everything up in there and then we can move onto the skirt. As Fran said, it was quite a big jump from making a small purse to making a dress with all the fitting and shaping considerations that come with it. I have my next lesson booked for next Thursday morning, so we'll see how far I get. I have to admit that it is looking good so far. I should be able to put photos up next week to show you. Hurrah!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Summer Get-together

It's still hot hot hot here, albeit with a breeze, so I'm still wearing floaty skirts and having Marilyn moments. I'd love to think I'm similar to Marilyn Monroe in some way, but I think the breezy skirt moments are the only thing we have in common, more's the pity. Still, I gave some passing motorists a few giggles, so it wasn't all in vain.

Every now and then my meditation students have a get together, and since we have a reasonable break for the summer it is usually some time in July or August. We've visited museums and castles and played mini golf and all sorts. Yesterday, a group of us met up and went for a visit to the Turner in Margate. I caught the train there as always - there is a very large ticket hall at the station, it's just a big empty space mostly with a couple of counters on one side and a couple of benches on the other and usually that's about it, only at the moment it is hosting some of the final degree show work of some artists from UCA. P had promised that she would check out some work by a friend, so I met her there and had a look at the various scultptures and bits and pieces. While we were there we met one of the artists exhibiting and she chatted to us about her inspiration and the processes for her work, it was lovely.

After that we headed off to meet everyone else at the gallery. A few people cancelled on the day, but it was fine because it ended up being a nice number of people. We all mostly did our own thing and wondered about, FP Mummy came by with Daddy and the girls and they went upstairs to make fossils out of salt dough, while we lingered downstairs. P explained how the big bronze sculptures (that looked like Weebles) were made (it's quite complicated to make bronze moulds) while I resisted the temptation to push them over and see if they sprang back.

Juan Muñoz - 'Conversation Piece III'
We carried on upstairs and went to the Curiousity exhibit upstairs. I had already been round during the private view with Middle B, but it was so busy that I was happy to go back round again. We looked at the giant walrus and the taxidermy and the glass animals and the photography and the Narwal horn and all manner of things.

Afterwards we met up with the rest of the group in the cafe - I got the coffees in and P brought us some Orange and Lavender Cake which was scrummy! A few more people left at this point, and the remaining five of us went off to choose where we were going for dinner.

As it turned out there are quite a few restaurants near the sea front, which is handy since the people who know Margate at all had gone home to put the Fairy Princesses to bed. I wanted to go to Irie Soul Food, but it's not open on a Sunday. We went to a new pizza place that has just opened - the inside is all bare walls and distressed furniture, there was a fetching painting of a dog in graffiti style on an old packing case that was hung on a wall of exposed brick. It had a slight school canteen feel to it, but the food more than made up for it. I had a pear and camborola pizza that was absolutely lovely - the thin crisp base was beautiful, and we also had some spicy broad beans to nibble on which were yummy. Everyone was pretty happy with the food and the company was amiable. We finished early enough for me to get a whole evening in with Fairy Mummy, which made me happy as well.

I spent the evening with Fairy Mummy and the family, we watched a bit of Hitch and just generally hung out in a Sunday evening kind of way - we chatted and folded laundry and got lunch ready for Monday and gossiped and drank tea and it was lovely. I love people pottering about near me and generally being useful and I don't see them enough by half so it was a really nice end to a really nice day. This morning I got to see the little Princesses over breakfast so I got some good chatting in with them too.

I got home in time to have a shower and head back into town to meet with R for coffee and then head to the doctor for minor surgery. It was pretty uneventful, I must say - I was only having a couple of cysts removed - but they did show me them once they took them out which was pretty exciting in a slightly gory kind of way. So now I'm just watching the local anaesthetic wear off and pondering what to have for dinner.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Some days...

I'm feeling slightly lacklustre at the moment - not anything serious enough to worry about, but just a bit flat. The first thing I did was start going to aqua again (because who doesn't like splashing about doing frog and rocking horse impressions?!) and I'm trying to stop going on the internet in the middle of the night and just go to sleep like a normal person. This has been greatly helped the last few days by the fact that our connection in the house has been down, so if I'm going to stay up doing pointless things it would be playing mahjong or something rather than looking at dresses which is the normal way of things, and frankly mahjong is much less exciting so more chance of sleep for me, hooray. It's still pretty sunny out, so at least I get to flounce about in some lovely skirts for a while longer which usually lifts my spirits somewhat (because who doesn't like twirling about in a swishy skirt?!). I'm choosing to blame my hormones which means that I can ride it out and get on with things safe in the knowledge that there is nothing actually wrong and it's just my body doing it's thing. I found this on facebook and had to share -  from now on I shall think of my backing and forthing as being less like ups and downs and more like dancing:

Shake it, baby!
The date is all set for my third sewing lesson which I'm really looking forward to. I'm finally picking up Dolly (my sewing machine) from the doctors today. I'm quite excited to have a play around and get to know all the mechanics and the settings for various things. I got Middle B to take a photo of the purse I made too (I'll get my camera sorted out soon I hope!) - I love this fabric! I'm happy with the way it turned out (though it could have done with a bit of an iron before I took a photo,
but hey ho):

Handmade by me! Yippee! 
Anyway, I've got plenty going on in the next few days to keep me busy, and hopefully I'll be on the up again. Til then, I'll be in my room learning how to Cha-cha-cha.

Monday, 12 August 2013

A Few of My Favourite Things

I had such a fabulous weekend: I spent Friday with Fairy Princess Mummy and the girls having coffee and watching Epic (Elder FP decided she is the Queen and that I am MK which I was happy with!) and then listening to Flight of the Conchords and drinking Pimms (once the girls were in bed obviously). Then on Saturday, we went out for breakfast - I adore going out for breakfast! - at the local greasy spoon (the owners give the girls lollypops) and then watched Hercules (which I'd never seen before) and then off home to see Middle B and mooch around the garden for a bit and drink tea and have a chat and do some knitting and lounge about... in short all of my favourite things in one day. We capped it all off by making quiche for dinner. Films, tea, comedy, small children ridiculousness, weekend breakfast, craftyness, sunshine, cooking, wonderful company - these are a few of my favourite things....

Pea, Mint and Goats Cheese Quiche
Taken from the BBC Good Food recipe

300g frozen peas
3 tbsp olive oil
handful of mint leaves
2 eggs
284 ml pot of double cream
4 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
200g goats cheese

For the pastry:
280g plain flour and a bit extra for dusting
140g cold butter, cut into pieces

- Put oven at 200C, gas mark 6. Make the pastry by putting the flour and butter in a bowl and rubbing together with your fingertips until its all mixed and crumbly. Then add 8 tbps of water and bring everything together until just combined and roll into a ball.

- Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is 5cm bigger than a 25cm tin. Lift it up over a rolling pin and drape it over the tin so there is an overhang of pastry over the sides. Push the pastry into the corners of the tin. Leave to chill in the fridge for 20 mins.

- While the pastry is chilling, cook the peas for 3 mins, then drain and drizzle with the olive oil and stir in the chopped mint. We left them whole, but you can blend or puree them if you like.

- Line the pastry with a circle of baking parchment and some baking beans and blind bake the pastry for 20 mins. Then remove the beans and paper and bake for another 5 - 10 mins until browned.

- While the pastry is cooking, beat the eggs in a large bowl. Gradually add the cream and the spring onions and season. When the pastry is done and has cooled a bit, put the minted peas into the pastry case and pour over the egg mixture, then top with the goats cheese. Bake for 20 - 25 mins. Take out and let it cool a little in the case and then serve.

We served this up with some salad, some lightly boiled new potatoes and some roasted peppers.

Roasted Pepper Salad (Israeli style)

- Slice up red and yellow peppers into large chunks. Drizzle in a little oil, making sure they are completely covered. Put in the oven at about 200C, leave in until the edges get browned (or longer depending on how you like them).

- Drizzle in balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with garlic salt (or crushed garlic, as you like).

- Let sit for a while to absorb flavours. (This will last for a few days in the fridge as a cold salad... if you can resist eating it that is!)

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

In which I remember that being Awkward is Actually Alright

I used to volunteer in an Acute Mental Health Unit - for a couple of years I went onto the ward once a week for a few hours to spend time with people. It was one of the most intense but most rewarding things I have ever done, and mostly that was because I had an amazing supervisor. We had some fantastic talks about things, and he explained lots of things to me after team meetings and I generally used to spend far too much time in his office drinking tea and talking about life, the Universe and everything - and very often religion, people, mental health, and all sorts of other things too. I fell off the wagon somewhat when things got a bit hectic in my life and I stopped volunteering there so we lost contact. I heard that last year he had a stroke at aged 58 which I must admit shocked me completely. I really wanted to contact him but I had no idea what to say, and the days turned into months and I felt increasingly awkward.

A few weeks back I ran into him and his daughter in the street and he suggested that I come round for coffee. After some wrangling about dates - because he's been such a jetsetter! - I turned up for coffee at his place today. I was quite nervous before I went and I'm not really sure why. Maybe I wouldn't know what to say... Maybe he'll be really different and all the sparkle and connection we had wouldn't be there... Maybe I'm quite ashamed that I hadn't contacted him when he could have done with a friend around... Maybe maybe. In any case, I turned up at the appointed time with chocolate cake as requested, and tried to see this as an opportunity to be there for him this time, whatever that entails. True to form, at the beginning it was awkward... and then I realised that actually he's a bit odd and I'm a bit odd and it was always a little awkward at the beginning, at which point I relaxed into it all and just chatted to him. Eventually I even asked him directly how he feels about God now, with everything that has happened, and we got some real deep and meaningful chat in. I think he feels like people come round because they feel sorry for him, so when I said I'd love to come by next week and carry on the conversation he was happy. And I'm happy that we still have a connection that we can build on. We are both different people these days, I look forward to getting to know him as he is now, I'm pretty excited to have him back in my life again.

In the evening, I went to my Jive class as always. I danced with quite a few people. The legendary Phil was not dancing too much tonight, he was mostly having a chat with the lads. I decided not to pester him too much and just dance the night away. There weren't many leads there and there were quite a few people wanting a dance, sometimes you just have to let it go. In the meantime, I had plenty of dances with Red and with Miss T who is a fantastic lead and a pleasure to dance with. I did notice, however, a weird awkwardness within me there too - maybe I just want to feel special... some affirmation that I am a good dancer after all... or maybe I'm a bit overwhelmed by Phil's general amazingness... or, I suspect, all three. I was watching my mind trying to find the source of the discomfort and I think that there is a strange thing about being someone's student and wanting to be their friend, but not really knowing how they feel about you. With my sewing teacher, Fran, she gets as excited about things as I do and it's lovely, we are on the same page. With my yoga teacher, it's the opposite - I very much respect her as a teacher but I know that I'm probably not her cup of tea as a person and I'm fine with it just being a student / teacher relationship. With Phil, I realise that the awkwardness is the feeling of a possible friendship being born which takes time, and can't be forced, but I really want this person to spend time with me because I have so much admiration for them. I don't know if that feeling a good thing in itself, but maybe it points to wonderful things in the future, who knows. In any case, I should probably just accept the fact that sometimes things are a bit awkward, and then just dance right through them til they come out alright.

I saw this quote on facebook today that summed things up quite nicely:
'Our job is to love people when it hurts. When it's awkward. When it's uncool and embarrassing. Our job is to stand together, to carry the burdens of one another and to meet each other in our questions.' - Jamie Tworkowks
This is what I'm trying to do with my life. Just sometimes I do it a little awkwardly, that's all.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Adventures in Sewing, part 2

I recently got given two sewing machines, so what's a girl to do but learn how to sew?! I already had my first lesson with Fran in which I made a book bag. Today, I had my second lesson in which I made a purse. When I say I made a purse what I really mean is that we spent at least half an hour looking at the second sewing machine (a Frister and Rossman Cub 4 - she is now called 'the Cub') and having a good nose around. She was doing alright for a while - we had a good practice and went through the various stitches, and I got the zip done, and then for whatever reason she decided that this was enough palaver (or pavlova) for one day and she was having a rest. I get the feeling she might be slightly tempremental, that or she just wants a good clean - either way I'll take her to the sewing machine man at some point I'm sure. In the meantime, we decided to switch over to Fran's machine (a modern Janome) to finish off the purse I was working on. It should have been much bigger but she had a remnant of fabric that was just gorgeous so we used that instead. Once I was on a sewing machine that worked, the whole thing took less than half an hour. The fiddly bit is the zip, which I shall have to practice at, but rest of it was pretty straightforward. I am now the proud owner of a handmade purse - made by me! It's all very exciting.

After we finished making the purse, I pulled out some fabric that I have had for a while. It's a gorgeous blue waxed cotton batik-y thing, with some red and yellow flower patterns over it. I have no concept of spatial awareness at the best of times, but especially with fabric I have no clue how much you need for a dress, a skirt, a blouse or anything. It turns out that I have more than enough there to make a dress, so this is going to be our next lesson: we are going to cut out fabric so I can learn how to read patterns, I'll learn how to seam well, practise putting in a zip and how to do button/loop closure on the shoulders. The other day I ordered some patterns from McCalls (I need to stop ordering things on the internet in the middle of the night honestly! In my defense they were on sale and the shipping charge was the same from 1 - 3 patterns so naturally I bought 3 because it makes more economic sense. Alright?!) The pattern we decided on using is Vintage Vogue V8789  - I am soooo very excited! I'm going to make my own dress! So next time I will have something that approximates to the dress below with the boat neck. (Maybe.)

Vintage Vogue V8789 - you will be mine!

Fran is very lovely. We ended up having a cup of tea and chatting for an hour afterwards, talking about dresses and sewing and all manner of things, and she is getting as excited about this dress as I am! She has sent me off with a shopping list - and frankly, any shopping list that involves buttons is alright by me.

I will put up photos of the bag and the purse as soon as my camera will let me. (Maybe it's jealous of the sewing machines? or maybe it's just old and falling apart...) I'm trying very hard at the moment not to dash off and buy loads of yummy fabrics... someone stop me!