Friday, 27 February 2015

Mucky pup

I had decided, yesterday, that if today was sunny I'd sort out the compost. We have 4 bins which are full, but have not produced compost.  They need relocating to a sunnier spot, and the compost needs turning.

It was sunny, gorgeous day for being in the garden, so I put on an old jumper and set to work,

I started with an empty bin,Bin 0,   and started to empty Bin 1 into it.  Eventually I got to a point where I could lift bin 1 off the compost and finished shovelling.

Then I moved Bin 1 to it's new home, and started emptying Bin 2 into it.

Then Bin 3 into Bin 2.

The Girls came to watch, lined up along the fence.

Finally, Bin 4 into Bin 3.   To be honest, I'd had enough long before I'd got bin 4 to the point where I could lift it off.  

I need a cup of tea.


Yesterday, during and after uncluttering, I stitched out some more of the myriad of embroidery designs that I now own.   Clackety clack, clackety clack.

I went upstairs and I could hear clackety clack. A different clackety clack

DH was using his lathe to turn a bowl.

Who are these people that we have become?


DH built the cupboard that evening.   We'd had to remove the gateleg table (which had it's own drinks cupboard inside), and clean up a bit first.  We discussed the positioning of the drawers inside the unit - I've gone for 2 outside drawers, with additional shallow drawers inside.   I like the sleekness of two big drawers on the outside, but need the storage capacity of more drawers and this gives me an opportunity to see how it works in practise. I decided I needed to think about it, so that part waited until Wednesday. 

On Wednesday, it was all installed.

Yesterday I started trying to organise things into it. After lots of farting about, it was done.

It came with blue protective covering over the drawer fronts and I quite like the shock of the blue colour.  

It doesn't go with anything else in my kitchen, and it isn't a colour I would have chosen, but I quite like it. I will peel it off today to reveal the vanilla coloured fronts.

The workbench isn't quite tidy and clear yet, but it is looking better.

I haven't decluttered at all, I've just un-cluttered. A bit. For now.


The embroidery continues.  Clutter increased on my workbench.   Boxes of threads.  Reels of stabiliser. I bought kitchen towel holders to make it easier to move the stabilisers around; I now have 4.  That doesn't count the stabiliser which is flat, which is propped up against a wall;  or the water-soluble stuff which is in a box upstairs (a kitchen is not a place to keep something which dissolves).   There's magnetic knife block with my scissors, tweezers, clips and stuff;  the box with the machine feet; the needles..... it goes on and on and on.

I had sorted out a cupboard upstairs to organise my fabric. It has storage boxes in front of it containing stuff like bindings,  cords,  ribbons,  and apron tapes (which are great for bunting). There was no room for any of the downstairs clutter.

We had decided some time ago that storage underneath the worktop would be required, and a little while ago I decided that an Ikea kitchen unit would probably work best.   Either 60cm- wide x 40 deep, opening under the worktop,a bit awkward; or 40 wide x 60 deep opening to the side and requiring me to move the bin each time.  I needed to see the units and drawers "in the flesh" to decide and, as this meant a trip to Ikea, I kept putting it off.

Eventually, DH asked what we were going to do about storage and I told him. I explained that I wanted to look at the kitchens anyway, as I am seriously thinking about an Ikea kitchen.  We set a date to go to Ikea - yes, it really does require planning - and eventually The Day arrived.    

Ikea is actually only  about 40 minutes away.  It usually takes longer to get back.    I normally go to Ikea on my own, as I can pretty much guarantee that one of our gruntles will be dissed if we go together.  

The problem isn't getting to Ikea, it's (a) the parking, and (b) how long it takes to get around and do everything. Even a quick "in and out" isn't quick at all, especially if it involves buying a kitchen unit - it requires 2 additional lots of queueing: once to order the items, and then again after the checkout to wait for the order to be picked and assembled.

We walked through most of the store very quickly, stopping maybe twice to look at something. We got to the kitcheny bit, and it took forever.   I wanted to examine the cupboards and drawers. I wanted to see how the different drawer combos worked.  I evaluated all the insidey bits.  I thought about our kitchen. I studied the doors.    DH did well, really. 

Eventually, we discussed a drawer for the embroidery stuff, and agreed what size we wanted. We then discussed the drawer configuration, and innards, and queued to order.  We then bought lots of innards. Experience has shown me that it's quicker, easier and better to return items having bought too much than to have to go back and buy more. The Returns department doesn't necessitate going in to and round the whole store.

We raced through the rest of the shop.
We queued to pay.

We queued to wait to collect the kitchen unit.

And we went home.  Without arguing, Without even a bit of gruntling.

Wonders will never cease.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lovely Lotti

Lotti (short for "Borlotti", a reference to her gorgeous markings) is a loopy Exchequer Leghorn hen.   Yesterday she crouched for me, so I knew that she would soon re-start laying.  Poppy has also been crouching, but no sign of any eggs from her yet.

Today I had to put the Girls away so that I could go and see to the Allotmenteers.  The Garden Girls are well used to being called into their run and rewarded with corn, and I was a little surprised to see that Lotti wasn't around.  I checked the nestbox on the Cube - empty.  

I realised that she must be in the pampas grass somewhere.  She has made a nest in there before, so I knew to look at my head height, not on the ground.  I heard little chirrupings, and soon saw her, nestled in a hollow, throwing bits of pampas onto her back,

There was no sign of any eggs, so today must be the first.  I waited for about 15 minutes, but nothing happened. She continued to turn around, throw papas, snuggle down, chirrup, throw pampas, stand up, turn around....

I left her to it.

When I got back she was happily rootling around in the garden.  I checked, and the nest looked empty. 

I looked more carefully and discovered an egg, covered in pampas bits.

I wrote the date on the egg, put it back, and covered it over again.

At least I know where she is laying. I don't want to put her off by removing the one and only egg she has laid there so far. I'll check each dat and write the date on any eggs, and when she's laid a few I'll start removing them.

Grandma-ing, continued

On Monday I suggested we made some biscuits. I remembered that I had a cookie press in one of the cupboards, so I dug it out. 

My trust ginger biscuit dough was loaded in, and off we went.  Or didn't.  We tried greasing/not greasing the baking tray.  In the end, we searched for a Youtube video to help.  We saw someone using a different type of press, but got the idea.

It was OK, but the mixture probably wasn't the best consistency.  It was the type of machine where you have to click the handle, and DGS's hand was soon aching from the effort.   We decided to try a different consistency dough, and that's when I realised I didn't have enough defrosted butter.   I got ready to go to the shops, and looked online for a recipe for the particular press we had.

I couldn't find one for that press.  I looked on the Lakeland website, which is where I got said press from.  Nope. In fact, they didn't do that press anymore.   I did a double take at the press they now did,  it was one which didn't require clicking, just a simple press.

I decided to buy the different press as well, so we rushed into town to Lakeland.   We couldn't find the press anywhere.  I asked.  There were 6 on the shop floor somewhere, just no where that we could see. Neither could the assistants.  A search ensued, and eventually the 6 were located.

We came back, tried it...and it was amazing.  I mean, really, really great. Easy to use, and such fabulous shapes.   We filled tray after tray, baking 2 trays at a time.   I meant to take pics, but completely failed.

The biscuits were lovely.   We sampled plenty, and kept on doing "quality checks" to make sure they were OK stored in a tin. This went on over a couple of days.

For the sake of my waistline, I packedmost of them up in a tub for DGS to take home with him.

The pic shows the cookies being done on a sheet of baking parchment, but we had better luck on an ungreased baking tray.

Monday, 16 February 2015


My lovely eldest grandson has come to stay for a couple of days.   DH is away, parent-sitting, so it's just the 2 of us.  He is of an age now where we can have proper conversations, has sensible opinions,  and it's always interesting to hear his views on things.

We made pancakes for dinner - well, tea I suppose - and he learned how to hold the pan in one hand, the batter in the other, and to pour and twirl. I also showed him how to flip pancakes with a turner. (He had earlier asked me if I was a tosser, which made me laugh a lot).

I had to make a second batch of batter, we couldn't quite finish it.  I said I'd have a go at tossing pancakes, although it had been a long time since I'd tried and I hadn't been vey good.    I surprised myself by managing it very easily.   He asked me if how many tosses I could do, so I had a go. I stopped at 20.  We discussed the physics of tossing, and why high tosses were more likely to fail.  I did try some high tosses, after a couple of good ones, an semi good one, it finally ended up on the floor.

It took some persuasion to get him to try. Reassurance that the batter would only be thrown away otherwise so it didn't matter if he dropped it, eventually he had a go.  I showed him the technique I used,  and he managed to do it.

He then set to work on the lego battleship I'd rediscovered recently. I'd bought for him  a year or so ago, put it under the bed in the spare room, and had forgotten about it.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The World's Most Expensive Apron

You may remember that my decision to make bunting for DH's special birthday led to me buying a sewing machine, and then an embroidery machine, and then lots of embroidery thread, and then selling both machines and buying a combined machine,  and so on, resulting in the world's most expensive bunting...?

Well, I think I have now made the world's most expensive apron.

You may remember the story of the patterns and me asking my aunt for help, well, this is what happened next.

Tuesday arrived and I went fabric shopping to Fabricland.  I needed 2.5 yards of fabric in 2 coordinating fabrics.  I picked out several possibilities, and decided to buy 3 metres of each to give myself some leftovers to make cute little purses and things.

I spent a small fortune. 

On Wednesday afternoon my Aunt arrived, and we got started.  I was nervous about using fabric from my new stash, I wasn't at all confident in my abilities.   I had a brainwave of using a pretty duvet cover (one I'd bought, brand new, to make into bunting in fact).    That way, if I made a cock up it wouldn't matter.

It was a long, slow, process.  The apron is reversible, so there was a lot of fabric to deal with, and the two sets had to be sewn together before the garment could be assembled.   I decided I didn't want pockets, which saved several years of sewing.

Four and a half hours later, we were near the end. I turned the nearly-finished apron through one of the open shoulders, shook it, and voila, we were ready to do the shoulders.

We read the instructions. which involved laying the apron face down, then crossing over the left back to the right front, and then.....blah, blah, blah,  We could not for the life of us work out what to do. We looked again and again at the four layers of fabric for each shoulder, trying to work out what to join to what and how.   Understandably, the instructions were written by someone who knows what they are doing, for someone who knows how to sew.  They didn't make sense though.

I decided I wasn't thinking clearly enough, and called it a day.

I asked my Aunt J to join me for dinner, and made a chicken risotto in Thermy - superfast, supereasy, super-delicious.  Despite getting stuck, it had been a really good afternoon.

On Thursday, I procrastinated most of the day.  I went and saw to the allotment chickens, all the time going over the four pieces of fabric.   When I got home,  I turned the apron outside-in again, and re-sewed the edges as some of my seams weren't great. I also decided to overcast all the way around to prevent the ends fraying, It took some time.  I was actually quite chuffed that I'd thought to do this.    In preparation for the final top stitching, I did some tests on fabric.  I kept looking at the shoulders.

I contacted PaisleyPincushion  with a detailed explanation of where I'd got to and why I was stuck.  While I waited for a reply, I googled shoulder seams and read impossible-to-understand explanations. I watched a couple of videos.  One website was making a reversible top, the front was black and the back was blue.  She mentioned that you had to sew black to black and blue to blue.

I went back out to the kitchen, and looked at my apron shoulders again.

And then I realised why all the talk of "contrast t contrast" wasn't making sense.   I'd put the back pieces on the wrong way round. I had my contrast fabric showing, instead of the front-fabric.  THAT was why I couldn't sort out the shoulders.

The pattern lady's reply confirmed about the "main to main".  I realised that I needed to sew the two inner pieces together,  and then the two outer pieces.   By now it was late on Friday and I decided to wait until the next day,

So today, I did it.  It took me a while. I had to check that all my marks were in the correct place despite the pieces being reversed.  I had to get the pattern out to make sure.   I sewed my first seam, one of the underside ones, and it was good, The second one, the topside, I realised I had gone wrong as the seam was showing.  I unpicked it, and twisted the shoulder round to try and work out how to do it from the other side.  The material was fraying badly, and I wasn't sure it would work.   It did!  When I managed to do the first one, I cheered out loud.

When I'd finished all four, I was amazed to find that they lined up pretty well.  This was especially important because of my cock up with the back pieces,  the place of the join was pretty obvious. 

When it was done,  I took a deep breath and started top stitching all the way round with a decorative satin stitch.  It took forever.

Shoulder seams - from a distance

Shoulder seam - needs threat trimming

My top stitch decoration
Even though it was made in cheap and cheerful fabric, I quite like the bright pattern.
Back (panels are the wrong way round, this is the inside fabric)

It is, of course, waaaaaaaaaay too big. Good job I hadn't used my expensive fabric to make this version.

I don't care though.  I'm really pleased that I've managed to make something. I know it might seem like it's only an apron but it isn't.  It's a reversible apron, with quite a few bits to it.  Sewing is also something that doesn't come naturally to me at all,  so the whole thing has been a bit of a challenge.

Rather than make it again in a smaller size,  I think I might try another pattern. Maybe the other Paisley Pincushion one.  Although I do quite fancy the idea of making one with slimming princess seams down the front. I was picturing using some plain fabric for most of the apron, and then some of my lovely stuff for the centre panel.

I can feel another night's googling coming on.


Monday, 9 February 2015

A spring in my step!

What a fantsatic day of Spring weather we had yesterday!

Early February, yet it was sunny and warm enough to have the back doors open.  All that lovely fresh Spring air,  letting my house breathe for a few hours.


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Back in action

At last!

DH is now able to remove the back brace for extended periods. He has to make sure he's wearing it if he's doing anything that might involve any sort of bending or lifting.

The vertebrae will never bounce back to its original shape, but it is healing well.

Quick Trim

Having failed miserbaly last winter, we were determined that tthis yearwe would get two of our apple trees professionally pruned.  They are getting too tall for the appes to be easily reached (even with an apple picker). They also grow over on to some common ground. I don't mind people picling apples from the other side, but in the last few years people have been quite vicious while doing. Last year someone brought a broomstick with them, and wrecked some of the branches in their greed to get apples. They took so many, and didn't care about the damage.

It's difficult to show you the trees concerned because there is a very badly overgrown pear tree in the way.

Tree 2 Before
Tree 2 After

We'll aim to get the other apple tree and the pear tree done next year.

and sew on

I'm feeling a slightly shameful sense of pride.  I managed to use my machine to hem 4 pairs of trousers, and it went really well! I feel a bit sheepish, as of course DH is probably perfectly capable of hemming his own trousers. But I was curious to see if I could do it.

I feel that I've saved us £40, as it cost us £10 per pair to have them hemmed when we've done it before.

I'm also planning to make myself a new apron, one that is suitable for the larger busted lass. 

Normal aprons, the ones with the normal apron-tie round the neck, don't stay in place,  Some years ago I managed to sew a proper fabric collar on to such an apron, and it worked beautifully.  Now though, I plan to sew something a little prettier.

I bought a couple of patterns from Paisley Pincushion , via Etsy,  for such aprons.

This one looks like I can make it look a bit more tailored:
This one looks like an easier pattern to follow and doesn't require tying, but it might look a bit baggy...
They arrived a little while ago and I finally opened them yesterday to see what fabric I need to buy.  The instructions are easy, if you know about these things,  but to me  it was like reading an engineering manual.  I could undertstand the fabric requirements, but the first instruction was copyingmarks on to the fabric and then sewing the darts.

I know what a dart is, in sewing terms.   I have no idea how one is sewed.

I emailed my Aunt, who did a lot of dressmaking when she was a little younger, and she has very kindly agreed to help.

I was going to use a "Chicken Run"duvet cover I'd bought , the pillowcase has pics of Mrs Tweedies Pies. My brother calls me Mrs Tweedie because I have lots of pet chickens.

The main part of of the duvet cover has an enormous Gnger and Rocky picture,  so that's no good.  And it really would be a shame to cut it up.

So, I'm going to fabric shop on Tuesday, and have a go on Wednesday.

Sew and sew

My collection of bought embroidery designs is getting out of hand and I have had to get seruously organised.

I now have a spreadsheet listing all the designs, complete with pictures, my ratings, and information on where I have put the embroidery files (and how big the designs are, how many stitches, the set name if it was part of a set........).

I've also continued with stitching out the designs, so I have a sample of each one.  That's taken a while, and I've still got loads to do.

This is one of the first designs I bought, but I've only just tried it.

Truth told, it's too big to be of much practical use....unless I did it either side of the front of a black waistcoat or something. The colours are gorgeous.

I've got a couple of samplers - here's one:
I've also had a go at an in-the-hoop banner - well, one pennant - and tha was interesting. I might try this again properly, I was just messing about  which is why the letter is rubbish:
It's still a bit too big for what I want, I might contact the designer to see if they could do some miniscule ones.

This is all so  not me, I'm fascinated by it all.

Bin there, done that.

We have 2 lovely auto bins in our kitchen.  One a large, 50L bin, and the other is a smaller one for food recycling.     We've bin very happy with them.  I've got so used to them that sometimes I stand by the chicken feed bin, which is not a sensor bin, waiting for the lid to open.

In the last month I have managed to lose the bag ring from the small bin.   I didn't exactly lose it.  It was a sleety evening and I was emptying the food wate into the outside food bin.  The inside bin was a bit full, and I knew if I took the compostable bag out, it would split... so I carried the whole bin outside, and emptied it into the bigger food recycling bin.

I came in, washed the bin out, and put it upside down on the draining board to air and dry.

The next morning, DH put the bin back together and asked me where the bag ring was.   I knew at once.  It had obviously gone into the bigger food bin, along with the food and the compostable liner.

Unfortunately,  the bin men had bin in the meantime.

No response from the company about how to obtain a replacement.


And a few days ago I took the lid off the bigger bin, in the usual manner.  The lid flipped open, I picked it up and pulled the lid off.   Except it came off. Right off.   I 'fessed up to DH.   It was broken. Truly broken.  A tiny piece of plastic had come off and wasn't fixable or replaceable. We needed a whole new lid.

This particular bin had bin horrendously expensive and I could see that, even if I got a reply from the supplying company - which seemed unlikely given their past form - a substantial part of the cost was the lid.

I decided it would have to wait until next month.

We put the lid back on, but it was a nuisance.  We left the lid off. It was worse.

By a stroke of luck, Costco were selling cheap autobins (completely different shape, mechanism, size), and I decided to get one while they had them in stock.  They were  much cheaper than I expected

 It works really well.  The lid is a bit flappy,  but the sensor is great. It also senses that you are standing there and doesn't slap the lid down just as you are pouring rubbish in.

So that worked out OK then!