100 Happy days 22,23,24

I know, I know it should be one post each day with a photograph but sometimes the moment happens when I have no camera or it is not a photographable moment.

day 22 for example, I was up at around 5.40am because Skye was awake and in need of a trip out to the garden, when we got to the back door I looked out to see two young squirrels playing on the lawn. They were having such fun chasing each other that I held Skye back for a minute then opened the back door in stages to give them time to run off before being chased by two big dogs. Naturally the cheeky pair ran straight up the birch tree where they chattered and called to the dogs in a taunting manner. Once the dogs were safely back inside the squirrels returned to their play and ventured up onto the windowsill to peek in to the kitchen. I haven’t seen any squirrels in the garden before although there are a lot in the park.

day 23 I spent much of the day gardening, cutting the grass and strimming so my moment was definitely this one. The joy of cool clean sheets on a hot and humid evening.tulips 002Yesterday was another hot day, the dogs played in the garden all morning but by lunchtime it was too hot and they were tired so I got an unexpected couple of hours of sewing time while they snoozed on the cool kitchen floor. 

And I got an unexpected present from my friend Evie, a Named Clothing Halava parka pattern which I can’t wait to sew.



Nuked and spooked.

Today was a strange day, not least because I was having a nuclear heart scan which meant more time walking on a treadmill then an injection of radioactive dye (sadly I’m not glowing in the dark) and, after a wait and a cheese sandwich, a session being scanned with a huge scanner that looked like a huge open book. nuke The worst part, I’m getting used to the treadmill now, was having to lie still with my arms over my head in the scanner. (The lady in the photo is bending her elbows but my arms were kept straight to enable the scanner to move up and down without crashing into them.) The more I tried to stay in one place the more I itched (another side effect of end stage renal failure is the interminable itchiness of legs, arms and hands) and although the test takes only around 30-40 minutes it felt like a lifetime. I did remember to dress warmly this time though and wore my beautiful Owling mittens to keep my hands from turning blue (thank you Julia!).

Afterwards I had an hour or two at home without the dogs – they were in daycare so I was able to have a rest and do a bit of sewing in peace before picking them up. And it was so quiet without them, it was spooky. I’m used to having two constant companions underfoot, barking at passers by, snuffling at whatever fabric I’m trying to wrestle with, asking to go into the garden just as I get to tricky bits of machining.  This afternoon without them I managed to sew both back and side seams of the Cupro blouse I’m making, sewed the sleeve seams and put the neck facing on. I was able to set up the iron and ironing table nearby without the fear of a ball chasing dog knocking it over and I listened to a chapter of an audiobook while I did the hand sewing. At one point someone posted the new copy of the Phone Book through the front door and I jumped a mile, the combination of lack of dog early warning system and the murder mystery I was listening to did my heart no good at all!


Happy Birthday to Skye

Today is Skye’s second birthday, she has enjoyed a happy day playing ball with what is left of a basketball (she chews a hole in any hollow ball then spends days trying unsuccessfully to bounce it) and flinging her hard rubber Kong ball at me to throw back for her.

february2013 006





She also loves collecting spoons, she will sneak off with a teaspoon whenever she can. She has taken over Nino’s place as resident tea drinker – and she can reach places that were safe from small dogs!

Half Term holiday

It is half term which means a week of no school and some time to sew, I have completed my Walkloden boiled wool suit, after a struggle with the lining of the jacket which seemed unnecessarily complicated. It is warm and comfortable and will be ideal for chilly winter days. The sun has therefore come out to taunt me into wanting to sew lighter Spring clothes so this morning I have made a start on a pair of jersey trousers, “leisure wear” I suppose, I’m thinking of them as something soft and comfortable to wear in the evenings. They are a rather dull grey colour – the fabric has been in the stash for a while and hasn’t inspired me so I thought it would be a good test fabric. If I like the finished style then I can make some more in more inspiring fabrics. The pattern is an old one Butterick 5150butterick 5150 designed for fleece fabric or double knits.

Sewing time is frequently interrupted by two indignant dogs who cannot understand why there are men outside stealing the pavement (the tarmac and edgings are all being replaced) and why I am doing nothing about it. Skye in particular is very concerned with them so we spend much of the day at the back of the house as far away as possible but it is impossible to escape the noise and dust they are creating. Although I’m less than delighted at them being around in what should be a peaceful week for me I’m glad I am around as the dogs would be more upset if they were here on their own.

Edited to add, the Butterick trousers are much much looser than anticipated, I made a size 14, took them in to about a 12 and still have too much ease. They will be very comfortable as lounging around trousers but it’s not quite the look I was hoping for!  Butterick measurements are plainly very generous.

I was still in the sewing mood so this afternoon began sewing Vogue 9070, a short sleeved blouse which I made some years ago and liked. In the intervening years I have lost the instruction sheet but it’s a blouse how difficult can it be? vogue 9070

I want to do French seams inside which are not part of the pattern but as I’m using quite a fine cotton fabric will give a neater finish than the pressed open seams recommended. The fabric is pink and white stripes with some pulled threadwork and embroidery making up the stripes. It is a piece I’ve had for years but will do fine as a wearable muslin to check the fit of the pattern before I cut into the linen I’m planning to make it in next. My wardrobe is very short of blouses and skirts so my vague sewing plan is to make a collection of suitable pieces for wearing as the weather gets warmer.  Assuming of course we get some decent warm weather this year, last year I gave up summer sewing altogether as it was so wet and cold.

I have also sorted out my boxes of patterns and have disposed of those no longer in a fit state to use or with pieces missing that can’t be replaced, not to mention one or two “What was I thinking” patterns that should never see the light of day.  The sunshine combined with the holiday has given me more energy than usual but I’m now (at 4.15pm) ready for a rest and as the road men seem to have gone home the dogs are happy to relax too.

The perfect place

On Saturday I was cooking in the kitchen (I will perfect meringue making at some point) while the dogs played in the garden, after a few minutes I automatically looked out to check that Nino was ok looking for him in his favourite place by the hedge under the cherry tree. Of course he wasn’t there and for a minute I wondered where he’d got to. It was a sad moment but it did help me decide where his ashes are to be scattered. He loved to sit by the hedge, it was a sheltered position and he could see the kitchen window from there and keep track of any interesting food preparation going on. In the summer he often sat and watched butterflies, here he is with Skye not long after she arrived .                                          The sun shines on that little patch from early in the morning to around lunch time so a good part of Nino’s day could be spent there before moving to the patio at the end of the garden in the afternoon or if there was a chilly wind he would take himself inside to a sunny spot on the sofa – he knew how to make himself comfortable!

I have recieved many messages, both here and by email and telephone, from people moved by the news of his death. He was loved by so many people. Even the postie asked about him today.We thought he was a lovely little dog but it is heartwarming to know that so many other people did too.

Skye and Tilly were very quiet all week so on Saturday evening we took them for a good walk in the fields and through the woods. They ran about, jumped the stream, tried to persuade us that the half a tree they found was a perfectly reasonable stick to throw and /or drag home, chased rabbits, got muddy and generally enjoyed themselves. It was so good to see them so happy and full of life. 

The log store.

When we got the log burning stove we bought a large quantity of logs, they were delivered onto the drive and lacking a proper wood store we put them into the garage until a store could be built. It wasn’t ideal as the garage is slightly damp and lacks a good air flow so the logs were too damp to burn well. After a bit of discussion about building a logstore from old pallets we decided to make life simpler and order a kit. On Sunday as the weather was mild I decided it was definitely log-store day so my son and I had a very enjoyable afternoon building it. His woodworking skills have improved a great deal since the time he decided to practice using a drill on the dining room table and drilled through the piece of wood he was drilling, the wooden board protecting the table top and the table top itself!  By the time we finished, it wasn’t difficult just very heavy, and the dogs had inspected it and accepted the news that it wasn’t a “wee hoose” for them we came indoors for a much needed cup of tea and after that it was a bit dark to start transferring all the logs. So before work each day this week I have dutifully moved a few armfulls and I completed the job this afternoon. It is now full to the roof and there are still two shelving units full of logs in the garage…I may have over ordered slightly!


Oranges are the only fruit…

To make proper Seville marmalade you need proper Seville oranges. These are only available in the shops here for a short time, usually around the latter part of January. This year I got a phone call from the local grocers to tell me that the oranges had arrived in the first week of January and hot footed it up to buy some. Glorious bumpy skinned, sunshine bright oranges were heaped up in very attractive wooden crates, I couldn’t wait to buy some and bring them home. Despite the problems with the electricity last week I managed to make eight jars of dark amber marmalade last week and made eight more today. The recipe is a mixture of ones I have read plus memories of my mother’s marmalade making. Mum wasn’t a great cook, she made good plain food with a fairly limitied list of ingredients. She was however a very good baker of Victoria sponges, Dundee cakes and scones and an excellent jam and marmalade maker. Her recipe for marmalade has long been lost but I can remember bits of it. I know it began with two pounds of Seville oranges which invariably rolled off the scales onto the floor to be chased by our little Border Terrier, Sheena Bhan, who was in her turn chased round the kitchen by my Mum! Looking at my recipe books I can see that 2 pounds of oranges need 4pounds of sugar but I do remember that Mum always used four ounces less and made up the rest with four caddy spoons of dark treacle. The caddy spoon was the spoon in the tea caddy used to measure tea into a pot (no tea bags in our house) and was roughly the size of a tablespoon with a very ornate teapot as a handle. Sadly it too has been lost but a plastic tablespoon sufficed. Mum used to mince the orange peels in her green enamel mincer but I find cutting them with scissors gives a more even size and retains the chunky texture better. I’m also a bit wary of using the mincer -imagining my fingers getting minced along with the peels.The only other ingredients were water and the juice of a lemon. The method involved three stages. First cut the lemon into eight wedges cutting vertically, leaving both pips and peel in place. These lemon slices go into a small pan with half a pint of water and all the pips from the oranges and are boiled for about ten minutes. The liquid is drained off into a preserving pan and the lemon slices and pips are put into a muslin bag. Meanwhile the oranges, which have also been sliced into eight vertically and had the pips removed earlier, have the flesh and pith removed and cut into small pieces. This goes into the preserving pan along with 3 and a half pints of water and all the orange peel cut into slivers. I cut mine approximately half an inch long by an eigth of an inch wide. The muslin bag is added to the pan which is brought to a simmer on top of the cooker, then put into the Everhot warming oven at 150degrees for about three hours. After this time the orange peels should be soft and almost translucent.  The muslin bag is removed and left to cool. At this point I add the sugar and treacle, I don’t warm it as it will start to dissolve while I deal with the muslin bag. Once that is cool enough to handle it is squeezed out so that all the pectin from the lemon peel and pips is removed. This is a sticky liquid which is added to the preserving pan to help the marmalade set. The pan is put onto the top of the stove on the simmering plate and stirred until all the sugar is dissolved completely before being moved to the boiling plate. The clean jars are put in the warming oven to sterilise while the marmalade is boiled. Once it reaches a rolling boil it usually takes about 15 minutes to reach setting point.The warmed jars are taken out of the oven and the pan is taken off the cooker and left for ten minutes to allow the peel to disperse into the marmalade and not rise to the top. Then it is ladled into the warm jars and the lids are put on while it is hot.The smell of the marmalade with its treacle undertone is such a lovely rich smell which brings back memories of the kitchen when we lived in Beech Hurst, a beautiful flat in a Victorian house with a red lino floor in the kitchen and a big cream AGA cooker. My father was in hospital and my Mum did a lot of marmalade and jam cooking, presumably to keep herself  from worrying about him. When he died and we had to leave the flat (it belonged to his employers) I do remember her packing boxes and boxes of jars which almost filled the larder at our next, much smaller, home.

The marmalade making today was complicated by the fitting of the wood burning stove in the sitting room. Poor Tilly is anxious at the best of times but took a particular dislike to the workmen today and was even more worried than usual so paced and whimpered much of the time until I was trying to stir the marmalade as it boiled when she decided she needed to be very close to me. Stirring boiling and spitting hot marmalade with a large dog curled up at your feet is not ideal but it did calm her down! The cream door her head is resting on is the warming oven door. I was very worried she would end up with hot drips landing on her but she survived unscathed.The wood burning fire is now fitted but we have to wait 24 hours before it can be used to allow everything to set and settle in place. The weather forecast is threatening a return to wintry weather so it will be ready just at the right time and we are looking forward to cosy evenings by the fire.