The last post of 2018

As we are now rapidly approaching Christmas, just a week away as of writing this post, I have decided that this will be the last post of 2018. A year that I will be particularly happy to get rid of for reasons too numerous to mention. I will be giving myself a little break from blogging and will be back on 10th January 2019 which seems a date massively in the distance but in reality is a mere three weeks from the date this blog post is published.

 I haven’t taken this long of a break for many years but some times we all just need to be in the moment and self-care. I always get incredibly stressed around Christmas, it’s not something I massively enjoy as it’s built up to be this wonderful, magical thing but I actually find it quite a lonely time. Hubby gets very limited time off work and he’s back in the blink of an eye. This may sound a bit baa humbug to some but I am guessing I am not alone in feeling this way about Christmas, as in it promises much and delivers little.

I always get incredibly wound up in the run up to Christmas, I worry things won’t be perfect, all the glossy magazines and TV programmes sell the belief that if you aren’t making absolutely everything from scratch, food, decorations, wreaths etc then you are an abject failure. In the early years of being sick I would work incredibly hard trying to ensure Christmas was picture perfect. I would make the whole Christmas dinner from scratch, I would be utterly miserable and stressed out by the sheer enormity of the task and most of the time I was only cooking for two. When I am stressed I get snappy so the knock on effect was that hubby and I would spend the whole of the Christmas dinner cooking time sniping at each other and taking offence at every word uttered. It was no fun at all. The food was absolutely delicious but was it worth the sleepless nights ( I kid you not ) and the marital discord, no way.

When in 2016 Christmas was approaching and I was suffering from a CSF leak, the stress was even worse. There was no way I could spend 2 to 3 hours upright in the heat of the kitchen without it destroying the rest of the day. The CSf leak meant being upright induced the most horrific head pain that no pain relief would touch. I came to the conclusion that for once Christmas dinner cooked from scratch could take a running jump. There was no way I was destroying my health for the rest of the day for a meal that would take 20 – 30 minutes to consume. It didn’t make any sense to me at all. So hubby bought as much as he could pre-prepared  / frozen and we had just the gravy to make along with the carrots and sprouts. Ok it was never going to win a Michelin star but it was passable and when you are chronically sick or in chronic pain that is all you should be aiming for.

Perfection is a word that is bandied around by all of us but in reality perfection doesn’t exist and we shouldn’t all be wearing ourselves out trying to achieve a marketing concept. If your roast potatoes aren’t cooked in duck / goose fat who gives a shit? If your Yorkshire puddings are Aunt Bessie’s who cares? Who knows unless you tell them and my neighbours certainly won’t be rooting around in my bin trying to discover if I was the perfect hostess or not. The pressure we put upon ourselves to have the perfect Instagrammable Christmas is just silly!

Now the above probably makes me sound like I have my shit together and that I don’t get stressed about Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. This year I have just found something else to worry about. Believe me if there is something I can find to wind myself up over I will and do. I just don’t get stressed about Christmas Dinner – well I might a little bit as I have to work out the timings for everything and supervise Mr Myasthenia Kid in the kitchen whilst falling over two dogs who think any food in the kitchen is fair game and only being cooked for their enjoyment.

This year I have gone down a wildly different route for Christmas presents, as in due to my new-found skills I have made the majority of them for family and friends. Initially I felt very smug about the fact that I could utilise my skills this way and wrote out lists of gift ideas and set about working my way through making them. It has proved stressful and quite difficult at times as I have battled this trapped nerve in my neck. The issue this year has been that due to the fact I have made all the gifts or the majority of them, I have panicked that people will think I am cheap.

I have found since I started that people fall into two categories, category one – handmaid equals cheap, therefore you shouldn’t charge a lot of money for any item you make. Basically they want an artisan look for pence rather than the actual cost of producing an item or category two – a basic understanding or full understanding of the price of materials, skills involved and appreciation at the fact you have spent your spare time making them a unique and individual item. It surprises me how many people fall into the first category, when you buy cheap you are exploiting another human being. Maybe that human being lives on the other-side of the world and works for peanuts so that you can have your item at a rock bottom price? If you can live with that, that’s fine.

Because this is the first time for me making gifts I don’t know what category a lot of my friends and family fall into. I don’t know if they will be making snide comments about me being a cheap-skate or if they will like the items I have made. Due to this I have probably over gifted as I don’t want them feeling short-changed. In effect instead of spending an online choosing gifts that they may not want or need or maybe thrown away, I have managed to create days of work for myself ensuring everyone feels special due to the gifts I have made them.

So yet again as you see I have managed to find something to worry about. Thankfully it is just worry and not full-blown anxiety. My anxiety levels have dropped considerably from where they have been the rest of the year, this is my normal level of worry. And to be honest if I had bought gifts I would still be worried about what people thought of them and me . So nothing has changed really.

Thank you to everyone that has read my blog posts over the last ten years, can you believe this little blog has been going on and off for all that time? Thank you to my new readers who joined this year and have provided lovely feed back either as comments on my blog or on various social media platforms.

I’d like to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas and to everyone else  happy holidays, happy Yule etc. Just enjoy the time you get to spend with loved ones be they friends or family.

See you in 2019.

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Its that time of year again!

Well what a week, I have been super busy making gifts for family and friends for Christmas, whilst battling the crippling neck pain and yesterday having a stomach upset meaning I was racing faster to the bathroom than Usain Bolt. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fun. It took a good 12 hours for my tum to stop cramping. Anyway that is enough bathroom talk for the opening paragraph of my blog post.

On top of all of that I have woken up with a very sore finger on my right hand. Its one of my typing finger’s so this week is going to be a photo blog , the joint has swollen, I’m pretty sure its my arthritis playing up just for a bit of variety. I haven’t shown you any photos for what seems like forever. So here they are.

Last weekend we decided that we would get the Christmas decorations out. It is a little early for us but hubby is out with work this weekend and would have been too delicate to climb the ladder into the loft on Sunday safely. All in all it took 90 minutes which is pretty good going when you think the dresser had to be stripped and cleaned, all the pottery that was coming off wrapped and packed and all the gorgeous Christmas stuff put out.

I’ve been beavering away making lots of gifts and then I decided why not add to my work load and instead of buying gift bags buy a job lot of plain cotton bags (blanks as they are known by embroidery people! I found that out this week) and thought I would embroider them. That way they wouldn’t get thrown away and could used for years rather than one Christmas ( I always try to save gift bags but many of them don’t make it through until Christmas having been bashed about whilst being moved trying to find other things.) I bought myself some variegated thread as well, so did quite a few using that.

Sorry the pictures aren’t brilliant, these were taken immediately after they were done and needed an iron really. Now they are stuffed with presents. Here are some that I did using “normal” thread and much better photographs

I finally managed to complete Mr Myasthenia Kids advent calendar that I bought in August but had been putting off for months as it had box pleats something I have never done before. To be fair it wasn’t too bad. We are still waiting for a dowel to hang it from the lounge door so it’s in its temporary location here.

I fell in love with this fabric range from Makower , I have a table runner using this design. On Black Friday I managed to pick up some more fabric in this Christmas range with plans to make some cushion covers. At the time I  thought I may get this done before Christmas then as days passed I did start to wonder if I meant next Christmas as there seemed so much to do ( and I kept adding to it). I managed to knock them up today, which I am chuffed about as I had to use my overlocker to finish the seams to stop them fraying so that they will last and last. I made 4, two of each fabric design

I have two Christmas lap quilts that need bound so that they can replace the current quilts on the sofa. I am hoping I will get these done in the next few days. I will be making a scrappy binding using the off cuts from the cushions and table runner and any other Christmas scraps I can get my hands on. I will get these finished before Christmas, even if it kills me! Which I might do.

Tonight I am shattered, I hope that I manage to get some sleep tonight and stop waking up in a blind panic with all the things I need to do – even though I don’t work I find this time of year very stressful. There is so much pressure for things to be perfect even though in reality nothing is. I do have a few things I need to make for other people and I can’t let them down as it will mess them up for Christmas. I am feeling the pressure.

Next week I start physio, I am really hoping that we can make some difference to my neck issue.

The storm has passed

The last 4 months have been a particularly trying time for me. Obviously some stuff I have alluded to such as my mum being diagnosed with cancer however there have been other things going on as well, which for reasons of my own privacy I won’t be sharing. I do try to share as much as possible with my readers but sometimes you have to hold a little of yourself back. When I write I always think do I care if my worst enemy has this information? If the answer is no then it gets written about, if yes well it never makes it to the blog.

I do like to have a division between my world and my life in cyber space. Like all people do in real life we have the public face the person we choose to present to the outside world and the private face, the person who only the very closest people to you get to see.

Thankfully what has been going on behind the scenes has now resolved and life can move forward again. Its feels like a massive weight has been lifted. For those 4 months I didn’t feel like me at all but someone who had a huge black cloud hanging over them constantly. I really didn’t feel like I was living and enjoying life merely  surviving. The anxiety the situation induced was off the chart. I found that the only place I felt any happiness was sat at my sewing machine, purely because you can’t ruminate ( well I can’t) and sew. My attention has to kept solely on the job in hand. When my mind wandered so did my stitches! Sewing yet again has got me through a very difficult period in my life. It is just such a shame that as I mentioned in last week’s post sewing is at times getting painful, causing me pain in my neck, back and causing pins and needles in my hands, arms and face. I now have to restrict the amount of time I spend sewing. I have found wearing a soft collar prolongs the time I can spend sewing.

Since July I have been sewing like a woman possessed! I decided earlier on in the year after my success in selling Star Christmas Tree toppers in the run up to last Christmas, this year I would experiment with opening up a little “shop” in cyber space. I’m not on Etsy – at the moment I couldn’t handle the stress that would involve! I have set up a little Christmas shop on a social media platform where my customers are by invitation only. As this is an experiment to see what sells and what doesn’t I have limited the numbers. It’s also filled with people who know me, who know that my health is very up and down and who wouldn’t hold it against me if I was slow to respond to a query etc. If I set up an Etsy shop I wouldn’t have customers who knew me and could be put under a great deal of pressure by their demands.

It has really given my self-confidence a boost. To this day I am amazed that people want to but the things that I make. Not that I think my items are crap – my heart and soul goes into them and I am my own harshest critic. I just can’t believe in 13 months how far I have come. I still have days where my self-esteem has a wobble but that’s life and I can deal with that. Living under a black cloud for 4 months is not something I want to repeat in a hurry. I didn’t feel like me at all, I didn’t act like me at all and I can’t have been a bundle of laughs to be around if I am perfectly honest. Its amazing what a difference a week can make and I feel like I am me again.

I’ve been making all sorts of things for my cyber shop since the end of June beginning of July,

 Christmas bunting / garlands

Christmas Tree toppers

Christmas stockings

Soft toys

Travis bags in various designs

 Lavender Ravioli

Norwegian Santa’s / Christmas Gnomes

Christmas tree decorations

Christmas door wreaths

 

I am still making a few more bits and pieces and will do throughout November. Then at some point I need to bind two lap quilts I made for our sofas, make Mr Myasthenia Kids fabric advent calendar. Plus make family and friends Christmas presents.

And as if that wasn’t enough I treated myself to an embroidery machine, which I am calling the beast V2 as my Atelier 5 (janome) is called the beast. I can’t wait to start learning how my new machine works. I bought a Brother Innovis 800e which is a mid range stand alone embroidery machine. It has a lovely big hoop which means I can work on several sizes of design. Jamie has already put in a request that he gets some new handkerchiefs that have been monogrammed by me! It has so many inbuilt designs and you can buy more designs on-line or can get them for free.

 

 

 

 

However buying the embroidery machine also meant upgrading my Chromebook. My old Chromebook couldn’t transfer data onto a USB stick nor download information from it. I tried resurrecting my old laptop – which ran on windows 7 ( so it was basically an antique) but it was painfully slow and I find windows as an operating system, a pile of shite and illogical, especially when you have been using Chromebooks and chrome ever since they were on sale in the UK.  I spent a small fortune on the Chromebook its an Asus Flip, so you can turn the keyboard behind the screen and it works like a tablet. It is amazing how the technology has advanced over the years.

New Chromebooks can transfer data to and from USB sticks, all I needed was a USB hub as the Chromebook comes with a micro USB port. I picked up a reasonably priced one from the place that has the same name as the South American River and within seconds was transferring data between USB sticks like a pro. It is something I have never done before, there was nothing to learn, no drivers to install the screen simply tells you a new device has been located and do you want to open it. I felt like the king or should I say queen of the world teaching myself how to do this in seconds. With me and windows stuff never took seconds it could take months or even years for me to learn the most basic of tasks as it just never felt logical to me. I often felt like I was being expected to juggle and balance a plate on the end of my nose!

So although my new Embroidery machine arrived yesterday ( Monday ) I didn’t have a play on it. By the time it arrived it was close to 3pm and my back had given out completely. I must have been a sorry sight as the delivery guy brought it into the house for me. Thank you DPD! It stayed in the box another hour whilst I waited for the back pain to subside and to stop the feeling that my ribs were being crushed. I then very slowly unpacked it and set it up in my sewing room come kitchen / breakfast room. I am hoping later on today will be when I get to have my first go on it.

And hubby and I had lovely birthdays last week. Happy birthday dad xxx

Seeing Stars

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that on October 7th 2017, my parents bought me a sewing machine as a combined birthday and Christmas present. I had wanted one for a while but at that point in time couldn’t afford it as we were saving up for our trip to the Emma Bridgewater factory and then Christmas. When I got my machine it was the first time I had touched a sewing machine since I was around 14/15 years old. I had no clue what I was doing. At this point I didn’t even know how to thread the needle or get the bobbin sorted.

 

Since then I have watched countless YouTube videos, read numerous magazine articles, online articles and a book all based on sewing. I still have so much to learn but I am loving being able to make things when I am well enough to sit at the machine. It is something that completely absorbs me. I need to be able to concentrate on it  or mistakes are made. It means whatever is going on in my life ( and at the moment it is quite upsetting as two very important people to me, are terminally ill) for the time I am at the machine I can just block it out and allow myself to breathe.

 

I realised at the end of November that our current star Christmas tree topper would no longer go (once the lounge has been redecorated) with the decor, so I decided to make myself one with some fabric I had bought to attempt some Christmas stockings with. I didn’t have a pattern for the star so trawled the internet for a free printable template that I could print out. Due to dexterity issues with my hands I find pinning patterns to fabrics incredibly difficult. I can do it but it takes me hours, as the pattern slides on the fabric and have to continually move the pins around. To make my life easier I printed out my star template and then using a pritt stick stuck it onto a piece of cardboard. I then carefully cut out the star, once the glue had dried. Using a fabric marker I simply held the cardboard star firmly down and drew around it. So much quicker and easier for me.

First sewn star topper

First star topper completed front view.

 

Reverse of first star topper with ribbon attached.

 

I made this star on the 25th November, I wasn’t happen with the quality of my own sewing getting the ribbon attached to the back of the star. So I decided at some point to make my life easier I would get myself a cheap glue gun, so that I wouldn’t need to attach the ribbon by hand sewing. I was so pleased with my efforts ( it was the first proper thing I had made that I was going to use. Everything up until that point had been prototypes or practicing) I posted a photo on Instagram. Within a few hours a friend of my sister-in-law contacted me and asked if I would make her a star as well. The following day I made her a star and ordered myself a hot glue gun so I could attach the ribbon to hers neatly.

 

When I made Sarah’s star I decided I would make myself another star, so I could have one on my dresser and one on my Christmas tree. I did however advertise the star on Facebook amongst my friends but had no takers. I didn’t think anything of it, after all I had only just begun to start sewing and maybe other people didn’t think they were good enough. That was on the Tuesday on Saturday evening another friend contacted me to ask if I had sold the other star. I explained I hadn’t but I also let her know I had the same fabric but in red and did she perhaps want her star made out of that. I was lucky, she did, I say lucky as at this point the star I had advertised was tied to the top of my christmas tree and the other was tied to my dresser.

 

Our Christmas tree with my star topper.

 

On Sunday I got started early, I decided I would make six stars in total (including Kerri’s) and then once they were made I would advertise them on Facebook again. I thought as the first star had taken 4 days to sell, I would have a week or more’s grace before I would need to make any more stars. That way I wouldn’t feel under pressure and lose the enjoyment of making them. I didn’t want it to feel like a job or to start stressing me out because I had enough stress already.

 

I was keeping Kerri posted with how I was getting on making her star using Facebook

 

All the stars cut out and waiting to be sewn.

 

Kerri’s star sewn.

 

All the stars pressed and turned the correct way around.

 

Before I posted the last photo on Facebook, hubby rang me, he was  visiting his parents and had told them about the stars I was making. They asked if I would make them one, which as I was already making 6, I had a choice out of the five unsold ones. However as soon as I posted the photo of the stars all pressed and turned around the right way, within about 40 minutes I had sold another three, all to one lovely lady. Then about 30 minutes after that I had sold the last one. I was giddy as a goat, never in my wildest dreams did I think for a minute that I was going to sell them all on Sunday. The extras that I had made were supposed to be stock that I could just send out. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that people wanted to buy what I was making.

 

Kerri’s star stuffed waiting to be finished.

 

A few hours later and I had two pre-orders for stars that hadn’t been made yet. I had to let them know that I would be making them during the week and would show them the stars once made so that they could choose the design that they liked. Thankfully the majority of my friends on Facebook either know that my health is poor or are poorly themselves and appreciate I will work as quickly as I can but I won’t jeopardise my health. I can only work when my pain levels are on the low side and the brain fog isn’t too bad. Which means it has to be done in very short bursts, with lots of built-in rest periods.

 

Later that day I posted a photo of some stars that were almost completed.

 

 

I explained that all the stars I had made / was in the process of making had been sold and that I hoped to make some more over the next week and I would post a photo when I had completed them. At 8.30pm that night I had another pre-order and then the following morning another. Then whilst writing this blog post I have had another two!

 

Finished stars waiting for ribbons to be attached.

 

I am still in shock at how well the Christmas Tree Topper’s or dresser stars have sold. When I got my sewing machine in October I had said that I hoped to be selling some items by the following year. I thought it would take me a good 12 months to get good enough to sell stuff, obviously I got that wrong. It has made me feel unbelievably happy, I haven’t earned any money since being ill-health retired. I collect a pension from my previous employers but I haven’t worked since then. I had forgotten what it feels like to produce a piece of work and have people want it. It has helped my mental health no end and because of the concentration levels involved I am sleeping better. Which in turn helps reduce my overall pain levels.

 

So constantly at the moment I am seeing stars in all sorts of fabrics!

Winter Lurgy

I have come down with a winter bug and I am feeling pretty rank. Really hot, itchy sore throat, blocked nose and aching all over. So I am not up to writing a blog post this week, so you have my apologies. I should have written it earlier but was enjoying having a couple of reasonable days and left it until the last minute – Wednesday.

 

So instead of a post I will share a couple of photos with you that I have taken over the last  week.

All three dogs waiting for Jay to share his food with them.

Mollie sleeping with her new ball to stop the kids stealing it.

 

Our Dresser has been changed over for Christmas, to all our Xmas Emma Bridgewater Pottery.

We bought some tiny lights to put on the dresser which looks fab in the dark evenings.

I did manage to spend some time making som Star Christmas Tree Toppers. I have also managed to sell one which made me feel immensely proud.

The last post of 2016

So here we are the last post of 2016, in some ways the last year has flown by in other ways it has been a drag (endless days of head pain will do that to a girl). One thing I did learn this year, well actually I learnt quite a few things this year. One of them being that medical staff do not warn you of the laxative effect of a caffeine infusion. But enough of the toilet humour that I always manage to sink to!

 

This year I have learnt the power of friendship, that dreams can and do come true. On 26th May 2016 I published Pipe Dreams Part One http://wp.me/p4zBAs-hj  and discussed my wish to raise enough money to purchase a new wheelchair and power trike attachment so that I could go out with my husband when he walked the dogs on Woodbury Common. Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would achieve this just over 3 months. On September 9th 2016 I took delivery of a second hand wheelchair and Power Trike attachment which I talked about in Pipe Dreams Part two http://wp.me/p4zBAs-jD .

 

To achieve my dream hubby had his back waxed and raised well over £1,000. I am so proud of him for doing this as I have seen him both cry like a baby and swear like a trooper when having his legs waxed for BBC’s Children in Need, many moons ago. He is my hero and if you fancy watching the video’s of him being brave and getting it done you can see them here in my blog post The Things You Do For Love – http://wp.me/p4zBAs-iL

 

When I first got the Power Trike attachment I promised that there would be a video shortly something in which I have been remiss. Various things have got in the way of putting a video on line, health, getting used to driving it and on my last venture out falling out of it and hurting my back. This Christmas I decided that I would venture out with the dogs on their morning walk. So later than promised here is a short video with commentary provided by Mr Myasthenia Kid aka Mr Morris. 

 

I want to say thank you to everyone who raised the  money, Abbie Wilson who gave up her time and her beauty studio to wax Mr Myasthenia Kids back, my two fundraising helpers Sharon Ross and Imogen Clark. Without you all none of this would have been possible, thank you. I would also like to thank Emmey Lou for her invaluable help along with her husband Mike.
So this is the very last post of 2016, I feel sad that the year is over already, I feel like I need another run at it.

So I wish you all a very happy 2017, may your dreams come true, may your health improve and may you love those in your life with all your heart. See you in January 2017.