Thursday, March 29, 2007

Aaaah. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

Chicken News

Well well, it seems that the system of bartering and neighbourly good deeds are still alive and well.

Last week I went round to our neighbours to give them a box of eggs. I feel a bit sorry for them because they bear the brunt of the early morning squarking that emanates from the hens in our back garden, so I gave them the eggs to keep them sweet.

Anyway, yesterday the door bell rang and there was Elke, returning the egg box, and thrusting a freshly baked and still warm loaf of bread into my hands! If that's the deal then I am very happy! Delicious bread and all I have to do is peer in the nest box periodically. I've said it before and I'll say it again. You gotta get yourself some chickens man!

Need a bigger house?

Here is a novel way to expand the size of your house on the cheap.

1) Live in a terraced house on a hill.
2) Ensure you are lower down the hill than your next-door neighbour.
3) Tunnel underneath your neighbour’s house.
4) Create a new room underneath their living room.
5) Be very quiet.

This might sound a bit silly, but whilst doing the construction work on an extension we have designed, the builder put his foot through the floor. Upon further investigation we discovered that the neighbours had tunnelled under and made a new bathroom!

Sometimes the sheer audacity of people astounds me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Am I gross?

Nick thinks I am gross because I never take my watch off.

I bought a waterproof watch purely for this reason - I am terrible for forgetting things, so by keeping the watch on I am never without it.

I applauded my sensible-ness. Nick is horrified, saying it's disgusting, that my arm must smell (it doesn't, I checked) and that my wrist skin will get all scabby and diseased.

Does anyone else indulge in this apparently unsavory practice, or I am alone in my perpetual watch-wearing deathtrap?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Lucky Meeeeee!

For my 30th birthday my Mum promised to contribute some money so I could go on a course. I have decided to be brave and go to Baltimore in Ohio for a weeks course in contemporary quilt design. (or as Nick likes to describe it in his best American drawl: "maa wife's goin' a-quiltn' in Ohiiiioooo'. I just ignore him.

The course is taught by Nancy Crow who is a world renowned textile artist and quiltmaker so I'm lucky that I just happened to enquire about her courses the same week she released the new autumn course dates.

Lots of the quilt making courses I looked at concentrate on the actual practical skills of sewing quilts, but this is more to do with creating art that happens to use fabric as a medium. I am sooo excited but a little scared at the prospect of flying off to the depths of Ohio by all by myself. Nick is happy because it gives him the excuse to organise a boys week away guilt free!

Anyway, the course is not til October so that gives me ages to buy more fabric (I need to take over 100m with me) and get even more excited. God Bless America.

Folding bike

Nick has bought one of these:

It looks a bit wierd but is a marvel of design genius. Nick uses it to ride to the station, then folds it up (takes less than 10 seconds) and stores it in the luggage rack in the train. When he gets to Glasgow he unfolds it again to ride to the office. He saves £2 a day on tube fare, bypasses the worst of the traffic and gets some excercise into the bargain.
Claire has told me not to be so silly and just upload the picture of me and Lisa at the country living fair. I have cropped off my stomach. Just wish I could do the same with my bingo wings.

Monday, March 26, 2007

spring has arrived and I meet my cyber twin

It may still be on the chilly side but it feels like spring in my heart.

On Friday (my day off work) I had a marvellous day of the type you would imagine a sophisticated young lady such as myself indulging in gloriously sunny weather in Edinburgh.

I did my errands at the bank and then strolled up George Street for some window shopping. After a rest in a coffee shop I spent a while browsing in Waterstones, followed by a brisk walk around the beautiful streets of Edinburgh's New Town. Then I perused a couple of art galleries (The Scottish Gallery is an excellent contemporary art gallery on Hanover Street with cool jewellery and ceramics) and felt very cultured. Then I bought some quilt making supplies in john Lewis and went home for a nap on the sofa with the cat. Perfect.

On Saturday I went to the Country Living Spring fair with Claire. We got slightly lost in the car on the way to the Exhibition centre, but our collective brain power is so vast we soon navigated the horrendous Glasgow motorway system and found a free place to park.

The fair was the perfect way to spend a girly day of shopping punctuated by chocolate cake. We both bought some lovely things (totally frivolous naturally), my favourite being a pink and blue bird box, and a hand thrown mug from Primrose Hill. Claire bought a lime green and lilac bag with lady golfers on (nicer than it sounds) and a cashmere scarf.

The highlight of the day was meeting Lisa, my cyber twin, in the flesh for the first time. From the thronging customers around her stand it seemed she was having a very successful show, and rightly so. Her stuff was beautiful, and well displayed. I bought one of the mugs from her new collection of pottery.

(By the way Lisa, great action on the mug - a good big handle, and when you drink your lips sort of sink in where the little hearts are.)

Lisa is a really smiley lovely girl and although we don't actually look much like each other (she's slim, I'm plump, she has wavy hair, I have straight etc) I like to hope that I share her twinkly eyes and open face, and her love of creating beautiful things. Claire took a photo of me and Lisa but I look so horrendous I don't want to upload it.

On the way out of Glasgow we got semi-lost again - damn the bad signage, one way streets and hundreds of lanes flying off in every direction. It's not that we are girls. No. It's because the roads are so difficult.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


My over zealous importation of vast quantities of music into i-tunes on Claire's computer had caused total melt down of her machine, rendering her unable to do any work for the entire afternoon while it it sorted out.

I'm keeping my head down. Not my fault guv, honest.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Congratulations to Nick

Congratulations are in order for Nick, who has just been massively promoted to the Head of Learning at BBC Scotland. (Not sure if that is exactly the correct job title, but it's near enough.) His rise through the BBC has been quite remarkable, but it is no less than he deserves in my opinion.

Mind you, his new job was totally predestined. Regular readers will know about my cyber-twin, Lisa and our freaky parallel lives. Last week Lisa's husband started a new job, so to keep the universe from imploding it was to be expected that Nick would get his new job too. I find it strangely comforting.


Last night we went to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to see E.S.T, the most incredible jazz trio comprising a piano, double bass and drums. We have seen them twice now and each time was a brilliant experience.

This morning I found myself wishing that I had practiced the piano more when I was younger, and coveting the musician’s talents. Isn’t it strange how we always wish we were good at something we aren’t. I feel wistful at my lack of piano playing skills and yet I forget that there are plenty of things I can do that the pianist probably can’t. For example can he lick the inside of his nostrils with his tongue? I doubt it very much.

It’s hard to remember that we all have our own special talents, and that something that comes naturally to one person would be a real struggle to someone else. Things that I can do without too much thought, like drawing, seem miraculous to other people, just like when I watch someone playing the piano I marvel at the way they get their fingers to cooperate and know I could never achieve that level of skill however much I tried. I feel the same way about people who can do mental arithmetic or who can run without looking like a duck, or possess any kind of sporting prowess for that matter. On the other hand they probably envy the fact that I listened in science lessons at school and could tell them all about osmosis. The grass is always greener.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Busy bee

I have had 3 quilts on the go since January and it's nice to see them all coming to fruition now. Here is the second quilt I finished this month. (you can click on the image if you want to see it bigger)

I am really happy with the finished article. This is the 8th quilt I've made now, and the more I make the more ideas I get for new designs. I have now run out of beds and sofas to house any new quilts, so the next few I make will be a bit smaller and I'll have to hang them on the walls. My house will start to feel like a modern day castle covered in tapestries! A bit of extra insulation never hurt anyone!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finished at last!

My enormous bed quilt is finished.

Maybe it's because I have been looking at it for so long, but I have really gone off it. It's on our bed and Nick says he loves it, but I'm not too sure now. I like the right-hand side of it much more than the left. If I decide to enter it for the Scottish quilt competition (as I had planned) it would benefit from being cut down a bit - If I could bring myself to take the scissors to it after all those hours of sewing!

It is 2.6m x 2.5m, and made with fabric I bought in New York, curtain fabric Eleanor sent me, and some of Nicks old shirts.

The perfect day...

is a 3 egg day...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Being an Architect is easy sometimes

Yesterday I had this conversation with a Planning officer at the council:

Planning Officer: I'm afraid I can't grant you planning with these drawings.
Me: Why? is there something wrong?
PO: Yes, I need to see your finished ground levels.
Me: I have shown those on the drawings already, plus all the contours.
PO: Yes I can see them. It's just that they are shown in orange. If you could change it so they were black or grey then that would be ok.
Me: Is that all I have to change to get planning permission? The orange lines to black lines?
PO: Yes. We need 4 copies of the revised drawings please.
Me: So as soon as I change the colour of the lines on the drawing we'll be recommended for approval?
PO: Yes.

I had to undertake 8 years of study to do this job you know.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House hunting begins

We are beginning to wonder about moving house. The time has come to find my dream home. This is easier said than done as we have rather specific criteria.

a) accessible to Glasgow for Nick's job
b) accessible to Linlithgow for my job
c) Big garden for veg growing and chickens
d) Not to cause bankruptcy.

The other thing that annoys me is that everyone has been watching property ladder and has done up their houses to the nth degree. I know lots of people want to buy houses in walk-in-condition, but I flatly refuse to pay extra for someone else's bad taste in laminate flooring and hideous shell shaped basins.

We went to see a house last night that had been bought by a bloke who has done it up and extended it to sell on at a profit. What a disaster zone. The extension was badly conceived, badly designed and badly executed. The main house had some nice period features but was cheaply finished. The bloke's girlfriend had been left at home to show us round and she made some classic comments that were guaranteed to put off even the keenest buyer:

'Ooh these white floor tiles are a nightmare. I can never keep them clean.'
'This house has been fine as a temporary stop-gap but I can't wait to move to our new house.' (Showing us the brochure of a far superior house)
'We had terrible trouble with the council getting permission to build the extension (not surprised love, it's hideous) and now we can't get Building Standards to approve the final build.'
'There is a short cut to the station but I wouldn't walk down there'
'My boyfriend hasn't quite finished the work here yet because he has been busy working on our new house.'
'The neighbours have a window that looks on the the patio here, but we just lean this fence panel against it. It's fine.'
We don't have room for a wardrobe so we keep our clothes on these temporary hanging rails.'

No. I don't think we will be buying thank you very much.

(We are English and very polite so what we actually said was 'well, thank you for showing us your lovely home. Yes, we really like it. We will have a think and get in touch with the agent. Thank you so much, and good luck in your new home')

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Chicken news

I forgot to tell you, Margo has been laying eggs! Lovely chocolate brown beauties.

We had a bit of a troubled start. The first egg must have taken her by surprise because I found it in the run. At first I thought it was a potato. It was covered in mud and was broken by the hens standing on it.

The second egg also took her by surprise. I actually saw her lay it. She just sat down in the run looking confused. When she stood up she began squarking loudly so I went to look and there was a perfect brown egg. Such was my delight I dropped it on the way back to the kitchen. I felt all guilty about that.

By the third egg she had got the hang of it and laid it in the nest like a good obedient hen.

We are now getting a surplus of eggs and it is lovely to give them away to neighbours and friends. (Neighbours get first dibbs because they have to put up with the clucking and squarking that goes on early in the mornings) One evening last week I got home and found 5 eggs in the nest! I must have forgotten to look the day before and they had built up a little clutch.

It's great now that spring is round the corner. Lots of new grass for the hens to eat, and the lighter evenings mean I get to see them briefly before they go to bed at about 5.30pm

For a full breakdown of egg production, click here for Nick's (rather geeky) egg spreadsheet. It's not going to be long before our eggs are coming in at under £5 each!

Last night at Midnight I was...

... standing on the wheelie bin in my dressing gown trying to rescue Maggie who had got her self stuck on the roof and was meowing pitifully.

Stupid cat. It's a good job she is so cute.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stand up comics and the police.

Nick, Alison, Rhiannon and me went to The Stand Comedy Club last night. The BBC contingent were talent spotting, whereas I was just tagging along for the free ride.

In my opinion, (which doesn’t count so I can say this) we didn’t spot much talent. One of the guys was AWFUL. No-one was laughing, least of all me and Nick. This was because his act was basically: “Fucking English Bastards, we are so hard done by, and it’s all the English’s fault, mind you Scotland is just as shit, god life is so shit; we live in such a shit country, fucking English Bastards.” Etc etc.

Change the record. I wouldn’t mind him slagging off England if he was actually funny and had something valid to say. But he didn’t. He was just stupid.

The guy that Nick was actually there to see was quite funny although the funniest thing about him was his stage photo. In his promotion he looks chiselled, moody and gorgeous. In reality he was chubby, cheerful and camp as you like.

This afternoon we had a seminar from the Police on how to design our buildings to reduce crime. Sounds dull, but it was actually really interesting. For me the best bit was watching one of my colleagues sweat as the two police officers came into our office. He pulled me to one side and said ‘I hope they are not from our local police station.’ ‘Why, have you been arrested lately?’ I asked. ‘No’, he said, ‘but I was chased the time I blew up a tree with deodorant cans.'

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

No I am not a cheap hooker

Here I am in horrendous red lipstick, ready for my first concert with the barbershop chorus.

We were singing for the Women guild. It was like being in a sit-com. Picture this scene:

I arrived at the venue, the Sunday school hall of the Parish church in an obscure village near Stirling. I walked in find the rest of the girls squashed behind office partition screens, giggling uncontrollably. The dressing area was made from these screens behind which we had to crouch to avoid being seen, and was located just 2 meters away from the audience.

The audience comprised of 40 old women balancing on tiny kiddies chairs, wearing crocheted hats and clutching their handbags on their knees. They all looked glum and suspicious.

The proceedings began with a hymn (Les Dawson at the piano) and then a gloomy bible reading. All the while we were crouching and giggling, and I battled with my lop sided shoulder pads.

After a luke warm welcome and a smattering of applause it was our turn to emerge from behind the screens, in our full sparkly regalia, brilliantly incongruous given the surroundings. Our conductor told us, totally straight faced, 'no choreography please girls, we don't want to over excite them'.

We sang fairly well, although it's hard to give your all when the audience are either frowning or looking confused. Thankfully I was home by 9.00. At least it was a low pressure environment in which to do my first concert. I doubt whether my wrong notes would have been detected by the semi-deceased audience anyway.

Monday, March 05, 2007

mohican dilema

In April we are going to Janes 30th birthday party. The theme is Punk and so we must dress up. The dilemma is this:

Nick holds a very important and responsible job in the great British Broadcasting Corporation. He attends important meetings with other important people to discuss important budgets of millions of pounds, and other important stuff.

Nick really wants a mohican for the party.

Should he shave off the hair from the sides of his head? Would he be able to go back to work looking like a bit of a knob? Would I be able to remedy the mohican into something vaguely normal the next day using only my clippers and immense skill and prowess as a hairdresser?

I say YES! what do you say?

(PS I am planning to back-comb my hair to buggery. I did this once to my friend Louise when we were about 14. Her Mum rang my Mum to complain because Lousie couldn't brush it out and they had to cut out large chunks to stop it sticking out at 90 degrees from her head.)

hurrah - Life is good

It will take more than a spot of the runs to dampen my spirits today, let me tell you!

Things just seem good. My weekend was very cathartic in lots of ways (thanks to Lisa for her messages) and despite having dodgy bowels and a bad night's sleep due to the cat leaping all over me at 4.30am, life seems sparkling.

First of all I had a very creative weekend, designing lots of new quilts and stuff. Then I sold 10 packs of knicker discs in one go, plus over 60 cards. Then I had a nice chat with Eleanor, and also went to watch my Nephew Tom play in a rugby match in Edinburgh.

We did a spot of shopping in Edinburgh and I was more-than-is-strictly-necessary pleased with the purchase of a see though plastic box in which to store all my reels of cotton. Sometimes it's the little things that cheer you up!

Last night I spent watching The Shield on DVD, whilst sewing huge shoulder pads into my new choir uniform. What a surreal combination: hard hitting LA cop show/gold sparkly poncho. My first concert is tomorrow night so I'll try and get a photo of me in my finery.

Today I discussed our new office design with my boss. We have got a tricky site - a thin triangular plot wedged between the railway and the road, with difficult levels. This kind of challenge always throws up much more imaginative designs. The great thing about being in such a small young company is that we all collaborate really well, and it is nice to be involved in shaping the future of the practice, especially when it comes to designing the space I may be spending many years working in.

Yup, for a Monday, life is good!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Interesting phenomenon 9

Why is it that all the mugs in the office are tea stained, and yet none of my mugs at home are stained in the slightest?

fireplace design disaster

In my job I often come across brochures for things that make my mind boggle. Take the designs for this fireplace:

I mean, someone actually sat down one day and thought - 'I know, I think I'll draw a fireplace with a miniature fibre glass stone-henge stuffed in it.' I could forgive them that bit, but to then continue to the next stage of thinking 'hmm yes - that looks good, I think I'll get these manufactured' is the amazing part. Maybe they had been watching the Spinal Tap movie.

This one is just as hideous, with a fake bit of Grecian column wedged in and two jets of flames spurting out at a bizarre angle. Who buys these things?

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