Wednesday, January 30, 2008

warm at last!

This is our lovely new log burning stove, which was installed in the back sitting room on Monday. We are delighted with how it looks, but can’t light it until Thursday because the new plastering has to dry properly first.

The new stove has prompted another bout of feverish decorating. I wish I’d taken a photo of the spectacularly horrible 70's slatted ceiling that adorned the sitting room. The original ceiling and cornice was painted black and then timber slats were hanging about 2 feet below it. What were they thinking? When we pulled it down yesterday there was a layer of dust on the top about a centimetre thick. Urgh.

Anyway, we set about chopping it all up to make firewood and have created 3 huge crates of the stuff. If you ever find yourself making firewood, here is a little tongue twister you can practice to pass the time:

How much wood
can a wood chuck cut
If a wood chuck
could cut wood

We have also stripped all the hideous wallpaper off. Tonight I intend to polyfiller holes and Nick is going to attempt some carpentry and make a thing for the TV and accompanying hardware. (All of which seems to be reproducing at an alarming rate. You can’t just have a DVD player now, you need a digital TV box, a Wii, and Xbox, a PVR etc etc) After that we can say good bye to black ceilings!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bunker and scuttle

I suspect that I will only ever need to buy a coal bunker and scuttle once in my life.

Today is the day.

This is what I've bought. There is something wonderful about the word 'scuttle'. I'm glad I will now be able to include it into my daily vocabulary on a more regular basis; 'Darling, I would really like a scuttle for my birthday' and so on.

Speaking of birthdays, I was 31 the other day. I woke up with a bad back, which says it all really.

Friday, January 25, 2008

wierd double standards?

'Plans for Europe's biggest on-shore wind farm in the Western Isles may be turned down after the Scottish Government express concerns at the potential damage to the environment'


Oh well, instead of using renewable energy we'll just have to burn more oil, and make more radio active waste, won't we. What makes more damage to the environment? A belching power station or a load of wind turbines? I'm confused.

artistic collaboration

I am quite friendly with Esther, who owns the quilting shop in Linlithgow, Purely Patchwork. It's a lovely shop and I'd recommend a visit - it's like a huge paint box of colours with fabric from the floor to ceiling.

Esther also designs and puts together quilt kits for the shop. The kits include all the fabric you would need for a particular quilt, plus the instructions. Esther makes up a sample quilt of each kit so customers can see what they will end up with.

Last night we had a fun evening of chatting and quilting up her sample quilts ready for display. She had worked really hard and finished 4 quilt tops in preparation. Very magnanimously Esther said I could work on which ever one I fancied, and that I could quilt it in whatever pattern I liked. I thought this was cool because I would never let anyone else quilt one of my pieces without micro-managing every line they sewed!

It was great to work on a quilt which was made by someone else. It focused my mind really well, and curbed my sloppy habits. It was a bit like doing the washing up at someone else's house - much more interesting than doing it at your own sink.

It got me to thinking about collaborating on projects more. Esther said that she would never have quilted it in the way I did, and I imagine if I gave her one of mine to do it would end up so totally different and potentially more exiting.

Anyway, I managed to speed my way through it (New sewing machine performing magnificently) and let's hope the finished sample encourages lots of sales of the kit!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

close encounter with quilt-based industrial accident

Last night I finished another quilt. I was in such a frenzy that I didn’t notice I was about to be trapped in the quiltmakers equivalent of getting your tie trapped in the office shedder. I was merrily sewing and noticed my head mysteriously being pulled nearer and nearer to the machine. It took a moment to realise that I had trapped the tassles of my scarf (which I have to wear in the house because it’s ****ing freezing) under the quilt and was sewing them in by accident.

Luckily, unlike a shredder, the sewing machine is easily stopped and scarf removed from round my neck, thus avoiding a nasty quilt-based industrial accident.

Such an incident would certainly make an interesting entry into the health and safety accident log book:

Nature of accident / injury:
Puncture wounds to face due to dangerously close scarf tassels getting caught in fast moving sewing machinery.

Action taken/treatment given:

Took foot off footpedal / removed quilt that was sewn to nostrils

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

intellectual post about literature

Has anyone read 'Everything is Illuminated' by Jonathan Safran Foer?

I finished it last week and it has been playing on my mind ever since. I loved it, but it also worried me. I have a nagging suspicion that I missed the point, and was hoping someone would be able to tell me exactly what the point was.

I was totally sucked into the bizzare dreamlike village and it's almost cartoon-like inhabitants but was constantly concerned about where the line between reality and imagination of the main characters lay. I was also fretting about the seemingly semi autobiographical nature of the story, with the author placing himself as one of the main characters - a writer who was telling the story of searching in his family history.

But mainly I was worried that I missed the entire connection between Jonathan and his Ukranian translater and their families. Was there a connection? Did I drop off at the crucial revelation stage?

I think I will have to read it again in a month or so. If you haven't read it I would recommend it, it's a highly unusual piece of fiction.

lar-di-dar - get me! I could be on BBC Radio 4. (Apart from the bit where I might have missed the crux of the whole book.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Chickens!

Thanks to Jane over at Snapdragons garden we now have 3 lovely new hens!

A friend of Jane's was selling some of their one year old hens so we bought 2 black rocks and a buff araucana. They are called Gerry, Gerry and Custard. This is because we can't tell the twins apart, and Custard is sort of custard coloured.

We were delighted that our old hen Omelet didn't try and murder the new hens. There was much flapping and squawking as they squared up to one another, but not really any vicious pecking as can sometimes occur. Omelet is definitely head of the new pecking order at the moment.

We were even more delighted that within 18 hours of arriving 2 of the new hens had laid us an egg! Custard laid the most amazing green egg, and one of the Gerrys laid a quite pointy tinted egg. Both were poached and eaten on toast for tea last night. Yummy!

(By the way, we couldn't get the Leghorn hens we had planned because they are dead. The chicken man called me to say that he had an infection in his flock and the pullets had died. It's a hard and precarious life being a chicken.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Slippers cause postal foot trauma

Call me heartless, but I did laugh a little when I heard that our neighbour broke his toe last month when he was posting a Christmas card through our letterbox. He had undertaken the task wearing his slippers and stubbed his toe on the step.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Low pain threshold

I seem to have an extremely low pain threshold. The slightest hint of an ache or pain sends me scampering for my bed clutching a hot water bottle and demanding tea and sympathy.

There is, apparently, a scientific test to measure pain thresholds. They put your thumb in thumb-screw device and measure the pressure they can apply before you can’t bear any more. They are allowed to do this because the men are wearing white coats and are in a laboratory. If they are wearing balaclavas and are in a dungeon it would be called torture, and this is NOT generally acceptable – don’t be fooled.

Nick and I have attempted to recreate this experiment at home because he really can’t believe how much little things hurt me, like being whipped across the arse with a tea towel during washing-up disagreements.

The thumb squeezing experiment, far from being conclusive proof of pain thresholds only serves to highlight our inequalities in strength. He presses down on my thumb until I shriek, and then pronounces that he was barely squeezing at all. I press down on his as hard as I can, using both hands, and he doesn’t flinch. This does NOT mean that I am a wimp. It merely concludes that he is stronger than me, doesn’t get period pains, and is more adept with a tea towel whip.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Mystery Christmas Card

Today we received a very late and very mysterious Christmas card. It was from Mike and Deb. We have no idea who this is.

The message inside says ‘Hope you are well. Let’s just say we hope that 2008 keeps us out of NHS hospitals rather more than in the past few months.’

What a cheery Christmas sentiment!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Interesting Phenomenon no.11

Largely inaccurate, unsubstantiated yet long held childhood beliefs - we all have them I'm sure. I was musing on this as, standing at a safe distance, I brewed my porridge in the microwave.

I do this because, as a child, I was told by my mother that if I peered into the window at the rotating food, my brain would be cooked by escaping microwaves. As an adult I still feel a stab of guilt when I press my face to the glass to check if my hot chocolate is overflowing like a miniature volcano. I look, then pull back, just in case my Mother was right after all.

Do you have any childhood beliefs you know are silly but can't quite shake off?

To contemplate my other interesting phenomena, click here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Battery hens

Do you buy cheap eggs? Shame on you.

A while ago I wrote to Hellman's Mayonnaise asking if they were planning to change the eggs in their mayo to free range, instead of using factory farmed eggs. They replied promptly, but excused themselves by saying that they require so many thousands of eggs that there are not enough free range farmers to supply them. This is an absolutely appalling excuse. If Hellman's said to their suppliers 'This time next year we don't want battery eggs, we want free range' the farmers would fall over themselves to change their methods.

It's very worrying to think of all the 'hidden' battery eggs we consume with out realising, and every egg hidden inside a ready-made cake means a days work for one poor hen in her A4 sized cage.

I have been harping on about this for ages, so it's nice to see Jamie Oliver is following my lead ;-)

Hurrah!! New Chickens!!!!!

It's all arranged! We are going over to Fife to get three new hens a week on Saturday!

I phoned the guy who hathced our last lot and he's going to give us 3 more Brown Leghorns. This is great. Of the 3 breeds we had previously the Leghorn laid by far the most eggs. She was also Nick's favourite hen, so I've no doubt he will be delighted that we'll have 3 new Scrambles in our little flock. Scramble 3, Scramble 4 and Scramble 5!

What happened to Scramble 1? Read about it Here and about her miraculous recovery here

What Happened to Scramble 2? Read Here

Help me to find new chickens

Do any of you chicken keepers know someone in the Glasgow/central belt area who could supply us with some new birds? Poor Omelet, our last remaining cream legbar hen, is all on her own and seems a bit lonely. She is shy to run to us without her sisters for support, even when we are shaking the corn tin, and the bad weather has made her spend the last week sitting inside her house looking utterly dejected.

Now we have moved house the guy we got our last 3 from is along drive away. It's do-able, but I would prefer the chickens not to have a 2 hours car journey if possible.

We are not too fussy about the breeds we get but would really like to get more brown leghorns if possible, and perhaps a hyrid for egg production duties. We have also considered getting some rescues battery hens but I have no idea where to get them from in Scotland. All the battery hen resuce places on the internet are way down south.

Any ideas?

(my email is

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Jane's belated Birthday Quilt

Thank god for that. I have finished Jane’s birthday quilt. Only 9 months late. This is it:

I’m quite shy about showing this to you. I have had mixed feelings towards this one throughout it’s creation, which accounts for the huge amount of time it’s taken for me to complete it.

Now it’s done I like it. I chose the colours to go with Jane’s living room, which has white walls with a deep red chimney breast, sandy coloured sofas and wooden floors.

I think that maybe there are too many colours, and it would have been better (and quieter) if I had restricted the palette somewhat. Still, I have told Jane she can fold it inside out and sit on it if she has a hangover and the stripes get a bit much. She assures me she likes it, but I really hope that she isn’t just saying that because I made it rather than bought it. Always a dilemma when faced with a hand made gift! She can always keep it under the stairs and drag it out whenever I visit.

I have just to sew on the binding and post it and my obligation will be complete!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Maggie is on a diet.

Poor Maggie. The vet told me she is too fat. Friends have been telling me this for ages, but I have always preferred to think of her as super fluffy instead of super lardy. Besides, Maggie is me in feline form: loves her food, loves sleeping and would avoid going out if at all possible.

In an attempt to give her the correct amount of food I have weighed out the biscuits and put each day’s meagre ration (60 grams) in a little bag. She gets half the bag in the morning, and half in the evening.

Since doing this I have realised just how much I was over feeding her. Her breakfast looks so pitiful. Maggie is not impressed. She wolfs down the food, and then follows me around complaining as I’m trying to get ready for work. If I ignore her she runs down to find Nick and complains to him. The noise is horrendous.

I’m hoping she soon gets used to her reduced portions sizes. In a way I’m quite envious. How easy it would be to lose weight if someone forcibly removed half of your food intake per day, and you had no choice in the matter!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Office discussions

Ahh, how nice to be back at work. I forgot how much I enjoy our interesting office discussions. This morning’s topics have included:

Morbidly obese women who’s boobs are so heavy that they crush their lungs when they lie down, and have to be supported by a crane. (Apparently on a documentary last night.)

Committing suicide using oven cleaner and it’s long term effects if you fail. (not good)

What is the point of Christmas cake?

A serious debate on whether or not shutting the toilet seat before flushing stops a cloud of noxious germs billowing into the air, and even if you do shut the lid, can the spray come out the gaps at the sides? Should toilets be airtight?

Did Ian actually suffer from the Winter Vomiting Virus currently spreading throughout the UK, and if so, should we be breathing in the same room as him?

When does etiquette dictate that you stop saying ‘happy new year’ to people when you first see them after 1st January?

The knock on effects of pruning roses, merging seamlessly with…

The pros and cons of nosey neighbours.

It’s nice to be gently eased back into work after a 2 week break!

Party Stress

Christmas and New Year were great this year. We had lots of family staying. We also had a Christmas party to warm our new house, literally as well as figuratively. Having 30 people round is an interesting way to raise the temperature of a cold house to normal room temperature, but not one I intend to repeat on a regular basis.

Nick and I have had quite a few parties in the past but for some reason this one really stressed me out. We had invited quite a few of our new neighbours, and all afternoon people were phoning saying sorry but they couldn’t make it for one reason or another. By 7 pm I was certain that no-one was going to turn up at all. So convinced was I that I put away most of the wine glasses I had set out, in case the few people that did come realised how unpopular I am.

In the event I needn’t have worried. The natural curiosity of people prevailed and loads turned up to have a good poke around the house. The huge vat of mulled wine I made was soon all gone, and so were the 4 huge lasagnes I made. I think it was success, but I didn’t really enjoy myself much.

Luckily for new year's eve we could relax and let Chris and Liv have the party stresses. They threw a really great party with the customary firework and sparklers at midnight. This year’s firework was called ‘The tower of Piza’ and was definitely far superior than others that were set off from the top of Crookes in Sheffield this year.

Quilting-wise I’ve had a sudden burst of the finishing bug. The holidays have given me the time to finally complete the quilting on Jane’s Birthday Quilt. I know, I know, it’s 9 months late, but you can’t rush works of art. Jane said she didn’t mind as long as it was finished before she was 31. Just the binding to do and I can post it off with a clear conscience!

I’ve also completed another quilt I’ve had on the go for months and made good inroads into the quilting on my huge bulls-eye quilt I pieced in America. Clearing out those Unfinished Objects (UFOs) from my UFO box is really cathartic and definitely a nice feeling for the new year.
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