Tuesday, 2 February 2016

My January in numbers

Good intentions?  New Year resolutions? Or just plain inspired by Julie's own My Month in Numbers?  Who knows - but here I am sharing the numbers that made up my January.  Ably assisted by the Collect App which prompts you for a photo taken each day.
I always think that I don't go out for meals very often until I look at this app where I can see that I have eaten out three times this month.  Which is probably why I was sent to the equivalent of the Slimming World naughty step last week.  2lbs over my target.  After having been at target for over a year.   Oh the shame.  However did that happen? Could it have been the Christmas chocolates?  Wine? I'm in denial but you can see from the picture in the 2nd Thursday down, I was back on SW recipes (salmon with pasta, roasted tomatoes and courgettes in a lemon herb sauce) in an effort to get off those scales with my halo intact this week.
 
Looks like I grew a moustache on the first Tuesday.  Funny, I don't remember that at all.
 
The Nike wristband was in use on three trips to Fitsteps classes.  You'd think all that extra exercise would have compensated for the extra food that was being eaten wouldn't you?  Apparently not, in fact maybe the exercise made me hungry?  
 
Now in the interests of keeping things neat, I need to find a third three to share - how lucky that my friend Dani had her third book published last week.  As you can see, she found it on sale in Tesco and then I found it in my local supermarket!
 
I found twenty four sample quilt squares which I made into a quilt.  Now, Coco assumes that the only reason I did this was to make her a new quilt to lie on in the evening.  She's becoming a right princess over this and now stands by my chair in the evening with a pleading look on her face because she wants to sit on my lap. But she won't get up there until I've laid the new quilt across my legs.  Who says we spoil that dog?
 
See that picture on the fourth Sunday?  That's a screen shot of a Skype conversation I had with my penfriend in Florida.  We've been penfriends for forty seven years!  We were paired up as penfriends when we both joined The Monkees fan club.  (Don't judge us on our musical tastes - we were still at primary school!)
 
If you pop over to Julie's blog you'll see that she hit a milestone birthday this month; we were celebrating a birthday too - but too many candles to fit on a cake, my mother in law was 89
 
I signed up for the Liberate Your Art project and had ten postcards printed off to send overseas to be shared around.  I sent them off to Kat before I could change my mind but as I've been seeing the postcards other people are sending out I'm beginning to feel a bit nervous that my 'art' is not of the same standard. Oh well, it's too late now!  Are you taking part too?
 
And finally - for someone who dislikes going to the dentists twice in the course of a year - I ended up going twice within two weeks.  Not because it was so much fun the first time that I asked to go back, more a case of 'make another appointment on your way out, we need to replace that bit of filling that broke off.'  I was hoping he wouldn't find out about that.
 
So farewell to January - you flew by in the blink of an eye.  You've eased us gently into 2016 and February holds promises of half term holidays and pancakes.  Slimming World recipe of course ;-)
 
 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Worth waiting for

New Year, new style

Anyone looking in my wardrobe would easily be able to see that I am a big fan of 'White Stuff' clothes.  Especially those that are in their sales.  I'm not sure I've ever paid full price for something in there but send me a '30% off sale' link and I'm a happy little internet shopper.  They opened a store in town a few years ago and it's in a far too convenient position to just 'pop in for a browse round the sale racks' because we all know that a quick browse leads to a quick try on and a quick purchase.  The thing I particularly like about their tunic styles is that for those of us who are vertically challenged - just an inch over 5 foot -(every inch counts for us shorties) you can get away with wearing them as a dress with a pair of opaque tights.
 
I recently found myself almost buying a tunic/dress but then thought 'I'm sure I've already got something very similar to this' and sure enough, I had, just in a different pattern.  So I decided it was time to get myself out of the normal zone and into something new. 
 
I bought myself some patterned trousers in Phase Eight (January sale, I'm a canny shopper!)which I had ummed and ahhed about for a while.  Got them home.  Fitted beautifully, so comfortable.  I loved them.  But being patterned, they needed a plain top and looking in my wardrobe, everything was patterned or striped.  So I bought a plain emerald green silky shell top.  When I went out in the new outfit, it brought lots of complements and I realised that it was time I stepped out of my normal safe style.  It was nice to go out and feel like I was wearing something different for a change.

Turns out that every other 'going out' outfit that I put together is patterned; it's rare for me to buy something plain.  Cue more internet shopping.  Let's pop over to the Monsoon website to see what they have on offer.  I fell in love with a dress in a beautiful burgundy colour with black lace finishing off the armholes and shoulders.  £89 though.  Do I love it that much?  Would I get my money's worth out of it?  Probably not.  Mid January comes and brings with it a 'get it while you can 50% off sale'.  Oh - is the dress still there?  Yes.  In my size? Yes. £45.  I clicked 'add to basket' then thought better of it.  Today in my inbox is a 'final chance to buy' email.  OK if the dress is still there and it's still available in my size then the universe is clearly telling me to buy it.  £26.70!  Now, I don't think the dress was ever worth nearly £90 but £26.70?  How could I resist? 
So the thing I learnt this weekend was that sometimes it is worth waiting for the universe to send you a sign that you need to get out of a fashion rut and try something new! 
Sending out a wave to Sian and the Memorandum Mondayers and see what everyone else has been finding out this week.

Monday, 25 January 2016

The weekend breakfast went pear shaped

Nigella was right all along
I think I'm a bit late to the party so bear with me - but do you know how absolutely delicious avocado on toast is for breakfast?  When Nigella Lawson showed it on her cookery programme last year I was one of those people who sighed and said 'Really Nigella?  Mashing up an avocado and turning it into a recipe?  Seriously?' 
But we are on a bit of a health kick over here in Deb's World.  I love cooking and am always on the lookout for new things to try.  Seems like everywhere I looked last week, someone was extolling the virtues of avocado so instead of the trusty egg and bacon English breakfast on Sunday I decided to try something different. 
  • Crusty sourdough bread toasted nicely
  • cherry tomatoes roasted in the oven to go by the side
  • avocado mashed with a sprinkling of chilli flakes, salt and balsamic vinegar
  • piled on top of toast and returned to the grill for a little while. 
My husband freestyled his and added a poached egg on top which he assures me was delicious but I'm not so sure about that.  The only person not happy with the new breakfast was Coco.  Avocado is definitely on the 'fatal to dogs' list and so no titbits or leftovers around for her.  And this definitely fits the criteria from Sian for sharing something new that you learned/did over the last week!

Can you feel the beet?
I'm also trying something else new but can't report back officially for another week or so.  This one, not quite so delicious.  I go to a cookery club once a month and this month's theme was Healthy Vegetables.  Now I'm pretty sure there isn't a vegetable out that isn't good for you but really the theme was meat free healthy meals. 
Talk turned to the validity of 'Superfoods' (we had a couple of aubergine recipes to try!) The lady who is front of house at the restaurant told us how she has to take tablets for high blood pressure and before Christmas, even with medication her BP was very high.  So she has been drinking beetroot juice for a month and her BP is now so good she is almost at the point of not needing any medication.  Now, I don't officially have high blood pressure but I'm the higher end of 'normal' so I was interested to hear this and naturally consulted Dr Google on my return home.  Turns out that there is scientific proof that it works.  Something to do with nitrates and anti-oxidants. Now I'm not a huge fruit juice drinker so it's not an ideal thing for me but it's surprisingly 'ok' (there is a little bit of apple juice added to it to sweeten it) and I will let you know if it works for me another Monday further down the line!

Not so much Edward Scissor-hands as Deb Pruner-fingers
I have a bit of a reputation for being a bit ruthless in the garden when it comes to 'cutting back' and I'm not often allowed out unaccompanied with a pair of secateurs. As it was lovely and mild on Saturday, we decided to go on a bit of a tidy up and at that time, I thought that the thing I learned this weekend was that below all the old foliage, Mother Nature has started bringing out a bit of colour.  Sorry Mother Nature, but the avocado story overtook you for first place.  However, as I failed to take a photo of the breakfast before we demolished it, this is the picture that makes the cut!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Sloan Ranger

Memorandum Monday (as devised by the lovely Sian)brought a very welcome new thing into our lives this weekend.  But first you need some background information ... Our house is about 30 years old, the outside of it is a 'mock tudor' style.  In a couple of areas inside, the builders incorporated a few fake dark wood beam details.  Over the years that we've lived here we've made a few changes, replaced wood doors with white panelled ones, removed the oversized and very red bricked fireplace and dark mantelpiece with a white marble one, and removed the beams from the ceiling of the kitchen.  The only place that still has dark wood is the hall and landing.  It's been on my 'to do' list for a while.  It's also been on my husband's 'try to put off as long as possible' list.  You see, apparently, getting rid of those dark wood bannister rails will be a horrendous job.  Rubbing down the stain, priming, undercoating, two coats of paint at least to cover the darkness.  I've always had my doubts.

A friend of ours bought a little house in France a few years ago.  It was ridiculously cheap but had not been lived in for a long time and needed lots of work done.  They happily browsed markets and boot sales for things they could upcycle for their holiday home.  And she kept saying how she had found this wonderful paint.  It was amazing.  No preparation needed, one coat covered well and you could adapt the colours by just adding a bit of your own left over paint.  My ears heard 'this would be perfect for the hallway', my husband's heard 'If this is true, this could be trouble'.
Fast forward to last week when I realise that there is a little vintage shop in town which stocks the paint!  I drag a very dubious husband down the town, up the hill, into the shop and as he loiters in the doorway, the owner appears and asks if she can help.  One of us mutters 'just browsing' and the other points to a display and says 'What can you tell me about that paint?'

My husband knows when he is beaten.  'It's amazing' she says, 'the only preparation you need to do is a quick wipe down and dust, then paint straight on. No sandpaper needed at all'  'It's going over very dark brown wood stain' says the dubious one in hopeful anticipation that she will retract her comment and say that it probably wouldn't be any good but no, 'not a problem, you may need a second coat but I promise you it will cover it.' 

So the thing that was learnt over here this weekend is that there is a paint which goes over anything, that needs no preparation and gives a lovely chalky finish.  Annie Sloan Chalk paint.  If you have a project in mind that you are putting off because it all seems a bit too much like hard work, this could be the answer.  And those dark, mahogany wood balustrades?

Gone for good.

The only problem is ... now the downstairs looks nice and bright and airy, we really need to tackle the ones that run along the length of the landing upstairs.  One weekend at a time my friends, one weekend at a time ... 

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

All together now

Remember those orphan squares?  Well, they've all been adopted now!  It's the best working day of the week for me.  Wednesday; the day I don't work at all.  So I brought the sewing machine back downstairs from where it had been tidied away over Christmas, got the iron out, put my new box set of Season 11 Grey's Anatomy on the TV and settled down for a morning of crafting.  It's been a productive time:

Now everything is in one piece and they are all part of the same family.  Like all families it's a bit of a melting pot of shapes, sizes and personalities.  Some that needed a bit of reshaping, some that were a little dominant and some that had obviously given me a lot of trouble in their younger days.
I've so enjoyed putting this together, happy memories of doing the squares for the Friendship Quilt; remembering who got which design.  Looking at those big squares that I literally put blood, sweat and tears into finishing.  They didn't deserve to be stuffed away in an old plastic bag, never to see the light of day!  Best of all, so far this quilt has cost nothing to make as I'd already made the squares and only need to sash them together.  I have a few off cuts of wadding that can be stitched together and used so all I need is backing fabric and edging and I'll be good to go.
 
FIFTY SHADES EPISODES OF GREY'S
Last year we changed our TV service provider and consequently I lost the channel that aired Grey's Anatomy.  I sulked a bit.  OK, I sulked a lot, especially when people put comments on Facebook as the season progressed.  The box set was the first thing I put on my Christmas list and this weekend I broke open the cellophane and settled down to resume where I had left off.  I already knew something really, really bad happens to one of the big characters so I am enjoying every minute of screen time that includes him as I know he won't be there to the bitter end.  I was going to restrict myself to one episode a week, like I would have in the good old days before we switched to BT Vision.  (I am still a little peeved.  You guessed?)  But today one episode, became two, became three, became four ... before I had the strength of will to press the 'stop' button.  This seems like a good season.  I just have to make the most of seeing McDreamy ...
 
SMILE PLEASE
 Update on the dentist situation.  I 'fessed up to the potential broken tooth, which turns out to be a broken filling.  Good news.  Which needs to be repaired, which means another appointment in two week's time.  Bad news.  Very bad news.
 
OFF TARGET
On the subject of confessions, I need to admit that my Slimming World journey is going a bit off track.  I've been 'at target' for over a year now, and you're allowed to go either up or down 3lbs before you have to start paying for membership again.  I've hit that 3lbs up point and I need to give myself a good talking to and step away from the leftover Christmas chocolates.  Which, to be honest might be better in a dentist related way too!  So today I have been having a look through the magazine (no point buying it if I don't actually read it), made a batch of leek and potato soup, and prepared the next few days of on track meals.  And no chocolates.  Absolutely none.  Well maybe one.  Someone take them away ... 
 
 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Memorandum Monday

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Sian has suggested a variety to the Me on Monday theme, Memorandum Monday where we share snippets of something we have learnt over the weekend. Well, how fortunate then that one of my New Year good intentions was to tidy up the bits of left over fabric that I've collected since starting my quilt making.  Now, there is some debate over how small a scrap of fabric has to be before it needs to be thrown away and clearly at the beginning of my quilting journey, very tiny bits of fabric were kept 'just in case'.  Seriously, very tiny.  So with an air of ruthlessness and a growing rubbish bag, I gradually reduced the odds and ends of fabric, folded the remnants neatly ready for that moment when I just need to have a 2" square of peach coloured material.  (It could happen.) Maybe later in the year I'll go through that bag and increase the size that scraps need to be before they aren't kept. Or maybe I won't ...

At the bottom of a bag, I came across a batch of random 10" quilt squares that I had made at a time of much enthusiasm and great intentions.  The quilting magazine I subscribe to has a 'block of the month' to make and I vaguely remember thinking 'I can do that and in 12 months time I'll have enough to make a quilt'!  Hah!  I obviously only kept that up for 6 months.  The blocks got increasingly difficult and I was soon out of my comfort zone.
Then I came across a bunch of squares I had made during the Friendship Quilt project.  Every time I had a square to make, I first made a prototype to keep for myself.  So I had 12 of those, much smaller squares.  All in random colours (obviously had a penchant for leftover fabric even at that early stage of the game). 
Now one of my neighbours is a brilliant quilter.  I watch Youtube videos from the Missouri Quilt Company, she goes out to Missouri and knows the ladies in the demonstrations.  Say no more.  So I sent her a photo of the random squares and asked her for suggestions what I could do with them.  She came straight back and told me that these little samples have a name.  They are known as 'orphan squares' as they are all on their own with no matching family to join with. 
Well, that is obviously going to tug at the heart strings isn't it?  Little orphan squares. I had no idea that was what they were called and that, my fellow Memo Makers, is what I have learnt.  They aren't samples or prototypes or even unfinished projects, they are little orphans.  Which means of course that I now need to make them into one big happy family and join them together.  I reckon that with a bit of careful cutting and joining (and some heavy duty ironing, they have been folded away for AGES!)I can make one big block out of four little ones and use a bit of sashing to make this into a 'variety quilt'.  Or bearing in mind all those little 'orphans' maybe it should be the 'Adoption Quilt'.

CAREFUL WITH THE HASHTAG

I saw that Rinda was joining in with the Liberate Your Art 2016 project where people exchange postcards of their art through Kat's blog. I enjoyed the Postcard Exchange that Sian organised and thought this would be fun too. (I inadvertently used the hashtag #sianspileofpostcardsexchange when I posted on instagram.  All I can say is that one should never use the word 'exchange' after a word that ends in 's' in a hashtag.) 
While I am no artist, I have taken the odd photo I've been pleased with and have a few pictures of quilts I've made that I can share so in an impulsive moment I signed up.  Go check it out, it looks fun!  I've chosen some work to have made into postcards and when they arrive I'll decide which ones to send on.  I'll share more at another time. 
DOWN IN THE MOUTH
I hope you are having a good Monday.  As for me, I only have a dentist appointment to look forward to this afternoon.  Those who know me will know that I worry so much about going to the dentist and this time I have to confess that I think a tiny bit of tooth may have broken off one of my back teeth.  Do I confess or wait for him to find it?  Oh the dilemma!  I hope you have more fun planned for your afternoon!



Monday, 4 January 2016

Me on Monday aka Memorandum Monday

SHE WHO LEAVES A TRAIL OF GLITTER ...

... is never forgotten, or so they say. I know that twelfth night isn't for a few days yet but this weekend saw us dismantling the Christmas decorations.  One minute they are on the tree looking festive, the next they're in their box looking sad.
Once the new year has arrived I'm always ready to pack everything back up and get the house back to normal.  But of course the house then has a trail of discarded glitter in every single room which means getting the hoover out and cleaning the house from top to bottom.  This has two benefits:
  1. I've burnt off enough calories to justify eating a few more left over Quality Street this afternoon
  2. It starts me off on the month long decluttering challenge set over at Apartment Therapy.  I did it last year and it was a good way to get into new routines for the new year.  Of course 11 months later I wasn't following all the rules all the time (otherwise I wouldn't have needed to sign up again!) but it's free and gives you motivation to get the house tidy and keep it that way.  Come join me - by February you too will be smugly enjoying a clutter free, tidy home. 
MEMORANDUM MONDAY

Well, Sian has re-invented Me On Monday to become Memorandum Monday with a view to share something we've learned over the weekend. So one thing I learned was not to assume that I can smugly write up a blog post and be super efficient and post it early!  Because on this occasion it meant I had to rewrite an extra paragraph.  Well the only thing that springs to mind is that I learned that I should not judge a DVD by its cover or the prĂ©cis on the back of the case. 

There was nothing of interest to us on TV on Saturday night and my husband suggested watching a DVD he'd had for his birthday.  The Monument Men. 
'What's it about?'
'It's set in World War II'
'I don't like war films'.
'It's based on a true story about saving valuable artworks in Europe'
'Art?  I don't know anything about medieval art, this sounds boring.'
'It's got George Clooney in it.'
'I'll just get comfortable, put it on'.
And I was surprised to find that I did enjoy it. So I'm happy to review my ideas on War Films.  I do like them if George Clooney is in the lead role.
 
 
THE RETURN OF THE SECRETARY
 
So after two weeks blissful holiday, reality kicked back in and it was the dreaded back to work day.  Worse still, it's a CPD day and so although I normally only work until 12.30 on a Monday I had to stay there ALL DAY.  I know.  How unfair is that? All day in a cold school that has had no heating for 2 weeks.  Sitting on plastic school chairs in a hall.  The best part of the day was a mention that our newly retired Head of Science has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours List for services to education in the UK and Uganda.  She's the person behind our links to a school in Uganda and a really talented, inspirational teacher.  A much deserved recognition.  I must confess there was an interesting talk on Growth Mindset and the difference between saying to a child 'well done, you're really clever' and 'well done, you worked hard to get that grade, you deserve to have done well'.  Apparently children who are told they are clever or talented are more afraid to stretch themselves in case they fail.  If you acknowledge hard work, they are more likely to push themselves and keep trying harder and learn from their mistakes.  There you go, I learned something new over the weekend and on Monday.  Job done!