Monday, 31 January 2011

Progress on The Rug

I haven't posted a photo of this for quite a while, mainly because the light conditions indoors haven't been very good and also it's a bit of a pain getting the rug off the frame and then back on again! It was whilst rolling the rug up in the frame to stitch a new section that I realised that the end is getting in sight and I thought I aught to try and get a photo! This is the best I can do, taken without any flash.

The last time I took a progress photo, it looked like this .......

This was taken back in July. I have been steadily making progress, although I did allow myself to get distracted by quite a few projects for Christmas. In some ways, I'm amazed with the progress I've made! Mind you, in another way, it has been taking a long time! I do so admire the many other people in blog-land who seem to get through masses of projects! I guess, in a normal week, I have been managing about 3-4 hours on The Rug ........ although not so much during October, November and December last year when I was concentrating on things for Christmas.

Still, it's nice to think I'm on the home straight with it now :)

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Another Very Cold Walk!

Here's a beautiful swan, one of many water fowl we saw yesterday, that seem to be completely oblivious to the cold! It has always amazed me how their feet don't get over cold!

Still, we started at 8.15am on the same sort of route we've done before round the Lea Valley Park. To extend it a little, we did branch northwards up to Broxbourne, our aim being to get a good number of miles covered! However, despite going over the same ground, it is not at all boring. Far from it! Quite early on our walk we got very close to a superb grey heron ..... although not close enough for a photo unfortunately. We had swans flying over us on a couple of occasions. As they fly past, it's the sound their wings make that first alerts you to their passage. They are quite magnificent to watch fly overhead.

We later watched a fox on the other side of the canal. Then on one of our stops to have a drink and a cereal bar, a little robin started to get quite close to see if we had anything. He (or she!) couldn't make up its mind whether we were safe enough ...... but we left the robin a few crumbs :)

Yesterday was a very cold day! When I used my car later, its thermometer was telling me it was only 1 deg C and we could well believe it! Add in a cold northerly wind and I'm sure the temperature was less. Still, we got back home at 1.15pm, having covered 15.7 miles in 5 hours at an average moving speed of 3.3 mph. This is the longest walk we've done so far and, what is even better, we both felt we could have probably gone further.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Walking In My New Boots!

So, having decided that I needed new boots, with some trepidation I had a look round on the Internet for reasonably local places that sell walking boots. This is one purchase that I would have to do by trying them on in a shop!

Our nearest outdoor shop is Milletts in Enfield Town. Having looked at the various boots on their website, I phoned to see if they had what I wanted and they couldn't have been more helpful. They did have the boots I liked the look of and they were quite happy to put by a pair of size 6 and 7 for when I managed to get to the shop, as I wasn't sure what size I would need. I left work a little early last Friday to get down to the shop ...... and here they are!!

Now ..... what you have to realise is that my feet and new footwear do not get on! In the resulting battle, my feet always lose out! The damage? Blisters! Always!!

Once again it was going to be very important not to go too far away from home, but this time, just in case my feet hurt so badly that I couldn't go on. So, we almost did the same walk as last week but in reverse!

The Lea Valley Park is a great place for spotting wildlife and there is always lots of different birds to see.
Although the weather was still rather cold, in walking past a spot we walked past last week, dare I tentatively say that we saw possibly the first sign that Spring is on the way ....... catkins delicately dangling from the trees alongside the canal.

A welcome sight indeed!

So, how did my feet fare? Well, surprisingly, the boots were amazlingly comfortable! We covered a distance of 13.1 miles in 4 hours and 1 minute (oh the precision of John's SatNav!) and averaged a speed of 3.4mph. When we got home, I actually thought my feet had escaped blister-free ...... but closer examination found just one small blister on the side of one foot, but I could only just see it! Amazing!

Long Training Walk But Never More Than 2 Miles From Home!

I'm very late in reporting on this training walk that happened on 15th January. Rather a lot going on at the moment!
However ..... on the 15th, the weather looked as though it was going to seriously rain. Still ...... we didn't walk the previous Saturday for the same reason and basically, we can't afford not to walk, otherwise we just won't have enough time to work up to the distance we need to do.

So, with the aid of John's walking SatNav you can see him fiddling with here, John devised a long walk round the Lea Valley park so that we were never more than about 2 miles from home, so if things got too wet, we could escape home!

The walk started on a bad note, however. When trying to tightly tie up the laces of my boots, I tore off the leather repair that John did a few weeks ago where one of the lace holes are! This made the walk a little awkward but ..... no doubt about it, I definately need to get new boots!

On a path we hadn't been along, we found this sculpture. Isn't it great?

Here's a closer view. John tells me that the fish is a pike and I think it is such a lovely fluid image. It would make an interesting pattern to do in needlepoint ..... I'll add that thought to my ever growing list of things to do some day!

As it happens, it didn't rain at all although it was quite cold. According to John's gizmo, we walked 13.17 miles in 4 hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of 3.3 mph.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Dad's 80th Birthday Today

My Dad was 80 years old today. Mum and I went up to see him this afternoon. He seemed to like opening his presents, although cards seem to baffle him somewhat. I gave him an 80th Birthday card I bought from Joy who is a Phoenix trader. It's a really lovely card as indeed they all were. The inside of the card is blank so I made up a little poem for Dad and printed it out on paper as an insert, so you could almost imagine it was a very posh card :)

The poem is as follows:

Happy 80th Birthday Dad

In celebrating 80 years, we give thanks for your life,
For all the good things you’ve enjoyed with family, with wife.
For pride in always working hard, for football played so strong.
For always putting family first, helping if things went wrong.

Though illness clouds these memories, such memories make us smile.
They make us think of happy times, if only for a while.
So Happy 80th Birthday Dad, enjoy as best you can.
You are the very best dear Dad, never an also-ran.

With lots of love Elaine, John and James

OK ..... perhaps a little schmaltzy and they won't go calling for me to be Poet Laureat any time soon ...... but sitting on the train over the last few days, this is how I have felt.  
Dad doesn't look particularly well at the moment. It has taken seeing a photograph to actual 'see' that, which seems weird. You may, for instance, notice a bruise on his forehead as he has been having quite a few falls recently.
When I see how vulnerable he and all the other patients there actually are, it makes my blood boil to think how the 'powers that be' can make such arbitrary decisions about where they live without really caring at all. Well, I have decided over the last few days that I will fight their decision with every breath in my body. Though quite a few other relatives feel 'they will do what they like, no matter what we do', I can't let them get away with it without a fight!
So ........ I think I will start recording in my blog what goes on. This may not be 'Mauls Being Creative' in its original sense but I think we will have to apply a great deal of creativity in our thinking if we are to make them change their mind!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

If You Know What's Good For You .... DON'T Get Alzheimer's Disease

So far in my blog 'journey' I have kept things quite 'light' and positive. I might even say, I have aimed for humour. However, I feel far from humorous since last Thursday.

I have not mentioned my Dad's Alzheimer's apart from an almost throw-away comment as the last line of my profile:

'Trying to cope with a Dad who has Alzheimer's'

Only those of you out there who have watched a loved one battle with this disease will even begin to comprehend all the misery that is in this line.

However, last Thursday afternoon, there was a meeting held at the Continuing Care Ward where Dad is cared for. Although it was initially described as a 'consultation' meeting to see how relatives want to see Dementia services develop in the Borough where this facility is situated, after some questioning it became obvious that the PCT (Primary Care Trust) want to close it down, along with another three Continuing Care Wards that they currently commission through the NHS Mental Health Trust in this area. To say this is devastating news is an understatement.

Almost all the guidelines for how to care for people with Alzheimer's will emphasis that you should keep change to a minimum. That you should keep things in a routine to help appease the agitation. I now fear for the well being of all the people they are threatening to move. For many of these people, a move will be an early death sentence. Yes, this could be described as emotive language, but that's how I feel at the moment.

What makes it all the more sickening is that it is not a private company, only interested in profit making, that has come to this decision. It is part of the NHS, the universal service in the UK that is supposed to provide care for anyone if they need it.

Monday, 10 January 2011

My Tombstone Won't Say 'She Was Good At Being Tidy' :)

Kerry's blog post on Saturday 8th January about her struggles with the 21 Day Getting Organised Challenge initially made me laugh out loud! It was her comment
"I have decided why I don't know many organized people - I think they die off before they get to be my age! This organizational challenge is killing me!"
that made me chuckle!

Kerry ..... if only you could appreciate that you are doing so much better than me :)

The Challenge about cleaning out your junk drawer ..... well, the unit in my living room has four(!) of those, so just doing one didn't seem right somehow. You may recall how my cats were helping with drawers two and three? I didn't show an 'after' photo because I found 'stuff' that I just didn't know what to do with so I wasn't sure if I actually got to an 'after' point!!

See what I mean? The left one now holds lots of school photos, both of James and also Teacher group photos from when I used to work in a school. There are also extra copies of my Open University graduation photo from 2006. I don't want to throw any of them away but they are not things I look at often and I don't have anywhere else to put them.

The right one .......... I had got fed up by then and just shoved the rest in it :(     And drawer four didn't even get a look-in!

Mind you, I did clear some odd bits from the bottom section of the cupboard!

This is where I keep my 'best' dinner service that only comes out on High Days and Holidays :)
By the criteria described on a Bowlful of Lemons, I should probably ditch it as we don't use it very often ..... but I won't be doing that!! In sorting this cupboard out, I found some things that really belonged in our Christmas boxes plus a completed cross stitch that I had forgotten about!!
There are one or two other 'odd' things in there ..... like the small boxes in the left hand corner that will 'one day come in useful' for craft ideas!! ..... but they are going to have to stay there until I sort the room where I keep my craft stuff.

By now, I should have also cleared my computer desk and sorted various areas in the kitchen. Sigh!! I haven't even gone there!!

OK .... I don't actually have a computer desk as I use my laptop sitting here :)
Believe it or not, the coffee table on the right was kept clear over ALL of the Christmas period because that is where we put our little Christmas tree. Now ....... Friday night and Saturday morning, I suddenly realised that I had various things to do for my church that I had to do before Sunday ......... so organising anything else went straight out the window and all my papers and other necessary things went on the coffee table! It still looks like that at the moment ..... well, I still have some finishing up to do!

And the kitchen cupboards? Ummm ..... have quite a lot of those! All stupidly made of white wood with a downwards running grain that show every mark and splash! They weren't designed with cleaning in mind, I can tell you!

Yep! The one under the sink is messy!! Even though a number of products are in little grey baskets! No action so far in there!

As for some of the others? Well .....

I don't happen to think this one is too bad. If I tried to throw anything out that we only use once in a while, I would come across another problem ...... my husband John does an awlful lot of the cooking and he just might complain if I got rid of things :)

OK ..... the last one also happens to be where mult bags of crisps get shoved which can make accessing this cupboard awkward. So yes ..... this also needs sorting ...... but I haven't yet :)

And ..... wasn't clearing clothes drawers on the list of things to do and make by now :(

So Kerry ...... keep you chin up lass :)

You are doing famously! I am a struggling 'also -ran'!

By the way, Saturday evening/night I just could have done some organising, but I didn't! We spent the evening listening to my Gerry Rafferty albums as our tribute to him as he passed away last week at the shockingly early age of 63 ...... whilst I continued with sewing 'The Rug'. A far more pleasant way of spending some time :)

However, I'm not completely 'knocking' the aim of Getting More Organised despite my flippancy :)
It needs to be done, but I think I can only manage small nibbles at it! Still ..... one good outcome from clearing the cupboard section of the unit in my living room ..... finding the completed cross stitch picture I'd forgotten all about.

That was worth the organising :)     Perhaps I'll do a separate blog post at some point about this :)

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Day 1 & 2 of 21 Day Getting Organised Challenge

OK ..... I'm starting this challenge a little late and I also haven't really signed up on the Bowl Full of Lemons site. Why's that? Ummm ..... not totally sure I can sustain this for 21 days as work and getting all the things I normally do in the evenings actually done as well could be difficult. However, in principal it is a Good Thing, so I'll try!
So .... thought I'd start yesterday with what was really Day 1 and try to sort out a drawer in the unit in our living room.

For good measure, I also thought I'd try and sort out the cupboard section under the drawer. Both are definitely messy!

So ..... two hours later and with two TV programmes under my belt (is this cheating?) ..... I had thrown away several things, discovered a few things I'd forgotten I had(!), reorganised a folder of greetings cards and wrapping paper, thrown away lots of old make-up and nail varnishes and moved a few things elsewhere. As an aside, my John always says that when I do have these mad sorting out moments, it usually involves just moving things to other places, but I did my best to limit this!!

Ummm ...... doesn't look all that much different?

Slightly better? Not sure!

For today, I thought I'd carry on with the next two drawers in the unit.

Yes ..... definitely messy!!

Got both drawers out and took everything out and spread contents round the floor. However ....

Well, I guess they were only trying to help :)

Perhaps I'm not treating this seriously enough :)

Getting Organised .... and Staying That Way!

One blog I love to follow is KerryKatieCakes. You'll find her in the sidebar of my blog. I can't now remember how I came to find her blog but I love her crazy quilts .... perfect eye candy! I also love her tutorials and examples for using different embroidery stitches.

Anyhow, her entry the other day caught me eye. She has signed up for a 21 day Challenge put up by a blog called A Bowl Full of Lemons and over this 21 days, the idea is to become more organised around the house. In other words ..... no clutter ...... everything in its place ..... everything looking ship-shaped and Bristol fashion!

How I need to sign up for this! Kerry has invited me to, but can 21 days really be enough time to teach an old dog new tricks :)

The thing is, I do like things organised and it is very satisfying seeing the place looking all organised when I do have a 'splurge' day, but I'd much rather be spending my time sewing or reading or ..... anything else really! So things very quickly look very un-organised and dusty and ..... well ..... slightly grubby round the edges!

Take the recent New Year period. We had friends staying and so, looking at the place with fresh eyes, I could see we needed a serious clean/sort out! Between John and I, we had a 'splurge' over a couple of days between Christmas and the New Year and by the end of the time, you would think we always have a straight house! Do we heck!

At which point, I need to explain the cross stitch picture at the head of this post. My Mum made it for me. She was a little worried that I just might take it a teansy, weansy little bit the wrong way. But I loved it! Mind you, only my Mum, who I adore, could have got away with it :) Like all good Mums, she knows what I'm like and loves me all the same :)

Anyhow ..... that 21 Challenge ...... shall I go for it? Ummmm ....... perhaps eliminating procrastination should be on the New Year's Resolution list as well :)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Photography - A New Year Resolution?

Although I frequently use John's camera to take photos, he always has his camera set on 'raw' so I have left it to him to process these raw images into something I can use on my blog.

This hasn't 'sat' well with me, so I asked him to buy me a camera as my Christmas present for 2010. It's a Canon PowerShot S95 and I've been using it over the last few days to take photos. Today, I have been learning how to process the 'raw' images ...... with lots of advice from John. When the original photos are in 'raw', you can adjust so much more regarding the exposure etc that I followed John's advice and set the camera in this way.

I'm really pleased with the photos the camera takes. The photo above is of Minstrel. He can be very difficult to take photos of as usually he doesn't like cameras and shoots off! He was sitting on the top of the cat activity centre, so I just snapped away quickly before he decided to disappear. Black and white cats can be a challenge, but the 'tweaking' I could do in the software that came with the camera is really impressive.

Here's another one of him. OK ...... I chopped off a bit of one of his ears! But remember, I was expecting him to disappear at any moment! However, I love it when he sits like this. You can see he has the tuxedo colouring and I love this pose ...... I think he looks like Sylvester the cartoon cat.

And, of course, we can't forget Flossie :)

Both cats are really intrigued by the noise the camera makes when I turn it on. The battery firing up noise reminds them of a cat toy they used to have, so when I turn it on, so far they tend to then try to get as close to me as they possibly can to investigate what I've got!

Makes taking photos of them a challenge!!

Monday, 3 January 2011

Knitters Will Love This!

New Year's Day was rather drizzly here, so we decided to take our friends to visit St Albans both to look round the shops and have a look in the Cathedral. In the entrance to the Cathedral, they had this ...... a Knitivity! Isn't it great? All the figures are knitted. The figures stand around 3 to 4 feet tall, so there's certainly a lot of knitting involved in them.
Further inside was another knitted Nativity group. These were smaller; approximately 7 or 8 inches tall but still cute :)

OK ..... this is embroidery and not knitting as you can see :)

It is an altar cloth within the Cathedral and I couldn't resist putting it on my blog as I just love looking at the embroidery to be found in Churches and Cathedrals. The intricacy always fills me with awe. It blows me away to think of the time a piece of embroidery such as this would have required to complete.

Happy New Year: We're Back to Walking!!

Here's hoping that everyone had a Merry Christmas and wishing a Happy New Year to everyone as well.

One New Year's resolution that I have no problem in getting into the swing with is to continue with our training walks. Because of the weather, the last walk was on 27th November and I certainly feel very sluggish after such a long gap in walking! Especially in the last week or so, when first waking up, I have been very conscious of aching hips and an aching back. This has been a niggling problem for some time (years?) that had disappeared once we started the training walks and I hadn't even noticed the aches had gone!! So ...... all this walking is a Good Thing and I aim to keep it up!

Some friends stayed with us over New Year and yesterday they came out with us for a gentle walk of 3.9 miles. Today we went out for a longer walk, just the two of us as our friends went home yesterday, and covered 5.73 miles. One of the highlights of our walks are the number of birds we see. The swan in the photo above was really close to the path; they are such majestic birds.

Here is his (or her!) friend! They did seem to be exhibiting the early nesting behaviour of gathering nesting material. Seems a little early? Or perhaps they know that Spring is on the way early? Here's hoping!

You may have noticed in passing the incredibly precise mileage figures? My Christmas present to John was a SatMaps GPS Navigator so he can precisely plan our walks and how far we go. Well .... you know how most chaps are with their love of gadgets :) This is only gentle teasing, by the way! After all ..... I can never resist any new crafting materials or paraphenalia so there's no real difference, is there?

Our walk today was round part of the Cheshunt gravel pits and then along a footpath across a field. This was incredibly muddy! At one point, I think I had several pounds of mud stuck to my boots! I suppose I had said to John that we needed the exercise but that wasn't quite what I had in mind! However, once we got back to the paths in the Lea Valley park it was much better.

It was at this point that we found this strange obelisk. I couldn't read the metal plaque explaining all about this, but it is some sort of piece of art to symbolise something or other! The imagery on it seemed linked to the sun and the moon in a pagan sort of way but I have no real idea! There are also images on the edges that seemed linked to map making, so your guess is as good as mine! However, it is in a fairly out of the way spot but strangely beautiful.

From here, we continued south to Waltham Abbey and then picked up the River Lea tow path and walked north back to Cheshunt Station and home. We actually walked past the recently completed White Water Centre that has been built as part of the facilities for the Olympics. You can get a really good view from the tow path but it was shut today, so we couldn't see it in action.

We feel much better for starting to get back in the swing of things. We walked for 1 hour and 48 minutes and walked at 3.2 miles an hour. Oh ..... the precision of this device :)
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