Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Yearly Round-up

In 2013 many things happened. These were some of them:
I learnt how to jive and started going to live music again * I joined a Knitting Group * I sort of joined a Cooking Club * I spent a lot of time being grateful * I loved and lost my lovely car, Tabitha * I sort of joined a Book Club * People moved in, people moved out, in, out (shake it all about) * Depression reared it's ugly head and my headaches came back * I re-discovered skirts and dresses and colours and patterns - and my style changed * I wrote lots of love letters * I hosted a four course Portuguese banquet * I started learning to sew and made a bag, a purse, four dresses, one skirt and one and a half tops * I lost my Grandma and some other people * I went to Portugal to see my Spiritual Guide teach in public for the last time (he is in his 80s, you know) * I had an extraordinary term at work (I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love my job!) * I had a British Christmas by the seaside with some small children including going to the Panto (yippee!) * I made a few new friends

Some of my more memorable facebook statuses:
13th Feb - Yesterday night I had car trouble on the way home from Rochester, and a lovely man at ASDA told me what I needed to buy and then came out in the dark and cold to help me get it sorted. I got home just fine and I learned a bit about cars. Thank you lovely ASDA man!

11th March - It's like there is a conspiracy to make me happy or something....

20th April - No, you did not see me dancing around with a random man in the High St to some xylophone music. No, not at all. Nothing to see here, move along please. 

19th Aug - 'I know my purpose in life is to change the way people see the world. And themselves'

19th Sept - The lady at the cafe gave me a free piece of courgette and coco cake- sometimes life is delightful 

30th Sept - I love my job I love my job I love my job I love my job

11th Oct - I have a physics module called 'Fires and Explosions'. I think this term is going to be fun!

19th Oct - Oxfam are having a sale on coats and jackets, so I went in to get something rainproof and came out with a calf length, light grey, fake fur coat that is not in the slightest bit rainproof but is in everyway ridiculous. All I need now is some red lipstick and a set of pearls!

16th Dec  - Ah, who can top a lecturer who compares bits of the EU to celebrity chefs and incarnations of the Doctor! I mean, really!

And now I have to go and eat cake and drink tea (and possibly gin and maybe even prosecco) with Mrs Im. Whatever you are doing for New Years I hope you have a wonderful time. See you next year!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Christmas Actually

This year my dad and step mum are away so I didn't go over to them for the holidays as I usually do. When I mentioned this to Fairy Princess Mummy she immediately invited me over for Christmas with them, I didn't even have to ask which was lovely.

FP Daddy picked me up on Monday night, I had a brief glimpse of a very sleepy Fairy Princess before she went up to bed. FP Daddy went out to get the shopping in for the next few days and FP Mummy wrapped some presents while I made some table ornaments - I was supposed to be covering polystyrene snowflakes and bells in glitter (a la Kirsty Allsop) but really I covered myself and, well, just about everything in the process.

On Christmas eve, we all had a late breakfast in our pyjamas and played with the girls for the morning. We ended up smashing a glass that had table decorations in it. In the afternoon, the family was going to the Panto. I'm usually out of the country and my parents are foreign so I've never been to Panto before... It was so exciting! It started at 2pm, the theatre was tiny, I managed to get a seat near the rest of the family which was lucky. It was an amateur production of Cinderella so it was a little bit rough at the edges which was fun. There was a fairy trying to get her wings and wand by helping Cinderella, Buttons was hilarious, the Prince was Charming (though a bit wooden really), his assistant was brilliant and the Ugly Sisters were fantastic pantomime dames. They had all the brilliant references to pop culture - Who let the dogs out, What does the fox say, One Direction - and the classic lines - It's behind yoooooou!, Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! and saucy jokes from the Ugly Sisters. We had to shout things, we had to look under our seats for a lost key and we had a little sing-song competition between one side of the theatre and the other (it was a draw, of course). It was everything I'd expected, I had so much fun! 

We then went back to the house and had dinner and a few drinks with FP Nana and Grandad, which was nice. We ended the night by putting out milk and stollen for Santa and some food for the reindeer (porridge oats, pumpkin seeds, glitter and some chunks of carrot) and the Princesses cleared the way around the fireplace so that Santa could get through. ('It's a very small fireplace, how does Santa get through?' 'I'm not sure, maybe he's magic' 'Maybe he magics himself small'). Once they'd gone to bed we put all the rest of the presents under the tree and FP Mummy finished sorting out their stockings while we watched a few episodes of 'Psych'. As it was we ended up staying up until half past one and getting really quite sloshed.

The next morning the Princesses had already opened their stocking presents, then when I came down about 8am they opened Santas presents (and got really excited when they saw that the stollen had been eaten and the milk had been drunk). We had breakfast (bacon butties, and a cheese and tomato toastie for me) and then we all opened the family presents together.  I got a little short story by Alice Munro, Rogerson's Book of Numbers and Finn Family Moomintroll and a Christmas cup full of sweets and a tiny felt Christmas pudding made by FP Mummy. Both the kids were so surprised and happy about all of their presents it was lovely. We managed to smash another glass and drench my panettone in champagne - oh well, we cleaned up the mess and I got changed while FP Daddy poured me another glass of bubbly. Some neighbours came round for a while and then Elder Princess and I had a bash at putting a snow globe together and played with lots of other things while FP Daddy got to work in the kitchen.

We had a slightly unusual Christmas lunch - everyone else had a salmon and prawn mousse as a starter, while I had cheese and crackers, for the main we had paella (I got the veggie one). Not exactly turkey and roast potatoes and sprouts but that was fine by me! In between the two courses, the girls and I messed around with our crackers and pretended they were mustaches, ships, horses, earrings, hairpieces, necklaces, snakes, flutes, trumpets among other things. We pulled them over the main course and told all the terrible jokes and put on our paper hats. After the paella, we took a break for a while (in my case literally - I went up for a half an hour nap) and put together a lego snowman and played Peppa Pig. Later on we had dessert - which consisted of making up our own knickerbocker glory sundaes. So brilliant! 

Several other neighbours came round, I think I met the whole street by the end of the day! We broke another glass - I can really say that I had a smashing Christmas! Once the girls had gone to bed we cleaned up and watched Doctor Who regenerate (bye bye Matt Smith, hello Peter Capaldi) and some QI and then had a good old chit chat before hitting the hay.

This morning the family were due to go to FP Nana and Grandad's and I was going to be put on a train. The trains weren't running and the car decided it wasn't going anywhere so we all trooped back in the house and had some lunch while we waited for the roadside services to come out. An hour later the car was tickety boo and we all piled back in and set off. They dropped me back near home somewhere and I got to come home to a cold house all on my own. I found a package of gifts waiting for me from my dad: Integral SpiritualityPhenomenon of Man and Will of an Eccentric. I'm not short on reading material! I've put the heating on, I've started a new dress and I've got music cranked up.

It was such a lovely few days - it may not have been my usual routine, but I got my family Christmas after all! Smashing!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Have Yourself a Swishy Silly Christmas

Miss T and I swapped our Christmas presents yesterday over a mulled wine and some porridge (with ice cream and molasses!) in the Chocolate Cafe. Her present is only half done but she gave me one half:

She gave me a series of envelopes with instructions on when to open them: one for when I feel sad, one for if I cut my finger, one for when I feel like a big kid. I opened the one marked 'for when you have something to celebrate'.

So much fun! I will have to appropriate this gift idea... and I've got more coming! I'm going to get the next installment in the new year.

May I present Miss T's Christmas present! It's the first thing I've sewn for someone else, and also the first time I have made a circle skirt. She knew I was making something for her because I asked for her measurements. I asked her about fabrics and she said quite firmly that she wanted no florals, and if I was going to give her colours the least I could do would be some ridiculous animal pattern. Luckily I found a fabulous fabric that is not too colourful so she needn't panic.

Cutting the skirt was easy peasy lemon squeezy - I followed the instructions in this post by Dana Made It and drew the pattern out onto parcel paper. Then I cut the fabric and stitched together the pieces and put the pockets in. I actually did most of the skirt myself (hurrah!) but I consulted Fran about putting the waistband in. I had to go over that a few times because I'd gotten fabric caught while I was stitching but I got there in the end. I also learned how to do a button hole on the machine.

There is an attachment that you can use that will gage the size of the button and then stitch a hole to that size. It was being pretty temperamental but Fran got it to work in the end.

Then I just got a seam ripper and ripped a hole in between the rows of stitching.

Then I did the hem and went over all the seams including the pockets. Because every skirt should have pockets.

Then it was all ready to be wrapped and put under the tree. Or in this case handed over with a glass of wine.

She was really happy with it, so happy she has decided that I will be her personal tailor (like the costume designer in The Incredibles!). She wants to commission me and pay me for skirts because she loved the fabric so much. She put it on over her jeans and it fit. Phew! This will definitely be out for the next Jive night!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Happy Yule everyone - it's starts getting lighter from now on. 'Tis the season to be jolly.... and we jolly well were last night! V hosted Christmas drinks with a few nearest and dearest. We had a few glasses of wine, Christmas crackers and nibbles, while Mr. Middle B took control of the music situation. This soon descended into anarchy that involved a lot more wine and some ridiculous dancing. The lads left at about 1am ('Have all the heterosexual men gone home?!') at which point the really cheesy tunes came on - cue much more drunken singing to Celine Dion and Mariah Carey and a lot more silly dancing and general drunkenness. I got to bed about 3.30am - thank goodness it was my last day at work.

This morning, on less than 5 hours sleep (and, dare I say it, a mild hangover), Middle B and I met up to go into London for our Christmas-before-Christmas. We were trying to get to the Icecreamists for ice cream and cocktails (and maybe ice cream cocktails) but we walked around Covent Garden a few times, checked the website and facebook (oh the joys of smart phones) and tried to find it but alas! it was nowhere to be found! We were quite disappointed. We did find a giant reindeer though, so all was not lost.

We did a bit of Christmas shopping (in one of the shops one of the workers was leaving her job so we got caught in a shopwide sing-along, in another an elderly lady helped me when I couldn't decide on a present for Fairy Princess Daddy) and then went off to find The Primrose Bakery. We are slowly working our way through Tea and Cake London. The bakery is tiny so we had a light lunch in a near by cafe and saved our cupcakes for later. (One was Christmas cake and the other was cinnamon. Yum!)

We looked at the paper shop, the Moomin shop and the market through the day and I got pretty wet dashing in and out of shops. Both of us were feeling pretty slow, we had to take our time and let people dodge around us. We also popped into a very large travel bookshop (oh bliss! oh joy!) and I managed not to buy anything (If I had started I don't think I'd have stopped. I did write down a few titles to hunt down at a later date). We had a wander to Leicester Square and went for coffee in a really teeny cafe (the baristas kept having little play fights behind the counter) and exchanged presents.

I made Middle B a dress, a Butterick 3513 (from the 90s I think...). This is the basic design but I added a belt and pockets later. I only got the fabric through from Spoonflower the other day so it was a tight squeeze but I managed to get it all done in time. I reckon all in all it took about 15 hours maybe (that includes messing up the zip and having to do it again!). So Middle B has the slightly dubious accolade of having the first ever dress I have made all on my own with no outside assistance!

I made some pockets with the help of this tutorial from A Fashionable Stitch

And yes, that is willow pattern fabric! Really! I will put up more photos of Middle B in the dress when I have them. The strip at the bottom is the design that you get round the rim of willow pattern china plates. I suggested that I make her a little bobble hat or a fascinator and then she could dress up as a tea pot for Halloween. She suggested she wear a knitted cardie as well and then it would look like a tea cosy. Genius!

Middle B's present was absolutely awesome: she has signed us both up to participate in The Ampersand Project - we both have a little canvas to make an art work about ampersands or the concept of 'and'. We need to have it arrive to New York by 15th Feb so we have time to think and potter and figure out what we both feel like doing. The idea is that we all paint a canvas, send it off to be exhibited and then when the exhibition is over we each get someone else's piece of art. The art will be digitised so we'll be able to view everyone else's pieces even if we can't make it to the exhibit in person. It is an utterly wonderful Christmas present for many reasons - we both get to create things, we will most likely hang out together while creating them and it is all based around ampersands which are my favourite punctuation mark. I'm really looking forward to this project!

We ate our cupcakes in St. Pancras station waiting for the train to take us home, we were tired but happy. It's been a lovely couple of days. It really is looking a lot like Christmas now.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Love Actually

Yesterday Julie and her Mr finally walked up the aisle. What a beautiful day it was!

A group of us turned up at the train station for 12.45 to get on a minibus. It was pretty multicultural - we had a Brazilian lady, a Portuguese lady who lives in the Netherlands, couple from Belgium and Portugal, and a few of us from the UK. We stopped to pick up a lady on the way called Alison from a tiny little train station. There was all the usual gossip about how you'd met the bride or the groom, where you are from and what you do. Alison regaled me with tales of travelling around Peru and other places.

We arrived at Dode after a magical mystery tour where none of us knew where we were going, probably not even the driver. It is a medieval church that was built in 1100 but stopped being used as a church around 1300.

It was pretty small from the outside. Round the corner there were some druid stones (though it was pretty muddy so I didn't explore too much).

The inside was tiny, but beautiful. We all milled around and chatted until the bride turned up and had talked to the registrar. There was some music on in the background, and I noticed a piece from the score of The Princess Bride!

The lady Alison turned out to be a surprise that Julie had organised for us: she did little paper profiles of us so we could remember the day. She got quite a few done before the service started. (To see more of her beautiful work look at her website www.alison-russell.co.uk)

The service itself was pretty short: a poem, some words by the registrar, the vows, the ring and the kiss. I didn't even have time to cry!

Afterwards when the happy couple were off  outside with the photographer, Julie had a arranged a spread of tea and doughnuts for us! So we all got to chat while the photographer and the portrait lady wandered around and did their thing. Naturally, the bus driver, the photographer, the registrar and Alison all got some time for tea as well. The groom handed me the bouquet while he drank his tea (earl grey) and declared that I was clearly next - when I said that I hadn't caught it, he said he'd be happy to throw it at me if it meant I was the next one getting married.

We got a few more photos outside of us all. By now dusk was starting to fall and the church looked pretty magical with all the Christmas decorations up. We all got to throw some confetti.

Then it was back on the bus to the city for dinner at Cafe du Soleil. We had the whole of the top floor to ourselves, we all chatted, drank prosecco and ate delicious food. I ended up sitting by all the kids which was fun - we were the naughty end of the table. We started off with garlic bread and oil, then the starters were calamari, or a plate of cold meats and pate and for me it was olives and mushrooms and a small plate of mussaka. For the main course, there was beef wellington with macaroni and cheese, spaghetti with mussels, while I had spinach and butternut squash risotto. For dessert there was a trio of lemon sorbet (I love lemon sorbet exclaimed the 12 year old opposite me), some eton mess and two profiteroles. We were absolutely stuffed by the end!

There was no dancing and no speeches, but there was still cake. Julie followed a woodland theme (the bottom is chocolate, the middle is Victoria sponge and the top tier is lemon).

The dress was absolutely stunning with a slight Victorian feel to it, but with flowers and sparkles all over it and flowers in her hair. She had a matching lace shrug that she kept on all evening.

Mini-Julie had a floaty white empire-line dress, with a long sleeved cardie over the top and an amazing white furry capelet. I was wearing a big, grey, fake fur coat, a fuschia dress (with matching belt) and a single string of (real!) pearls. She ended up cuddling me and stroking my coat quite a lot and I felt like a big teddy bear. We exchanged coats several times during the meal - I did wonder if she was going to try and disappear off with it at the end of the night!

The waiting staff were lovely, the kids were amazing! All of the kids were well behaved during the service, and maybe one of the babies cried a bit over dinner. I was sat next to a Sottish and Finnish couple over dinner with a three month old, and she was stunning. The older kids ran around a little bit, and then towards the end of the night they completely cleared the tables for us - they took all the silverwear, glasses and china back to the kitchens. The staff were amazed. After that they made swans out of tin foil, did card tricks and played more board games. The bride and groom got to talk to everybody, and Julie kept asking everyone if they had had a good evening. The staff said it was one of the most relaxed parties they'd seen.

It was a beautiful day but right at the end of the evening it started tipping it down. As we walked through the restaurant downstairs, a few of the ladies at dinner were exclaiming about the rain, but ever practical as always Julie even had a special white wedding umbrella. I walked them up the road to the hotel on my way home, holding the bottom of the gown out of the rain til she was over the threshold. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.

All in all, it went off without a hitch. Everyone looked stunning and I met some really interesting people. I hope they have a long and happy life together!

Friday, 13 December 2013

This Week

Things that happened this week:

I had a meeting with my boss. It was nice. He told me I was doing well. Hurrah!

Last Jive Night of the year. It was petty low key but there was a lot of sparkly cake. Miss T got rather drunk on gin (turns out she gets a bit lairy after a few drinks!)

I saw M for the first time in a while. We had a little meditate outside in a courtyard. We also had a little hand jiving with our scarves over coffee afterwards. It felt like I was in a Charlie Chaplin film.

I bumped into Knitted Tie Man (you know, the one I asked out for coffee and who turned me down) going shopping for his Mum's Christmas present. He asked me to comment on a couple of perfumes. It turns out he has good taste! I liked the Prada one best, which was the one that he bought, he said if she didn't like it he would give it to me! (I wish!)

Most of the men in my life appear to want me to open a sewing business. M even suggested he would be my manager. Steady on, chaps.

I'm going to a wedding tomorrow, so much agonising over accessories has happened today. So far a brief poll on facebook would suggest that people think I should wear the calf length, light grey, fake fur coat. I'll keep you posted.

I've nearly got my Christmas shopping done. Nearly. Splendid splendid. All I need now is mulled wine. Oh wait I had some of that with Middle B yesterday. The moral of that story is never buy wine for £2.79, even if you are going to mull it for a while.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Holistic Hair

Today I had a haircut for the first time in a couple of years - I only tend to think about haircuts when I'm going to weddings, the last one was for Bendy and Jamface's wedding, and since Julie and her Mr are getting married this weekend I thought it was high time for another one. I always dread the hairdresser a bit because I have quite fine, pretty frizzy / curly hair that is so wayward and I have had some pretty awful cuts in my time so I tend to be a bit conservative about what they do with it.

There is a lady who has just started doing holistic haircuts upstairs above the shop so I thought I would try it out. It wasn't supercheap but it wasn't too expensive given the price of haircuts these days. She is called Frances and she is quite floaty with a slightly hippyish thing going on until she starts cutting your hair and then she gets a bit more focused and professional. She trained with Vidal Sassoon and worked in fashion for quite a while but she left eventually because she felt like there wasn't much time to pay attention to the client and a lot of the creativity was lost. I did wonder what was holistic about it - would I get an Indian head massage or something? I didn't as it turned out. What it was about was really working with the natural texture of your hair how it is - so she asked me to wash my hair and let it dry naturally without products. While cutting my hair she put no products on it apart from spraying water on every now and then so she could work on it. She says she is looking into making her own products that are all natural, but that takes a while because they have to be tested. She spent the first 10 minutes just playing with my hair, which was lovely - feeling how it falls, looking at the texture, looking at it in context with my face - and then she pinned up most of it and started shaping it from the bottom up. She didn't seem to take much off, but she told me at the back she had removed more than three inches in some places. She said my hair was in great condition and that I had hardly any split ends! Hooray for me! All in all it should have been an hour but we got chatting for an extra half hour (I know, you never would have expected that....) before I ran downstairs to pay and get back to work. And before you ask - we didn't talk about holidays once! We mostly talked about family backgrounds, the changing relationships with your parents as you get older, her career as a stylist, what made us both come back to the area, and cafes we love. I would recommend her and I will probably see her again... maybe even before the next wedding, who knows!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

If I had a Hammer....

Yesterday in town there was a huge Christmas procession that I had to extricate myself from and ran away down a side street where I accidentally found a vintage shop I'd never seen before. There was  also a man wearing a bowler hat playing the violin while walking a tightrope. A tightrope! It was extraordinary. The whole day was like being in a parallel universe.

Today I had a pretty long day sewing - I finished off Miss T's Christmas present (photos once I've given it to her) and I finally got round to finishing off the belt to go with dress no. 2. When Fran wandered in with a hammer in hand I knew that I would have an unusual lesson!

So this little innocuous thing has a round bit at the bottom that you have to hammer into the fabric and it punches out a hole.

Then you put one end of the rivet into the hole.

Then you flip over the belt and put the other bit (like a washer) over the rivet. Then you place it on this little thing with a spike on it (that is a technical term, you know).

Then you place the tube of metal over it....

and then hammer it a few times until the rivet is squished into the fabric.

and there you have it:

I get the feeling that I'll be making more belts in the future, only because they are easy peasy and exceedingly classy you understand, not because I get to hit things quite hard. No, not at all.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

It's Official! I Can Now Listen to Christmas Music!

Happy December y'all! I'm a bit late off the mark thinking about Christmas presents but I have to get things in the post. I have to admit I love Christmas shopping because I really love buying presents for people. I've already started to make Miss T's present (photos when it's finished of course) and I'm waiting for fabric to arrive for Middle B's present (it might not arrive in time, eek!) but the rest is going to be trawling the shops and the internet for excitingness. I'm going to the seaside this weekend so I'll pop into a few independent shops and see what I can find.

I saw M for the first time in ages yesterday and it was delightful as usual. We tried out a new cafe in town called Cafe Turquoise. It's a little on the pricey side, but it's got a nice atmosphere and they do tea and cake and Turkish coffee and macaroons and light lunches. They've also got a stack of old books and a gramophone in the window and they were playing some very lovely old jazz. Perfect atmosphere. I spotted a new burrito place a few doors down so I suspect we'll be trying that at some point.

After we'd had coffee, M gave me a lift back home on his bike. I was wearing a skirt (minorly inconvenient but still decent) and I had boots on (thank goodness) - but I did remember to take my earrings off before I put the spare helmet on. It was pretty exhilarating but very chilly, now I understand why bikers wrap up warm! It was the first time I've been on a bike for about 15 years, and I must say I didn't feel entirely secure on the back but we were only going a few minutes up the hill. We zipped past all the cars waiting in traffic, it was exciting, but I wouldn't want to do it everyday! Next time I'm wearing jeans and a warmer coat that's for sure.