Looking back

I think I need a new beginning. The last three months and more have been really bad, and I need to start telling myself that things will get better soon. I wasn’t planning on writing about anything that had been happening, but I think that when you experience a major life event it colours your thinking so much that it’s hard to write about anything else. I’ve been thinking about blog posts, I’ve even gone so far as to install a wordpress app on my shiny new android phone, but no topics seem to capture my attention for very long.

So, in an attempt to clear my mind for writing about other things, I think I need to write a quick post about what’s been happening, then I can try to move on towards that new beginning I mentioned.

On March 16, when I wrote my last blog post, ‘Looking Forward’, I was eight or nine weeks pregnant. In accordance with tradition I was holding off from telling anyone about my baby until I’d got past the first trimester and had seen a happy wriggly baby at my first scan. At¬†the start of April I had that happy scan, came home with a particularly blurry photo because apparently baby was very wriggly that day but¬†still I wasn’t happy to tell anyone about my pregnancy. I don’t know why,¬†on each¬†of my other two pregnancies I was in a huge hurry to tell anyone and everyone as soon as I had my scan picture in my excited little hand. But this time I really held back and only told my very nearest and dearest. Everyone was so excited, the children in particular were thrilled and¬†immediately started to come and chat to my tummy several times each day.

Everything proceeded normally for a few more weeks. I got to about fifteen weeks and started to feel very miserable. Having had pre-natal depression before, I was worried that it was recurring. I had such a sense of foreboding about my baby, and couldn’t wait to get to my check up with my midwife at 17 weeks when I thought she’d try to listen for the heartbeat. Well, the appointment came, and she told me it was far too early to hear a heartbeat and I’d need to wait another three¬†and a half weeks until my second scan. I came out of there feeling so incredibly down, at that time, irrational as it seems three and a half weeks sounded as if it was half a lifetime away. The following week I went to see my GP with my concerns, who prescribed me a book about panic attacks and told me it would pass when the baby was born (he was right in a sad sort of a way). ¬†The next day my midwife called me back in, having talked to my GP and tried (and failed) to hear a heartbeat, telling me not to panic because it was simply too early. Later that day I had what I now know to have been contractions, and after some other worrying symptoms, that night it was confirmed in the hospital that my much loved and keenly awaited baby had died some three or four weeks earlier.

I delivered my tiny tiny baby at eighteen weeks, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve not stopped thinking about the whole experience for more than a few minutes at a time ever since.

My family and friends were amazing and rallied round wonderfully. It took a good few weeks before I was happy to go out on my own to social events. But slowly and surely we were all coming to terms with it, and beginning to look to the future. Then, two and a half weeks ago tragedy came to our family again. My mother in law had a massive heart attack and after six days in hospital passed away on the 26th July. Her funeral was on Friday, and although we were with her when she died, the whole thing still doesn’t feel real. Writing this feels like I’m writing the script for some really awful film – I’m not sure how the happy ending will come about yet. My sister in law is now three days away from her due date to have her first baby, but her mother, with whom she was so looking forward to experiencing all the ups and downs of new motherhood, won’t be with her.

All in all, the last few months have been pretty horrible for our family. I’m really hoping that things look up in the next few months, we’re really looking forward to welcoming our new niece or nephew in the next week or two and hopefully everything will begin to go up from there. There is going to be a hole in family gatherings which will be very hard to cope with after losing my mother in law, she was the hub of my husband’s family, keeping in touch with everyone and feeding anyone who came within reach! But we will learn to move on, to celebrate and be grateful for the times we had with her, while at the same time honouring her memory by staying close as a family and making sure we remember the good times and trying not to dwell on the sad ones.

Just call me the Original Party Animal!

I had a fabulous time last Thursday evening! I was in a pub, drinking a cup of tea, knitting and reading Winnie the Pooh! Let me explain…!

Thursday night is knit night for me. It’s my only regular social outing and so I always look forward to it. However, this week was a little different as my sore ear and the evil antibiotics were making me feel very poorly. I nearly didn’t go, but Ellie doesn’t really take no for an answer so off I went! This week’s meetup was in Copa, a bar on Wharton Street in Cardiff. I usually look forward to Copa weeks as they serve delicious toasted waffles with toffee sauce and ice cream, but as I hadn’t been feeling too clever I didn’t think that waffles were the way forward. Neither did a glass of wine feel like a sensible decision, so I decided on a cup of tea as a ‘comfort drink’! So there was I, knitting on my jacket and sipping my cup of tea for all the world like a very eccentric elderly lady who may have got a little lost on her way to her OAP’s coffee evening. Also, my loss of hearing meant that I was entirely isolated from the rest of the group except for when I had the opportunity to lip read! But then my friend J took pity on me/decided to show off (take your pick as to his motive!!) by letting me play with his brand new shiny Kindle! And oh my goodness how I want one NOW!!! I’d read all the blurb, and listened to the hype about the e-ink but it really didn’t compare with actually seeing one up close. At first glance, it looked like one of those display models you see in electrical equipment stores where they have a printed label on them to give an idea of how the display will look. The e-ink and the lack of reflection was really that good. The text size was variable, which was fab for me as I’m a fast reader with good eyesight so I was able to reduce the text size right down in order to get the minimum possible page turns!

Then J showed me the list of books which you could get for free and for incredibly cheap, which led me to Winnie the Pooh, which in turn led to my reading that for most of the rest of the evening! It was a very happy place for poor deaf little me! The easy click of a button to turn pages was ideal for a multi-tasking knitter – I was able to have the Kindle on the table in front of me and flick the page turn button between stitches for minimal knitterly disruption! And from a pattern point of view, it would be brilliant for storing patterns, even those with charts, rather than having to print them out.

So, in conclusion, I am fairly certain that the 3G Kindle will be a part of my (not too distant) future. The only problem then will be fighting for access with GG!

Two gifts, finished and given

Yesterday we had a lovely time, watching the film ‘The Princess and the Frog’ and having dinner out with my friend Maria. I was able to give her the Shawl of Happiness and also the mystery extra gift, these Mrs Beetons Wristies;

I was so pleased with how these turned out. As you can see, I used the laceweight mohair for the outside frill, and then a cream yarn for the inside, beaded frill. The two yarns were held together to knit the cuff. These look lovely on, as they are worn with just the frills poking out of your coat sleeves, and look so pretty and feminine. Which is why I thought of Maria when I saw the pattern!

Secondly, last night I finished the jumper which I promised to my lovely eldest son such a long time ago. I gave it to him first thing this morning, and he immediately put it on and has worn it all day!

I wanted to decorate this jumper with something to distinguish it from the earlier effort, which turned out too small (and so was given to his brother!) so I chose this small TARDIS motif, as his Doctor Who obsession is widely known! I think it would have turned out better if the stitches had been tighter, but it does well enough for now. On the plus side, the jumper was immensely fast to knit up, so definitely a quick gratification project! And gratification for Handsome as well – I have a policy of not showing my childrens’ faces on my blog, but I had to include his big happy smile in this picture!

A little bit of nothing

Today has been a bitty sort of a day. I had a dental appointment this morning which upset my normal routine so I’ve not really settled to anything productive since.

That dental appointment was extremely irritating, unfortunately. After some…not great dental work done in my teens, I had to have two bridges fitted in my twenties. A little while ago, one of the bridges came out, and over the last few days the other one hasn’t felt too secure. So I took myself to the dentist, am now set to have a few more visits and a bill of ¬£177 at the end of it all! Ouch! Isn’t it always the way, just when you think you’re getting on your feet financially, some other expense comes along to upset the apple cart. Plus, my washing machine has been playing silly whatsits recently, so I’m really hoping that it won’t pack up completely any time soon!

I’m giving my friend her Shawl of Happiness this evening, and I’m hoping she’ll be happy with it. I’ll also give her her bonus present that I made, and then I will show you what that was tomorrow. I’ve shown both the shawl and the other thing to my friends at knitting group and to my parents, and I had a most gratifying response!

Handsome’s jumper is nearly done. I’ve just got to sew the pieces together and knit the collar, do a little bit of embellishing and hopefully it’ll be done by the time I go to bed tomorrow! Then I think I’ll move on to something for me. I have a poncho on the needles, so I’ll do a few days on that, then I want to knit an Ishbel shawl with my Araucania Multy yarn from Machelle¬†(to clear room in my stash so that I can buy some of her yummy cashmere and cashmere/wool blend laceweight yarns!). After that, I think it’ll be another jumper for me, although I don’t know which pattern yet. I’ve narrowed it down to about five!

I’ve been thinking about Kadeea’s Apple and Cinnamon cake constantly, since she posted about it on Wednesday. I guess that this is what Lent is all about, it’s not supposed to be easy, but I really am looking forward to getting my baking things out again in April! However, given that I’ve got two birthday cakes to make in April (my darling sons have their birthdays only seventeen days apart!) by May I’m sure I’ll be sick of the sight of cake batter!

Another thing (or lots of things) I’ve been thinking about are Ellie‘s stitch markers. Ellie (who I met in my Thursday night knitting group) and I seem to have quite a lot in common, including liking all the same sorts of crafts. She, however, is much more talented than I with her crafting, especially her beadwork, and has an Etsy shop where she sells, amongst other things, her own designs of jewellery and sets of beaded stitch markers. Having seen so many really boring plain plastic stitch markers in use, it’s lovely to see such pretty ones available from her. I’m sure¬†they would make any knitting project more interesting! I’ll ask her permission to post a couple of pictures of them, as I have my definite favourites! (Oh, and it pays me to be nice to her as she often gives me a lift to and from the knit meetups!)

Welsh pork medallions in a mediterranean sauce

Due to the recent change of circumstances of a very good friend of mine, I have, at present, a freezer three quarters full of pork. You should see it – it’s all beautifully wrapped, packed and clearly labelled, and I now really need to get on with eating it! I have one drawer full of large joints, one of small joints and another full of pork loin steaks and slices of pork belly. I’m still umming and ahhing about what to do with the belly pieces, but I’ve had lots of ideas for the joints and the steaks. As you will be able to tell from the title, I had an idea the other day which worked out very well indeed, so I’ve decided to share it with you. (I’m generous like that!) So, here it is.

Welsh Pork Medallions in a Mediterranean sauce

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 pork medallions (I cut them out from the pork loin steaks)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • couple of cloves of garlic (chopped) or 2 teaspoons of garlic puree
  • 2 peppers (capsicum) – different colours if possible (sliced)
  • couple of sticks of celery (sliced)
  • large splash of red wine or slightly smaller splash of port!
  • 1 (400g) tin of tomatoes – I used chopped tomatoes as none of us like the whole tomatoes in the finished meal
  • chicken stock cube
  • bouquet garni
  • seasoning

Method

  1. Brown the pork medallions in a large, flat bottomed pan (preferably one that they can all fit in, flat on the pan rather than having to overlap. Remember that the medallions will shrink a little during cooking).
  2. When the medallions are brown, place on a plate and fry the onions off. If you are using chopped garlic cloves, add them now as well. Once the onions have become slightly transparent, add in the sliced peppers and celery and fry until soft.
  3. Put the medallions back into the pan. If you are using garlic puree, add this now and mix everything well to make sure that it is evenly spread out. Pour in the red wine or port and use this liquid to help get the residue from the bottom of the pan – this will add flavour to the sauce and will make the washing up much easier!
  4. Once the wine has reduced slightly, crumble in your chicken stock cube, tip in the tinned tomatoes and add the bouquet garni and seasoning. Mix it all well together, but try not to agitate the pork too much as you will want the medallions to stay intact. Heat everything up until it is simmering (not boiling).
  5. At this point, I put all of the mixture with a splash of boiling water in my crockpot and left it to simmer down for the day. If you don’t have a crockpot, you could leave it in the pan to reduce the sauce (stirring fairly frequently to make sure nothing sticks and burns to the pan) or you could put it in a relatively low oven to achieve a similar result to the crockpot. Either way, keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t dry out, and add hot water as needed.

I served this with sliced runner beans and lightly spiced roasted potatoes but I think that it would be equally nice on a bed of mashed potato or rice, or even with pasta although I think if you went for the latter option you might want to increase the quantity of the sauce at the initial cooking stage by using an extra half to a full tin of tomatoes, another splash of wine and a little more black pepper!

Probably the last of the Christmas presents

I meant to post all of these posts at the beginning of the month, but I got carried away with writing about other things, so here we are, a day away from February and I’m still writing about Christmas! I’ll probably just about finish telling you about last Christmas before I start writing about the next one!

Anyway, today I want to show you some of the presents I made for my friend Maria’s family.

First up, I made her mum this apron and oven glove set;

After Maria made dinner wearing her little dress and high heels, not getting a mark on her, I thought that an apron would make a good present for her mum. We agreed at the time that either of us would have ended up covered in flour and gravy had we attempted cooking in such an outfit! She seemed to like her set anyway, putting it on straight away and wearing it for the evening! And I loved her Christmas crown!

Also, Maria’s mum loves her Nintendo DS, apparently spending time on it on most days before she goes to bed. So when I saw this pattern in one of my magazines I thought it would be perfect for her.

I thought this little Shaun the Sheep pattern was really cute! I lined the case with felt, and you can’t see here but it buttons up at the top to keep the DS from sliding out.

Maria’s sister has her birthday just after new year, so I had to think of Christmas and birthday presents at the same time. For her Christmas present I made her a pair of fingerless gloves of my own designing. I’m annoyed with myself for not having taken a picture, but I’m planning on making some more soon anyway so I’ll photograph them instead. I also made her a hat.

This pattern, from Ravelry, is based on the hat that ‘Hermione’ wore in ‘Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince’. I designed the gloves to have matching cables, and they were obviously made in the same wool, Sirdar Click DK which is a wool and acrylic blend. Hopefully enough wool to make them warm, but enough acrylic to make them easy to care for!

Finally, for Maria’s sister’s birthday I made her some jewelry. I’d not really done very much with beading and jewelry making before, but I was quite pleased with the outcome.

Just a simple bracelet and earrings set. Not the best picture as I suddenly realised as I was packaging it up that I’d not taken a photo, but you get the idea! I also made a necklace and bracelet set for Maria, but I’ve yet to get a picture of that. She definitely liked them though, as I’ve seen her wearing them many times since Christmas. Nothing like a spot of appreciation to give you a warm glow inside!

A quiet hour, on a quiet day

GG has taken the kids out for a walk, making the most of the sunshine. I, on the other hand, decided to stay home as I really want to work on my cowl today. I’m hoping to make lots of progress so that I can feel, this evening, that I can start something new. And not knitting or crochet related either. For a change!

I’ve had a germ of an idea of something to do in preparation for having a stall at a craft fair (after Welshpurpletree did so well with her stall last year). There’s no point in my knitting or crocheting items for sale as, on the whole, they’d take far too long and I’d not be able to charge proportionately to the work gone into each item. It breaks my heart now, seeing people selling hand knitted items for just a couple of pounds when I know that hours and hours of work have gone into each piece. Anyway, I digress.

I’m not going to say too much about my newest ideas yet (in case it all goes horribly wrong and I humiliate myself!). You can just wish me luck with the whatever! I’m off to put on a Sunday movie now and get on with knitting my cowl.

p.s. Go over and have a look at this beautiful baby girl! I love her thick black hair! Welcome to the world, Annabel Violet Spohr.