Category Archives: Sewing

Keeping it simple

A few posts ago I commented that I was aiming to keep Christmas simple this year. I almost forgot that decision and for a couple of days there was beginning to revert to my usual practice of saying yes to everything and over committing myself. I was imagining piles of homemade gifts for teachers and teaching staff, for friends, neighbours, family, etc. I was thinking I could squeeze in a bit more sewing for other people, to offer to have other people’s children over so that they could have some time to themselves, to be creating Christmas treats by the trayful, and to be putting on the most wonderful Christmas festivities we had ever seen.

Then reality hit, I began to get overwhelmed, and I was forced to remember that this year I can’t do all the things I normally do – and that it won’t matter. So teachers received bought gifts, (with two exceptions that I will come to in a minute), I have made a donation to my charity of choice instead of making/buying gifts for my girlfriends, I have accepted that the kids don’t count their gifts and it won’t matter if one is getting one more than the others as they receive so much anyway, that a pile of fresh stone fruit (including mangoes) is better than plates of fudge, and that instead of sitting at the sewing machine I can sit at the table or on the couch with my chicks and give them the best gift of all – time. I had a practical conversation with the chicks about whether they wanted to participate in the Christmas eve mass or just attend this year (participating involves two rehearsals) and quietly cheered when they all decided to simply attend. I asked their Dad to take the eldest chick to a birthday party being held within a very busy shopping complex so that I didn’t have to navigate the other two through the crowds, and also asked him to take the chicks to see the Christmas lights at a house that has broken a world record for the most number of bulbs, so that I don’t have to try and deal with a crowd and three chicks on my own, and I reminded myself that the only person who expects all of this from me, is me.

The results? During the week I had time to sit with the middle chick and make an origami dress Christmas ornament. (We both agreed that if it was a real dress we would want to wear it!)

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I finished the last of my Christmas orders today with pleasure instead of pressure.

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I had an afternoon of craft with the middle chick and the boy, experimenting with embedding objects in resin to make Christmas ornaments (and will hopefully have results to show you in a day or two!) The eldest chick and the boy and I played Monopoly for over an hour before it got too much for the 7 year old boy.

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(Yes that is his piece sitting on one of my railway stations….about the time he realised that I had become a slum lord and started to go off the game!  Must remember not to be so competitive when playing against someone soooooo much younger than me!)

The situation was saved though when three chicks had a water fight to cool off after the heat of the day and I was in charge of the hose, with instructions that I wasn’t to be a target! (Still can’t believe that I got away with that one!!) In other words – by keeping it simple I have had a wonderful day with my chicks with no anxiety attacks, no yelling, and no crying. (And that was from all four of us!!!)

My body is giving me clear signals when I have pushed too hard, or taken on too much. I can’t pretend for more than a few hours that I will be able to juggle lots of balls as I normally do. It just won’t let me anymore. Initially I was resenting this restriction, and feeling constrained, inadequate and that I was a failure. Now, however, I am starting to accept that there are benefits to keeping things simple, and stripping Christmas back to the things that are important – family, love and joy. Time to just enjoy my chicks instead of being worried about tackling the next thing on my list. Time to have them cuddle up to me on the couch while we watch a dodgy Christmas DVD with Danny de Vito in it. Making little things for each other instead of going out and buying more and more and more.

With that sense of simplicity I can share an image of the only handmade gifts that I presented to teachers this year.  The middle chick’s fruitastic design on the linen-cotton canvas from Spoonflower made into tea-towels.  I might have to make some more!!

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I have learnt a lot this year, about my passion for creating things, about my need to find a proper balance in my life, about the challenges of raising a child with special needs, about the fact that superwomen run out of puff after a while, and about the importance of family.  This lesson about stopping to enjoy time with my family instead of feeling the need to do everything, and do it well, is possibly the most important lesson I have learnt.  As we go into Christmas it is my fervent hope that this is a lesson that I remember, and apply, every day from now on.

I hope that you are able to find the simple joys in your Christmas or holiday celebrations, and that you are able to feel the joy that it is meant to bring, instead of the pressure that so often accompanies it.

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Doctor’s advice

I have been stopped in my tracks this week. The details of how and why aren’t important (because they involve someone else’s story) but the impact has been a bit devastating. (Not complete and total devastation obviously because I am still here writing, so you can all breathe out!)

The impact has surprised me. I have had what can only be described as a rough couple of years with work and home, but have managed to remain strong and resilient and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have looked after my chicks, focussed on things to provide time for myself (well – that is my excuse for my fabric addiction and I am sticking to it!) and kept it together mentally, more or less! (Some may argue less, but that is the story of my life, not these last couple of years!). I have been conscious that it has been getting harder and harder to bounce back, but I was still bouncing back. Finding new strategies, putting yet another plan into place. Not this time. Something unpredictable happened (that normally I would have taken in my stride) and my bounce went on holiday. Boy – talk about your body telling you that it is time to stop. A sign of how bad things have been? No sewing! And I watched a DVD yesterday. Oh my goodness – things must be bad! (I normally don’t sit still long enough to watch anything on TV, let alone a whole movie!)

Of course, things aren’t really that bad. I have spoken to the experts and know that all will return to normal quite soon, blah, blah, blah. I am just quite amazed at how my mind and body decided to tell me that I had to stop. I didn’t get a choice – I just slept for the best part of 24 hours. Now I am on a strict diet of exercise, rest, healthy food, and – praise be – instructions to cruise craft forums and sites. (I love a bit of sensible advice!) Because – focussing on things that I love and that make me happy, is the best medicine! (And the chicks have gone away to attend the celebration of their great-grandmother’s 100th birthday so those things that I love and that make me happy are out of town!).

Now I already follow a lovely range of crafting, sewing, creative blogs and sites – but who am I to argue with doctor’s orders? I am off to find some more – after a walk with the dog and my mum of course! So if you have any suggestions of sites that you want to share – please do!!

In the meantime I share with you my one piece of crafting for the week. Three granny squares made as my contribution to the charity blanket I posted about last week. (Well – even with the wind knocked out of my sails I couldn’t just sit and watch a movie – I had to do something!) I might even manage a few more before popping them in the mail to Sweden!

So – share your ideas for great craft sites – purely for medicinal purposes of course!!

Christmas shopping and making ideas

With all of the seasonal promotion happening on and off the web it occurred to me that I really do need to get my own act together. Last year I made all the gifts for my family and friends. This year I am being realistic that I won’t be able to achieve that, given that I have committed to having a stall at the Christmas markets so am sewing for that, along with working, caring for my children, etc! I will still be able to make a few things, but need to think about other ideas. I have already started on a few things – and have been sharing them with any unwitting soul who I come across, so thought that I would share with you too!

The ideas below include some suggested Etsy shops, some online craft kits and ideas, and some ideas for unique gifts made for very reasonable prices. If you have any other suggestions to add – please feel free to add them in the comments below!

My first approach has been to take advantage of my vastly increased knowledge of other Etsy sellers. Over the year, through being part of teams on Etsy who promote other artists work, I have been able to see some beautiful pieces. Now I have decided that it is time to buy some of them. I can’t show you all I have bought so far, as some of the recipients are readers of the blog, but I can share some of my suggestions and some great stores!

First of all, I used a gift voucher that the very generous Michelle from Factotum of Arts gave me earlier this year, to buy myself a necklace that I have been admiring for a long time. It is beautiful, so I can recommend the craftsmanship of Yulia from Petals Design.

Pearls, Leather and Wood Necklace. Sterling Silver Wood and Pearls Pendant Necklace on a Leather Cord, Unique Gift Idea

I also worked on a custom order with Deepa from Tunic Botik to have a glass-carrying brooch made for my Mum as a thank you for helping us out. The detail in it is exquisite and working with her to pick colours etc was so easy. Mum is using it daily and loves it.  Deepa has beautiful pieces in her shop – so do consider her as a source of Christmas gifts!

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I have also bought some brooches from Lovely Sparrow and Co that are just delightful, and am having some Christmas ornaments made by Candy of Candykins Crafts, in this style, but with the words of my choice!

Joy Christmas Tree Ornament Hand Embroidered - 3" hoop

A purchase from Gillian at Eclectic Moi has also arrived and is beautifully made and packaged!

There are so many other beautiful Australian Etsy artists – I will be buying more and will share my finds as I go!

In addition to buying handmade I have decided that gifts that enable handmade are also good!  No sponsorship here – but I did some buying in the moving sale at Craft Schmaft – beautiful kits for making sock softies and hot air balloon mobiles.  Another Australian artist, so more support of local, and for the art of handmade! (I think her sale ends this weekend, so get in quick!)

My other big tip for this year (and again this is not sponsored!) is to use the services of ARTSCOW – a service that prints your photos or images onto a huge range of items.  They have a great range of discount codes on their ‘special offers’ page which means that you get free international postage and good prices.  I have received memo pads from them, with my ‘little bird’ logo on them and they are beautiful quality – the paper is a nice weight.  I also had a photo of our camping sunset printed up on a memo pad for Miss N as a souvenir before she departed.  For Christmas I have ordered more memo pads printed, using drawings by the artist-in-residence, and some other images and photos, and personalised them for each recipient with their name.  A great stocking filler!  The chicks also designed images to be printed onto a present for their Dad (who I am pretty sure doesn’t read this blog, but just in case, I will just give you the clues that he is addicted to hitting little white balls around with sticks and walking a long way, and this gift will keep him dry if it rains while he is doing that!).    They do small fold up umbrellas – I have visions of having some made up as presents for grandmothers, with kids drawings on them, or playing cards with the kids artwork on them.  So many different options!  Let me know if you do order anything – I am keen to hear about the quality of other products so I can keep them in mind for future gifts!

My other tip for this season?  Make gifts using your own fabric designs, printed at Spoonflower!  And if you don’t think you are up to designing your own – you can always buy fabric designed by an independent designer – such as my own artist-in-residence!  Her samples arrived yesterday and we are very happy with them, so they are now available for sale at Spoonflower!

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The Fruitastic Collection

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The Menagerie (in white)

For now I am back to the sewing machine.  I have produced a few new things this week, in between the usual round of appointments, children, etc.  Some of them are even Christmas presents!   Photos will follow later on the weekend!

Don’t forget – if you have great tips for presents to share, leave a comment so that we can share the love!

Confessions of sewing fear

Anxiety comes in many different forms. I have spent time speaking with medical professionals over the last week and was asked to describe how each of my children, and I, are similar or different in terms of anxiety. One takes the form of catastrophising everything – natural disasters are a particular favourite that will take hold and be obsessed about. Another worries about situations in the family, but understands reason and logic and can rationalise the fear. The third doesn’t appear to an outsider to worry or fear anything, but in fact has quite extreme reactions if feeling vulnerable or embarrassed. I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by all the noise in my head – my ‘to-do’ lists, my own expectations of myself, etc. I think that we all think of an anxious person as the hand wringing worrier – when in fact anxiety takes so many different forms.

In thinking about all of this I have realised that on a more superficial level, I also have some sewing anxiety. It sounds a bit funny coming from someone who blogs about sewing, sells things she sews and purports to share tips about sewing with other people, but it is true. I am not a confident garment sewer – but that isn’t an anxiety, that is an understanding that I am not good at fitting things for myself (I have short torso) because I don’t know how. One day I will work out the science of it and all will be fine. Which leaves the question -what is my anxiety?

It is quilting.

Not the patchworking of a quilt top. Not the sewing on of binding. The actual process of quilting – putting together the layers of quilt top, batting/wadding, and the backing, and stitching through it to make a quilt. I have never done it. I have read tutorials, tips and hints. I have spoken knowledgably to people about it. But I have always been worried about doing it myself. A friend of mine who is very crafty told me that my machine didn’t have a big enough throat, so it would be too hard. She also told me that I need a walking foot. She recommended outsourcing it to a long arm quilter. I took her advice, not because she was the authority on all things quilting, but because it suited me not to confront that fear of failure!

But – no more. My mother is still with us, keeping the chicks and I feeling loved and supported. She is a long time patchworker and quilter. She has never had someone else quilt her quilts for her. And she doesn’t own a fancy long arm quilting machine. In fact for many years she didn’t have a walking foot. And those quilts from 20+ years ago are still going strong and being used daily by many members of the family. So this afternoon I asked her whether she thought we could quilt the quilt I made for the boy ourselves. (Yes – the quilt top that I so proudly showed you back in (ahem) April is still sitting in a drawer). I rang the long arm quilter this week, as I have also finished (finally) the memory quilt that I started for my housekeeper back in (ahem) August, and she said that she might be able to get one quilt done before Christmas. After talking to Mum (who said ‘yes of course we can – your machine is fine’!!) we have decided to quilt the boy’s quilt ourselves, and take the queen size memory quilt to the quilter. I am going to overcome that fear, and exile it by learning from my mother – just the way it should be!!

In news not related to any fears, the artist-in-residence’s fabric samples are on their way to us for proofing. She is very excited, and creating more designs. I have managed a little sewing, have cleaned out the chook house (so glamorous), caught up with friends for a cup of tea and crafting (I sat and cut out appliques of bicycles!), ferried children around to various social engagements, and have been supported by my mum.  I am excited about seeing my contribution to the Sew Mama Sew Handmade Holiday series in the morning.  (Although it appears on the 10th of November, with time differences being what they are, it won’t be published until about 1am on the 11th November on Australian time!)  And I need to see my accountant, so will be filing, sorting and trying to remember my movements of the last financial year – sure to balance out any excitement!

I hope that your weekend has been lovely, and that you are able to recognise and face any anxiety that may befall you this week – large or small.

Friday finds – a list of Geeky gifts to make

While I was reading the Gifts for Geeks list of Handmade Holiday gifts posted at Sew Mama Sew I realised that the chicks and I like a lot of geeky things! Which prompted me to pull together the following list of ideas that I have collected for gifts to make for the people in your life who love geeky things! Our geekdom stretches beyond Dr Who, Star Wars, and Lego but I have stuck to our favourites!

Dr Who
Being a woman-of-a-certain-age I remember watching Dr Who in my teens, when it was a BBC production, when Tom Baker was the Doctor and when, having a choice of only 2 television channels at the time (it was North Queensland in the early 80’s) we regularly were in trouble with the nuns for being late for dinner, as Dr Who finished a few minutes after the dinner bell went. Now my eldest chick watches it and it is slick and shiny and has a much bigger budget, but the basics are still there! Time Lords, TARDIS time machines, travelling companions, and the occasional Dalek. Luckily the resurgence of it’s popularity means that there are piles of tutorials on how to make things for fans!

Although I haven’t had any luck finding ‘licensed’ Dr Who fabric, there are quite a few “police box’ designs available through Spoonflower that can be used to make great gifts, like the messenger bag I made!

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Dr Who snow flakes tutorial

Free Printable Doctor Who Stencils

Printable Colouring Pages – Doctor Who

Tardis Garden Shed – Build your own – Gadgetizer
Tardis Garden Shed

DIY Tardis Bag – Quiet Nerdy Thing

How to Paint the inside of a glass ornament – Hey Hey Heather K

DIY Tardis Shoes – PS

Dr Who Sewing Kit – Craftster

Dr Who Free Crochet patterns – Moogly
Doctor Who Crochet Patterns - all free! Grab your hooks and allons-y!

Star Wars

Once again my age is an advantage in understanding Star Wars.  I remember going to the cinema to see the first movie.  We went into the city, and it was very exciting.  When the next two movies came out we were living on an island in the Pacific that didn’t have a cinema with proper movie releases (although there seemed to be an abundance of Kung Fu movies available to watch in a shed near the beach!).  When the next three were released I was busy with babies and didn’t see them.  Despite that I have developed a great knowledge of all the movies as my son is quite taken with them, and all things related to them!

If none of thesetutorials grab your fancy, there is a great range of Star Wars fabric available and you can use it to make bags, hats, skirts, pillowcases, etc!

DIY Star Wars Christmas Ornaments – DIY Geekery

Soft cuddly Chewbacca – Draw Pilgrim

Star Wars Stencils – Grrl

Star Wars stencils

Star Wars Snowflakes – Matters of Grey

Stormtrooper snowflake templates!

Star Wars Egg Ornaments – Instructables

Lightsabers made from pool noodles – Bit Rebels

DIY Star Wars Pillow – Craftiness is not Optional

Star Wars Peg Dolls – Pink and Green Mama

Free Star Wars Crochet Patterns – Moogly

Free Star Wars Crochet Patterns - Roundup on Moogly!

Lego

Lego was an important part of my childhood.  My grandmother would always bring some back from any trips to the Netherlands (there were only a few grandchildren at that stage – now it would break her bank!).  My mother still has all of our Lego and it has been used by all the grandchildren too.  Now my children love Lego.  They have the themed sets – Star Wars, Chima, Harry Potter, City, Ninjago, Pirates of the Carribean, the Hobbit (not ALL of them obviously) but they also have just general bricks and it is rare for them to use the patterns – they build using their imagination.  The tutorials below include ideas to store Lego bricks, ways to use bricks to make things, or making other items that look like Lego bricks.

Lego Earrings – Coupons Are Great

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Lego Key hanger – Felix Grauer

LEGO DIY Key Hanger by Felix Grauer in style fashion home furnishings  Category

DIY Lego Beanbags – One Artsy Mama

Train table to legl table – Over the Big Moon

Lego Ninja hat – We lived happily ever after

DIY Lego Storage Solutions – All Things with Purpose

Lego Cufflinks – Instructables

DIY Lego and art travel boxes – Repeat Crafter Me

DIY Lego magnets and necklace – She’s Called Claire

Lego Tray – That’s My Letter

Lego Spice Rack – Instructables

And finally – not a tutorial – but a lovely way of bringing all three themes together, this great picture from The Dalek Hugger

Stormtroopers and the TARDIS.

I hope that you find something suitable to make for the geeks in your life!

Being productive and colourful

There is a lot of activity in the nest this week. Having my mum here means that we are tackling those jobs that I never seem to get around to. She has de-cluttered my shelves in the family room, I have sorted my fabric stash, I have had tradesmen in to quote on repairs, things that were put in the hall to be put away, and ended up becoming permanent fixtures, have been put away, and lists have been made. The house feels lighter already.

I started to write that I have little to report on the sewing front. But when I looked at my photos, and my sewing table I realised that I have actually produced quite a bit in the last week! I have felt that I haven’t been able to sit and do any major sewing, but have managed little projects along the way. I decided that instead of beating myself up about not making things, I needed to have small goals. So I have been making little zipped pouches. I can do one in the evening before I go to bed. They are quick, they are cute, and I can feel that I have achieved something. I haven’t been listing them to sell, thinking that I would use them at my craft stall. Then a friend dropped around, saw them and bought 4! I guess that validates that they are going to be attractive to buyers!

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I also wanted to make a farewell present for Miss N. She has left us much earlier than expected, but was of help when she was here. She loves tea, and was travelling with an overfull suitcase, so I decided to make her a cushion cover, that will pack flat, and applique it with a tea-cup. I am quite happy with the end result! I think she liked it too.

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A friend dropped by for a cup of tea (I am a bit partial to tea myself) and asked if I could make a superhero cape for her nephew. So that was ticked off the list next.

Teacup

Amongst the menagerie that lives at my house we have a budgie called Frill. Frill belongs to the artist-in-residence and has been living in her bedroom for the last year. He makes a dreadful mess – seeds being flicked all over the place, and she is not the best cleaner-upper you have met. With the arrival of Nana, we decided to move Frill out of the bedroom, to reduce the mess in there. A quick internet search found us a very reasonable price for a stand to hang his cage from, so we can now easily move it around the house. Which meant that the seed scattering had potential to spread all over the house. The solution? A fabric ‘skirt’ of sorts for his cage. While I will tweak the design before making another one, it is doing the job quite well!

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I also had a lovely experience in selling another piece to a buyer in the USA. One of my bicycle cushions is winging it’s way to Washington DC.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been joking that with two sales to the US I must be a household name by now! One of my friends saw my post on facebook about it, and promptly bought another one of the bike cushions for her husband’s bike shop! I might have to make some more!

With all the ups and downs in our household the chicks have been suffering a bit. The artist-in-residence needed a day at home with her mum to rest and collect herself. She sat and did some drawing and created such a lovely piece that she and I decided we needed to make some fabric from it. That inspired her further, so she did another drawing for fabric. We have ordered samples of each of the pieces to check for colours etc, and once they are proofed, she will be able to list them for sale on Spoonflower! She is very excited, and I am very proud!

Chloe

Chloe

Chloe

Of course, through all of this, and various appointments that needed to be attended, I am trying to make my Christmas lists. Things to make for sale, things to make for gifts, things that I want to make. The lists are long! Until I have time to publish them with links, I highly recommend looking at the lists of Handmade Holiday ideas that Sew Mama Sew are publishing each day. My list of eco-friendly gift ideas will be featured on 10 November. There were a number of ideas that I had collected that didn’t make the post, and some ideas that I have found since then, so I will do a follow-up post here with some further ideas for eco-friendly gifts to make!

I hope that your week has been productive and colourful!

The birthday decisions

The middle chick’s birthday has arrived, which means that I can report on the gift making and decisions! Of course the most important thing to report is that the chicks are home again, safe in the nest. It is delightful to have them back, but very noisy!! I was woken several times in the night by different ones at different times, and then woken very early yesterday morning by the birthday girl who wanted to remind me that we needed to ring her cousin, who she shares a birthday with. I mumbled something suitable (which, I regret to say, was not “Happy Birthday darling”) and went back to sleep. However by 7.30 they had all been woken and presents were presented and admired and enjoyed. (The return to ‘normal hours’ tomorrow is going to be a shock for their mother!)

After my list making last week I decided to make her a kindle cover,

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and to make her a space of her own. She is currently occupying the top bunk, so a curtain,

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a shelf for her treasures and a fabric bucket (that can be hung) to assist in the collation of those treasures (well – to attempt to keep things tidy really),

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and a pin board (not covered in fabric I regret to say) were the contributions to her own space. She is thrilled! Unfortunately the kindle cover is too small (that will teach me to rely on measurements online instead of measuring the device before she left!!) but I have my technique sorted so will make another one with no problem, and she assures me that she will find things to use it for!

Other gifts she received that had the big tick of approval, that might prove useful ideas for anyone else looking for 9 year old girl present suggestions included a gift voucher to do a cooking class, tapestry and cross-stitch kits, and a Science kit – equipped to grow micro-organisms, isolate DNA, and various other experiments. Oh – and her father bought her a camping chair of her own – a Moon chair – that she is delighted with!

Because her father was in town for one more day he was able to take her, the other chicks, and her best friend, bowling for the afternoon, and then in the evening we all went out for dinner, with another family who are great friends of ours, for Teppenyaki – the birthday girl’s request. We very rarely go out for dinner because once we factor in the dietary restrictions, the boy’s excess energy, my usual state of exhaustion, and the expense, it isn’t worth the effort. However it was such a successful outing that we will do it again! The entertainment factor of Teppenyaki helped, with speedy quick chopping, flames, food catching, and general hilarity.

teppenyaki teppenyaki2

Their father stayed the night with us before flying out early this morning.  I had one of those delightful reminders about the advantages of not being married to him anymore when his snoring from the boy’s room, where he was sleeping on the trundle (the boy was soooo excited) kept me awake!!  Ah well, you have to laugh!

I can also report that my birthday, after my initial ambivalence, was just delightful! I ended up having impromptu wine with a dear friend at the pub down the road and as the weather was perfect we were able to sit outside and enjoy it. Then dinner out was with another beautiful friend, at a very trendy restaurant called Eighty Six where we let the waiter pick the food for us, with the instruction that we needed room for dessert! He did a superb job and we had a smoked ocean trout salad with poached egg, followed by a lamb ragout with gnocchi. That left room for my dessert of crème brulee with drunken prunes and pistachio biscotti, and hers of lemon curd with elderberry jelly, yoghurt gel and something else that I can’t remember!! Combine that with some wine, a hard lemonade (in other words lemonade with booze in it) and I was in seventh heaven! Didn’t take any photos (was being cool after all) and had a lovely time enumerating the good things about our advanced ages. We both decided that our decidedly reduced care factors were one of the best things about getting older!

Of course what would one of my random blog posts be without an update on my ‘to-do’ list? I can report that the boy’s room was returned to a sensible state, including some sorting of the toy boxes. His wardrobe was cleaned out and changed over for summer. The presents for the middle chick were completed (without me going overboard for once!). The other things? Not yet. But the weekend is not finished yet!

I hope that your weekend is going well.  The weather here is delightful – hopefully you have the same!