Sunday, 20 December 2015

Colour My Life

 Isn't this wonderful? It's a dinky little DAB radio in a leather duck-egg blue case. Bought by my son   Mike and his lovely partner Vicki for Christmas ESPECIALLY to fit into the summer house. It just looks so PERFECT in there.

     Looks equally good on the shelf or on my little pale green side table. Just THE PERFECT gift!

  My Cosy Stripe Blanket (Lucy from Attic 24 pattern) I omitted a couple of her colours and changed   the order here and there. Not too fond of the spice (orange) but accept it is part of the autumn colour scheme she chose. Actually, we think it feels quite Christmassy.

   Below, some crochet shapes I've been experimenting with. The first circles are crocheted in Noro   Secret Garden - I love the variegated nature of this silk/wool yarn.

Granny Squares. I get a bit fed up fastening off and restarting but I do enjoy the way the colours blend.This is of course good old Stylecraft Special DK. Cheap as chips and lovely colours.

Now then, this was an attempt at free-form crochet, which turned into a kind of wavy circle… I may carry on, do a little decreasing to mitigate the frilliness, and see if it becomes a shawl…. the yarn is Lisa Harding's Amitola which is a 4-ply wool/silk mix. It looks wonderful in the ball, but I hated the way it crocheted in rows, the colours do not meld together very well in lines. However, I do like the way it works in an ever increasing circle.

Here you can see a basket of yarn and the beginnings of ANOTHER blanket - the Granny Stripe no 2. I started out looking at Lucy's Harmony Squares colour scheme, but then decided to do my own version. Same shades as the granny squares above. My Granny Stripe Mk1, made about 5 years ago, will move into the caravan.

     Below, some felty colourfulness in the sewing room. Also known as The Black Hole of Calcutta!

     My collection of pro markers, for all that "grown-up colouring-in" we are so fond of these days!

       And to finish up, a couple of photos of some brightly coloured pottery in my kitchen. Love it!

I hope these colours have brightened up your day - they certainly keep me feeling happy. This will be my last blog-post this year, and maybe into 2016 - but I shall definitely be back! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a happy healthy and fortune-filled New Year, and I will be back very soon.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Winter Colour

Hi folks! Are you, like me, in need of a bit of cheering up? I know "t'is the season" and all that, but I have been attacked by a nasty little virus recently which, quite apart from laying me low and giving me some pain and grief, has put paid to three days - THREE WHOLE DAYS - of lovely events over this weekend gone. Add one or two other little worries to the mix and you have a not-very-festive frame of mind here in Chez Gill, I'm afraid.

SO, I thought, let's have some colour. Without too many words (I'm sure you won't mind that!) and quite a few pictures, here we go - enjoy the show!

COLOUR - in the garden.

                                     Brave little blossoms, keepin' on keepin' on!

                                               My garden mosaics hangin' on in there.

COLOUR- in the summer house

    On the left we have the almost-finished-painting shelving unit Jim built and I wall-papered and painted. I hope you like the paper - discount store, cheap as chips but JUST what I was looking for!

On the right - the almost finished armoire. When it has its door with chicken-wire and pleated fabric finish, it will look perfectly lush. See what I mean about that paper? Picks out so many shades in the other furnishings and paint.

COLOUR- all over the place!

                                All my blankets - apart from the two in the summer house.

This is my Lucy Bag Mk 2 - the first one grew SOOooooo huge it now holds a gazillion balls of wool.

Lucy Bag, and the Noro wool bag I made a few months ago. Just didn't have sufficient for the strap, unfortunately.

                                       Can't get enough of these shots of deliciousness!

                                                                       …….. can you tell?

Well, that's your lot, hope it has brightened up a chilly day for you. I find clusters of colour like this actually DO make me feel warmer and happier. Visual endorphins, maybe. I hope you find something to give you a burst of cheer today. Until next time!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Quitting Sugar Post and Crochet!

HI Everyone, well, a sad morning for us here in the UK as our undemocratically mis-elected government have chosen to bomb Syria. A more misguided and cynically greed-driven action I cannot contemplate. Not in our name, Mr Cameron, not in our name.

However. This is not a political blog, but my feelings (as you know) sometimes spill over. Back to what we are usually about. This is my Catch Up post on our progress with getting sugar out of our bodies and out of our lives. Which does not mean we shall never ever eat a piece of cake or chocolate again, I'm not anti-pleasure!

We are in the middle of our EIGHTH WEEK! And it is going well. We're eating lots of salads and veggies, and pretty normal meals with lovely fat included, the occasional slice of good bread, pasta or rice in small amounts and infrequently, and NO processed foods. Unless you count good quality sausages, and tinned tomatoes, sugar-free passata etc.

Jim's blood glucose is down and his blood pressure is down from 160/90 to 120/80. Mine is 138/78 which I hope will also make an improvement from that 138 (which neither the GP nor I am very worried about. ) Jim's lost just over half a stone and I have lost just short (less than a pound) of ONE STONE in seven weeks. More to the point I feel I am doing myself a whole lot of good getting the sugar out of my system, moving further and further away from that Metabolic Syndrome I have been dicing with for years. My liver is thanking me profusely for enabling it to get rid of its visceral fat. My appestat is back and working so well I can actually tell to the last mouthful how much is too much on my plate, and frequently leave a little. Unheard of before. And the effect on my grehlin-producing gland in my stomach, which used to tell me I was hungry all the time has been wonderful - we are just not hungry between meals. Curiously, my GO has asked me to come in to the surgery as she want to reduce my thyroid medication, due to the blood test results. I have no idea whether there is a connection with the sugar free thing - but I have been on the same dosage for about 10 years and have a thyroxine level blood test done every year. Coincidence that the level needs adjusting right now? I don't know, but I shall be investigating! Sugar has an insidious effect on so many of our hormones, until you cut it out you just don't realise.

Some people have asked for some links to videos, so here they are. Find them on you tube.

"Auckland 2014 : Low CArb New Zealand Seminar" 8 videos, including one by Sarah Wilson, who wrote the I Quit Sugar books.  Also include and English GP and an Aussie Dietician and practitioners in the diabetic area.

Dr Robert Lustig , a paediatric neuro-endocrinologist who is on a long term campaign "Sugar: the Bitter Truth"  "Fat Chance"  "Processed Food : An experiment that failed"

David Gillespie "Sweet Poison"

Dr Gary Taubes  "Why we get fat"

Damon Gameau "THAT Sugar Film" and "THAT Sugar Book"

Happy watching!

And just so that I can include a bit of bright hooky scrumptiousness, here are some photos of the crochet I've been doing this week. Yes, I've almost finished my SECOND Ripple Blanket, in a colour scheme not a million miles away from the first one, but it IS different. I'm darning in the dangly bits and finishing the edges on Saturday when I shall be working in Jane-Anne's beautiful studio over the other side of the county.

And here I've made a start on the NEXT project (there has to be one!) which is another one of Lucy's of Attic24 fame. It is her Cosy Stripe Blanket, which has alternate colours worked in just two patterns. First is 2 rows of plain treble, then follows two rows of clusters of three trebles, which is all easy peasy and NO COUNTING! Here it is after just two rows, I've done about eight now. The inspiration for Lucy's colour scheme was a collection of Autumn leaves, flowers and fruits. A really warm and rich combination.

So there it is, I hope this has been food for thought and a feast for the eyes!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Hooking in the Summer House

I don't know about you, but we have been very lucky weather-wise here in West Norfolk, recently. We went to Norwich yesterday to book our flights for Christmas in New Zealand, and had the best of the day in sunshine there, windy and rainy by the time we got home. Then again today it has been brilliant sunshine ALL day. Chilly, yes, but to be fair it hasn't been unpleasant. Jim's been working in the garden all day, and by lunchtime I decided the sun was too good to waste so I took myself down to the summer house to crochet. No heating yet, as we still have the electrics to be connected up, but was lovely and sunny and pretty comfortable with a warm cardigan and thick socks to keep me warm!

It really was peaceful, the clock ticking away in a slow, sleepy fashion, me hooking away happily, safe from marauding cold-callers on the phone, and, later, Jim joined me for a mug of coffee. We love our new sunny space! Do you want to see a few more photos of what we've done? Of course you do!

This is my view of where Jim sits, there is the coffee table I painted earlier this year, the pale blue oak chest Jim found in Ely Antiques, and the cheap mirror I found at The Range and painted chalk green. Just peeping into shot is the settle we found in a junk shop in Wymondham; I had intended painting it, but we like it the way it is. Two cosy quilts complete the picture.

Oh, and the little side table I painted mauve, was a tenner from another junk shop in Wymondham!

The settle before I put the quilts on it. The rug is an old, rather flood-damaged Laura Ashley which I can't bear to part with!

It has all come together beautifully, and we are extremely pleased with it. I'd been busy making crocheted throws for our chairs, way before the room was built.

They are made with Rico Cotton Blend and were lovely to work up. Jim's is, naturally, the more restrained blue and green one. I think they look rather good draped casually over the side of our chairs!

Once I'd finished the throws I was lost until I decided to have a go at Lucy's (Attic 24) Ripple Blanket. I have always loved this pattern but never believed I could manage the pattern (My crochet is very basic!) But her instructions are SO GOOD and very simple to follow, with photos every step of the way. So I took the plunge, and when we were up in Hexham the other month I found a lovely wool shop and she had the Ripple draped over a chair in the shop, with the yarns required in a basket beneath. Serendipitous, I'd say, wouldn't you? So I got stuck in, and once I had learned each stitch and how to do the increase / decrease, I was away.

And here it is! There are some colours which I'm not too happy with, so didn't repeat them, but on the whole I love it.

What do you think? And would you believe, I  have begun another using slightly different colours! You can just see a tiny bit of it in the header photo on my little side table.

So, it's been all go here, with one thing and another. Some majorly sad events at both world and domestic level, and we have all been deeply shocked and dismayed. I hope none of you have been personally affected. Suffice to say that I hope you join me in staying calm and refusing to be drawn into  victimisation. Unity is what they hate and fear, let's stand together in refusing to play their wicked game.

Finishing off- as one should - with the weather. We are expecting Wintery Weather soon in the UK. How seasonal! As long as the airports don't close down until we are safely airborne! Take care and catch up with you next time.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

An Eventful Month

I'm in a really strange position of having cleared a lot of "stuff" out of my life (not necessarily for ever) in order to calm things down a little, and yet still feeling I'm on a roller coaster, because the weeks are flying by and I'm barely keeping up with what's going on. Sadly I'm not making much headway on the music front, just can't find my way back into it, and we've been so so few gigs lately I've forgotten what's happening where! Also, I had to cancel two craft fair events due to stuff happening at home. So that's two things I really enjoy doing which seem to be very much on the back burner at the moment.

I did finish this latest appliquéd blanket cushion cover, I love the colour scheme, the wool felt appliqué really "pops" against the deep blue blanket. The header photo shows a cushion cover and a throw I crocheted to go over the back of my chair in the summer house going up in the garden. Speaking of which, here's a photo of the concrete base, waiting for the guys to build the rest of it. I can't wait to start putting in the things we've discovered on our tour of the junk shops, though some of them still have to be cleaned up and painted. I'll be sure to show you the results.

 On the baking front, I've been experimenting with sourdough again, and, armed with a starter gifted to me by a friend, I've made a couple over the past two weeks. They were quite tasty, though I didn't get the rise I'd hoped for. Since then I think I've managed to kill off the starter, unfortunately.

Back to the garden, we've still got a few flowers hanging around, though they are mostly struggling to show their heads above the sea of fallen leaves. And in the plastic bins are some parsley and chard, rescued from my Square Foot Garden which has had to be re-sited because of the sumner house.

In the space of half a dozen weeks, we have celebrated my birthday, Jim's birthday, and our 45th Wedding Anniversary. We're still amazed to be able to say that, it's a bit of a record these days, but we know how lucky we are to still have each other, because very sadly a good friend of ours recently died unexpectedly at home. It's taking a while for it to sink in to be honest; for a short guy Dave had a very big personality. Coming suddenly like that it certainly makes you pause and count your blessings. I hope you all have lots of wonderful things to find yourselves blessed with!

Monday, 19 October 2015

I'm Quitting Sugar

No! Don't panic! You haven't come to the wrong blog! Textile Treasury will continue to be the same as it always was, a mixture of textiles, music, food and family and whatever else is currently tickling my wayward fancy. However, since I decided to nail my colours to the mast and post on face book that I intended giving up sugar, I've had so many requests for information and updates I thought it would be easier to blog about the experience and keep the information in one place. Someone suggested I start a blog (!) but to be honest it is all I can do to keep up with posting on here. So I thought I would dedicate one post a month to Quitting Sugar, and if it doesn't float your boat, you can just scroll past that particular post each time it rolls around.

I shall be pretty open and frank here as I know that there are a lot of folks out there who are interested in the whys and wherefores of quitting  sugar. I'll make a couple of disclaimers first. Although I have a nursing and public health background, I am in no way presenting this information as a substitute for your own research and medical input. Also, this is about our PERSONAL experience (Jim is wholeheartedly supporting and joining me in this) and the way I approach it will be highly individual; I'm not proselytising. You do your own thing and I'm making no judgements, but I have been asked to do this.

Also I don't want to make these posts too word- heavy, there's nothing more off-putting I think than wedges of unrelieved text. So the information will be stretched out over the months. I will give you some suggested reading and viewing, however so you can do your own research.

There is a lot of information out there, the media have latched on to this grudgingly, as it has meant them contradicting their long-time love-affair with the low-fat philosophy embraced by most of us in the western world for a couple of decades. If you search the archives of, say, the Telegraph, the Guardian and the Independent here in the UK you will find several articles, and I'm sure there are more world-wide.

My own introduction came initially from a book I bought in a supermarket, written by Sarah Wilson, called " I Quit Sugar For Life". I bought it, flicked through it, and put it on the coffee table. And that's all I did.

Now at this point, as many of you know, I was cooking a fairly healthy menu in this house. I cook mainly from scratch, I don't use polyunsaturated fats, and I love olive and coconut oil. Processed meals seldom find their way into the house and we don't really have much in the way of junk. We eat lots of fruit and vegetables, bread is usually wholemeal and often homemade, and I tried to keep the fat content down. I tried juicing but was not entirely convinced. I've read a lot about various diets over the years - heck, I've tried most of them! And my weight has soared. I have asthma, and a poorly functioning thyroid, both of which conditions mean I take medication. Once a year I catch a cold, it becomes bronchitis and I am them laid very low with an exacerbation of asthma, all requiring antibiotics and oral steroids, which I hate taking, but I do. This happens less frequently since retiring and not being in close contact with a lot of poorly children with respiratory infections! Being overweight is bad for my health and bad for my mental health; I HATE being overweight and it gets me down very badly at times. Lately I have been getting more and more concerned about what lies in store for me, health-wise - as you do when you get to my age!

So there you have the background story. Overweight, desperate to find a way I could feed us healthily without getting hung up about it, and needing to take care of the old bod. To the rescue comes my daughter-in-law in New Zealand, Krissie. Without making a fuss about it, Krissie had been taking on board some of the food concerns I had raised over the years, and begun to use coconut oil to fry with, increasing their veggies, and having seen an online video about quitting sugar, had enlisted the support of her husband, our son Kit. An ex-Royal Marine Kit likes to keep very fit, but along with all the healthy stuff, and the running he does, Kit was consuming a lot of sweet stuff. A LOT. And so was Krissie. They watched the video, decided to give the quitting sugar a try, and went for it. And with three children and both having full-time busy, responsible jobs, that was no mean feat. Krissie sent me the video link and I came to the same conclusion. I remembered the book I'd bought and re-read it. I also read a lot of other, more medically-based papers, and watched a load of youtube videos both from a lay perspective, and from a medical, evidenced based perspective. I even watched Jamie Oliver's "Sugar Rush" video, but I can't find it on-line anymore . What I discovered made me angry, worried, and determined to get this stuff out of my life. I discussed it with Jim and he said not only would he support me but he would do the same. I won't go into detail about the information I gathered here, but I'll give you a couple of suggestions to have a look for yourselves.

Sarah Wilson "I Quit Sugar" and "I Quit Sugar For Life: menus and recipes" is a good start and she has a website, blog and Facebook page, for practical information on how to get started.

Dr ROBERT LUSTIG is a paediatric endocrinologist, and he has written "The Bitter Truth" and  "Fat Chance" and his videos were the final spur for getting me started. I urge you to watch them, easily found on youtube. He speaks only to evidenced data, and he goes into the bio-chemistry if you are interested. But his passion, and anger at the untruths which have been foisted on the world by industries with vested interests only in their own profits, will be very enlightening. DAVID GILLESPIE is another  name, an Australian lawyer who was concerned about his weight, found out about the sugar trap and challenged himself to quit. His book "Sweet Poison" came out to great acclaim down-under and he ask has several videos on you-tube. A mother's point of view can be read about / watched  in the book by EVE SCHAUB  "A Year of No Sugar"and video of the same name.  That should get you started , or just inform you.

This is not the Atkins diet, in fact it isn't any diet. We quit sugar, processed foods, and anything marked "Low Fat".  Next month I'll give you a run down on what we DO eat, and why, and I'll give you an update on how we are doing.

For now, we have been sugar-free for just a week. We have totally enjoyed our food, and plenty of it. Even after only 5-6 days we notice our taste-buds are sparklingly alive - flavours are enhanced quite naturally. My complexion is a little clearer (I have very rosacea-prone skin) I have no desire to snack between meals because I am regaining my appestat (more of which next time) and I feel full. My rings had been getting a bit tight and now they are looser, and my feet are no longer swollen by evening time. Oh, and I lost 2lb. Not a huge amount, but satisfying, especially when you consider we have not cut back on our meals, and are eating full-fat.

So there you have it. The I'm Quitting Sugar Post. I hope I haven't bored you to death. I'm sorry for the text-heavy, photograph- light post. I hope I've whetted your appetites (so to speak!) to find out more for yourselves, but most of all I hope you'll keep on reading Textile Treasury so we can continue the lovely conversation we've been having for the past  three years or more.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Still Cooking up a Storm

Life is fairly tranquil at the moment; busy, but tranquil. Mum hovers between really lucid days, and days like yesterday, when she seemed quite confused, and we spent a long time talking about family members and events, to try and anchor her down in reality. I know her condition is progressive, she won't be getting better, but it is so sad at times, being with her. Then she'll say something so funny we both have a good laugh and a cuddle, and it seems we may manage after all, for a while.

I did a craft fair at Fakenham Makers Market last week and sold a quilt to a lovely couple. They were expectant grandparents and I even got to see the ultra-sound scan print-out! My stand was near the entrance to the church which was a great spot as I was able to spread myself out.

The quilt I sold was the very end one on the left, a folk sampler I made some years ago; it has lots of small images for a little one to point to and learn from. The couple were so pleased with it, I hope the new parents are as well!

I also sold a Japanese pouch, some post cards, several pincushions, and a needle case. Not huge sales, but the quilt made a heck of a difference. I have just one more craft fair this year, at Shipden Church later this month.

Meanwhile I'm still enjoying being busy in the kitchen, more jelly making, using a generous bagful of apples from next door -

Note the somewhat improved Heath Robinson jelly-straining apparatus! Though because of the long drop I did get a few splashes on the wall, which was easily cleaned this morning.

I've really got into the middle-eastern / Mediterranean cooking lately. Jim loves it and it's such a joy to prepare. Mind you, I have the luxury of not being at work any more, I can spend hours in the kitchen. It is so much harder to be creative with your cookery if you have a young family to consider, or work outside the home - or both! We were discussing at lunch time what a double edged sword the whole supermarket thing has been for British women in particular. Liberating in many ways, I feel we really threw the baby out with the bath water,  in so many others.

This was part of a mezze table I laid on last week. On the left, a dish of gigantes - butter beans slowly cooked in a sauce of onions, garlic, tomatoes and olive oil. I cannot begin to tell you how delicious these were, I shall be making them again soon. Very easy, and very quick  -  I used tinned butter beans - and cheap. With flat bread and a salad they are a complete meal, and you can eat them hot, warm or  cool. Next to them is a dish of chick-pea hummus, which we ate with flat bread and raw vegetables. On the end some slow roasted peppers and tomatoes.

Another day I made some lamb meatballs in onion, garlic and tomato sauce, served with giant cous-cous, a nice change from rice or ordinary cous-cous. In the small bowl there's some baba ghanoush, Jim's all-time favourite, topped with a sprinkling of sumach.

And here is the Spanokopita I made this morning, only the second time I've made it, but to be honest it isn't terribly difficult or time consuming. A box of filo pastry, some ricotta, some grated Lancashire cheese because that is what I had in the fridge, a bag of spinach, half a medium onion, an egg, grated nutmeg, salt and pepper, some olive oil and some melted butter to brown the top.  I made it in a medium deep cake pan, well oiled (the pan not me!) and it turned out beautifully. I can claim no real credit, because the filo pastry just ends up this way, when you fold over the overhanging ends, and use the final two pieces of pastry torn in half and scrunched to give this lovely effect. We'll have it for lunch tomorrow with some left over roasted pepper and tomatoes, and perhaps some flatbread if I can get it right this time!

So there you have it. Still can't get back into the music, sadly but I am listening to it in the car now. We are well into autumn now, having seen the last of those lovely warm sunny days we were unexpectedly gifted with. The clocks will soon be going back, and once more my car clock will read the correct time! For another six months, anyway!