Sunday, January 29, 2012

it's not my fault - see the boss!

 On Friday it was Graham's birthday, that time of year when I illustrate a scene from Gregory's Girl to turn into a birthday card for him.  This year I had planned to go with, "Don't touch the ravioli, it's garbage," but there wasn't a great image to use at that point in the film so instead I went with, "It's not my fault.  See the boss," something we say a lot in our household, always in a high-pitched voice.  It was quite a challenge to create this in between feeding the ever hungry Dulcie, but I managed to have it completed by the afternoon of the birthday itself.  I totally failed to get a present to go with it but used the baby as an excuse (it's not my fault, see the boss!) and was forgiven immediately.
 I've shared these cards from previous years before, but here they are again.
This time next year I will have four Gregory's Girl cards and might consider getting them printed to sell as notecard sets... but frankly, who would buy them?  I have a terrible habit of paying lots of money to get way too many copies of things printed professionally, only to have them taking up space in a box somewhere never to be bought and it seems a waste/mega expensive just to get a handful printed.  I know the error of my ways but will probably not be able to resist doing it anyway.

Talking of making to sell, I'm hoping to get my act together and get back to doing that soon.  My etsy shop has been closed since Dulcie's untimely arrival and as of this week the one bricks-and-mortar establishment to sell my wares (the lovely Made In The Shade Maisonette) has closed down.  I'm very sad about that.  Carrie and Clare are total pros when it comes to selling indie-type handmade items to the unsuspecting public so I had the satisfaction (and money) of selling a fair amount of goodies every month without having to network or keep on top of admin from selling in multiple shops.  I had it too easy.  I've spotted a few local shops that I think certain of my items would look at home in but I'm not sure I have the mental energy to organise it all plus I am a bit shy at the thought of making that initial introduction.  I also enjoyed the pace of crafting for pleasure in 2011 and am not sure I want to run the risk of getting into a situation where I'm crafting to order (most likely the same items again and again and again) and spending more time keeping on top of admin than I am making stuff.  But selling is so temptingly satisfying...   Occasional market stalls are probably the best way to go but I am a bit out of the loop on that front now and do stress myself out trying to make enough stock to fill the shelves of Asda as oppose to a six foot table with the result that I end up adding more and more to those boxes of stock that I'd really like to get rid of.  Hmm, tricky.  I don't think I'll ever find the perfect balance or be able to answer this question.  I'm sure I have asked it many times.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

stresss (with a treble s)

An oldish picture of Dulcie from her (first!) stay in hospital taken just before Christmas.  I only realised recently I had never shared it and her burpy faced is too good to keep under wraps.

What a start to the day we had today.  Dulcie decided not to go to bed until 3.30am (her favourite new hobby) so when she started shouting for food again at about 7am, I did the bad mother routine and opted to spend just one more minute with my eyes shut and the covers over my head.  So you can imagine that I felt pretty bad when I went to get her and found her lying in a pool of blood, albeit looking happy and hungry.  Well, long story short we jumped in a taxi to the A&E department at the children's hospital and they checked her out thoroughly and concluded that the blood was not hers but mine.  The antibiotics Dulcie was given when she had pneumonia caused her to get thrush in her mouth which spread to my, er, milk jugs.  Not much fun, let me tell you.  We've been getting treatment for it (I actually have a daily timetable of when to administer our many and varied medications) but feeding has been agony for me lately.  Little did I know, though, that the pain was being accompanied by spurts of blood mixing in with the milk and I have to admit that knowing about it makes the pain feel even worse.  Poor Dulcie is having to try to digest all this blood along with her milk and it is really none too pleasant whatever end it comes out of.  She's been pooping and puking up blood all day.  We've been told not to worry about it so we're not, but it is very bizarre to calmly mop blood from your tiny baby's mouth.  I hope I heal up soon (ouch, ouch, ouch!) but with Dulcie still feeding every couple of hours this seems like a distant dream.  Sigh...  Our modest family goal is to stay out of hospital for the whole of February.  That's not too much to ask, is it?

On a more positive note, Dulcie got weighed at the hospital this morning and is 6lbs 8oz!  Wowsers!  She was 3lbs 12oz at birth and 5lbs 3oz when we took her home from hospital at the end of December so, considering she had to fast during Pneumonia Gate, she has come on great guns.  All that blood she's eating is obviously doing her good!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

craftathon 2011 - the year in review

You might remember my New Year post from last year where, instead of making any resolutions, I launched Craftathon 2011, a list of crafts I wanted to try my hand at over the course of the year.  Some of them were new to me, some were crafts I already dabbled in quite regularly and some were things I had dabbled in previously but not for a long time.  From the outset this list was designed to inject a bit of fun and variety into my crafty time, which was becoming a little stale and repetitive.  I stated clearly (I have it in writing, people!) that I wouldn't give myself a hard time if I didn't get through all these crafts in a year.  Hmm, just as well.

Below is the original Craftathon 2011 list.  I'm going to work my way through it and share my successes and failures then evaluate my craftathon performance as a whole and share my crafty aspirations for 2012.

1. Quilling
2. Lace making
3. Macrame
4. Weaving
5. Sew at least one item of clothing
6. Lino printing
7. Gocco printing
8. Embroidery
9. Make a zine (I was meant to do this in 2010, but failed)
10. Pin and thread pictures
11. Make a rug
12. Crochet
13. Paper cutting/collage
14. Needle felting
15. Learn to use Illustrator
16. Stop-motion animation

I did indeed dabble in quilling, very much inspired by the work of Yulia Brodskaya, as you can see.  Quilling is a craft I am certain I wouldn't have got round to trying if it wasn't for the Craftathon 2011 list.  I really enjoyed this little project and found it quite therapeutic.  Unfortunately, I had horrific morning sickness while I was working on this and developed some sort of weird association where I felt sick every time I looked at this (actually feeling a little queasy even looking at that photo!) so the project got sidelined.  However, I would still count quilling as a Craftathon 2011 success and it's definitely a craft I would like to explore further.

This didn't happen and I'm a bit sad about that.  My old lace-making kit (basically some bobbins and a big polystyrene "pillow") stayed firmly in its relatively inaccessible spot and gathered a bit more dust.  Making lace does prey on my mind quite often, so hopefully that will turn into action at some point.

My real macrame goal for the year (in my head) was to make my vintage macrame owl wall hanging/pot holder thingummy.  Well, I took that out of the packet and read the instructions (progress?!) but I got stuck with the very first knot I needed to do and haven't quite figured it out to this day.  So no macrame owl. Yet.
 But I did dabble in macrame during 2011, making the above with trimmings from the ripple blanket and thinking it had given me a brilliant idea, which led me to make...
... this macrame BFF pin.  I thought this was genius but nobody batted an eyelid at it when I shared it on my blog or in my etsy shop.  Actually, I think one person did favourite it on etsy, but that's more of an eyelid flutter than a bat.  I had already decided not to make any more BFF pins unless I came up with a genius new technique anyway.  It was almost impossible to hide the ends on this brooch, it took ages and was fiddly and painful to do and the finished result was not really as polished as it had been in my imagination.  But a failed product does not mean a failed Craftathon 2011 item, so I'll be generous and class macrame as a success but will add a note to myself that I must try harder and get that pesky owl knotted up once and for all.  And we won't mention that I did way more macrame in 2010 when I wasn't even trying to.

This brooch was the sole outcome of any weaving in 2011.  I sent it to a friend for her birthday but she never mentioned receiving it so either she didn't like it much or it got lost in the post.  I think I had optimistically imagined that I would have invested in a full-size loom and be designing my own range of textiles by the end of the year, so this is a very modest dabble in the art of over and under by comparison.  However, it was a dabble that might not have happened without the Craftathon 2011 list and will be recorded as another success.  I would have woven my mum's Christmas present if I hadn't ended up in hospital for the last two months of the year, so I'm sure I will return to weaving again at some point.

Total Craftathon 2011 fail.  I spent most of the year growing and shrinking, but I probably wouldn't have achieved this even without the pregnancy excuse.  I had thought about making some sort of maternity item but wasn't sure it would be worth it.  Given that my pregnancy got cut so short, it was probably a good decision not to!  I can't see myself sewing my own outfits this year but perhaps I will try to follow a pattern and sew up some outfits for Dulcie.  I think that would be a good starting point.

I thought about lino printing a lot but didn't really have any great ideas so never got started on anything.  I did come up with an idea eventually (inspired by my own Big Daddy lino print from a few years back) but failed to make it materialise.  Lino printing is something I haven't tried in ages and it's something I really want to get better at so I am a bit annoyed at myself that yet another year slipped by.  Craftathon 2011 fail... but my fingers are grateful (and intact) for it.

For the sake of my unborn baby I decided Gocco printing would not be a good idea in 2011.  Dulcie has ten fingers and ten toes as a result, which has got to be worth another Craftathon 2011 fail.  Hopefully I'll get back on the Gocco horse this year, I just need to come up with an amazing design...  No pressure!

Can you believe I did no embroidery in 2011?!  I can hardly believe it myself (was there a little stitchy afternoon that I've just forgotten about?) but I think it's true.  Again, this would have been very different if it wasn't for spending November and December in hospital as I had planned embroidered Christmas presents for Graham and for my sister.  I think embroidery could actually have been a casualty of Craftathon 2011 (something I would have done more of without the list - I think other crafts took embroidery's place) but at least that means I spent the year doing something different and my needles and threads haven't gone anywhere so I can always pick them up again this year.  I have been planning an embroidery project just this week in fact.

Gah!  Total Craftathon 2011 fail, doubly annoying since I had failed to make a zine in 2010 too.  You know what?  I just didn't have any good ideas.  Maybe I'm just not a zine-maker but I will still live in hope that inspiration will strike one day.  Watch this space... but not too closely!

Fail!  I am self-flagellating as I type.  Bad, bad me!  I even have a book about pin and thread pictures and I don't think I so much as opened it for inspiration.

Fail!  This has been a bad stretch in the list, hasn't it?  My excuse for not making a rug was that I couldn't think of a design that I would actually want in my house.  I did spend quite a lot of time pondering this problem.  I might use Dulcie as an excuse to make a rug in the future.  Once she has her own room I could make a rug for it (and a pin and thread picture?!) with her name or some suitably girly image.

From humble and frustrating beginnings...
...I persevered and mastered ripply treble crochet, resulting in...
 ... the ripple blanket, my proudest crafty achievement of the year and a handmade item that I love and use on a daily basis.  Yay!

Crochet has to be the biggest success story of Craftathon 2011.  Just look at all the things I made!
 Egg cosies for Easter.
 These were quick and fun to make.  I gave them to my nieces and nephew.
 I learned to make granny squares and these became a blanket that Dulcie used while she was in hospital (she stuck out like a sore thumb among all the other cots with their pastel shades!) and still uses in her bed now.
 I made three cardigans like this.
They were my first attempt at following a proper crochet pattern and turned out very well, if I do say so myself.  I'm still waiting patiently for Dulcie to grow into them.

And there were actually a few more crochet projects not pictured.  My crochet success story makes me very happy and definitely fulfilled one of the stated aims of Craftathon 2011, which was that some of the crafts would take on a life of their own and become long-term hobbies or something that I would become good at.  I think I will be a life-long crocheter now and am happy to have a new crafty skill under my belt.  I love the act of crochet itself and love the finished projects too.  Win, win, win.

Total fail and I have no excuse for this.  It would have been so easy to just spend a couple of hours with my box of random papers and a pair of scissors, but I didn't.  I'm still seeing papery art that inspires me (like this by Kim Welling, spotted just today, and the pictures in this post by Sarah Dyer, spotted just yesterday) so I hope I'll be able to experiment with this at some point in the not too distant future.

Fail.  I didn't do any needle felting.  I never have, maybe I never will.  I did have a brilliant needly-felty idea but it was very ambitious and I didn't really know where to start.  I don't think needle felting would be the best craft for my temperamental hands so maybe I'll never do it, but I know that idea of mine will niggle away at me, so who knows?

Well, I still don't really know how to use Illustrator properly, but I now have a book as a point of reference (thanks to a tip from Marceline) and I did actually use Illustrator in some of my instructional illustrations in my DIY zip flower brooch kits.  So there's still a lot of work to be done here and I don't think I could count it as a Craftathon 2011 success, but it certainly wasn't a fail either.

Look away now if you suffer from epilepsy or migraines!
I didn't make the stop-motion film that I was fantasising about, but I did dabble a bit with stop-motion animation of sorts, making a few simple illustratory animations for my blog.
I created this to show my many and varied feelings towards my new glasses.
I made this to show off a new product (pinwheel brooch refill squares) in my shop...
... and continued my advertising genius (didn't sell a single acorn brooch in my etsy shop all year - ha!) with these dancing acorns.

And the piece de resistance...
The ripple blanket in all its glorious stages of (in)completion!

I wouldn't say I achieved everything I wanted with stop-motion animation and I am still itching to create something magical (like this or this) but in the spirit of being kind to myself I will count this as another Craftathon 2011 success.

And so concludes my review of Craftathon 2011.  It maybe wasn't quite the extravaganza I had imagined but it was still a great thing to do with positive results and given all the things that went on in 2011 (the best and worst year of my life) I think I did a fair amount of crafting.

Is anybody still reading this?  Well done if you are!  Enough of the past, let's look to the future!  So, 2012, huh?  My crafty plans for this year are a little bit less ambitious than last year's, but are exciting nonetheless.  As well as keeping the Craftathon 2011 list in the back of my mind somewhere, my crafty plan for this year is to complete some projects from my vintage craft book collection.  I'm not going to set myself any numerical targets, but if I'm looking for an idea for a handmade gift then I'm going to look to my bookshelves.  And I'll be sure to share those projects (as well as overviews of the best of the books) here.

Do you have any crafty plans for this year?

Friday, January 20, 2012

smiling in the face of adversity!

It's 7pm and I am still in my pyjamas. I have had around 15 hours' sleep since Sunday morning and it is beginning to take its toll. I thought keeping my pyjamas on today might encourage me to go back to bed at some point but it hasn't happened somehow. I promise to get dressed tomorrow.
Our little family have been having a crappy old time of it. The long and the short of it is that Dulcie and I caught a cold despite all our anti-germ strategies. This caused a bit of a sniffle and a sore throat for me but managed to cause pneumonia for Dulcie. Yep, pneumonia. So we've been back in hospital, with Dulcie scaring the bejeesus out of everyone by trying out a new trick of not breathing while she was sleeping. She ended up back on oxygen and a drip, with a feeding tube going into her nose, looking worse than she had weeks and weeks back and I was worried we would never get her home again. We are back home again now though and on the mend, thank goodness, but I'm sure you can imagine that it has not been a fun time for any of us. Staying on a children's ward with a poorly baby who cries all night and keeps the other sick children awake is horrific. Horrific, I tell you! Hopefully Dulcie continues to behave and will stay at home with us from now on. I have had more than enough of hospitals to last a lifetime.

I hope this post doesn't sound like a big moan-fest. It is my second attempt and the shortened version. I'm sure everyone is sick of my baby woes by now but this blog is kind of my diary too. I will aim to blog about something not connected to babies over the weekend and hopefully that will kickstart my mojo for blogging and for life in general.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

whatever happened to ben the boffin?

I saw a clip of Zig and Zag on TV tonight and suddenly remembered Ben The Boffin and the time my friend Julia and I nearly had a poem read out on national television. This was back in the halcyon days of 1994-ish and Julia and I, when not sufficiently entertained by our antics in Annalise And The Messiah, used to compose love letters to Ben The Boffin in our spare time and send them off to The Big Breakfast. One day I got in from school and received a phone call from some producer/TV type or other to tell us they would be reading out the poem we had recently sent in on Ben The Boffin's slot later that week. We were so excited and told everyone we knew. Well, lo and behold, the day came and went and the poem was not read out. Boo. Looking back, I think it was probably because I was under 16 and the poem was rather racy, but maybe we just got axed because it wasn't that great. It came as rather a surprise to me this evening (amazing what depths of your mind you can plumb when trapped under a hungry baby) that I could remember the whole poem in all its glory, so I thought I would share it with the world at large here. Better late than never and I'm sure my readership matches The Big Breakfast's viewing figures. Everyone knows Google Analytics only shows 0.000001% of your actual readers, right? Here follows the poem that almost but did not quite give us our 15 minutes of fame.

Ben, Ben, Ben The Boffin
For you we'd end up in a coffin
Your sexiness drives us to despair
We write to you but you just don't care
We send you our love but you turn us away
Oh, please, won't you come for a roll in the hay?
So do us a favour and blow us a kiss
Tongues included if you wish.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

d day (dulcie's due date)

Dulcie praying that she can have two birthdays a year and get double the presents and cake. Excuse my boob!

Today is Dulcie's due date, which is a bit mental for want of a better word. I'm feeling kind of nostalgic about the whole thing and still wishing everything could have been different. Sigh. But I am trying to focus on the positives, something I'm getting very good at, or doing a lot of at least. There are a lot of positives, I know, Dulcie herself being the main one.
And haven't we all come such a long way since our tiny tot made her unscheduled entrance nine weeks ago? Not that you'd know it from this photo taken today! Dulcie just couldn't keep her pink bonnet out of her eyes and it reminded me of this snap from her actual birthday.
Happy unbirthday, Dulcie! I will fight your corner for double the presents and cake.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

crochet lady

I came across this giant crocheted lady in a shop window while out for our daily perambulation today. She was pretty striking!
Here's Graham (and Dulcie) for scale, although this photo actually makes the crochet lady look smaller than she was in real life. I think her big, crocheted bosoms gave Dulcie ideas as she cried for food from here until we got home.
And a close up of the crocheted shoes. I'm not sure who made this crochet lady or for what purpose, but I liked it a lot nonetheless.

(Edit: It's by Rita McGurn, I think. Should have done my research properly before hitting publish. Sorry.)

Talking of crochet, I am hoping to do a bit of a retrospective post on Craftathon 2011 at some point this month and share my (loose!) crafty plans for 2012. No particular reason to forewarn you of this post, but I'm more likely to get round to doing it if I mention it here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

insert real baby here

You may or may not remember when I blogged about this outfit and took a photo of it arranged so that it was easy to imagine the baby that would fit inside it. Just in case anyone did remember that post, I thought it only fair to share a picture of the real baby in said outfit...
... and then I thought I should just share a couple more photos since said baby (with or without said outfit) is so darn cute. Well, we think so anyway.
Here's a tiny baby hand for those of you who don't have tiny baby hands to look at in real life.

We are love-love-loving having Dulcie at home with us and it seems like she is love-love-loving it too if her recent weight gain can be taken as a measure of her contentment. She now weighs a whopping 5 lbs 13 oz and actually gained an ounce a day over the last four days. What a star! I'm feeling very proud of my milk (I know that seems an odd statement) and very happy/relieved that all the hard work paid off and Dulcie is now 100% breast fed, loving it and becoming a bona fide chubster. Getting a premature baby to be a breast feeder is no mean feat, but we totally did it! Woo hoo! Dulcie feeds at least every three hours, sometimes a bit more frequently, so I never get more than two hours' sleep at a time, but I don't really mind for some reason. I think it's because of how excited Dulcie looks when I pick her up to feed her and how funny her farts are afterwards. Oh, how I laughed last night, listening to her trumping away in the dark! Have I really become one of those people? I will try to avoid sharing any details of her nappy contents here, just to be on the safe side.
This week we have been test-driving a second-hand pram that our friends are selling so have been able to leave the house, which is nice. The lovely navy outdoor suit I had bought before her untimely arrival is still way too big for her and may not fit her until the height of summer, but fortunately my auntie sent us this one in tiny baby size. I would never have chosen this in the shops, but now that I see her in it I just love it and wish she could wear it all the time. The suit is so thick that it makes Dulcie go stiff as a board with her limbs akimbo like a little starfish and the furry hood makes her look like a tiny eskimo. Aw! Add to that the fact that being so cosy sends her into a strange semi-trance and the green light is on for cute baby time!
Here I am (looking healthier and better rested than I am in reality) ready to take Dulcie on her very first outing to the park...
... and here is Dulcie in the pram on that outing. She lives in a world of colourful crochet!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

day in the life - 26th december 2011

I didn't take any notes for Day In The Life this month because a) I had forgotten it was Boxing Day since Christmas Day hadn't felt very Christmassy the day before and b) we were told in the morning that Dulcie would be coming home the next day so I was a little distracted (see "general panicking" section)! No notes means you are saved from my usual excessive detail and I have taken a leaf out of Claire's book and gone all mathematical on yo' ass.

I'm having the nicest time at the moment, just hanging out with Dulcie while being looked after by my mum. I'll be back with some photos soon, though I can't promise they won't be of a lovely baby! Happy new year to you.