Friday, 31 December 2010

Out with the old .... in with the new ...

Good evening fellow bloggers.  It's the last few hours of the old year and I thought I'd do a small blog update in preparation for welcoming in 2011.   

My work life is as hectic as ever and is eating into my stitching time drastically.  However, I love what I am doing; Liz and I make a great team and although we work really hard we take time to enjoy it and manage to laugh even at some of the more harrowing moments of what we do. 

Working a fair bit away from home means that getting there - and back - isn't always easy.  The last weekend in November, I was in Harrogate with several of our Friendly Stitchers (of which more later) - and came back to a frozen Glasgow after a heavy snowfall.  We spent that week working from home as there was absolutely no way we were going to make it to the office.  That first weekend in December however saw a thaw and we decided to "chance it" on the Monday.  When I left home it was raining, which had turned to sleet by the time I got to the train station.  By the time the train deposited me at Newton the sleet had turned to snow and on arrival at Hamilton I was greeted by a winter wonderland.  It took Liz ages to get to Hamilton - although Strathaven was at that time clear, I think it was the only place in Lanarkshire that was!  She picked me up just after 10am - and we spent the next 8 hours - count them 8!!!! - just trying to get out of Hamilton!  Being an enterprising pair I was sent out on regular foraging expeditions and managed to get us sandwiches and crisps and even chips later on in the evening.  We eventually managed to get onto the M74 and got to Strathaven at 9.30 pm - and there I was until Wednesday when the trains and buses had by then started to run some sort of service.  Luckily my next door neighbour has my spare key and popped in to keep Minnie fed and watered.  Thanks to Liz's dad, George, who lives across the road from her, for putting me up for a couple of nights.  I have put some photos of our "ordeal" up on my Facebook page.

But back to Harrogate.  What a hoot we had!  Maureen came to pick me up about 8.30 am on 26th November - and I wasn't even dressed - or packed for that matter, having spent the previous afternoon sitting in a camper van for 3 hours with a springer spaniel called Toby for company waiting to be called to give evidence at a tribunal - only to discover that they didn't need me after all!  On the way back, Liz decided I was coming back to theirs for dinner as they were doing Thanksgiving for Rachel (Marshall's girlfriend) who was visiting from San Fransisco.  I got home around midnight-ish so needless to say nothing got done!  Maureen kindly fed Minnie whilst I threw myself into some clothes and some clothes - and stitching into my weekend bag (or case).  The drive down to Harrogate was lovely - sun was shining and we made excellent time - got to the hotel and booked in, and then people started to trickle back across the road from the stitching show and sooner or later they all ended up in our (mine and Karen's) room.  I am sure reception just give my room number out to anyone to be honest - a right load of reprobates we had in there!

We all met up for dinner at 7.30 and a lovely meal we had too - and lovely wine too lol.  We then retired back upstairs to "our" room and continued the conversation and then we threw everyone out and got down to the real business for the evening - the mods meeting!  Maureen kindly took notes on the laptop when I got into a fankle and we managed to get through all of the business we had planned to - and having Maureen on hand as an interested "other" helped a lot with some of the stuff we were discussing.

Oh and there were gifts too!  From Mouse I got this beautiful Friendly Stitchers pillow - which I love to bits and of course it is in my favourite colour.   She designed it herself and it was her "first" and she is and should be justifiably proud of it.  Just goes to show that there is a designer in all of us somewhere (mine is well hidden!!) and Mouse's designs are simply lovely and very creative.  She had designed a biscornu which she brought along to let us see and it is quite simply stunning.  Remember your friends when you are rich and famous petal - and thank you for my lovely pillow!
Val made everyone a little cushion with some handmade counting pins on the back - just beautiful - and of course mine is purple hehehe!  Thank you for that Val.  Every single one of them was different too.
We all headed across to the stitching show on Saturday and I think everyone enjoyed themselves, especially those that hadn't been before, and managed to spend a fair penny between us all, although we did miss Kate from Sparklies dreadfully - especially Mouse!  Jo and her husband Tony had arrived on Saturday morning and were staying overnight so Tony joined us for dinner that night and acquitted himself very well indeed.  I think he can count himself as an honorary Friendly Stitcher.    After dinner it was back to our room again where we had some very strange conversations going on - including the "psychic handbag" which I will explain one of these days I promise!  Everyone seemed to think it was hysterical and I thought we were going to have to call the paramedics for Mouse at one point she was laughing so much.

Maureen and I left fairly soon after breakfast on Sunday morning as we had heard reports of heavy snowfalls in the north and Val had reported back to us that her drive home the previous evening had been pretty bad and that they were now snowed in.  Unbelievably the first really bad snow we came across was just outside Hamilton - and the rest is history!

I am now enjoying a well earned rest from work for 12 days - although there are only 4 of those days left and I seem to have achieved very little!  I got a couple of lovely stitched gifts for Christmas this year including this beautiful needlebook designed especially for me by Val, and this gorgeous beaded mitten ornament from DJ.  Thank you both so much ladies - I love them and will treasure them.

And that's me pretty much up to date.  The snow is all gone, so work next week will no doubt be back to normal.  I am looking forward to it in a way, getting back into a routine - but unfortunately probably not much stitching time :)  I am taking part in the 15 WIPs challenge starting on 1st January and carrying on throughout the year although I think some folks are already making bets on whether I will manage to finish any of them never mind all of them!    I haven't decided which one I am going to start with but I have just over an hour to make my mind up.  One thing I will be doing is an old Scottish tradition - opening the front door at midnight to let the old year out and the new year in.

I will leave you now wishing you all the very best for 2011 and for those who have had an up and down year like me, here's to bigger and better things.  Thanks everyone for taking the time to read my ramblings over the past year or so - I really do appreciate the comments you leave.

Love and hugs to all.

Ally xxx

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Been missing for a while ...............

 Funny how life takes you unawares and then a bit further down the line you realise that it was all part of the "big plan".   Just days after my last blog post I left my job.  I had been stressed out for quite a while and let's be honest I really didn't enjoy my job in the slightest.  It just took one comment from a "colleague" (someone who ought to know better but probably never will) and I realised that I really did not need or want to be there, put my jacket on and walked out.  I don't actually remember much of the journey home but the first thing I did when I got home was phone the doctor to make an appointment for the following day.  The next thing I did was phone Abi (and Mouse cos she was staying at Abi's for the week) and tell them what I had done.  Thank goodness for good friends!  I was basically told to "get myself down there" asap.  The doctor confirmed what I guess I already knew - severe depression and work-related stress and I was told not to even think about work for the next few weeks or months even.  I flew down to Birmingham on the morning of 26th March to meet up with Abi and Mouse who were at the NEC for the stitching show.  I wandered around in a daze that day not really seeing much of anything and for the first time ever I came away from a show without spending a single penny!  We then drove back to the Forest of Dean where I stayed with Abi and her family (and Mouse) until the Sunday when Mouse and I drove back up to her home in Yorkshire.   I am now an official member of the Mouse clan!  We got loads of stitching done, tidied out Mouse's stitching den and drank vast quantities of tea - and also managed to fit in a visit to Knaresborough which is only an hour's drive from Barnsley. 

On Good Friday Mouse and Stew took me through to Manchester to Karen's and I stayed there till Easter Monday - and the three of us had a right good giggle whilst sorting out the beads for Karen's newest project.  In fact its a wonder we didn't drop any of them given the amount of wine consumed lol! 

I also had a few days up at my old schoolfriend's in Perth.  Lyn and I have known each other since we were 5 or 6 years old and sat together in primary school.  We spent a day in Dunkeld having lunch and wandering around the cathedral on a lovely spring day.

If it hadn't been for my lovely friends I never would have got through that first 10 days.  They kept me thinking positively and have continued to lend their support over the last few months. 

I had a message completely out of the blue at the end of June that one of the former partners from my former employers was trying to get in touch with me.  I managed to find her number and gave her a call and within 2 weeks we had found an office and set up in business.  Liz is the Craigmyle and I am "& Co" - apparently I am key personnel (the fact I am the only personnel is absolutely nothing to do with it!)

Apart from the long hours and unbelievable travelling time (it can take me anything between an hour and three hours depending on the weather) I am loving every minute of it.  Liz and I make a good team; we work well together and have a good work ethic even when the days are long and there is the occasional working from home when needed.  I have a more hands on approach to this job, attending client meetings etc. and I feel that I am learning all the time.  Hopefully we will go from strength to strength although a rest over Christmas will be most welcome!

There have been changes within Friendly Stitchers too.  Abi stepped down as co-owner and moderator in March and my new co-owner is Mouse and together with Karen, Gillie and Val we are going from strength to strength.  Its good to have reliable friends and the fact that we discuss everything on a daily basis helps make things go a lot smoother.  We have got Harrogate coming up in 2 weeks time when we have things to reveal to those attending - and having the chance to get together with other members of the group is always fun.  There is going to be a lot of new things coming up on the group so watch this space!

Unfortunately stitching has taken a back seat and I seriously lost my mojo for a while.  I am slowly getting back into things but it is a long slow process and the long working hours means that I am missing deadlines all over the place.  I am seriously behind with the bookmark exchange so many apologies to Margery and I promise it will be getting to you just as soon as possible.   The last piece I actually finished was for the quilt for DJ who is now almost at the end of her treatment for breast cancer.  Several of us got together and stitched squares in the form of biscornu which was beautifully put together by Mouse and delivered in person by Gillie.  Thanks to everyone who took part in this worthy cause.  Pop over to DJ and Mouse's blogs to see the finished article.

I did manage to finish the last part of my round robin group's latest robin.  I had been working on Myleen's piece when I was at Mouse and Karen's around Easter and managed to finish and get it away to Mylene.  It was a nice stitch and she has now finished the design and made it into a cushion which looks absolutely lovely.

Unfortunately, we lost a valued member of our Friendly Stitchers.  Alison Joy Clarke lost her battle with brittle asthma just a couple of days before her 38th birthday.  She had been ill for a long time but through it all she showed great courage and will be dearly missed by all of us.  We are in the process of stitching Christmas ornaments which will be sent to her husband Kelvin to present to the ward on which Alison Joy spent so much time in the last few years.

I did manage to finish a May Day exchange and Joanna and I sent to each other.  I got an absolutely gorgeous needleroll and some lovely hand dyed threads from Joanna together with a beautifully stitched card - all with a "sheep" theme.  I made Joanna a little sewing tin with a design from Victoria Sampler (adapted slightly) and made up from an Altoids tin - who knew those tins could be so useful!  I also stitched an orchid card for Joanna - its an alphabet that was in WOCS years ago and it is a lovely design. 

Joanna's DS had a hand in deciding on the theme and she also hand dyed the fabric for the needleroll - clever girl!  I had the pleasure of meeting Joanna for the first time when she and her family had a break in Southerness in August.  We met up in Ayr and had a lovely lunch at Maureen's together with a peek at each other's stitching achievements.  Joanna is going to Harrogate to this year, and Maureen and I are driving down for the first time - that will be an adventure so look out for news of that in my next post!

I also made an orchid card for Lynda when she was our Calendar Girl .. I have a feeling this alphabet is going to get a lot of use!

Its been absolutely ages since I stitched any cards at all so it was quite theraputic to do something which was a quick stitch and so effective.  One of these days I must have a trawl through my magazines and sort out some more little alphabets for future use.

Oh and I was Calendar Girl in June and received a whole load of lovely fabrics and threads and hand made cards too - -thank you to the lovely girls in my group for spoiling me as always!

The only other finish of note was my Snow in a Row which was an absolute joy to stitch and I am so thrilled with the end result. All I need to do now is frame it!

I spent a few days over Hallowe'en at Mouse's and not only had a blast at her daughter Joanna's Hallowe'en party but had a nice night at Lord of the Dance in Sheffield.  Not a big fan of Michael Flatley but boy can that man dance!  Karen joined us for the party and we had such a great time - many thanks to Mouse and family for their hospitality and for a lovely weekend.

The weekend before Hallowe'en was my 50th birthday.  Liz threw a surprise party for me at the office - and believe me it was a BIG surprise!  My lovely friends and fellow mods on Friendly Stitchers surprised me with a box of 50 individually wrapped gifts ranging from stitching supplies - thread, fabric and charts to gardening equipment - a hand stitched gardening apron, seeds and bulbs and a lovely pair of gardening gloves and some mini gardening tools together with some other little gifts including a tote bag, sweets and some mini measuring spoons.  Thanks to Mouse, Karen, Gillie and Val for making my birthday so special!  Lyn came down from Perth on the day of my birthday and we went out for dinner at a local restaurant and then spent the evening have a jolly good catch up.  And the celebrations continue as I am meeting friends next weekend for lunch.

During the summer months I joined a gardening club and I now spent most of my weekends up there looking after my plants.  I am looking forward to growing my own fruit and veg next year as well as expanding my collection of orchids and pelargoniums.  I have also been nominated as Minute Secretary for the club which I am thoroughly enjoying.  Becoming a member of the club was a turning point for me and not only have I made firm friends but I have gone from never being out to never being in! 

And that, I think is that!  Its has been an up and down 6 months but I have a much more positive outlook to life and am enjoying myself for the first time in a very very long time.  Hopefully I will have more stitching to report on next time and look out for more Friendly Stitchers news!

Thanks for reading.

Love and hugs,

Ally xxxxx

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spring has arrived (at long last!)

Midway through March already but spring has finally arrived!  It's lovely coming past the park in the evenings after work and seeing all the purple and yellow crocuses with the remaining snowdrops dotted in amonst them and the shoots from the daffodils just beginning to show now too.  I bought some daffodil buds on Thursday and they have already burst out into bloom and look absolutely gorgeous.  There's just something about a bowl of daffodils that brightens up a room isn't there?

I only have one small finish to show off this time around.  One of the partners at work has been asking me for some time now to stitch something for her mother; she just couldn't make her mind up exactly what she wanted.  She eventually said she wanted something with her initial or initials and I remember a little design I had stitched for my mum way back in 1997.  I showed it to Christine and she loved it.  I finally finished her mum's sampler last weekend and here it is ... It's the mini basket sampler which was in Cross Stitcher magazine in May 1997, designed by Cathy Bussi.  I love the delicate pastel colours and it really is a lovely little design.  Christine hasn't managed to get a frame for it yet but we may have tracked one down at John Lewis's.  I said I would put it into the frame for her so hopefully I will get a chance to take a photo of the framed sampler to show you next time around.
My robin came back this week (thank you Maureen!)  I've still got my bit to finish off of course but here's how it looks so far!  I'm pleased with the result ~ all I have to do now is knuckle down and finish it lol.  This one is an Anchor Fleu de Lis kit called Honey Bees.  I am currently working on Mylene's robin, which is a summer cushion cover so will hopefully have that finished soon and let you all see that when its done!   I'm already racking my brains as to what theme to choose for my next robin.  All of the themes we've had over the last 5 or 6 years have been lovely and it's getting harder and harder to choose a new one.  No doubt I will think of something though!

I finally got my date through for surgery on my nose.  I go into hospital on 12th April, have my surgery and come home the following day and then I have two weeks off work to recover.  Hmmm wonder what I could stitch to keep me occupied?  I haven't made up my hospital bag yet but I will have to make sure that I have something with me to stitch during my overnight stay.  Something new perhaps??

Last time around I was showing off the gifts I'd had for Christmas from my stitching friends and it wasn't till after I published the post that I realised I had left one photo out!  So here it is; my new little putty cat and the lovely project bag, both beautifully made by Mouse ~ I adore them both and puss is doing a very good job of guarding my WIP basket; he's doing such a good job in fact that projects rarely make it out of there!!  The project bag has already been put to good use as I use it to take stitching to work with me; and I will use it to take my chosen project to hospital with me too.  It has long straps (handles) to go over my shoulder or to hang off of my chair.  Hopefully if I ever master the ins and outs of these monsters they call sewing machines, I will be able to make things like these too ~ I might even be able to put together my own cushions (got to stitch some first though right???)
Andy's been playing at the Masters 1000 Tournament in Indian Wells, California this week.  Unfortunately he got knocked out of the tournament at quarter final stage by Robin Soderling last night.  I only managed to stay with it for the first set as I got hit by a migraine which forced me off to bed.  Not often I say this, but it seems like I didn't miss much .... ah well.  Miami up next so we'll see how he does there.

I'm off to try and do some work on Mylene's robin now but will leave you with my TUSAL update ~ hope the daffodils brighten your day!!  Thanks for stopping by.

Love and hugs,

Ally xxx     

Saturday, 20 February 2010

First post of the year? Where have the weeks gone??

I cannot believe that we are over halfway through February and this is my first post of the year - and the first for several months too! I think if I was back at school I would be getting "could do better" notes in the margins of my jotters! I've been very guilty of not blogging at all lately; I kept telling myself that it was because I had no stitching to show off, but since I now have a couple of finishes under my belt I no longer have that excuse so here we go - and its probably best to start recently and work backwards (if that makes sense!) You might want to make yourself a cup of something or get a glass or wine, this promises to be a long one!!

So here she is ... at long last - my mermaid! Nicknamed "Marina" after the mermaid in Stingray (I wanted to be her when I was little) She has been a (long) labour of love and although I am thrilled that I finally got her finished, I feel like she has left a rather large hole in my WIP basket - but I guess that can only be a good thing, right? The picture really doesn't do her justice and of course the next step is to get her framed and hanging on the wall. She was originally intended for the bathroom, or at least the cloakroom but I think she deserves a place in the lounge, don't you?

In between frantic beading to get the mermaid done I stitched a basketliner for a gift basket for a work colleague who retired just before Christmas; she was ill and so her retiral "do" was postponed until a few weeks ago. I filled the basket with M&S smellies and some chocolates all with a lavender theme and wrapped the basket handle with lavender and blue ribbon. Kathryn was thrilled with her basket (phew!) At the same time I was working on a sympathy card for another work colleague who sadly lost her husband just before Christmas. In true "Ally" fashion I forgot to take a photo of the finished card but if you look in my Webshots (link on the lefthand side) there is a pic of the finished card (this is the third or fourth time I have stitched this one!).

We had our annual Secret Santa on Friendly Stitchers and I received a lovely parcel from Sandra with lovely hand dyed threads, some beads (yippee!!) and a Loopy Loo design for a needlecase, scissor fob and biscornu - a really pretty design it is too. I shall have to get my act together and get that started at some point. I was also very spoiled by my lovely stitchy friends Abi, Mouse, Karen and Val - who sent me some lovely gifts including hand dyed Sparklies fabric and threads, a beautiful hand stitched biscornu, scissors (two pairs) and a beaded scissor fob and a fabulous hand made project bag and a hand made lavender cat who sits in front of my WIP basket and glares at me when I am not stitching (lol!)
The round robin has kept me busy too and I now have Mylene's robin to work on which is going to become a cushion cover; I haven't managed to start it yet as I need to order some threads but hopefully it won't take me too long to stitch up. I am really looking forward to getting it started though.

Lynda's mittens were closely followed by Ginny's birdhouses - both of which were lovely to stitch. The mitten is "Belle" from Crosseyed Cricket's "Dickens Mittens" - it stitched up a treat and I absolutely loved working on this one. Ginny's birdhouse is from Alma Lynne's booklet "A Little Bit of Birdsong" and I fully intend at some point to do some more of those gorgeous birdhouses for myself!

I was thoroughly spoiled by the Friendly Stitchers girls on my birthday too - I had a whole host of gorgeous hand dyed threads from the Calendar girls, stitched biscornus from Mouse and Val, gold needles from Abi and between them the Friendly mods sent me the materials pack for Mirabilia's Enchanted Mermaid which I had been planning to kit up. I am still swithering over what fabric to use for this one but I think I have finally narrowed it down to two - so watch this space!

I am currently working on a mini sampler which one of the partners at work asked me to stitch for her mum; it is to be either a mother's day gift or a birthday gift (both of which fall in March) but luckily it is a fairly quick stitch so shouldn't take me too long. I already stitched this about 13 years ago as a birthday gift for my mum and it turned out really pretty. Mum loved it and of course when Christine asked about something for her mum this sprang to mind right away. I took it into work to let her see it and she said that it was just perfect so away I went. Luckily I had all the threads so I could get started on it right away. I am using 18ct aida in pussy willow for this - very subtle shade and it works well with the very pastelly colours of the sampler.

In the world of tennis; Andy got to the final of the Aussie Open (well done young man!) and Elena (Baltacha) has broken into the top 75 and is now our number one ladies player. Right chuffed for Elena she is a lovely young lady and a very talented player. Andy isn't playing Davis Cup this time around so I won't be travelling to Lithuania to cheer our squad on -beside I am hoping to be either just about to go in or just out of hospital by that time (I should have a date for my op any day now).

I still have plans for my shop - it's not happening just yet although I have had a re-think as regards the location and think I may just have found the perfect place; more on that as it happens and my research progresses.

That's it - all caught up at last! I will endeavour to be a better blogger in future I promise - at least once a month - and in that respect here is a pic of my TUSAL (yes I have become a TUSALer after following Charlene's efforts last year) This is all the brainchild of Yoyo the clue's in the name (totally useless - but fun all the same!)

Until next time ... thanks for reading and for the comments you leave; I really do appreciate it!

Love and hugs,

Ally xxxx