Monday, 31 December 2018

2018–A Review of the Year

A year of distinct ups and downs, mostly dominated by health problems and not a lot of creative output this year, apart from one major project.

It is now just over a year since my mum died, and it has taken all this time for the solicitors to wind up the estate. Yes, there were some complications because the law had changed between the deaths of my respective parents but we as a family think they could have got their skates on a bit more than they did! My hubby worked wonders with all the paperwork at the beginning of the year, while he was still laid up with his broken leg, which eventually healed, but it took a long time.

At the beginning of the year, we had a memorial service for Mum which was very well attended, and which was a good celebration of her long life of 96 years. We planned this together and I designed the service booklets as I had done for Dad. We played a selection of her favourite music and I sang “I know that my Redeemer liveth” from Handel’s Messiah, accompanied by the organist from our church. I was able to speak about Mum as well.

Art Projects

I decided to make two copies of a mini-album about Mum, one for her best friend and one for us to keep, and I was not able to blog about this while I was making it in case our friend saw it, and things have rather taken over and prevented me from completing the uploading of the almost daily posts I did and saved as drafts at the time. Something to remedy in the New Year, perhaps?

01 Front Cover

Anyway, I did blog about the finished project, and made a video flip-through of it.

Later in the year, I made boxes to keep the two albums in.

66 Box Side and Front

The other main project I made this year was three small heart-shaped frames that I altered, as gifts for friends.

06 Two Completed Hearts

11 Completed Heart 1

To accompany the purple one, I also made a birthday card.

07 The Finished Card

Other cards 

These included a birthday card for a beekeeping friend.

11 Completed Card

For our wedding anniversary, I made this card for my hubby, with a swinging heart with our initials on either side, with a faux woodgrain effect.

14 Finished Card Standing

For Valentine’s Day I made him this one:

11 Finished Card Front

with a pop-up inside.

12 Finished Pop-Up

For a friend’s 100th birthday I made this card, using some dies I got at a craft show early in the year.

10 Finished Card, Drying

Embroidery

Also for this friend’s birthday, I made this small cross-stitch plaque from a chart I designed many years ago.

02 Finished Embroidery

I made no further headway on my other embroidery projects, I’m afraid!

Knitting and Crochet

I’ve really got back into this again this year. This year was supposed to be the Year of the UFOs, when I was determined to tackle my huge stash of UnFinished Objects but as usual this rather bit the dust! I did manage to unravel a tunic top I’d made many years ago, and started to knit this up again to a new design which will hopefully fit me a lot better than its previous incarnation!

04 Back - Knitting in Progress

I have now completed the back and begun on the front, but haven’t photographed it recently.

I also finished knitting a striped scarf I began while I was having my chemo in 2015.

02 Knitting Completed

For this, I made a lot of felt and crochet embellishments, which I have yet to attach to the scarf. (Another UFO…)

10 Crochet Embellishments Pressed

06 Felt Balls and Flowers - Wet Felted 22-10-18

I knitted another scarf from a single ball of gorgeous yarn I bought in a charity shop.

03 Knitting Completed

Again, I haven’t managed to complete this – I am still making the peacock feather embellishments for this.

03 Feathering the Barbs

I shall need to buy some more yarn to complete these.

Not a terribly productive year art and craft-wise. Hope to do better next year!

Health Problems

One of the reasons for my lack of productivity was a major health crisis at the beginning of the year.

I saw my surgeon at the end of last year when he agreed that my recurrent parastomal hernia really did need repairing as it was causing me major problems. I went into hospital to have this done in March, and within a fortnight I was back in again with sepsis. I had two large infected haematomas in my abdomen and had to have two drains to deal with these, and I also had intravenous fluids, two units of blood, and three different cocktails of powerful IV antibiotics before they finally found the right combination to deal with the infection. I was in for nearly three weeks, in quite severe pain for most of the time, and feeling dreadful. It took them over 24 hours to get my temperature down to a safe level, and the whole experience was not something I ever want to repeat.

I saw my surgeon again in August and told him I was sure the hernia had returned, which was confirmed by a CT scan in the autumn. I saw him again recently and we discussed options. He is consulting a colleague in Exeter in order to come to the right decision for me. I blogged in detail about this here.

Hopefully another appointment will be forthcoming in the New Year, and I will know the way forward. Having discussed everything at some length with him, I feel a lot easier in my mind now about the possibility of further surgery if they deem it necessary.

It took me quite a while to get over all this, but I am convinced my recovery was helped no end by a friend introducing me to fermented foods.

Some good news, though – at my regular oncology appointment in November I was told I am still cancer free.

Fermented Foods

I got very interested in fermented foods in the summer, and started drinking kefir and kombucha, to try and counteract the ill-effects of so many powerful antibiotics on my system. A friend who had had many gut problems over several years had benefited greatly from this, and she kindly got me started on this route, and I’ve become a complete convert! My hubby and I are both consuming kefir and kombucha on a daily basis and we believe this is also having a beneficial effect on his diverticular disease. Everyone is telling me how well I look these days!

I have become very interested in the whole new area of research into the gut microbiome, and have been reading a lot about it.

Making kefir.

02 Straining the Kefir 9-7-18

Making kombucha.

10 Making Kombucha 7-9-18

During this time I also invested in a kefir cheese maker which is a lot easier to use and more efficient than using muslin in a sieve. I am getting very good results with the kefir cheese which is delicious, and the resulting whey is extremely beneficial too.

Sourdough

In the summer, I also started making sourdough bread which is extremely nutritious and good for general health.

I made my own starter, called Esmeralda.

63 Esmeralda 18-12-18

After many months on a pretty steep learning curve, I think I’ve finally cracked sourdough making and am getting consistently good results now. I have blogged about my efforts and photographed the loaves I make most weeks, so that I can see how I have improved with practice.

60 Excellent Sourdough Cut 25-11-18

We both enjoy eating this on a regular basis.

Other bread

I am also continuing to make my regular seedy bread in the bread maker.

Seedy Bread from Bread Maker 18-12-18

Another sort of bread I make every now and then is challah. Delicious! Really sweet and rich. When we can, we attend a regular Shabbat meal held locally by a friend, and I always like to supply the challah if we are going.

Challah for Conference 30-8-18

This year, I have also started making brown seedy baps which are much nicer than the shop ones!

Brown Seed Baps 20-10-18

Other cooking

With excess sourdough starter, I have been making crackers and pancakes, from recipes I found online.

42 Sourdough Crackers 18-9-18

02 Supper

I have also been experimenting with Middle Eastern cooking, having been given a brilliant recipe book. We both very much enjoy this delicious, delicately spiced and nutritious food, and it’s so easy these days to get the more exotic ingredients online. My hubby has been enjoying the results of my efforts in this new area!

01 Book Cover

With the apples from our wonderful tree in the garden, I made chutney for the first time this year, and it was a huge success. Here is the jar I made for a friend, complete with the label I designed for it.

02 Apple Chutney with Labels

I also made some sourdough crackers for the same friend on another occasion.

06 Peachies' Original Sourdough Crackers 2

Since being ill, I have gradually worked through our supplies of refined carbohydrates and we have been eating more whole grain foods and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I seem to have spent more time baking and cooking this year than making art!

Diet

My 5:2 diet has been ongoing throughout the year but this year I haven’t really lost any more weight. I have put on a few pounds since reaching my original target weight, and have found it very hard to maintain at that level, so I think realistically my current weight is probably my ideal weight. I have still lost around 4 stone since I started and I am well satisfied with that. My hubby has now agreed to join me on this two days a week fast, and doing it together I can support him in his aim to lose some weight.

Bible Study

Our little group went into abeyance for a few months because I was so ill, and it took me quite a while to pick up the pieces of my life again and catch up with everything that had got neglected during that time. When we resumed in the autumn, we gained two new members which has been a great joy – both contribute a lot and we have some interesting and lively discussions during and after the teaching. I continue to design plenty of visual aids on my desktop publisher, photo editor, and Inkscape (vector images) to produce on PowerPoint which we show on the TV screen. This year we have embarked on a major course on prophecy, and during the coming year, interspersed between these sessions, we will again be covering the Feasts of the Lord at the relevant times throughout the year. I have been studying the Bible in depth for over 30 years and it is always such a privilege to be able to share the fruits of my studies with others, particularly when they are as hungry for it as the lovely people in our small group. It would be lovely to see our numbers grow, but there is a great deal of apathy in the church today and most people are not prepared for the commitment, or to put in the time and effort required for study – such a shame, as it has proved to be the most exciting adventure of my life.

Kitties

Our two new kitties celebrated their first birthday in May, and with the nice summer weather we let them out in the garden for the first time, and they were soon enjoying it to the full, spending all day out there, chasing butterflies and relaxing in the sun, and keeping us company when we were sitting out under the apple tree having our meals. It was such a lovely summer in which to let them out.

Recently, though, we have been having terrible trouble with Ruby escaping through my hubby’s kitty defences and he has been working on improving them. Until we are sure they are safe, both kitties are grounded for now, and have reverted to being indoor kitties. They don’t seem to mind too much, and it’s probably a good thing the weather has been so wet lately!

Not only has Ruby developed into a regular Houdini, but she has also developed into the more naughty of the two in other ways too – she is a terrible food thief and will pinch stuff off your plate if you just look away for a few seconds! She can smell butter at 500 paces and absolutely nothing is safe from the little monkey. Lily, on the other hand, doesn’t seem bothered about our food at all and is generally very well behaved! There’s always one, isn’t there…

They continue to be an absolute delight. They are now fully grown and adult but they will always be our babies! They are very close and get on so well with each other, with only the occasional spat, usually at meal times. They are affectionate and love to be with us, and communicate with us all the time. Their little personalities are so different from each other and they seem to have settled down with Lily being the senior of the two. We are absolutely delighted with them both.

11 Under the Apple Tree 2 Lily Rolling 25-6-18

05 Sleeping Together 3 7-10-18

Outings

We have had some lovely outings this year. In May we attended the Devon County Show, a fixture I should hate to miss! I wasn’t long out of hospital and was determined to be well enough to go.

44 Peter Rabbit Display

Teignmouth.

04 In Come the Waves

08 Narrow Winding Shopping Street

Hope Cove.

34 Thatched Cottages 2

Tyntesfield, near Bristol.

06 The End of the House with the Chapel

Knightshayes Court.

43 Along Wall inside Entrance to Kitchen Garden

Meals Out

We also had some fabulous meals out, including a really posh nosh evening at a Michelin starred restaurant for which we were given tickets.

12 Venison Main

A meal out with a friend. Very chefy food at a pub near us.

05 Margaret's Fish

For various reasons it is difficult for us to get away on holiday, but living where we do, there are so many lovely places to visit, and friends to eat out with, and so on, that we hardly miss it. I love being at home anyway, with our lovely surroundings and beautiful little garden, our kitties, my studio and all the things I enjoy doing.

Computers

At the end of the year I had a bit of a crisis with my remaining laptop which involved having to format the hard drive and reinstall everything. My hubby’s laptop completely died around this time too, and with Mum’s money about to make an appearance, I decided to buy us both a new laptop and we went off one evening after doing some online research, and got a couple of Acers. I’ve always had HPs in the past but my last one really wasn’t as good as previous HPs so I decided not to get another. That laptop will now go up in the office as a replacement for my previous HP which died (I have been struggling up and down the stairs with it and really need one permanently up there for the accounts etc.) and the new Acer will now become my main computer. I still haven’t got everything back on and working as I would like it but I’ve got the essentials, and the rest will happen in due course.

Summary

Looking back over that little lot, despite my various difficulties this year, I’ve actually done quite a bit! The year has generally been a very good one and we have a lot to be thankful for. I hope to achieve a bit more on the creative front in the coming year, and for once I’m not going to list all the things I intend doing because I always fail to do them!! I shall do what I shall do, and hopefully I shall enjoy the process!

Wishing all my followers and visitors a very Happy New Year.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Teabag-Beebag Art

Today I made a birthday card for a beekeeping friend, with a grungy brown colour scheme.

I began by stamping a bee image onto a teabag which I had dried, emptied and ironed.

01 Stamping the Bee on the Teabag

02 Bee Stamped on Teabag

Later, I redid this, using black archival ink, because the sepia didn’t stand out enough.

I inked a piece of scrim mesh with Pumice Stone Distress Stain.

03 Inking the Mesh

I took a piece of A4 cardstock for the card base and folded it in half, and inked it lightly with Pumice Stone and Frayed Burlap Distress inks, after which I spattered it with water and blotted it off.

04 Inking the Card Base

The edges were distressed with Tea Dye Distress Ink.

05 Distressing the Card Base

I tore a piece of hand-made paper along a ruler to make it the size I wanted, and distressed the edges with Tea Dye and Vintage Photo Distress Inks.

06 Distressing the Hand-Made Paper

Again using Pumice Stone and Frayed Burlap Distress Inks, I distressed a piece of printed card, which I have place on top of the original to show the difference.

07 Inking and Distressing the Patterned Paper

Assembling the card topper. I stuck the printed paper down onto the hand-made paper with double-sided tape, and the mesh was adhered with spray adhesive.

08 Assembling the Card Topper

I used the same spray adhesive to attach a small piece of gold punchinella.

09 Attaching the Punchinella

Completing the card topper. I spattered the back papers with white acrylic paint, and attached the replacement teabag, which I had also spattered with white acrylic. The text was written with permanent black pens.

10 The Topper Completed

The completed card, with a couple of gold peel-offs.

11 Completed Card

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