31 May 2012

Olympic Meme

Helen over at Casa Costello is hugely excited by the forthcoming 2012 Olympics and has asked me to answer nine Olympic related questions (originally started by Lou from Bloggomy). While I do get excited about the Olympics, it’s usually the winter games rather than the summer. It’s probably not surprising that as a Canadian I find hockey, curling, figure skating and luge more thrilling than sprinting and jumping. Mostly I'm looking forward to the closing ceremony show!

1. If every day tasks were Olympic events what would you get a gold medal in?

Email management – I’ve got more email addresses than you can imagine!

2. As a child (or now even) did you excel at a particular sport and if so which one?

Though I’ve taken lessons in everything from tennis to roller skating, I never excelled at anything. However I used to race small sailboats, I had the distinction of being last in every single race...usually by some way.

3. Michael Phelps (swimmer) or Michael Johnson (runner) – which sport appeals to you more?

Water sports have always appealed more than track events, so I’ll go with Michael Phelps.

4. How fast can you get out of bed and ready to go out the door if miss the alarm and sleep in?

I’m sure I’ve dashed out of the house in less than 10 minutes before – usually on our way to Quaker meeting on Sunday!

5. What fantasy sport would you like to see made into an Olympic event?

I like Janine’s suggestion of Quidditch, but cat wrangling and the ten minute tidy could be contenders too.

6. Claim to fame time – Have you ever met an Olympian and who was it?

Not that I know of, but I probably wouldn't know unless they had a medal hanging around their neck.

7. What event in past Olympics can you remember most vividly?

At the Vancouver Olympics the Canadians took home an amazing 14 gold medals! The most ever won in a single winter games - and even better, that includes both the Canadian Women & Men’s hockey teams defeating the USA in the finals to take gold!

8. Tuning in at home, not for me or tickets clamped ready in sweaty palms?

We were tempted to get tickets, but didn’t feel we could plan that far ahead.
I think we may need to arrange some Olympic parties though!

9. Who do you think most deserves a gold medal (any walk of life not just Olympians)?

I’m going to go with doctors and nurses, specifically those that can still offer kindness and support to patients despite the stress and pressure of their jobs. They make a positive impact of hundreds of people each week who are often feeling at their most vulnerable.

Now it's time to pass the Olympic torch on to another five bloggers:

Nic at Nic’s Notebook
Jax at Making it Up
Ruth at Geek Mummy
Leanne at Second Time Mummy

-but that leaves me one short. So if you'd like to help me out, join in and let me know so I can add your link!

Adventures in Driving

Though I completed my five to six weeks of refresher driving lessons a couple of months ago, I can’t say I love jumping behind the wheel. So I’ve been taking it in very small steps. The driving itself is never that bad, but the crushing anxiety I felt before leaving the house was awful!
First I started driving to my WI events with Mr Goldfish, but then he’d drive the car home and pick me up later. So I was getting practise when it was quiet, but it wasn't very practical.

Then our cousin, who lives nearby, needed someone to wait in for a delivery. So I made my first solo journey. It was on this journey that I discovered I could still perform an emergency stop without stalling, as a cat thought it was a good idea to stop in the middle of the road! Though he was fine, my nerves were quite frazzled.

I made a few more early morning or evening trips with Mr Goldfish before tackling the next challenge. My mother and I were going to the WI Book Club, but I didn’t know how to get there. So we set up the satnav on my phone, and between the two of us we managed to arrived in one piece.

Last night I combined all three of these challenges into one – I was driving by myself, somewhere I didn’t know and about the furthest I’ve driven (not during a lesson). The first route I found on google took me through St Helen’s which I thought might be a bit busy (my biggest fear is other cars). So instead I planned a route which was a bit out of the way, but took a main road I was more familiar with. The satnav wasn’t impressed with my modified route and threw a strop, but halfway there it kicked in and I reached my destination quite easily.

The return trip wasn’t quite so straight forward. While I’d attempted to program in the same route home, the satnav apparently decided to ignore me. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until I was approaching the ASDA we pass on the way to craft classes. I pulled into the empty parking lot hoping to reprogram the satnav, but I’d travelled too far. It would not let me backtrack to the main road. So I grit my teeth and blindly headed off.

Here I made my second mistake: I assumed the current route would take us back along the roads I know, but instead it took me along a chain of big round-abouts. I really don’t like two-lane roundabouts. Though I couldn’t tell you where I was, luckily they were round-abouts I’d used in my driving lessons. So I never really felt panicked or lost – but boy was I narked at the satnav! I’m glad it was quite late and the roads were quiet, or it may have been much more tramatic.

As it is, I think I’ve finally squashed the worst of the anxiety. Hopefully with just a bit more practise I’ll have my old confidence back and soon I won’t even think twice before hopping in the car!

29 May 2012

No Change

So it’s been three weeks since our first IVF appointment and since then...there’s been no change. After waiting two weeks I started chasing the referral up – it’s not that I’m impatient, but I’ve had my referrals lost in hospitals before. While it’s fine to wait my turn, I don’t think I could bear to waste another cycle just because my letter was lost on someone’s desk.
The nurse in the IVF clinic thought two weeks was awfully early for a referral, but when she called back after checking my notes (and confirming they’d sent the letter) she was happy to give me the number for the doctor’s secretary. I tried calling them on Friday, but of course she was on holiday - and there was no record of my referral on the system.

I had much better luck on Monday morning when I finally reached the secretary who was quite lovely. Apparently it’s sitting in a pile of letters the doctor needs to read and evaluate. I couldn’t help but ask if she had any idea how long that would take, and she offered to chase it up for me. I suspect I won’t be hearing anything soon.

So that’s the practicalities, but emotionally the waiting is starting to take its toll. Certainly when it comes to blogging I’ve found myself unable to write. Trying to conceive is now so completely beyond my control that I try not even to think about it. I spend all my energy trying to ignore the elephant in the room that it doesn’t leave much else to talk about. I even find it hard to leave people comments on blogs, Twitter & Facebook. I find myself withdrawing and insulating myself.

The waiting isn’t easy, all parents-to-be worry if they are going to be good enough or strong enough – but infertility leaves you years to doubt yourself. This especially doesn’t help when people question your judgement.

Recently someone suggested I was too ill to have a baby – well, technically they asked what I was going to do about my crippling fatigue if we have a baby - but as there isn’t a treatment it’s obvious there is nothing I can do about it. While I can come up with all sorts of plans which I hope will help, it seems obvious to me that I won’t know until I get there. I frequently hear stories about parents-to-be who declare their children won’t watch TV or eat processed foods, only to change their tune when the child actually arrives. What I’ve learned from the many mothers I know is that somehow they cope. Maybe they don’t have home cooked meals on the table every day or the house looks a tip, but they are all good mothers with happy children. I’m not in this alone and it seems to me that all I can do is have confidence that Mr Goldfish and I will step up to the challenge.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

27 May 2012

Silent Sunday

Our cat waiting for breakfast

Step Down Sunday – Reusable Bags

This week has been disrupted by the arrival of my parents, so while we didn’t manage to make any big changes, we did manage to continue some good habits. While they’ve been visiting we’ve popped out to the grocery store daily, but I’ve encouraged them to take our reusable shopping bags.

Reusable Shopping Bags

We’ve been using reusable bags for years, but it took us a long time to find a system that worked. We have a huge collection of bags- we have the standard hemp bags, huge but cheap Tesco bags, folding carrier bags and my favourites made from recycled bottles!

Mr Goldfish keeps the folding bags in his work satchel for when he picks up bits after work. The hemp bags are great for a big shop, but are so big and inflexible that they only live in the boot of the car. Finally my favourite bags are used for everything! Besides being made from recycled materials, they fold up reasonably small, hold lots and have trendy Cath Kidston floral and polka dot patterns.

Reusable Shopping Bag Storage

The real trick though was finding somewhere to keep the empty bags so we’d remember to return them to the car. In the end we just started hanging them on the end of the banister. It’s not especially tidy, but they’re close enough to the door that we spot them as we dash out of the house.

The only thing missing is a bag that packs up small enough to fit in my handbag! I’ve looked around, but they are all a bit too big, so last night I sent Mr Goldfish into the loft to fetch my scrap fabric box. I have some rip-stop fabric left over from a university project, and I think there’s just enough to make myself a small carrier bag. So give me a couple of weeks to come up with a pattern and we’ll see if I’m successful!

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

24 May 2012

Design Geekery

I’m not naturally a patient person, so when things get beyond my control I have to find something to keep me busy (...like selling a house!) Unfortunately this pathological need to ignore what’s going on makes it rather difficult to write. I find it’s nearly impossible to write from the heart while desperately pretending life is normal and we aren’t waiting for our IVF to start. Though I’ve not been able to post regularly to Another Goldfish that doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy. Instead I’ve been stretching my design muscles with some website improvements.

Hopefully you’ll have noticed the new goldfish banner I put up a few months ago. Besides giving the site a unique style, it’s also freed up more space for articles and links on the front page.

I’ve also added pretty new share buttons at the bottom of my posts. This is actually the second set of share buttons I’ve set up. The original code was sleek and tidy, but it didn’t attract much attention. Make sure to check out the new Pinterest button, Mr Goldfish has written up special code so you can pick the picture you’d like to pin (and means I don’t need to select a photo for each article!)

After Blog Camp last month, getting connected with Google+ seemed a good idea. So if you look to the top left you’ll find a new button that takes you to the new Another Goldfish Google+ Page. At the moment there’s not much conversation on Google+, but you will get notification of any new posts.

Of course there are plenty of other ways to keep up to date with Another Goldfish. You can always add us to your RSS Reader, like our Facebook Page or follow us on Twitter. You can also follow us on hellocotton, which is a new blog network. It looks like a brilliant way to find new interesting blogs!

Finally I also added the LinkWithin gadget at the bottom, which has already revealed several old posts I'd forgotten about!

So what do you think of the new design? Are there any problems in your web browser? Did I miss any must have features or networks you think I should have added?

20 May 2012

Step Down Sunday - Highway Robbery

Step Down Sunday There’s a bit of irony in that after years of being stuck in the house unable to drive, now that I’m finally getting comfortable behind the wheel – Mr Goldfish has started a new job where he needs the car each day. It’s all the more maddening as there are actually new places I want to go. St Helens has a brilliant selection of charity shops I want to browse regularly and a gem of a fabric store!

As part of our low carbon commitment, buying a second car isn’t really an option – so I have to find a different alternative. Despite being local, my first trip to St Helens was just a few weeks ago. Now that I have a general idea of the area I thought it was a good time to try taking public transport.

So after turning to Google to check the times, plan the route and find the bus stops – my mother and I headed out. Everything was going well until I boarded the bus and asked for a return.

“A single?” he asked.
“No, a return.”
“We don’t do returns.”
“You don’t do returns?”
“No, we do singles for £2.30 or an all day travel pass for £4.60.”

£4.60 for a return! How is anyone going to give up the convenience cars if public transport is so expensive? It cost us nearly £10 to go 4 miles! To go the same distance by car it would have cost about £2 in petrol and maintainance (at a generous 50p a mile), just £2-£3 in parking, and would have taken half the time. In comparison, £4.60 can also get you a return train ticket to Liverpool – which is four times the distance!

The high price of transport has also stopped me from using local services. Last time I checked it cost £2.70 to go to the library down the street-but still too far too walk. Getting to the dentist is just as bad. I’ve also been feeling guilty that we drive to Meeting every Sunday, but when a return bus tickets cost £3.70 each it’s difficult to justify. As it is we drive an eco friendly car and use our trip into meeting to run other errands as well – things we couldn’t do on public transport.

Unfortunately it looks like the situation may only get worse if we move. We thought moving to an area with good bus services would make up for moving farther away from the rail station, but with such steep costs I'm not so sure.

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

13 May 2012

Step Down Sunday – Patience

Step Down SundayThe last few weeks I haven’t been able to make the Step Downs I’d been hoping for, but it’s not through lack of trying.

With my parents coming to visit we thought it might be time to buy a new bathroom hand towel as our is about four years old and rather worn. We want to buy an organic towel - figuring that while they are very expensive, a hand towel should still be affordable. Unfortunately no one on the high street seems to stock them anymore. We’ve been through John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams & Dunelm Mill - all with no luck. We have found some online, but they couldn’t be delivered in time.

I’ve also been looking for some stretched canvas pictures for a WI silk painting class. We’re pinning fabric to the back of the frame, so it doesn’t matter what’s on the front. I’ve been hoping I might find some old pictures in the local charity shops, but so far I’ve been out of luck.

Finally I’ve been trying to think of an eco-friendly first birthday present, for our friend’s son. We got the party invitation rather late, so I couldn’t order something online. I suspect we’ll end up buying some FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) children’s books, but I’ve been hoping I'll think of something more environmentally friendly.

The important part of each of these situations is that I didn't give in and buy the easy alternative. I've made do with the old towel, I've started looking for the frames early, and I've not given in and bought a cheap plastic toy that will quickly go in the bin. So even though I haven't been able to make the choices I wanted, I've not given up on our Step Down commitment as soon as it became inconvenient. 

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

10 May 2012

Our First IVF Appointment

After the Patient Information Evening we attended, the next event on the calendar was our first appointment in the IVF clinic. While the wait hasn’t been too difficult, I’m frustrated with how often my appointments are cancelled and rescheduled. This time it was only delayed a couple of days - but it was so close to the start of my period, we worried it might delay our treatment another month.

Mostly the doctor repeated the same information from the patient’s evening, but she also gave us the result from our most recent tests. Mr Goldfish’s results all look normal, but my anti-mullerian hormone test was 2.07 which suggests a low ovarian reserve. This doesn’t necessarily affect our IVF chances, but they’ll probably need to use a higher dose of stimulating hormones.

She checked our huge stack of forms and asked details about our medical history. This was the part I'd been dreading, as I have a few chronic medical conditions that make it impossible to work. In the end, it was decided that we didn’t need counselling, but they have referred me to a specialist in pregnancies with existing conditions. To be honest it is probably a good thing, as in my previous pregnancy I worried that they seemed happy to ignore any long standing illnesses. On the other hand it’s also quite maddening, as it isn’t the IVF treatment they are worried about. It’s the effect pregnancy may have on these conditions that has them worried - and that's a fair way off yet. In any case there isn’t any treatment for my conditions, so to have our IVF treatment delayed while we wait for a referral to a doctor who can’t do anything is quite frustrating.

So now we wait. The doctor said we would be a priority and they would try to squeeze us in as soon as possible, but I’ve heard that before. We could be waiting weeks just for the letter, much less the actual appointment. Trying to conceive has turned into something of a bureaucratic nightmare; form filling, waiting in queues, seeking authorization from unknown people. It’s a draining experience over which I feel I have no control.

This was originally written for the Emma's Diary Blog.

Learning to Needle Felt

My WI friends were buzzing about this month's Mollie Makes, and a swift flip through quickly revealed why - the featured project was an adorable needlefelt doglet. I read the directions, but couldn't imagine how needlefelting worked. I was hoping to find some felting needles at the ICFH craft show, but had no luck. I did however come home with some extra wool from the needle punch heart workshop, so I ordered some needles from eBay and gave it a try.
Mollie Makes Magazine
Though you can't feel the needles snagging the wool, it almost magically takes shape. I formed the basic moomin shape in just a few hours, using a single needle. I think I'll need a bit more practice to get the firmness right, I suspect he's still a bit squidgy. Since I finished the dog I've made a couple beads with the leftover scraps, and every time I think I've got it nice and solid - I discover I can actually take it a bit farther. I keep hoping I'll eventually reach a point where I know I'm finished.
Needle Felting Dog
Overall I'm quite pleased with my first attempt at needle felting, now I just need to find a new project to try my new skills on!
Needle Felted Doglet
Freckles Family

Have you finished anything in the last week or so? Something crafty, a good book, a cake or the crossword? Pop back here or head over to The Freckles Family on Friday and link up so we can all have a nosey.

6 May 2012

Step Down Sunday – 'No Poo’: Week 6

Reduced 'No Poo' Mixture
Now in week six of my ‘No Poo’ experiment, this has definitely been my most complex Step Down. After sorting out the hard water problem a few weeks ago (which had been giving my hair a soapy coating), I finally had a better idea of how my hair was reacting to the baking soda & vinegar treatment. Unfortunately tweaking the recipe is a very slow process. I use a cup of water as my basic measure, but each mixture lasts me at least 10 day if not longer - so it can take quite a while to make changes.

The ends of my hair were already dry before giving up shampoo, but now they seemed even worse. I tried to apply extra vinegar mix to the ends for extra conditioning, but it didn’t seem to help. I’ve been desperately hoping I could get this to work without changing the recipe. Though it sounds silly, I hate altering recipes! Give me a clear set of directions and I’ll be fine, but trying to make something up is like facing a complex math problem – I just don’t know where to start. In the end I decided to try it with half the baking soda, so just 1½ teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in a cup of water.

The bicarb mix seemed to work well, but my hair did come out a bit heavy, not quite greasy - but not quite right either. I suspect that it was too much vinegar. I’d been using an awful lot to counteract the hard water and the extra bicarbonate of soda. Obviously the next step was to halve the amount of vinegar I used, so just 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar in a cup of water. I ended up using an a lot more mixture this time and my hair still felt a bit coarse, but after it dried it felt much, much better.

I suspect I really need something in between the two recipes, so next time I’ll try 3 tablespoons of vinegar next and see if that’s a better balance. As I used so much of the vinegar mix, I don’t think it will be long before I’m trying the new recipe out!

To Read More:
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week One
Step Down Sunday - No Poo: Week Two
Step Down Sunday - Save Pennies & Planet
Step Down Sunday - 'No Poo' Goes Horribly Wrong!
Step Down Sunday – ‘No Poo’: Week 6

Step Down Sunday Have you made any Steps Down this week?

If you'd like the code for the Step Down Sunday badge or to learn more about it, go to the Step Down Sunday page.

1 May 2012

ICFH Craft Show

The great thing about joining the WI is that I’ve now meet loads of women who can appreciate a brilliant fabric stash! A few weeks ago I spotted tickets to Aintree Craft Show on offer at Groupon and managed to talk Nic from Nic's Notebook into coming along.

Taken by Nic's Notebook

We planned to get there just as the doors opened and this turned out to be a stroke of genius! When we arrived the hall was still quiet and we managed to browse all the stalls in about an hour. We had plenty of time to compare prices and find the best bargains. Just as I was finalising my fabric purchases, the crowds reached their peak. Suddenly it was a real fight to even see the wares on offer! I’d really recommend going early when it’s wonderfully relaxed.

Fat Quarters & Ribbon
I picked up a pack of eight fat quarters for £10 and some ribbon to finish my gnome cross-stitch. I also found a vibrant green fabric decorated with kitchen gadgets which I couldn’t resist.
Kitchen Gadget Fabric
Once we’d finished our shopping we decided to get a drink before the workshops started. Next time I’ll be taking a trick from the pensioner’s handbook and take my own packed lunch. We spotted rows of grannies tucked behind the stalls nibbling on their home-made sandwiches, which is entirely understandable considering cans of 7Up were a staggering £1.50 each and water cost even more!

Taken by Nic's Notebook

We had our eye on two ‘Quick & Easy Mini Workshops’ the first a tutorial on ribbon embroidery and the second seemed to be called Punch Stars. You have to be quick to get your hands on tickets for these events. In fact if you can see the instructor’s name, it’s worth looking for their stand as it’s the only way to get them before the session starts. Otherwise you better be there early and willing to fight for position at the front of the queue!

Ribbon Embroidery
The ribbon embroidery was tricky and not especially forgiving, but it’s very effective. We only learned a simple stitch, but each person’s flower looked quite different. Nic’s looked like a pretty daisy, while mine looks more like a chrysanthemum. I’d love the chance to experiment more, but the ribbon embroidery kits were a touch expensive, especially when I have a pile of projects at home.

Taken by Nic's Notebook

The second session turned out to be a needle felting machine tutorial. It looked like a normal sewing machine, but instead of a sewing needle the machine has a circle of five felting needles. You just layer your felt and run it through the machine, which mixes the fibres and binds them together. We started with two red felt sheets and applied loose wool on top. Then we cut them into a heart shape and used the felting machine to seal the edges before stuffing them.

While I'm glad I gave it a try, it's not something I think I'll take up. I didn't like the pattern the ring of needles created in the work, and I'm not sure I liked the effect. Being my first attempt this isn't a very good example of the skill, but it's a bit scruffy for my taste.

As you can probably tell, Nic's much better at taking photos than I am! She remembered to take several photos of what we were doing throughout the day, while I only snapped a few boring snaps. It seems I'm distracted way too easily and somehow forget to take photos of people - definitely something I need to work on.

Over all I think it was a really good day out and it was worth the price of the tickets for the free workshops - though there were only twelve places on each course so you really need to make an effort to get on them! I've got two free tickets to the next ICFH Craft Show in Manchester on the 13 -15 September, so who want's to come with me?