28 March 2012

Extreme Close Up

If I'd thought about it earlier, I'd have saved my Silent Sunday photo for this week's Gallery.

This weekend we celebrated my sister-in-law's wedding, which gave us ample opportunity to snap some gorgeous photos - I love capturing all the little details.

26 March 2012

Step Down Sunday - Bits and Bobs

Step Down Sunday The last week has been filled with preparations for my sister-in-law's wedding, which means this week's  Step Down Sunday is a just a tiny bit late.

To be honest, the last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the huge problems we are facing as a national community. The political fight to save the NHS, the appalling changes to disabled benefits and our commitment to low-carbon living have all felt like insurmountable problems. Despite our efforts we've been unable to make our voices heard and it’s made me feel quite helpless.

This week at our Quaker discussion group we watched a sustainability lecture, which I found quite depressing and hopeless. The changes we need to make seem so extreme that it's overwhelming...but it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Our commitment doesn't require us to feel enthusiastic and positive all the time, simple to keep working towards our goal - and that's where Step Down Sunday helps, tackling these challenges one small decision at a time.

While it’s been harder to stick to our low-carbon commitment lately, and we have slipped in some ways – it’s the long term plan that’s important. So even though big changes have seemed unachieveable we have still managed some small choices.

This week we took Mr Goldfish’s suit to a Green Earth Dry Cleaners, which uses liquid silicone instead of perchloroethylene which is considered a toxic air contaminant.

Instead of buying another tin of Vaseline lip balm, I found a locally made Beeswax and Honey lip balm (by Mayflower Apiaries) at the farm shop.

We bought another of the Mrs William’s Lemon Drizzle cakes for a Mother’s Day gift.

And finally Chouxchouxbedoo and I went on a thrifting outing through the charity shops in our area. I found several pieces of fabric at bargain prices, a walking stick seat I first spotted in the National Trust shop last year (hopefully I’ll be able to visit museums more easily now), and I found a cute Foirelli handbag for just £2.

So nothing big and special this week, but at a time when I'm feeling overwhelmed and hopeless – I think these efforts are a small victory.

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.

23 March 2012

Finished it Friday!

Freckles FamilyFor the last three weeks I've been carrying this project everywhere with me. I was a bit slow to start, which combined with a busy schedule has left me worried I wouldn't finish in time for the wedding this weekend.

This is actually the forth time I've stitched this pattern. First time was for my brother-in-law's wedding, then Mr Goldfish's cousin, then for our own wedding and finally this is for my sister-in-law's wedding. I'm fairly sure this is the last time, as I've finally run out of the hand-dyed thread used for the leaves.

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

19 March 2012

On a sea of paperwork

One thing I didn’t expect when we started the IVF process was all the paper work! Last week we went to the Patient Information Evening (PIE). When we arrived we were given a thick folder of leaflets and forms and an envelope stuffed with test forms. One of them even requires us to have passport photos taken, to attach to our files!

Last night we sat down to tackle the forms, it’s not nearly as easy as it seemed. Several of the forms look identical at first glance, but the men’s forms are slightly different than the women’s. On one set I accidently filled my details in on the man’s form. Luckily Mr Goldfish caught it early so we only had to scratch out the first page of information. It still required a double check though as we nearly declared Mr Goldfish was married to himself!

We needed to sign forms giving permission for the tests; permission for treatment; give our NHS numbers; passport numbers; decide if we’d donate eggs, sperm and embryos; decide what would happen to them if we die or are declared mentally incompetent. These serious questions have added to an already emotionally odd week.

Last weekend marked a year since I was rushed to hospital with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. For the most part the day passed without note, and ironically the most distressing part was that I didn’t feel that upset. They say that everyone reacts differently to loss, but the ease with which I shrugged it off has always bothered me.

Though I feel fine, there are still signs that I'm reacting to the stress. I appear to be a bit more brittle and I nearly burst into tears in the hair salon this week. It's mostly small and unimportant things that set me off and it's awfully embarrassing. How you explain that the hairstylist giving you a helmet style finish or a relative asking how you are doing after such a hard year has reduced you to tears?

Ignoring the occasional outburst, we're doing pretty well. Our next step is an appointment on the 21st to have a sperm analysis and to have our blood drawn.

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

18 March 2012

Step Down Sunday - Hanky Panky

One of the problems with eating delicious foods I’m intolerant to, is that I end up with a chronic running nose. I try to keep Kleenex in my hand bag or pockets, but they never last long. They get crumpled and grimy, torn and tattered - so they often get binned without being used. I decided for this week’s Step Down Sunday it was time to find something more durable and reusable.

I quickly encountered several problems. First they're surprisingly difficult to find! I’d hoped to find some pretty vintage inspired patterns rather than plain colours, but other than the huge hankies from Cath Kidston, most were quite boring.

My second problem was the cost. I started searching through the high street shops, and generally a single hankie was about £8 or a set of five plain ones sold for £10. I didn't really want spend ten quid just to try something new. The lovely @VintagePleasure  (who also writes Vintage Pleasure) suggested trying eBay and found this pack of six floral handkerchiefs in Scotland for just £1.75!

They looked perfect and at just £1.75 they were ideal for a trial run. Oddly enough the pack came with two blue hankies, three purple, and just the one peach - which was slightly disappointing as the purple was my least favourite colour.

I've been carrying one of these hankies around for a couple of weeks now. My first frustration comes from my lack of pockets! I remember my grandmother used to keep her hankie tucked under her elasticated watch strap, and I find myself irritated I can't do the same. Instead I've tucked it in my handbag, but that's not nearly as convenient. My second disappointment is that being 70% polyester they aren't actually that absorbent - which sort of defeats the purpose of the hankies.

Not quite the success I was hoping for, I've decided to add these pretty hankies to my fabric stash for a future project and to keep looking for a 100% cotton hankie which will hopefully be more practical!

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.

17 March 2012

The Finished Masterpiece

You may remember that on our tour of the Emma Bridgewater Factory, we had the opportunity to paint our own plates. Mr Goldfish painted this amazing goldfish, and we've been waiting eagerly for the finished plate to arrive.

Well this week we received the highly anticipated pink box!
I don't think the finished plate really did the original artwork justice, but Mr Goldfish still enjoyed the activity.

I'm very glad I stuck to the simple stars on my tea cup!

11 March 2012

Step Down Sunday - Quaker Veg Garden

Usually on Step Down Sunday I write about something we've done to reduce out personal carbon footprint, but this week I'm going to write about a community effort we're involved with. Part of the Quaker commitment also includes reducing the environmental impact of our meeting house and grounds. So last weekend we broke ground on our new meeting house vegetable garden.
One of our members runs an organic farm, so she's been teaching us all about the importance of crop rotation. Our garden is going to have four dug beds and one raised bed.

We're growing potatoes & squash in the first bed; onions & peas in the second; cauliflower & turnips in the third; and lettuce leaves, carrots & parsnips in the fourth. This is a just general categorisation, for example beans will be growing with the peas and garlic with the onions.
Despite the drizzle the whole meeting got involved including the children. We successfully dug two beds and we've begun clearing the land for the third and fourth. (We've also started a bed for wild flowers in the graveyard, which should hopefully encourage bees and wildlife.)
While this is just the start, we're all feeling quite enthusiastic and positive about this endeavour; and hopefully with the whole meeting involved, the work won't feel as heavy.

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 March 2012

March 11th

Blackpool Couple
This day has been creeping up on us, and I think it's actually been harder for Mr Goldfish than it has for me. When I was rushed to hospital a year ago tomorrow, everything seemed to happen quickly. From my point of view, maybe a half hour passed between arriving in A&E and being swept into the operating room. Poor Mr Goldfish had to experience those three hours in real time as well as wait anxiously through the three hour surgery. For me tomorrow is the day I lost our pregnancy, for him it's the day he nearly lost his wife.

At the Patient Information Evening last week they were explaining that they only counted a pregnancy successful from the moment they detect a heartbeat, which starts at about five weeks. Since then I've kept hearing the A&E doctor's words in my head, "It looks like it was about six and a half weeks".

I have no idea why she told me this, as I was definitely eight and a half weeks pregnant. I suppose she was trying to tell me it was stunted or small, that it hadn't been growing properly...but certainly at the time it felt like she was just telling me I was wrong or less pregnant than I thought. Along with the horrible questions about 'disposal', this was one of the most upsetting aspects of the experience.

Somehow hearing last week that my pregnancy would have had a heartbeat - even if it was only six weeks along - made the pregnancy feel more real and valid, and the loss more significant.

We've actually ended up in an odd position the last few weeks. We've had opportunity to meet up with family we haven't seen in years, but while the ruptured ectopic pregnancy was publicly known our referral for IVF isn't. So last weekend while I was struggling with our infertility and moving forward with IVF...our relations were asking how I was doing with our lost pregnancy - I really didn't know what to say.

Before last week, neither myself nor Mr Goldfish had registered how close we were to this unfortunate anniversary but it seems events have conspired to remind us. I'm not sure these revelations change anything, but hopefully this is the last of the milestones. We're one year on, and hopefully, moving forward.

Finally I'd like to thank anyone that can and does give blood. I lost four litres of blood when the pregnancy ruptured, and I was given seven units of blood and five units of frozen plasma. Truly these donations saved my life. Blood donation is so important, I'd encourage anyone who hasn't to give it a try.

8 March 2012

Pinaddicts - Wrapping Paper Storage

It seems like there's never enough storage space in our house, so lately I've been trying to make the space we have work more efficiently.

The first step was to sort out our hall closet. Despite the two doors, it seems the previous owners removed the shelf - leaving the top of the closet just wasted space.

So when we were buying wood to finish our kitchen dresser, we bought an extra bit for a new shelf. Mr Goldfish cut out a notch for our pipes and gave it a lovely finish.

We now have a new easy to access home for our board games, which has also freed up lots of space under the stairs. (Please excuse all the bare plaster, we have horrible Artex infestation which we're slowly eradicating.)
The really clever bit though is under the shelf. I spotted this brilliant idea on Pinterest a few months ago. Not only is it a great use of space, it also protects the paper from getting crumpled and damaged.
Source: flickr.com via Erika on Pinterest

We used four cup hooks and some bungie cords to create our sling, which gives you enough flexibility to get the tubes in and out. We were a bit wary of clipping the elasticated cords near the hot pipes, so instead we angled the back support.
I'm thrilled with how well it's worked!

To see what the other Pinaddicts have been up to this month, pop over to Melksham Mum.

7 March 2012

Clandestine Cake Club

Have you heard of the Clandestine Cake Club?

Tonight the lovely Janine at Chouxchouxbedoo took me along as her guest to this fabulous baking event*. Each event is given a different theme (this evening was 'Let's do the continental') and participants bake a cake inspired by this. It's not a competition, just an opportunity to try out new recipes and treat your sweet tooth. Each baker can bring one guest, and I was lucky enough to be invited along this time. Now for the Clandestine part - the venue for each event is kept secret and participants are emailed the location just a few days before.

As you can see from the photos there was an impressive spread of delicious cakes! So check the website see if there's a Clandestine Cake Club near you. It's a brilliant opportunity to indulge in fantastic home-baked cakes...without the guilt!
*I'm afraid cupcakes, muffins, brownies, cookie, pies and tarts need not apply.

5 March 2012

Quilting Class: Week One

At last month's WI meeting we began organising our first special interest groups. I was thrilled when discover Val had offered to run a quilting class! I've always been tempted by quilting, but back in school my first attempts went badly wrong. So an opportunity to learn properly was too good to pass, and I immediately signed up.
Our first class was last week, and includes women of all ages. It's lovely to be in a much smaller group, where you get more chance to chat and get to know people. Each person is going to sew two blocks, which will then be combined into a single quilt. This will give us opportunity to quickly learn how to make a quilt from start to finish. At the end of the meeting we were sent home with a pack of material and instructions on how to build our blocks.

First you have to plan your design, matching the fabrics and deciding how wide each strip will be.

Once you've decided, you sew the pieces together with a precise quarter inch seam.

When all the pieces are sewn together you iron all the seams in the same direction.

After ironing it's time to trim the square down to 12.5 inches.
To make it a bit more interesting, once you've levelled the top edge you cut the square into two pieces. Then you rotate the top piece 180°, so the stripes run in opposite directions.
Then we added a stripe of red between the two pieces. At the bottom you can see how much I trimmed off to level the top edge.
Finally we embroidered a small motif on our blocks, so we'd be able to identify them in the finished blanket.

Unfortunately one of my squares is a touch short; I don't think the material for my red stripe was quite wide enough. Hopefully it will all work out, we're having our second class tonight so I'll find out soon!

4 March 2012

Step Down Sunday - Furniture Adoption

I’m afraid this week we’ve been rather rubbish. Mr Goldfish has been really busy with job interviews and work appeals, while I’ve been distracted by quilting, family photos, hospital appointments and organising the house for my parents visit. So we've slipped a bit, buying a couple of plastic storage boxes and buying easy food from Tesco.

One thing we have done over the last month though was find homes for some old furniture. I hate taking furniture to the tip, so for over a year we’ve been dodging around an old bookshelf and a small dining table. Mr Goldfish’s sister has just bought her first house, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to find these items a new home.
Tables are swapped around Mr Goldfish's family like kids trading stickers. We picked up this table from Mr Goldfish's Nanna, at the time we had a rickety drop leaf table that was a nightmare to eat on and work from. It's a great little table, but only seats four people. So when we were offered my mother-in-laws large well-built dining table I jumped at the chance, but I didn't have the heart to throw the round table away.

Our house isn't especially roomy, so finding space for a table, bookshelf and a sofa bed is a challenge. (By the way does anyone want a sofa bed? Only three previous owners!) So an opportunity to send these pieces to a new home is a huge relief.

As you might have noticed most of our furniture has been previously owned...less by choice than circumstance (including all the awful carpets!) I find it difficult, but I'm trying to embrace the eclectic style as buying second-hand is more eco-friendly. Hopefully if I actually get to choose our second-hand furniture in the future it will eventually come together as a warm and welcoming house!

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.

2 March 2012

PIE - Patient Information Evening

So last night we went to the IVF patient information evening. Even though we were there about 15 minutes early, the lobby was over flowing with uncomfortable couples. I’d guess there were about 30 couples, all talking alkwardly in hushed tones in a dim room.

Upon checking in we were given folder about an inch thick and a chunky brown paper envelope. A bit of investigative squishing suggested it was a sample pot. Glancing around I noticed that many people had flat normal envelopes. I managed to resist the impulse to open everything for all of 5 minutes. Perched on the edge of a table I decided taking a nosey would keep me distracted.

Eventually we were allowed into the auditorium. For the most part we didn’t really learn anything new. The consultant gave us an over view of IVF and ICSI. Then an embryologist explained the practical process and explained what would happen in the lab. Then one of the counsellors explained the support that was available.  Finally a nurse came out to speak about the next appointment and the paper work we were given.

When I’d been flipping through the paperwork one form had raised some concerns. The ‘Welfare of the Child’ form asks if there “Are any aspects of your medical history regarding your physical health which may pose a risk of serious harm to any child you might have or anything which might impair your ability to care for such a child?” and “Is there a history of any physical health problems which might influence a pregnancy or your ability to raise a child?”

We know that having and raising a child won’t be easy. It will be difficult to manage my health conditions and it will limit my abilities – but there are two of us in this, I won’t be doing it alone. So these questions seemed like they were seeking to pass judgement. It felt like they were deciding who could and couldn’t have children.

I hung around after the meeting to speak to one of the counsellors. Though it still feels a bit intrusive, we’ve been reassured it’s a question of support not judgement. They are taking a comprehensive look at pregnancy and birth. It still makes me a bit nervous, but I now feel more confident in filling in the paper work.

Oh I almost forgot the lady from the BBC. Apparently the company behind 'One Born Every Minute' is filming an IVF documentary at the hospital. I've never seen 'One Born Every Minute', but based on the comments I've seen on Twitter I'll be avoiding the cameras! I'm not convinced anyone looks good on these programs and I certainly don't want to open my life to judgement from the whole country.

So next week we’ll probably be searching for a photo booth for the required passport photographs and starting all the paperwork – but mostly we’ll be waiting for the 21st of March for our next test appointment.

And can I just point out that appointment is a whole week before the rescheduled appointment they tried to force on me back in January!! I’m so glad I stood up for myself and didn’t let them guilt me into waiting.

1 March 2012

Books By My Bedside

I've been tagged by Helen at Casa Costello to reveal the books lurking on my bedside table, though in this case my bedside table is so cluttered the books end up living underneath.

To be honest I wasn't sure what I'd find. I use to read voraciously, but once I immigrated books were a bit too expensive (and I never figured out the library in Manchester). Then my wrists started to give me trouble and books were simply too painful to hold up. Things have improved since we bought a Kindle, but I'm still out of the habit of reading.

Found under my bedside table:
Forgotten Voices of the Holocaust - Possibly an odd choice for bedside reading, but it's been living under my table the longest. I like the Forgotten Voices series because it's a collection of short stories and experiences, so it's easy to dip in and out of. Though the subject isn't cheerful, I like seeing history through the eyes of the people living it.
The Time Traveler's Wife - I was surprised to find this hidden all the way at the back. I happened to pick up my sister-in-laws copy of this on holiday and after reading the first few chapters I had to buy a copy myself so I could finish it. Though the book is brilliant, it was a bad choice to read during the emotional stress of trying to conceive. I found the miscarriage scenes quite upsetting, so think I'll wait till I'm past all the TTC stuff before reading it again.
The Free Bards - This is one of the few books that made the big move with me. It's an omnibus of Mercedes Lackey's fantasy series. I started reading this a few weeks ago, but the weight has made it difficult to stick with.

My current reading list is mostly on my Kindle, so I'll highlight the most recent of those.

On my Kindle:

Before I Go to Sleep - Is the current choice for the WI book club. It's not bad, though I found the character a bit irritating. There were times when I just wanted to shout at her.
Magic Gifts - Ilona Andrews was recommended by someone I follow, and I found this free download on her website. Jumping in halfway through the series never helps, but I found the world too hard to believe. I don't think I'll go out of my way to read any more by this author.
Finally One Day by David Nicholls is the next book on my reading list. I've seen the film already, so I'm looking forward to delving deeper into the story.

I've been quite lucky, my guilty pleasures had all been returned to the bookshelf before Christmas. But now comes the tricky part where I have to tag some of you. So share your bedside book (and give yourself extra motivation to tidy your bedside table!) And feel free to join in even if I haven't tagged you.

Jamie-Leigh at Love Always
Janine at Chouxchouxbedoo
Nicola at Nic's Notebook
Jax at Making it Up
Karen at All For Scone