Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day, And I'm All Alone...

... and all is well.

It was a long time coming, so let's fill you in.

Studley had the operation on November 3rd. At 8.30 in the morning, I kissed him goodbye, and watched him go into surgery to donate a kidney to his bro. I went off for an hour to have breakfast, then returned to the hospital, took a seat and picked up my knitting.

And there I sat, knitting through my fears and worries, a silent prayer in every stitch. Hours passed, so many hours. People came, people went. I met a couple of people, knitters drawn in by the colours of the yarn. They sat with me a spell, and talked knitter-talk. I will be forever grateful that they took the time out of their lives - out of their own worries - to talk to me.

At 7.15pm, Studley finally arrived in the ward, and found me sitting at what was to be his bedside. Still in a lot of pain, he was nonetheless surprised to see me waiting for him. His first response was "did you get a lot of knitting done?". Too right I did.

On finally leaving Studley's side, I went immediately to see how his bro was doing. I have no idea how I got onto the ward, as there was a quarantine in place after an outbreak of Noro virus. You'll be pleased to hear that the kidney fired up almost immediately, and the difference in him was obvious. I was able to visit him every day until Studley was fit enough to leave hospital, and everyday he was looking better and better.

My biggest pleasure was when I got home from the hospital that first night, and phoned Studley's parents - known as Nearly-ma and Nearly-pa, living out in the Peculiars - to let them know that both their sons were doing okay.

Which sort of explains why I'm all alone on Christmas Day. Looking after Studley at home was far easier than I had at first feared, and it didn't take long for him to be fit enough to pack off to spend Christmas with his family in the Peculiars. Nearly-ma, like any other mum, needed to see her son, to hug him and know for herself that he's fit and well. It was the very least I could do for her.

While this year has not been the best for us, I will take this time out to look to the future.

I have no immediate plans, apart from work. There are no priorities, either. What I would like to do is sort out this blasted laptop - it died recently, taking with it the first chapters of the book that I'm working on. It took three hours at the Apple store to get it up and running again, and all my work retrieved. It was both a relief and a joy that they were able to do that for me (and for free, too!). Hopefully, I'll be able to get the photo-thingy to work too. Watch this space.

Knitting? Well, this year it was all about the socks, and perfecting my techniques. Next year I'm adding hats. It seems to me that it would be one of the quicker ways of reducing my yarn stash. Plus I have a plan to make something really special - Studley's owed a sweater. And it will be a gansey.

Personally, I need to get fitter. Next year, I'm going to be 50. Yes, really. I think it's important that I be in the best health possible, and I have everything I need at my disposal. Weights - check. Supreme 90 Day Workout dvds - check. Zumba fitness kit (with the shaky-shaky hand weights) - check. Tosca Reno's Eat Clean cookbooks - checkity check check. This time next year, you should be able to bounce a penny off my round and perfectly formed ass. I will still be making cake. But I won't be eating as much of it.

Wow. Long post, huh? That's another thing. It wouldn't have been so long if I was a regular poster. I need to sort that out, too.

Before I go, I would like to take the time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are. If you are spending the day alone without family and friends, get up, get dressed and get out there. Take a walk, smell the air. There's no traffic on the roads, so it will be a lot cleaner. If you are with the people you love, why not tell them? They probably don't hear it often enough.

Oh, and it wouldn't kill you to eat some fruit today, too.

Thank you all for being there for me and Studley. For caring about us, and supporting us through this very trying year. I'm going to work hard to make next year so much better.

Hopefully with photos.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tough Times Ahead At Hand Wash Towers...

Hello all.

I'm not one for baring my soul. The past few months have been full of ups and downs. I like to keep most things to myself, and wrap myself in the "Duvet of Blue" when times get tough.

It's not about me this time, or mice, or knitting. It's about my darling Studley.

We took off on a trip recently, to Paris. It will be the last time we go away together this year.

Studley has a brother in need of help. He's young, married with a beautiful child and another on the way. All was lovely, and then his kidney started to pack up for no discernible reason. He's not a drinker or smoker, and leads a clean life. Now he needs a kidney.

Studley stepped up to the plate, before he was even asked. He's donating a kidney to his bro. After going through a barrage of tests, and with one more major one to go, a date has been set for the operation. It's really going to happen.

I have never been prouder of my wonderful man. Or more scared of what is to come next. We have put off planning our wedding, which is why we were so evasive when people asked for a date to pencil into their calendar. I did go looking at dresses, but frankly right now my heart just isn't in it. Now you know why I get so frustrated about all the cleaning - Studley will need about 3 months of proper care at home after the operation. I need to make sure that Hand Wash Towers is spotless, germ and mouse free. It's up to me to do everything I can to facilitate a healthy recovery. I have to have it done NOW, so that I can devote time to care for him when - for the first time - he really needs me.

For the past few months I've done nothing but worry. I want everything to go well. I want both Studley and his bro to be properly cared for, so they can both get up and happily get on with their lives with the people who love them. I worry that Studley's mum is worrying more than me - and quite frankly, she doesn't need the stress.

Now that a date has been set, it all seems so real and happening so fast - but of course it's taken months of discussions, meetings and tests to get to this point. Lots of information has been flying towards us, so we are clear about what's going to happen next, what's to be expected from us, from the hospital. So much information, I won't go into it. I'll just cry. Again.

I apologise if my postings have been so few and so far between. I tend to post on Twitter from time to time, and maybe on Ravelry when I get a chance.

Thanks to you who follow me patiently, even though it may seem sometimes that I have fallen off the face of the earth. Those of you who've been waiting for photographs and news and knitting and cake, and stuff - I will try to get on it. I'll check in once in a while, but don't expect me to talk much about this. I'm finding it all so very scary.

And Studley, if you are reading this (even though you claim you don't), know that you are best part of my world. I take my responsibility to take care of you very seriously. I love you so very much, and will do everything to get you safely up and about again after the op. Just don't take the piss, alright? I'm not going to feed you your body weight in cake, burritos are limited, and I'm not going to come running every time you ring that blasted bell. ; )

Thursday, 21 July 2011

What, No Pictures?

Okay, here's the story:

Not long ago, I had to relocate from my sit-at-a-desk computer to an inherited-from-Studley laptop. Which is fine, if I want to surf the 'innerweb' from the comfort of my bed while eating biscuits and watching Loose Women. But, when Studley had the laptop, he ditched the software he didn't need as he wanted to get more of his music on, so he got rid of all the games except chess, Garageband (which, let's face it, is not really useful unless you really are planning an assault on the pop charts) and iPhoto, with the promise that, should I need either, they would be easily re-installed using the disks provided.

This was not important until now. I want to show you pictures. Of Cake. Of knitting projects. Of me with Anne and Emily at Knit Nation with Jeanette Sloan. Of the skein of Knitglobal yarn and the sock kit from Rennaissance Yarns that I bought. I can't show you any of it.

I stood over Studley while he tried to re-install iPhoto. It wouldn't work.

He tried again. Still no joy. By this time, there were beads of sweat on his brow.

I threatened to withhold his dinner. Nada.

I threatened to withhold other things (yes, now is the time to waggle your eyebrows). Zip.

To top it all off, I can't go back and blog from my desk computer, as it's not connected to the internet (don't ask, but it has something to do with our recent visitors, the little blighters).

I did lose it, but in a very British way. I held out my hands, my eyes rolled upwards, I shook my head, and walked to the kitchen to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

This afternoon will probably be spent erasing his music collection from said laptop (and into oblivion, you have no idea what this man listens to) in an effort to create enough space to re-install iPhoto.

In the meantime a musical interlude, in the form of an example of the kind of music Studley listens to. My fingers hover over the delete button...

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Good Housekeeping, I Love You...

...I honestly love you.

While life itself is full of hit or miss days (like watching the corpulent opera singer slide off the bonnet of a car on stage - hit. Or stepping outside for a cigarette, then realizing firstly, that you quit smoking and, secondly it's pissing down with rain - miss.) there is one constant in my life that has never let me down, and that is the Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium, 1955 edition. There is so much about this book that I love, the thousands of pictures, the style of presentation, the introductions to each section, the detail, Detail, DETAIL that makes each recipe seem achievable, however complicated it may look. The best thing? Hundreds upon hundreds of recipes for old-style cake, pies, puddings, deserts - oh, my goodness, my heart, my stomach, my weight!!

This particular edition is literally three books in one. Part 1: Basic Cookery, starts just like it did in my first cookery class in school - with cutting a grapefruit in half and serving it with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. So totally idiot-proof, this book holds your hand and leads you through the simplest of meals with the most basic ingredients. While most of the meals are not for the modern palate (lard and beef dripping, anyone?), the first part is excellent as a foundation in cookery, telling the novice cook about shopping for food, cuts of meat, types of fish, food storage, how to use equipment, foundations of soups and sauces, and basic bread, cake and pastry making. On its own, this part is worth its' weight in gold.

Part 2, Picture Cookery, for the more adventurous cook, ramps up the techniques and attention to detail required for when "wifey" has to entertain her husband's boss. How to clean fish, prepare shell fish, joint poultry and rabbit, more soups, more sauces, jams, pickles and preserves and even more cake, it just gets better all the time. I made a Game Pie, using hot-water crust pastry, following the step-by-step pictorial guide that was so delicious, I ate the whole thing myself (sorry Studley). Plus, this section includes instruction on how to use a Pressure Cooker! (Scary things, but I feel confident I could handle one now.)

Part 3 - the best bit - is all about the cake making. This part goes through all the equipment, ingredients and techniques you need to make any kind of cake. Let me say that again - any kind of cake. Plain cakes, fruit cakes, jam cakes, buns, traybakes, biscuits, pastries, gateux, icing and sugarcraft, up to the big one: The Wedding Cake.

I cannot even begin to tell you about the deep joy I get from reproducing the food from this book, even from just turning the pages, looking at the pictures and admiring the font. I look at this book everyday, whether I choose to cook from it or not. Visitors to this country (and foreigners who have never visited) like to taunt us with the myth that British food is bad. These people are so easy to dismiss because they obviously don't know where or what to eat, but when it comes to "afters", I do believe the UK is the real deal. We are unbeatable, we are nonpareil, sine qua non, and this beautiful book is proof, if proof were needed.

I wish I had the pictures to show you. I wish you could smell, taste and appreciate the good old fashioned traditional British fayre that comes out of this book.

I wish you could see how much exercise I have to do to allow me to indulge myself the way I do (just kidding - although I do a Zumba class twice a week)!

While most of my diet is, in fact, clean, we do allow ourselves the odd indulgence of the baked goods variety, otherwise Studley is a very sulky boy.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

And If That Wasn't Enough...

... I've given up smoking. As of 1 April 2011. It hurtz me. Serious.

It's not enough that I was putting myself at risk of cancers, I discovered that smoking was contributing to my worsening eyesight. Age-related Macular Degeneration is exacerbated by bad diet and smoking, did you know that? Neither did I, so it was a surprise when this was my diagnosis on a recent trip to the Optician. Early signs, they said. I just thought I was getting old, and this, along with loose pelvic floor muscles, is what to expect when you're getting old.

Except I'm not that old, yet. And my pelvic floor is fine, in case you were wondering. I hope you weren't.

I just realized that deteriorating eyesight will prevent me from doing too many of the things I enjoy - knitting, sewing, reading, cooking. I would be dumb, bored, and thin.

So I'm cleaning up my act. I've registered with a counsellor - Annette (and guess what? She's a knitter!) - who will take me through the first six weeks, and after that, I'm on my own. My new best friend Tosca Reno will help me to eat better. I hope she won't mind me calling her my new best friend, but I have been using her books and learning to Eat Clean, plus when I had an issue I e-mailed her office and got a personal reply. I love the fact that she's so famous she could have had an assistant reply, but chose to contact me herself. Plus her body is aspirational. Tosca, you are now my first Girly Crush, nudging Angie Dowds into second place. (Angie, I still love you, okay, but being Canadian and having impressive Bolt-Ons, Tosca is more exotic, you get me?)

As to the last post, we have had no further vermin activity since we plugged up all the 'points of ingress' that we have so far come across (I love that phrase, don't you?). Our home still looks like it's been burgled, as we continue to launder, clean, vacuum and toss out our stuff. Studley took a box of my shoes and put them in storage (Your Honour, can he do that?), while I am desperately trying to locate a package for Sistahcraft that has mysteriously gone missing, and I am too embarrassed to tell her. (If you are reading this - please forgive me, sistah friend - as soon as we locate it I will add something special to it and send it right along.)

I am tired, people. I want to stop cleaning. I want to stop exploring the properties of peppermint and tea tree oils. I want to end my weekly treks to the local charity shops to drop off more stuff. I want to stop picking slivers of steel wool out of my fingers. I want one day without the drone of the washing machine as my background muzak every morning. I want to stop listening for mice activity every night.

I used to use Home Routines to keep on top of stuff, but this is way more wife-work to do every day, and - to tell the honest truth - I would rather be in a job, or knitting in front of a DVD and, right now, I can't do either.

I'm going to stop now. I have no time to whinge or whine, no time to cuss or cry, and my big-girl panties are in the laundry.

Sigh. On with the motley.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Sucky Side of Life

Sometimes Life is good. It's as if Life appears to you in human form, and hands you a pair of steel testicles, imbued with special powers enabling you to conquer your personal world with courage, humour, fortitude - you know the deal. Just when you're about to exhale a breath of contentment with the way your personal world is somehow in a happy and peaceful order, Life creeps back again, in the form of a mean, evil little bugger in hob-nail boots, who proceeds to kick the life out your shiny steel balls, denting them, tarnishing them, and at the same time destroying your personal world, turning it on its' head, making it worse and harder than it was before.

No sooner had we returned from Rome, all loved up and engaged, without even having had the chance to unpack our luggage, than we discovered we had Unwanted Lodgers. Studley reached into a bag to get a snack, and pulled out part of a snack, full of little bite marks. On further investigation into the said bag, he found a collection of - shall we call them 'out-goings'?

We have mice.

Of course I bounded into action, placing humane traps everywhere, and we finally caught Mr. Mousey, three weeks later. I took him to a park a 45-minute bus ride away and let him take his chances there. We breathed a sigh of relief. Bad move.

It wasn't long before we realised that we were housing a family of the tiny vermin, who seemed to have taken refuge in Hand Wash Towers to escape the terribly cold winter. So far, neighbours have caught 8, while we have bagged 12. Studley spent a very unhappy time throwing out a pile of his clothes that were used as a nest. I followed a trail of droppings into a closet which I was in the process of turning into a craft area. Holes in the floor and skirting have been filled with steel wool, and I am still praying that they haven't gotten into my yarn stash, as there are still a few boxes I haven't had a chance to investigate, as...

...while I was moving said boxes, I felt a strange pain, looked down at my engagement-ring clad hand, to find my little finger in a position that little fingers should not go.

A trip to the emergency room confirmed dislocation, luckily no break or fracture, but it hurts like the very Dickens, I can tell you. The swelling was quite bad, and luckily again, I had taken my ring off just in time.

I got home to take a look at my surroundings, all our stuff everywhere except where it should be, and both of us powerless to fix it. Studley is himself out of action due to a small operation.

Neither of us can get a good night's sleep because, although we have had no further evidence of mouse activity, we still stay up most nights listening for it. Or rather, I will. Studley only woke up once when a baby mouse got caught in a trap near the bed. I had to take it out to the park. He went back to sleep.

I should be crying. I should at the very least be swearing. The extra wife-work is wearing me down. It seems insurmountable. The laundry pile is now ten times bigger than it used to be, as all the bedding, all our clothes, everything has to be washed again in case the mice have been amongst them. All the furniture has to be moved and checked for nesting material. All the skirting needs to be checked for holes and filled. All the carpets and rugs need to be cleaned. All the cupboards need to be checked and cleaned, and it all has to be done now. I don't have time to cry.

As soon as I can get the strapping off my hand, as soon as the swelling and the pain go away - as God Is My Witness - I will go straight back to mouse-proofing my little home, hopefully before the little furry monsters have a chance to breed again.

And checking my stash. If I find so much as a single dropping in my yarn...

This ain't over, people.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

An Announcement: Just The Facts

Who: Me and Studley.
What: Got engaged.
When: 14 years (yes, really) to the day that we met.
Where: Front pew of the Pantheon, Rome, Italy.

Why: Now, there's a question that's hard to answer. Studley had been planning this for a year, apparently. Let's see...

Maybe it was the engagement chicken recipe I cooked a few months ago. I did it as a joke, but maybe it really worked.

Or perhaps he decided to lift the dreaded Sweater Curse. I had refused to knit him a sweater for years, citing the curse as a reason. In truth, he's not had a sweater before now because I'm actually a lazy, selfish knitter, and would rather give him a hat or a pair of socks. Far quicker, and more likely to fit.

Or could it be (and I'm going out on a limb here) that the man loves the very bones of me, and decided after 14 long years of looking after his every need, that I deserved a bit more than a box of chocolates and a peck on the cheek, and because I love him so very much that I am prepared to put up with the sort of stuff that would drive any other sane woman completely around the bend?

Well whatever the reason, it's done. We're officially engaged, and that there is a picture of my ring. Don't expect the Bridezilla act just yet - I'm not prepared to even contemplate the stress of planning a wedding at the moment.

I hope everyone had as wonderful a Christmas and as happy a holiday season as we did. I wish you all a brilliant new year.