Wednesday, 24 February 2010

My first wedding anniversary

It's here! It's today. And, spookily, after a few weeks without snow, overnight everything has been covered in a white blanket just to make it all feel authentic.  The photo above is the view from my back door.

We've had a very quiet, relaxed day so far.  The sudden arrival of several inches of snow has put paid to going out anywhere but that's OK.  We have dinner booked tonight in our favourite Italian restaurant and it's only round the corner, so sturdy boots and waterproof jackets will see us there and back.

And here we are, a year ago today - the new Mr & Mrs:

Monday, 22 February 2010

New beginnings - part 3

Well it's only 2 days until my first wedding anniversary and we will both be taking 2 days off work to celebrate.  Since I met my husband I have started doing so many things that I had either never done before or had a go at and never carried on.  Things like:
  • waterskiing (I always hated anything that involved water)
  • snow skiing (why pay to go and freeze your ass off when you can do it at home for free?)
  • cycling (I even did the 2009 Pedal for Scotland event and cycled 51 miles from Glasgow to Edinburgh)
  • travelling (this I did do a little before when I could afford it)
  • breaking bones (3 metatarsal fractures as a result of my first and only attempt to do mountain biking)
  • making jewellery (saving costs for the wedding started it off but I really enjoy it)
  • becoming a mother-in-law (now that was a big surprise)
  • blogging ( I guess I have to keep up with the times)

Photos (left to right ): Me waterskiing on Lake Geneva, Me & The Boy kitted up for skiing in -30 degrees in Finnish Lapland, Me & The Boy swimming in Lac Montriand in the French Alps.

Since I first met him 6 years ago my husband has always been there to give me the support and encouragement I needed to try out new things.  I only cast up my broken foot to him occasionally.  That was the result of me believing him when he told me I could handle mountain biking.  Anyway, I survived and was able to take part in the Pedal for Scotland event a year later than planned.

Photos (Left to right) Me modelling my newly acquired 'moon boot' after breaking my foot in July 2008 and Me taking part in the 2009 Pedal for Scotland event.

I'm looking forward to trying even more new things as our life together progresses and no doubt I will share with you on here.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

How hard can it be to take a photo?

"Very" is the answer to that question when it comes to making your artistic creations look attractive to potential buyers.  I used to be not bad with a camera. That was in the days when people put actual film in cameras and printed real photos.  I used to even develop my own photos and print them.  Mind you, I only did black and white myself. I left the colour developing to the professionals.

My eyesight was better then as well.  I can still see the subjects of my intended photographs clearly enough.  I just can't read the damned buttons or displays on the camera.  I am using a digital SLR camera that was my husband's.  He bought himself a fancy new all singing, all dancing number last year.  What I didn't appreciate until yesterday was that his cast-off camera is automatic only so I couldn't play with things like the aperture size, depth of field or any of that stuff even if I could read the buttons and displays.  This was a huge disappointment.  It means I need to be more inventive when it comes to taking photos.

I've read hints and tips about making a light box but I've never had the time or the energy to really have a go at that yet.  I saw photos of earrings being displayed hanging elegantly from wine glasses and thought I'd try it. 
Yes it worked for some things (if you get the right shape of glass) but it doesn't work for everything.  I have a lovely soft, black pashmina thingy that I've also used to display things on but dark things don't really show up properly.

Yesterday I think I stumbled on a good idea.  I had made some earrings using antiqued copper, topaz crystals and polished garnets.  I thought they looked pretty nifty but the photos told a different story.  So last night I went up to my photographic studio (my bedroom) and looked around for inspiration.  I have a tiny white soap stone box that's inlaid with gorgeous colours so I took that and tried draping stuff across it. Then it suddenly occurred to me to try using it as a tiny light box for the earrings.  Look at the difference!  The photo on the left was taken on top of a bed throw and is all fuzzy and wouldn't persuade me to buy the earrings, never mind anyone else.  The one on the right, with my soap stone light box shows of the shapes and colours and is actually in focus, which is a bonus.  It might even persuade someone to buy the earrings. What do you think?

I spent ages last night taking more photos of things that are already in my Etsy shop to try and improve their appeal and show off the colours and shapes better.  I think I've made a bit of progress but my photography skills need a lot of practice and I think I need to borrow my husband's camera and work on making a light box.  It appears that image is everything.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Aren't dumplings supposed to be round?

So yesterday I found a recipe for beef stew with parsley dumplings.  It sounded like something I could start before I went to the gym and finish off later.  I've never made dumplings before although I've eaten them loads of times.  The recipe wasn't too complicated although I'd to divide all the quantities by 4.  I think the original recipe was supposed to feed an army! Apologies for the terrible quality of the photos as I took them with my phone.  Part 1, making the actual stew was easy enough although I had to substitute squash for the carrots demanded by the recipe so that The Boy would eat it.  I was supposed to simmer it on the stove for 90 minutes but as I had to get to the gym while that was happening I had to stick it in the oven for a bit or I'd have come home to a burnt, dried out offering.  Mixing up the 'dough' for the doughballs was pretty straight forward as well.  I was very careful to follow the instructions to the letter, especially the bit about keeping the lid tightly on the pot for at least the furst 12 minutes after adding the doughballs so that mine would turn out light and fluffly instead of heavy and stodgy.  Now my limited  experience of doughballs so far has been that they are round (as the name doughBALLs suggests).  Mine were certainly light and fluffy but they sort of spread in a layer over the top of the stew instead of forming into neat little balls.  They did taste awesome though so I won't complain.  I still like to know how to make my doughballs the right shape though,

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Balancing life

I don't know how I ever coped with being a single parent to 2 daughters, holding down a (more than) full time job and still having a life but I did.  Now my daughters have grown up and flown the nest, I have married again, I work mostly from home and I never seem to have enough time to do everything.  Admittedly my mum used to help out when the girls were small.  Maybe that's what makes the difference.

My husband and I have been a bit lazy recently and were starting to feel unfit and overweight so we decided to join the gym.  The routine we've settled into is that we go to the gym Mondays to Fridays, we both leave home around the same time but he goes with a couple of friends while I take the car and go on my own.  I finish earlier than them and head home.  Being men, they have to do the group therapy thing and cluster around one machine while they all take turns before moving on to the next one.  When they have finally done pumping all that iron they head off to the sauna for a while before going home.  By the time my husband arrives home I have dinner ready.  The only problem with all of this is that it's almost bed time by the time we sit down to eat and I feel cheated somehow that I haven't had time to relax between dinner and bed time.

I love cooking but I'm finding it a real challenge finding something different to cook each night with the ingredients I have available at home that doesn't take forever to prepare. Due to a slight surplus of chicken in the freezer we're having chicken fajitas at least once a week because they are quick to prepare and cook.  I've also been taking a leaf or 3 out of Ching-He Huang's book, literally, and making quick stirfries.  Ken Hom's Lemon Chicken is also rather good.  The only problem with all of this is I seem to be getting through more chillies than anyone has a right to.  I'm sure they're supposed to be good for you in some way.  Right?  Any hints and tips for working full time, getting fit and still being able to eat at regular times will be gratefully accepted.  I think I may rebel and only go to the gym 2 or 3 nights a week but go on the weekend as well.  What do you reckon?

Friday, 12 February 2010

The mysterious case of the exploding Maggie

I think I'm falling to bits as I get older.  There's the eyesight that was once condemned by an optician "your close up focusing is rather disappointing". Tell me about it! That was before I was even officially old.  Then there's the creaky, grinding neck.  According to the doc that's just wear and tear and it's unfortunate that I succumbed to it at the 'young' end of the normal age range.  Of course, landing on my head while skiing this time last year didn't do anything to improve that condition.  At least the boys made sure I was OK before they laughed.  And, I seem to be developing odd allergies.

Most ailments I guess you just get used to.  You know they're age related and they won't get any better so you just work around them and ignore them the best you can.  Sometimes you can even forget you have them for a while.  My latest ailment was proving difficult to ignore though.  I thought I had caught some kind of cold because I suddenly started sneezing a lot but it doesn't affect me all day or all the time.  It's only first thing in the morning, or in the middle of the night if I wake up.  And then it just doesn't stop.  I'd wake my husband up with the sneezing - he said I sounded like I was exploding!  It carried on for a few weeks and I got through boxes & boxes of tissues and I eventually decided it couldn't be a cold.  So, as an experiment, I took the anti-histamines that I normally only take during the warmer months to counteract my hayfever (which I never suffered from when I was younger) and Hallelujah! No more early morning explosions.  I don't understand what would suddenly cause me to build up allergies overnight.  I mean, it's February. There can't be any plants growing anywhere to make the hay fever flare up.  So, it's still a mystery but at least Maggie isn't exploding on a regular basis any more.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

New beginnings - part 2

Everyone seems to be gearing up for Valentine's Day at the moment.  I'm not.  Not because I don't believe in the concept or anything but because, unbelievably, it's my first wedding anniversary 10 days later. If we had unlimited cash we'd go out and celebrate both days but we don't so we'll stick to celebrating our own special day this year.  There's a fantastic event at Edinburgh Castle that we'd love to go to:

Special Valentine's Wine and Dine, Edinburgh Castle 14 February 2010

Treat your loved one to a fantastic meal in a beautifully historic location.  Our four course meal is designed to tempt your taste buds with an array of top-quality locally sourced produce.

Course 1 - Seared hand-dived scallops, vegetarian option of seared haloumi wtih cauliflower puree
Course 2 - Roast pumpkin and almond ravioli
Course 3 - Loin of Perthshire venison, vegetarian option of baked strudel of winter vegetables, all served with pear tatin, creamed parsnip, curly kale and a port wine jus
Course 4 - Steamed chocolate marmalade pudding with Drambuie custard and passion fruit granita

Each course is accompanied by a specially selected wine.  A beautiful meal in fantastic surroundings - what could be more romantic?

£42 for members, £49 for non-members.  Pre-booking essential.

I just know it will all taste divine and the surroundings are stunning but maybe we can afford it next year.

As we both love cooking (and eating) we've decided that we'll cook a special meal at home on Valentine's Day, choose a good bottle of wine and eat in the comfort of our own home, without all the hubbub that there will be in most of the restaurants that night.

As for the 24th, we have booked a table at our favourite, local Italian restaurant.  Being a Wednesday it will probably be as quiet as the day we got married when we almost had the restaurant to ourselves.  What a very different experience that day was.  We got married in romantically snowy Finnish Lapland.  This is me arriving in my reindeer sleigh escorted by some of the local people dressed up in their traditional Sami costumes.  I felt so sorry for that poor little reindeer having to pull me and a sleigh.  I had been worried about the temperature as it was 26 degrees below zero the week before but on the day it was a positively tropical -2 so the open sleigh wasn't too cold. Mind you, the littlest reindeer got up a fair turn of speed going down a hill and kicked up a lot of snow.  I thought it was going to wash  my make-up off but it didn't. Phew!

My husband to be and the best man travelled by snowmobile and were allowed to play in the deep snow on the way.  They had a ball.  On arrival at the wedding venue they got changed into kilts, assisted by a Finish gentleman who hadn't the slightest idea what a kilt was all about.

When I arrived, my darling daughters, my bridesmaids, were waiting for me outside, patiently I think.  At least they were still smiling.  It was a challenge for them, my mum and me to get ready in a very small ski chalet with hardly any lights or mirrors and not a lot of room but I think they did a pretty fine job.  In the middle of all the preparations a little Finnish man in overalls arrived at the door.  He spoke no English, we spoke no Finnish.  It turned out he was the maintenance man and proceeded to fix lights and radiators while we applied make-up, dried hair and generally titivated.  My mum (who is 84) tried to use sign language to explain that we were getting ready for a wedding but the poor man just looked confused and slightly amused by it all.  He left just in time before our transport arrived.

To be continued later.....

Monday, 8 February 2010

Branching out

I decided to try something new in the jewellery line.  I guess my new departure isn't really jewellery as such as it doesn't adorn anyone's actual body. However it can adorn people's much loved mobile/cell phones and some people love their phones to bits and like to bling them up. 

I've never actually used a phone charm (or any other kind of charm for that matter although I did pester my parents for a charm bracelet when I was little).  That's probably because I'm a very clumsy person and I'd only end up getting it caught on something, breaking it and sending beads and shiny things flying all over the place.  So, for someone who has never actually seen a real one in the flesh I think I did a pretty good job of making these 3.  They are all quite pretty in their own way. It's almost making me want to start blinging up my own phone. What do you think?

Friday, 5 February 2010

Creativity part 2

OK, so my first attempt at being creative with my lovely Indian glass beads didn't go to plan. I got a new mixed box of little seed beads, bugle beads and acrylic beads in various colours and thought I'd try again.  In the end I figured blue held the most possibilities so I tipped all my blue beads out on to my tray to see what went best together.  The project that resulted from this ended up being a lot more fiddly than I had anticipated and was a challenge to my less than perfect eyesight. How are you meant to thread a seed bead when it's so small you can't actually see the hole?  It didn't help that I found out when it was too late that I had non-standard shaped callottes (no I don't mean the fashion clothing item that was popular many moons ago when I was just a slip of a thing) but that was fixed with some glue.  I probably didn't need the glue but you can't be too careful.   I overcame all the challenges in the end and am now quite pleased with my latest creation.  It is well balanced with regards to colours, bead shapes and textures and weight.  It's just heavy enough so you know it's there but no so heavy that it will cause neck strain. :o)