Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween

We got into the spirit of things over the weekend.  The weather was wet and dreary, so we spent some time making Halloween-themed crafts.


We made chocolate cupcakes and topped them with a circle of fondant icing.  I bought coloured writing icing as I knew these would be easier for the children to use - however, I was disappointed that the effect only lasted a day, and by the next morning the "writing" icing had dissolved into sludge on top of the fondant.  I won't be buying them again!

The children love carving pumpkins every year.  Well, they love making the mess; Dad loves carving the pumpkins.


I have no idea how we ever managed to carve turnips as children - pumpkins are enough work as it is!


These are some of my cupcake efforts.


And this is one of Dad's pumpkin efforts.

I'm glad it's Halloween today; there's a distinct smell of "vegetable" in my living room and I'll be glad when the pumpkins make their way into the compost bin!

Best Wishes
Debbie



Thursday, 25 October 2012

Feeling creative again...

Lately I've been feeling like creating again. 

I pulled out my fabric box from the bottom of the wardrobe and unearthed my sewing machine from the clutter in our spare room.  I sorted out my threads and sewing accessories and I bought myself some lovely new fabrics online.  I went to the library and borrowed some quilting books to give me some fresh inspiration.


I'll use some of these pretty fabrics to make a cute little girl's quilt for Lizzie.


I love the daisies in this fabric.  I love to have reminders of Daisy in my life.


I had a go at creating my first quilting "block".  It's still a fairly basic technique, but for a beginner like me, it's perfect!


For me, sewing is a way of creating something personal and unique.  I find the process of creating the patterns, deciding on colours and combinations, and watching the piece come together very therapeutic.  I'm looking forward to seeing how my next quilt will turn out.

Best wishes
Debbie




Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The changing of the seasons...

It has well and truly shifted into Autumn in our part of the world.

The temperature has dropped, and along with it the leaves have turned from green to gold to brown, and fallen gently all around us.  The branches and twigs on the trees are bare now; everything is shutting down, dying back, hibernating until it is time to re-emerge next spring.


We're embracing the change of seasons.  The garden has been tidied and the shed has been re-organised.  The barbeque has been stashed at the far back corner - we won't be needing that again for some time!  The spring bulbs have been planted, tucked away underground to emerge in all their glory next year - tulips, daffodils and crocuses, all being well.  I look forward to that blaze of colour appearing in my garden when I've almost forgotten about the bulbs I've planted.

Halloween is almost upon us and the children love carving pumpkins and making spooky-themed cupcakes and treats.  Our meals change to comforting stews and warming soups, we eat more hot puddings than normal, and hot chocolate is always on the go.  The gloves and scarves have been brought back out from the suitcase on top of the wardrobe, and they've all been freshly laundered, ready, waiting, for it to get colder.

The car maintenance has been carried out, de-icer spray and scrapers are handy and at the ready (I've already used de-icer once this month, on a particularly frosty morning!).  The mornings and nights are getting darker, and after this weekend when the clocks go back, the darkness seems to hit by mid afternoon.  The quilts have been changed, we've all upped togs - and the blankets are washed and to hand when an extra cover is needed on the beds.

All this preparation and readiness for the cold ahead has left me feeling calm and able to enjoy the now.

The fresh, crisp air outdoors calls for one thing - wrap up warm and head to the park!


Thanks for reading - hope you're keeping cosy too.

Best Wishes
Debbie


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Reflecting on the past year...

I started writing my blog in October 2011.  As I have now reached a year of blogging, I thought I'd spend some time reflecting on the last twelve months.  What a year it has been!

I went back to the very beginning and read through each of the 122 posts I have written, along with every single comment left by others.  It's taken me a good while to get through it all.  I laughed and I cried in equal measure.

At some points, I laughed out loud!

Do you remember the lemons?!  Those of you who have been reading for a while (some of you, from the very beginning!) will remember all too well the huge box of lemons I bought at the start of the year.  I'm STILL working my way through them.  I've lost count of the number of lemon sponges I have made.

I chuckled to myself reading all my banana posts.  I've made a LOT of banana cake!  In many different guises!  In fact, I've recently stopped buying bananas - I'm not sure if it's the bananas I'm fed up with, or the cake that undoubtedly follows when there's over-ripe bananas left to be used up!

Ahhh, the yellow stickers!!  Who could forget my love of the reduced section in the supermarket.  Note: this has not changed!  I still look out for them and base my meals around the bargains I pick up.  Old habits die hard!

Our gardening efforts started off with such promise... sadly the weather seriously affected this year's crop and we ended up with only a few potatoes and some lettuce (much to my husband's disappointment).  Here's to better luck next year!

My lovely friend bought me a food processor after reading my post about making meatballs.  I think she felt sorry for me, making breadcrumbs with a cheese grater!  I now use my food processor often - I'm so glad I have one now, it makes a multitude of preparation tasks so much easier!

I still haven't finished Lizzie's quilt.  It remains on my To Do list, though...

I prepared for winter so much last year, the winter never really amounted to anything, and we hardly had any snow at all.  I'm assured that this year there will be snow like we had two years ago, so my preparations for winter will shortly begin again in earnest!

As my thoughts turn to planning for Christmas, I'm relieved that I bought as much as I did earlier in the year. I'll soon be digging out my Christmas box from the cupboard under the stairs - although I have already got the majority of my gifts bought already.

Oh, how I cried too.

I read all the posts I wrote about preparing for my baby's arrival.  The photograph of the moses basket, ready by my bedside, waiting for a baby that never came home from the hospital.  The last post I wrote before Daisy was born.  How very, very sad.

Re-reading the posts I wrote just after Daisy's death was so emotional.  I poured my heart out - what was left of it - into each and every post I wrote at the time.  My shattered heart and my shattered dreams.  I can re-live the exact feelings of my grief through the words I wrote - thick, palpable, heavy words of grief and despair.  Those were dark and sad days indeed.

The days now are not so dark or heavy.  The light at the end of the tunnel draws closer; we continue to move towards it.  Grief is a journey indeed.  Putting one foot in front of the other, getting through just one day, one moment, at a time, has lead me to where I am now.  The journey is far from over; but the sorrow and sadness is easier to bear.  I am learning to live with losing Daisy.  It still hurts, but I am living with it.

I have changed in a lot of ways; I hope that I am now a more compassionate and loving person than I ever was before.  I hope I can extend kindness to others in the way people did to me.  Reading all the comments from visitors to my blog reminded me of the kindness and support extended to me in my darkest days.  What strength I took from all those comments and emails from that time - all these strangers, stopping by, pausing a moment to offer a supportive word to a woman whose heart was broken.  I will be forever grateful for the kindness sent to me from all over the world - the support gave me strength more than words can ever describe.

Although I will never be the same person I was before, I am starting to find pleasure in the little things again.  In the days and weeks after Daisy's death, I thought I never would.  I remember saying to my husband that I'd never be happy again.  Others assured me that I would; that I would find myself again, my new self.  And I am.

With that, I'm off to start another list.  I am still a planner!

Thanks so much for reading and for staying with me on my journey.

Best Wishes
Debbie





Monday, 8 October 2012

A Day Out - for a Great Cause

Yesterday we packed up the car, armed with lunch boxes and a portable DVD player, and headed off into the Highlands to support a friend of ours who was running in the Glencoe Marathon, to raise money for Sands in memory of Daisy.


The Glencoe Marathon is Scotland's most challenging marathon and is described as "the pinnacle of the trail marathon calendar".  The route includes the Devil’s Staircase, a gruelling 500 metre climb over the eastern edge of the truly fearsome Aonach Eagach Ridge.  That Gareth was prepared to take on this challenge and fundraise in memory of Daisy was so very touching and we were delighted to be there, cheering him on as he crossed the finish line.


We had a great day out; the journey there took us through two and a half hours of idyllic scenery and breathtaking views.  Autumn in Scotland is a gorgeous mix of warm browns, burnt oranges and long shadows created by the low sun.


Afterwards, we went for a meal in Fort William to celebrate with Gareth and his family, before getting into the car and heading for home.  When we got back, we tucked the children up in bed and they were asleep within minutes - exhuasted after a busy, tiring day running around in the fresh air.


So far, almost a thousand pounds has been donated to Sands in Daisy's memory - an amazing amount of money for such a worthwhile charity, supporting parents and their families after the loss of a baby.  You can read more about Sands and the donations made via my JustGiving page from the link in the menu bar above.

Thank you all for reading.

Best Wishes
Debbie

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Chocolate Cake

It's not often I make a chocolate cake.  I prefer to make vanilla sponge, as it's my favourite!  But a special request from the children for chocolate cake resulted in this birthday creation.


I made up a sponge mix as normal using 8-8-8-4, but replaced one ounce of flour with one ounce of cocoa powder.

The chocolate frosting recipe came from my Twitter friend Kirsty (@curlyb56) and it was delicious!

Ingredients

350g milk chocolate
225g unsalted butter
1 tbsp milk
250g icing sugar

Beat the butter, milk and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Melt the chocolate in a separate bowl, then add to the butter and icing sugar mixture until thick and creamy.  Use this frosting to sandwich and top the cake.

I used giant chocolate buttons to decorate the top.

Best wishes
Debbie

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Remembering London 2012

We were lucky enough to get tickets to the Olympics in London this summer.  It had been a trip a long time in the planning; I'd applied for the tickets in the first round of applications, starting back in February 2011.  The tickets I wanted were for the tae kwon do event - my husband is a 2nd degree black belt in tae kwon do, and I wanted the tickets as a surprise wedding present for him.  In June 2011 I found out I'd managed to get a pair of tickets, and on our wedding day in July 2011 I surprised my husband with the tickets to London 2012.

Fast forward a year in our lives to the Olympics, and a lot had happened - we were lucky enough to fall pregnant with the baby we so wanted, and although the baby was due to arrive in June, we still planned to go to the Olympics.  We changed our plans though and decided to go for only two nights, rather than the four nights we'd thought of originally.  My mum offered to babysit the children for us so we could go on our trip of a lifetime to the Olympics, and everything was planned.

Daisy died, and our lives were thrown upside down.  We weren't sure whether we wanted to go to the Olympics any more; we were sad, we didn't feel like celebrating.  But we decided that this was an opportunity of a lifetime not to be missed, and that some time away together, just the two of us, would be good for us.

So five hours in the train and we were in London. 

This was my first ever visit to London; and I loved it.  I loved the bustle and the diversity; the excitement and the atmosphere.  This may have been attributed to the buzz created by the Olympic games, but everywhere we went there seemed to be smiling, happy people and a friendliness about the place.  Not at all what I had expected from a capital city!

We took some time to breathe.  To sit, to reflect, to talk, to not talk - to spend some precious time just the two of us, enjoying each other's company.  Enjoying a new shared experience; enjoying being part of something global, an opportunity we're unlikely to have again in our lifetime. 

We can say; we were there.  We went to London 2012.

I wanted to create a visual reminder of our time in London, so I used keepsakes from our trip and made up framed collages of our experience.  A tube map, travelcards, our tickets, some photographs.  These will hang on our wall and remind us of our part in something special.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Slow Cooked Chilli Beef

As the weather turns colder my cooking changes and we return to comforting, warming foods in our house.  The slow cooker is brought out from the back of the cupboard and I feel the urge to eat a lot more stews and casseroles.

I make chilli con carne all the time, but I found a recipe in Lisa Faulkner's book Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter that I thought I'd adapt to become Slow Cooked Chilli Beef.

Ingredients

400g diced beef
400g lean steak mince
200g chorizo, sliced
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 dried red chilli, chopped
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tin of kidney beans, drained
1 tin of baked beans, rinsed
salt and pepper

I browned the diced beef and the mince first and added to the slow cooker.  I cooked the chorizo and used the oil from that to soften the onions and garlic.  I added these and all the other ingredients to the slow cooker, gave it all a good mix round and left to cook on the low setting for 10 hours.

We ate the chilli beef with rice and tortilla chips.  Spicy, tasty and warming on a blustery, wet autumn evening!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Remembering Daisy

Yesterday Daisy would have been 3 months old, if she had lived.

Candles were lit by thoughtful people in memory of Daisy and photographs of the candles were shared on Twitter and Facebook.

It really touched me to see so many people taking a moment to share the day with me and remember my beautiful baby.  Nothing can bring Daisy back, but to know that she is still in people's thoughts and hearts  makes her death easier for me to bear.

I spent the afternoon with my lovely friend I met through Sands.  She understands; she knows.  We talked about our baby girls, we shared our thoughts, we spoke about our hopes and our aspirations for the future.

It wasn't a sad day; but it was a thoughtful, reflective one.  Remembering Daisy, bringing small tokens of her into my everyday life, thinking of her often, brings me comfort.  I miss her every day.