Every Life Should Have Nine Cats

Yes, absolutely, except we have drawn the line at seven.  Not tempting fate at all – tee hee!

Since we last spoke, Marmelade has been an eating and feeding machine and it wasn’t long before the kittens made it out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, where they have been playing on the scratching posts, running between the mouseholes in the long middle leg of the bed and generally sleeping.  We believe they are boys and have called them Casper (after the friendly ghost and because he is so gentle: he even has a heart on his side) and Ragnar (after Mr Lothbrok of Norse fame as he is into everything and is usually at the head of the queue).  This photo is of them at 6.5 weeks.

2018-08 – Ragnar and Casper

Here is a gallery of the family taken today, at 9 weeks:

Marmelade now has her tail up when she comes for food and is happy to sniff an outstretched finger and take a treat from my hand, but we are not at the stroking stage yet.  Casper and Ragnar are happy to be stroked, although they would much rather be playing and running about.

After all that cuteness, let’s get on to the stitching.  This month, it was the turn of Watergarden.  In all the hot weather, it was really lovely working amongst the cool colours.  Here’s my starting point for the month:

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And here is where I finished at the end of last week:

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I absolutely loved doing the special stitches of the wall around the ponds (brick red) and the triangular pieces around the main pond in a variegated thread.  The other bit I loved doing was the black backstitching around the golden gates: (1) it was easy to do and (2) look at how it makes the gates pop!

That’s all for now folks – have a lovely September and see you in October when Autumn will have sat down at the table and made herself at home!

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Time Flies

Time does indeed fly – slowly, quickly, steadily and I have been making the most of it this past month.

First up, let me introduce you to the newest addition to our home:

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This is Marmelade: no, not a spelling mistake.  Her name is pronounced “marm-uh-lay-the”, which is Danish for jam or, umm, orange marmalade.  That’s DH’s influence at play!  She is semi-feral and we had been feeding her for a couple of months with a view to domesticating her over the summer.  We realized she was having difficulty squeezing between the wall and the gate in the middle of June and thought she was either fat (unlikely) or pregnant (highly likely).  We decided to trap her so she could have her kittens in safety.  With the help of a local charity, who loaned a cat trap, we caught her – I have never before seen a cat so angry – all teeth and claws is no exaggeration.  Anyway, after a quick visit to the vet, we got her back home and into our guest bedroom/bathroom.  The vet thought we had a 4-5 weeks before she gave birth so we concentrated on feeding her up and developing trust between us.  However, she gave birth on 4 July, just 2 weeks after her arrival.  She produced 3 kittens, which is normal for feral cats, but one died.  We named him Ginger and buried him in the garden.

Because we did not want to distress her by constantly looking in on her, we set up a couple of cameras so we could (a) see a live feed and (b) capture photographs every 30 seconds to review what went on while we were away.  This did a lot to allay our fears as new ‘parents’ and allow Marmelade to exhibit her normal behaviour.

Marmelade has kept the kittens in the nest for the last 4 weeks, but yesterday we saw this:

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Aren’t they just adorable!  No names as yet because we don’t know their sex.  The one outside the nest also managed to climb up on top of it, although his descent was less than elegant!

Given that we moved to the countryside, the flies have been a nuisance in the kitchen – urgh!  I bought a couple of electric fly killers: basically a unit with a blue light and a square of sticky card on the back.  These were OK and caught the smaller flies and some moths, but 3 blue bottles were persistent and managed to dodge the modern version of the fly tape.  A friend at work suggested getting some venus fly traps.  I thought it a genius idea and so we marched off to the garden centre and bought two venus fly traps and a pitcher plant.  Problem now solved!  If any do dodge all the modern technology and nature’s own pest controllers and I have to kill one or two with a flick of a tea towel kept expressly for that purpose, they get fed to these guys!

 

They are beautiful!

As many of you know, it’s been a tad hot in the UK (and pretty much elsewhere in the world, for that matter) so we have spent a lot of time in the garden.  As it’s only a rental property, I have tried hard not to fall in love with it, but I rather think that ship has sailed!  I have had a wonderful time reading in the shade of the apple tree.  Yes, I know the book is lightweight but it was the only fiction book I had to hand as the Kindle was dead.  This is also the book I read to Marmelade while lying on the floor as part of the getting to know you process.

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George had also been enjoying the hot weather and has a delightful version of corpse pose to cool off:

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Now to the stitchy news.  In amongst all the lovely weather, Watch was out on the stand.  I managed to finish off back-filling and correcting where I went wrong last time (see the previous post) and got to the end of the second row.  I am now officially two-thirds of the way through – yay!  Here are the progress pictures for the month of July:

I will work on lovely, cooling, Watergarden for August.

I hope you are all having a lovely Summer.  See you next month!

Necessity Makes the Frog Jump

Yes, this title is a Portuguese proverb, the relevance of which will become clear.

It’s been a busy couple of months at chez Davies – we have been very busy going to Ikea and putting things together, things we never knew we needed like bar chairs to go round the barbeque in the evening.  Actually, no, they were essential as it is lovely to sit and stare into the fire in the cool of the night and still be warm!

Our new BBQ by Ofyr

We have also been plugging away at the books currently stored in the spare room.  They are mainly cookbooks and I have worked on the basis that if I haven’t cooked from them for the last 3 years, then they have no place in our new home.  I have done one pass and need to have another two attempts!

All this activity meant the stitching got put to one side for a short while.  Before then, though, I managed to finish off my adaptation of Chatelaine’s Christmas Tree Mandala and here she is in all her glory:

As with anything like this, you can’t really see the sparkles.  Have a look here for bigger photographs.  I can’t wait to see both of them framed!

After a session with the cookbooks, I pulled out Watch.  I found a frog (curses) as I had miscounted the white stitches on the clock face.  Rather than counting a zillion white stitches, I knew I was OK up until the end of the III so I started the black bar at the bottom.  I soon found out that the mistake was between the III and the IIII right where the grey round part is appearing.  I will complete everything within the trajectory of the black bar and backfill the white – phew!

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Given I have neglected him for so long, I’ll keep Watch out for the rest of the month and all of July.

I hope you are having as lovely a summer as we are.

Let One Thousand Flowers Bloom

Well, not quite one thousand, but it’s about taking ideas from different places and going with it, including changing mindsets.

I had a feng shui consultant come and look at the new house to make sure the energies are favourable, particularly for the business.  It transpires that my idea to go and live in the middle of a field had unforeseen consequences, in that the energies are extremely quiet (yin) here.  This is not particularly good for the business and socialising.  I actioned some of the yang remedies, using flowers as a temporary measure until I can find beautiful objects.

In terms of the objects I already had, I am particularly pleased with how they looked after moving them to the hallway alcove.

Hallway Alcove

In an effort to make the outside of the house look more attractive and yang, I bought some Photinia Red Robin for the wall I can see from the kitchen window (where the bins used to be) and a couple of smaller ones for either side of the door:

They will be put directly into the ground, so will lose a bit of height/give them room to grow, but already they have softened the view.  The leaves will go a bright red – I can’t wait!

On to other plants of a stitching variety.  I finished Christmas Tree Mandala!  It took a bit of fiddling around to get the plant pots right as, when I did them as charted with two threads, I couldn’t see what I was doing and it looked bulky.  In the end, I settled for the charted stitches but using one thread.

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On my chart, the beads in the bushes did not show and it wasn’t until the end of stitching I realised I hadn’t used a particular set of beads.  A much closer squint at the chart revealed a very, very pale symbol.  As my dear husband says “read the manual”.  Anyway, by that point, I had already substituted white beads to go in the bushes.  I also replaced the PTB french knots for petite seed beads and put a snowflake treasure in the centre of the pond.  It just needed something sparkling there.

I liked it so much I am stitching a second Mandala.  This time I will use petite red beads for the bushes and put a gold snowflake treasure in the centre of the pond.  Like the previous one, it will probably take me about five weeks.  Here’s where I finished yesterday:

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Onwards and upwards with de-cluttering scheduled for today!  See you next month folks!

 

Still Waters Run Deep

Hello everyone – I hope Spring has arrived in your neck of the woods.  Although Spring began officially on 21st March, it has yet to show its face here in Oxfordshire.  We even had two bouts of snow in March.  This, of course, brought the entire area to a standstill as we Brits are seemingly incapable of dealing with a bit of frozen precipitation!

Nevertheless, stitching this month was taken up with Watergarden and a small surprise.  Here is where I left you with Watergarden in early September 2017:

 

The second picture is where I rolled up the frame to get access to the area for the bridge.  After four weeks in March, here is where I finished her:

I just loved stitching the gates in Petite Treasure Braid (PTB) – it is so much easier to work with than Kreinik (click on the picture for a closer look).  It was nice knowing you, Kreinik, but I’ve found something better!  Do not darken my door again 🙂 .  The water below the middle gate also took some thinking through as I wanted the change of colours to flow naturally and look like water.  This part was stitched in the Caron Collection’s 107 Spruce – a beautiful variegated silk thread.

To allow me to work more of Watergarden I needed to roll up the frame again so I decided on a new start instead.  Chatelaine’s Christmas Tree Mandala had sat at the back of my mind for a while and, if I want it framed by Assad before he retires at the end of the year, I need to get my skates on.

I am going to do two versions:

  • the one I am working on is almost as charted by Martina, except I will use petite gold beads where PTB french knots are called for (because I am rubbish at french knots and particularly french knots in a metallic thread), and white petite beads in the green bushes (see above).  I am also totalling stealing someone else’s idea of putting a silvery snowflake treasure in the centre part rather than stitching it all.
  • the second piece will have the same amendment of beads for french knots but with red petite beads in the green bushes and a gold snowflake treasure.

Here is where I got to on the first version after a couple of days:

You can see those bushes just scream to have some beads on them.  Anyway, I will continue with Christmas Tree Mandala(s) until finished so I can get them to Assad as soon as possible.

Have a wonderful Easter break and see you at the end of April.  Happy stitching!

 

Better Late Than Never

Hi honey, I’m home!  Well, it just goes to show that you really can’t plan for everything, despite best efforts.  Following on from my last post in September (2017!), this happened:

The decorator recommended to us to prepare the flat for sale was a liar and also bad at his job, so we sacked him and got a better one who could only do it on an ‘as and when’ basis.  This meant we stayed at my MIL’s for six weeks rather than the two we had thought would be sufficient.  We spent most days at the flat cleaning paint off furniture, floors, door furniture, kitchen cabinets etc getting it ready for viewings.  It was back breaking work I can tell you.  In all, we lost three weeks of selling time and had to resort to having viewings on an ad hoc basis rather than a couple of open days.  This was another reason why we stayed at MILs as, once we got the place looking pristine, we wanted to keep it that way.  Suffice to say that, when we came to move all the furniture out at the beginning of November, no viewings had taken place and the flat was empty apart from the curtains and blinds.  People would just have to use their imagination and refer to the estate agent photographs when looking round the property.  We had a couple of ridiculously silly offers before Christmas which we rejected and decided to wait until the New Year, when the estate agent said viewings would pick up again.

Annoyingly, enquiries were really slow in January, although we had a lot of clicks on the website so I told the estate agent to remove the property from the e-auction as it was too new for people to get their heads round.  We started to get viewings almost immediately: I think this was due to the fact that there aren’t many landlords buying properties and it was just first time, inexperienced, buyers looking round: they are timid creatures.  Hey ho.

The good news is we accepted an offer a couple of weeks ago from a first time buyer, who wants to move in quickly.  The stuff which takes the time are the searches, which we already had done in preparation for the e-auction so now our solicitor is going to persuade the buyer’s solicitor to use them rather than organize fresh ones which would take more time and come back with the same information.  That leaves the buyer to organize a property survey and the mortgage – let’s see how it goes.

In the meantime, we moved into our new place near Henley on Thames in Oxfordshire – we are on top on the Chilterns so we get all the weather, but the air is beautifully clean and clear of pollution.  There are numerous public footpaths literally outside our back door, including the Ridgeway and the Chiltern Way.  The countryside is stunning and we are very happy.  George and Tiggy are enjoying the garden and have put on a bit of muscle chasing leaves.  Their appetites have certainly improved!

I couldn’t stitch as my stitching lamps weren’t sturdy enough to stand alone in the new place: they were propped up by the sofa and a cat tree in the flat so G&T wouldn’t knock them over bombing around the place.  Once we moved in to the new place, there were more important things to get sorted than stitching lamps.  Suffice to say it wasn’t until the last week in January that I treated myself to a couple of heavy floor lamps – DH was on a mission to get LED bulbs to reduce the running costs of all lights in the house and he managed to source some full spectrum ones for my stitching – they are brilliant in every sense of the word!

I decided to focus on Watch for the rest of January and February and here are my start and finish points:

 

The roman numerals took about four hours each as there were a surprising amount of confetti stitches!  Number IIII is only half complete, which is why it looks a bit out of focus.  It was so lovely to return to my moving meditation.  Next month Watergarden will be getting an outing, and I am looking forward to using some colours.

One of the benefits of living where we do means we can pop into Oxford for a bit of culture: the Ashmolean Museum is hosting an exhibition from March to July on America’s Cool Modernism, featuring no less than Charles Demuth’s I Saw the Figure Five in Gold, which I stitched across 2013-2014.  I can’t wait to go!

Finally Framed!

See you at the end of March.  Yes, I promise 🙂

Seven Stones to Stand or Fall

I was going to say there was no rhyme or reason to the title for this post apart from the fact I am reading this book by Diana Gabaldon; however, actually, there is.  Read on.

The first stone is stitching (both standing and falling).  The standing bit covers some progress on Watergarden.  This is where I left you in August:

After about 10 days’ work, she looked like this:

Don’t you just love those blues.  I know I could just dive straight in.  At this point I rolled up the material to gain access to the topmost part and finished here:

Now, the falling part is that I have not stitched since 3rd September.  I know!  I’m definitely going through withdrawal symptoms.  The reason for this is that our offer for the house in South Oxfordshire succeeded.  This meant that Operation Up Sticks kicked in:

Declutter – it sounds so easy, doesn’t it.  In actual fact it took us from 10th to 26th September to do this and transfer 75% of our possessions from the flat to storage.  We recycled/sent to charity/binned about 5% and I now have a new rule: if it doesn’t fit in a cupboard, then it doesn’t come in the door.  I must be ruthless when it comes to the unpacking stage.  On the plus side, it is so much easier to clean the flat.  🙂

Organise transfer of job – I had to go for a group interview and it transpired when I was chatting with our branch’s HR person that I should have only had a chat to confirm my position.  Understandably, the hours offered fit in with the new branch’s requirements but are (a) less than I now work and (b) not my ideal choice; however, once Christmas passes and the dust settles, I’ll see what I can get during the day Monday to Friday rather than evenings and weekends.  I’ll just have to wow them with my winning personality and willingness to get stuck in!  That funny feeling in the pit of my stomach has disappeared and I can now focus on the rest of Operation Up Sticks.

Decorate – our estate agent recommended a maintenance company he uses as some of the quotes we obtained privately were outrageous.  These guys were ready, willing, able and nice with it.  There are now 6 bodies in the flat beavering away.  We have decamped to my MIL’s for a couple of weeks as it would be impossible to live there for the duration: George would be under their feet all the time, getting his tail in the paint and Tiggy would be stressed and guarding the carpet under the bed.  She hasn’t yet come downstairs at MIL’s but she *has* come out of her crate.  In the meantime, I have Claire Martin and Donna Lewis on loop as these artists’ music calms Tiggy.  Baby steps …

Photographs – booked in for a fortnight hence.

Market – as soon as the photographs are taken, the estate agent will put the flat on the market.  We have gone for the private auction option, which takes four weeks from photographs to auction date.  It provides certainty and virtually guarantees that the sale will complete.  Also, there will be just one day when viewings take place: another visit to MIL’s so George and Tiggy are not stressed by strangers wandering around and, let’s face it, so we only have to hide cat paraphernalia just the once 😮 .

That leaves just one stone: organising the physical move.  I am happy to report I have selected a removals company and now I just need to make the booking.

Just as a PS, back in June I finished Milly and Andy’s wedding sampler and I had to contain myself until 8th September:

I am so pleased that Milly likes it and I wish them a long and happy marriage.

Whew, I think that’s it for now.  I know stitching will be on the back burner until we’ve unpacked in the new house as my set up was too bulky to have in the flat, taking into account decorators/viewings etc.  I have resigned myself to getting through a few books between now and then.  If you can highly recommend any, then that would be great.  I like historical fiction, mysteries, and science fiction if that helps.

See you again around Hallowe’en