Monday, 24 February 2014

Hair musings

Long hair suddenly!
Early morning - hair everywhere

I looked in the mirror this morning and was surprised to find my hair so long.  It seems to grow overnight sometimes - going from shoulder-length to long without me noticing.  I like to vary my hairstyle - sometimes it's long, sometimes I have a very short bob, occasionally I have a crop, sometimes I have a fringe, and sometimes I have layers cut in.  The idea of finding one style and sticking to it makes me feel bored and restricted.

I used to dye my hair quite regularly when I was a teenager and in my early twenties.  I mainly hennaed it, or dyed it various copper shades.  Now my hair is beginning to show silver streaks I am less inclined to dye it though.  I rather like the idea of having silver hair, although the in-between stage of salt-and-pepper shaded hair is less enticing.

For work I have to have my hair completely tied back.  I once arrived on a ward with a new haircut and no hair elastics and the ward sister informed me that even my short bob needed to be tied back, so I spent the day with it scraped back into an elastic band that she produced from her desk drawer; which, as anyone who has ever had to do that will know, was incredibly painful!  So now I have a little zip purse of hair elastics and kirby grips in my bag at all times.

When my hair is long I am guilty of tying it back into a ponytail almost all the time, which I sometimes think is a shame.  I am very fussy about my ponytails though, as I like to make sure they are high, symmetrical and secure.  I find there is something quite energising and uplifting about sashaying out of the house for the day with my hair swinging up in a high ponytail!  I do high ballet buns on Olivia for her ballet lessons, and she is just starting to learn to do them on herself.  However, we both find them much harder to do on ourselves than on someone else ...I haven't really mastered doing a bun on myself.  Not a satisfyingly, high, neat one anyhow.

So I shall start thinking about what I do with mine now.  Let it grow even longer and practice doing buns? Cut it off? Leave it long but get a fringe cut in?  This probably means there is a Pinterest board to be compiled....

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Two new tops

It feels like a long time since I made any clothes for myself.  When I checked on my blog I discovered that it was indeed a long time ago - May 2012, just before I applied to University and started my nursing course.  Dressmaking takes time - even the simplest piece of clothing is a challenge to make in one day when you've also got to cook tea, take someone to ballet, clean out the chickens, draft an essay and read a couple of articles on diabetes.  I used to set aside whole days at a time to making new clothes, but I just can't do that any more.

So I've approached it differently.  I took my time, did a bit of pattern tracing one day, and had a happy few hours choosing fabrics the next day.  Then I had a couple of days at University and some more studying at home, before I spent another few hours pinning and cutting the fabric out.  The next weekend I sewed everything together, and finally finished the hemming as I waited at the station to pick up Olivia a few days after that.  Of course I can still make clothes when I am working or studying.  It seems obvious now I write that, but having been given the luxury of staying at home the last few years, it took me a while to understand how.

Over the past few weeks I've made myself two cotton tops.  I used the Lisette Market Dress pattern, Simplicity 2211, which I just discovered is now sadly out of print.  I bought the pattern when it came out and just hadn't got round to making it.  I made the first version exactly as the pattern directed, except that I left off the strange fake button placket down the centre front.  When it was finished and I wore it for a day, I had a number of issues with it.
  • it has rather a boxy shape on me - snug around the hips and too roomy around the waist.
  • the puffed and gathered sleeves look too babyish on a woman of 41
  • the interfacing I used on the contrast fabric around the neck and sleeves, left the top feeling a little too stiff at these points.  The neck is very high anyway, and the interfacing in it made it sit very awkwardly on me.

Resuming dressmaking. A simple top in a jazzy fabric to ease me in. Very pleased to have something new to wear
Version 1 - not bad, not great

Hemming my new top, as I wait at the station to pick up O #sewinginthecar
Hemming the first top, waiting in the car to pick up O
So, I embarked on version 2.  This time I left off the interfacing, left off the cuffs at the bottom of the sleeves so that they were no longer puffed, and took the side seams in at the waist and out at the hips.  I also bound the bottom edge with ribbon rather than hemming it.

I am delighted with this version.  Leaving off the interfacing made the process of putting on the neck much more sweary, as the fabric really takes some serious manipulation in order to lie nice and flat.  However, my patience (and swearing) paid off as the resulting neck is still neat and clean, but much softer to wear and somehow a little more casual too.

Swiss top. Crazy but fabulous. #dressmaking
Version 2 - much better tailored to my shape, and with more grown-up sleeves

Finally sewing something with the beautiful, thick, embroidered Swiss ribbon I bought when I was in Interlaken in 2010. #ribbon #switzerland #sewing
Thick, richly embroidered Swiss ribbon
For both tops I used fabric that I absolutely love.  The first one uses a wonderful spring-fresh quilting cotton from Amy Butler and the second one is an insanely patterned printed cotton which I bought in Switzerland in 2010.  It has little scenes of Switzerland on it, including my favourite - a tiny fondue pot!  The ribbon on the hem is also something I bought in Switzerland - a traditional Swiss, floral, embroidered ribbon.

There will be a third version too - incorporating all the changes I made for the second one.  I am just dithering over fabric choices at the moment.  A home made top deserves distinctive and beautiful fabric, and one of the reasons I love making clothes is that I end up with something you would never be able to buy in a shop.  I wear jeans a great deal, and their plainness is off-set nicely by a fancier top. 

This term at University we've been talking a great deal about how we will cope with the stresses of the job once we qualify, and one topic that keeps coming up is that of hobbies and interests outside nursing.  Mental wellbeing is something I wrote about a little bit on this blog back in October last year, and I now consider my mental health much more than I used to.  I am beginning to realise that although I love having new clothes to wear, I actually love dressmaking just as much for the creative challenge it provides.  All the measuring, adjusting, fiddly lining up of notches, pinning, overlocking and stitching requires just enough concentration to take my mind off whatever else is going on around me.  And now that I spend my working hours in a uniform with a high polyester content, the importance of beautiful, well-made clothes in natural fibres becomes even more significant.

Nancy's New Wardrobe Spring 2014 now underway! #excitement #tailorschalk
The best tailor's chalk in the world, ever
Setting the sleeve #pintastic
Ready to set the sleeve

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Overheard on the bus

Number 56 - Clerkenwell to Leyton
  • "I would go skateboarding, but I can't find one with brakes"
  • "I literally can't even look at my own belly button"
  • "I wouldn't want to own a shimmery skater skirt - but a black one might be okay"
  • "I maintain perfectness at all times"
  • "I wish Google Images was a shop"
  • "I've been asked to draw my tattoo so many times - I just can't be bothered any more"
  • "That's not even a thing"
  • "You know, I can just sense which bus stop we're at - it's kind of like an extreme psychic ability"

Right at the back of the bus this evening! #london #bus

Didn't manage to get my favourite seat on the bus today

Monday, 10 February 2014

10 things

  • I am not feeling the running love at the moment.  I am finding it hard, I'm getting tired of my usual routes, and I ache.  But I am still running, and for that I feel very proud of myself.
  • I just found out my next placement is in A and E.  As someone who has watched every episode of every series of 24 Hours in A and E obsessively, this is one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me!  I start in a month's time.
  • I am so sick of this rain.  We are fortunate not to be living in an area that has been wrecked by floods, but oh. my. word.  This rain just goes on and on.  And on.

Still light for my evening run!! (kind of...) #london #run #twilight

Yet more sodding rain. Normally I like winter, but I don't this year. #rain #london #nofilter

It's still raining. I'm suddenly full of cold. I'm waiting for Olivia to come out of school and I forgot to bring my kindle with me. Feeling VERY sorry for myself. #doom
  • I have enjoyed another run of good books lately: Where'd you go, Bernadette, The Ship of Brides, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and my current read, Man Belong Mrs Queen.  I am panicking that this run of success is going to grind to a halt after this book.  Four great books in a row is pretty lucky.  Can my luck continue?
  • My mother-in-law had a landmark birthday, and to celebrate the extended family plus friends all gathered together in central London for a magnificent cookery lesson at La Cucina Caldesi.  I learnt how to make pasta, and I am now scouring eBay for a pasta attachment for my KitchenAid.  It was a wonderful day.
  • My sister's baby arrived and I am now an auntie for the seventh time.  I made my new niece a little quilted blanket out of some Ed Emberley fabric I bought years ago and never used.  I think it was waiting for R's arrival.
  • Sewing something special for my new baby niece with my precious Ed Emberley fabric #edemberley #sewing #fabric
  • My next exam is a drug calculation exam.  I need to get 100% to pass - you can't have nurses getting drug calculations only 90% right.  I like maths though, and I like learning formula and practising sums, so it's not too daunting at the moment.
  • If you haven't already found them, take a look at the Metropolitan Police helicopter crew on Instagram and Twitter.  They take the most incredible arial photos of London, as they're travelling to and from jobs - often on just an iPhone.
  • I have been cooking dumplings often this winter.  They cheer me up and help me to forget about the rain.
  • Chicken stew, with dumplings #winterwarmer
  • I am listening to Sophie Ellis Bextor's new album, Wanderlust, and loving it. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Evolving appetites

Graham is training for a marathon again.  He came home last weekend after a long (over two hour) trail run, and his Garmin showed that he had burnt nearly 1,800 calories while he was out.  Which is an eye watering amount of calories for a single run - over two thirds of the recommended daily amount of calories for a man.  Unsurprisingly he parked himself down at the kitchen table and devoured vast platefuls of food, washed it all down with a banana and oat smoothie and then took himself off for a long nap.

The children too are eating vast platefuls of food and sleeping a great deal.  They are growing almost in front of my eyes...Cam is now within a centimetre or so of being taller than me, and Olivia already taller than her grandmother.  Teenage appetites have arrived in the house with a vengeance.

And so suddenly I find that my years of experience in cooking for four people don't count for much.  My previously precise quantities are all out of kilter, and what used to feed us all comfortably with second helpings and leftovers now barely feeds the children.

Toad in the hole. I'm going to need to get a bigger pan. What used to feed 4, with plenty of leftovers, now barely feeds the teenagers.
Toad in the hole

Baked oats with apple, cinnamon and cream #brunch
Baked oatmeal

Brunch underway #potatoes
Potatoes - ready to be roasted for a corned beef hash

Someone 'accidentally' put a LAKE of syrup on her porridge this morning.
Would you like some porridge with your syrup, Olivia?

Cherry and almond loaf cake #cake #teatime
Cherry and almond cake

I have gone back to doing a big brunch on Sunday mornings, which gives me a break from what sometimes feels like endless cooking and feeding of squawking baby blackbirds.  While Graham is out on a run, the children can lollop on the sofa watching tele, and I can leisurely potter about in the kitchen listening to Radio 4 in peace while I cook and bake.  I try and make at least three big, filling dishes that everyone can help themselves to, and come back to during the day if they feel hungry.  I don't bother making anything for lunch, and then we have supper a bit earlier than usual.  It makes the whole of Sunday feel lazy, indulgent and slow, which is just what I want.

Here's what has made it onto the brunch menu during January:
  • corned beef hash
  • herb omelettes with spicy tomato sauce
  • Amish baked oatmeal (recipe here)
  • banana and apple muffins
  • huevos rancheros
  • lemon and raisin pancakes
  • savoury bread-and-butter pudding (grated cheese and bacon instead of the sugar and raisins)
  • soda bread
  • breakfast pizza (homemade pizza with breakfast-like toppings eg. mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, eggs)
  • spicy burritos
  • oat and raisin muffins
We eat brunch at about 11am, but the children can't last that long without food.  While they are lolling and tele watching they are also eating fruit, toast or porridge - whilst waiting for brunch to basically they have breakfast AND brunch....