Thursday, 11 January 2018

Hospital Appointment

This morning I had my long-awaited hospital appointment to see my specialist colorectal surgeon. I had been promised an appointment before the end of the year, but this was not forthcoming – the whole system in the NHS is in a mess at the moment…

I was becoming increasingly concerned about the state of my parastomal hernia and anxious that it might cause another obstruction, as it did this time last year. This led to an emergency operation performed by a general surgeon who was not qualified to do more than a simple sutured repair of the hernia, and I knew that such repairs had a 100% failure rate. Mine did not even last the year, and my last CT scan in August revealed that the hernia had returned and was “substantial.” When I saw the surgeon before that, he discussed with me various options for repairing it should it become necessary, but nothing was decided at the time as a scan was needed first.

Today, he examined me and said that it was quite large, and he could feel the intestine quite easily. He reassured me that large hernias are less likely to cause obstructions than small ones which tend to be more restricted, and this has set my mind at rest somewhat.

He said the time had definitely come for something to be done about it, and he is going to book me in for an “urgent repair.” This is not emergency surgery, but will presumably take priority over more routine operations. I am hoping it will take place in February rather than March, but we shall have to see what is available.

He described in more detail how he will approach it. As he suggested in the summer, it would be preferable to enter at the stoma site, rather than opening up my whole abdomen yet again – this will be less traumatic for me, and will reduce the risk of causing further adhesions. He will need to enlarge the stoma wound, and also make two horizontal incisions, one on each side, to give him better access, and he will perform a sublay insertion of  biological mesh. Biological mesh (i.e. created from organic material such as pigskin) is generally thought to be superior to synthetic mesh and carries a lower risk of infection, although it is considerably more expensive. The sublay technique means that the mesh will be inserted between the muscle layers of the abdominal wall, as opposed to above all layers (higher rate of recurrence) and underneath all layers (can cause problems being in contact with internal organs).

I found this very interesting article online, which covers all the options for this kind of surgery, and the associated risks of infection, recurrence, etc.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4226750/

He said that in view of my M.E. and the weak state of my muscles, he will need to insert quite a large piece of mesh to ensure adequate support.

He warned me that because the aperture in the mesh through which the small intestine will pass in order to form the stoma will be quite tight, initially post-operatively, I will experience some discomfort until the swelling and bruising subsides. I can live with this if it means a secure and long-lasting repair in the long-term.

Also, because he will need to make additional incisions in order to gain better access, management of the stoma post-operatively may be somewhat problematic because I shall still need to attach the bag and the adhesive will be in contact with these wounds. The stoma nurse said that they would be monitoring this while I am in hospital, and will advise me on the most suitable products. The products I currently use will most likely have to be changed afterwards, and it will be like starting again with a new stoma, but at least I now have nearly three years’ experience behind me of how to manage various problems, and the whole idea doesn’t freak me out as much as it did initially!

I am very glad that this decision has now been made, and that we are definitely going ahead with a proper repair. The stoma nurse told me afterwards that my surgeon is very expert in this kind of repair, and I told her that I was very happy to put myself in his hands as he knows me, and my particular needs associated with my M.E. and so on.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

WOYWW 449

Yet again, yet again… Still no change on Shoshi’s desk! Still, we have been up to our eyes in other stuff to do, and art has to take a back seat for now.

We are making progress with arrangements following Mum’s death. We are having the memorial service for her on 18th Jan. and I have now completed designing the order of service booklet, which is now with the printers. I am very pleased with how it turned out – not only have a added lots of lovely photos, but I have put in little pictures in the various bits of white space, of things that Mum loved – birds, spring lambs, cherry blossom. It looks really pretty!

My hubby and I have worked out approximately how many people will attend, and he’s booked the caterers for afterwards. As we did with Dad, we will have a cream tea at the back of the church after the service.

I am in the process of compiling a CD of her favourite pieces of music, some of which will be played during the service, and some before, and others afterwards while we are having the refreshments. I have also been practising my singing. I managed to source a transposed version of “I know that my Redeemer liveth” in D major rather than E major, because I find those top G-sharps a pretty tall order these days! I have had a practice session with the organist and it went well.

My hubby has made use of his enforced immobility and has been making good progress by phone and email, dealing with the solicitor and sorting paperwork to do with Mum’s affairs, while I have been cooking and looking after him and trying to keep on top of everything I’ve got to do!

I am starting to get replies to all the letters I sent out as I worked my way through Mum’s address book, and I have had such lovely letters! Everyone has such nice things to say, and each one has different reminiscences about Mum, and about Dad too, some of which I knew nothing about, and others have revived happy memories. I shall treasure all the letters for ever.

Kitties

The kittens are so enjoying having my hubby in there with them all the time in the flat, and while the weather has been so cold, they have loved cuddling up with him.

06 Sleeping on Daddy's Leg 6-1-18

An armful of kitties!

09 An Armful of Kitties 6-1-18

Lily squashing her tail. She gets so relaxed that you can lift her tail up and drop it, and it hangs completely limp.

10 Lily Squashing her Tail 8-1-18

Somehow she managed to worm her way inside my hubby’s bag when it was fastened closed.

07 Lily in Daddy's Bag 6-1-18

He wasn’t best pleased to find that she had chewed the papers that were inside! I told him anything was fair game, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether you try and protect stuff or not – if they want it, they will get it! The stuff we find on the floor in the mornings… We’ve learnt to take a lot of stuff out each night when we go to bed.

Ruby’s favourite position is sleeping on top of her sister. Lily is so laid back that she doesn’t seem to notice.

11 Ruby Sleeping on top of Lily 9-1-18

Health Update

I have got my appointment at the hospital tomorrow, and it can’t come soon enough now. I am sure the surgeon will agree to go ahead and do the operation now. I have been getting more and more problems, and recently Kermit, my stoma, has started retracting periodically, and causing major problems, and it seems that everything in that area is unstable and in a state of flux.

A couple of days ago the stoma nurse phoned me and asked me to come in and see them, because they are now doing an annual review of all their patients to check on the products they use. Apparently if you change what you are using, maybe to another brand, or you stop using a particular product, the GPs aren’t always very good at keeping their records up to date, and the nurse said that mine had a list as long as your arm, most of which I haven’t used for ages! The idea of the annual review is to prevent over-ordering and wastage, which sounds sensible. I just hope they aren’t going to tell me I don’t need this or that, because I do know what I need! Anyway, I told her about our current situation with my hubby being unable to drive me etc., and told her I was due to come in on Thurs. anyway to see the surgeon (it’s in the same department, colorectal outpatients) and she said she’d fit me in before I see him, which saves another trip.

I should know more after Thursday. Hopefully it won’t be too long before my hernia gets fixed. Once we’ve got the memorial service out of the way, there won’t be so much for me to do, and when my hubby has had his next appointment at the fracture clinic towards the end of the month we should know more, and how much longer he’s likely to be in plaster, and then once I’ve had my operation things should at last start to settle down again. I just hope they don’t keep me waiting too long.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

WOYWW 448

The start of another year! Where on earth did the last one go… Anyway, to see what Shoshi did, see my previous (very long!) post reviewing the past year. What a rollercoaster it was.

Anyway, what’s on my desk?

06 Derwemt Graphik Line Painters

My Christmas present from my hubby! A complete set of Derwent Graphik Line Painter pens. Now I’ve just got to find the time and energy to use them.

It really is my ambition this year to get stuck back into art again. I’ve got so many ideas and things I want to play with. However, it will have to wait until after Mum’s memorial service because I’ve got a lot of work to do for that, finalising the details with my hubby and then designing and printing the service booklets. I’ve already made a start but there’s quite a bit to do still. Also, I need to knuckle down and practise my singing so that I am ready to sing “I know that my Redeemer liveth” at the service. I found a wonderful website where I could purchase it as digital sheet music, transposed down a tone so that I don’t have to struggle with top G-sharps! I have also downloaded their app which enables me to listen to it as well as read it, so I’ve now got the accompaniment in D-major to practise with. Then I’ve got to get together with the organist to practise for real.

My poor studio is a dust-gathering dumping ground. I need to do some major tidying before I can work in there.

I also need to finish my socks for the homeless.

I still have a load of letters to write about Mum, and post-Christmas, and I’m still looking after my hubby with his broken leg.

He went to the fracture clinic on Friday and they are happy with him. They will see him again in a month, when they will decide if it needs pinning after all, but it will probably heal OK on its own. So we’ve got at least another month of this, and after that, all being well, they will put some sort of walking plaster on it which will make him a bit more mobile, but it’s going to be ages before he’s driving again.

At last I have an appointment to see the surgeon about my parastomal hernia – I am seeing him on 11th Jan. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with it and can’t wait for a decision to get it fixed once and for all. This has been going on for far too long.

The kittens, now 7 months old, are getting so big, and they are very lively and naughty! It’s a nuisance not being able to let them have the run of the house because of all the visitors dropping in at all hours and we can’t risk the kittens escaping outside.

05 Ruby Giving Lily a Hug

I love how they have their favourite little things to do. Ruby is much more of a baby than Lily and is more mischievous and playful, and she’s always rushing under the plastic sheet that the litter tray stands on – I think she likes the sound it makes! Lily never does this. Also, over the past couple of weeks, Ruby has discovered that it’s really fun to walk around the back of the wooden armchair – the difficult way!

04 Ruby Walking on Back of Chair

She falls off sometimes but it doesn’t deter her. On this photo, you can see what I call her “dirty sock” – that little grey spot on her right sock! She’s such a funny little thing.

It appears that Lily has taken over Beatrice’s role as our resident Computer Queen. She’s always messing about on my hubby’s laptop, and the other day he found her watching a Youtube video she’d selected, entitled “Snipers Firefight with the Taliban.” Not exactly my personal viewing choice, but each to their own!!

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017–The Year in Review

Warning – Long post, photo rich

Another year has flown by, and my goodness, what a year it has been. Here is my annual review of what has happened in my life over the past twelve months.

Mum

The most significant event was the death of my mum on 9th December. She was 96 and was ready to go. Over the past few years her quality of life had deteriorated greatly and she spent the final couple of years in residential care, almost completely deaf and unable to do much. I often think that the progress of modern medicine may have succeeded in prolonging life, but if the quality of that life has deteriorated to the extent that it no longer holds any pleasure, what is the point? I am absolutely against euthanasia, but do not hold with “striving officiously to keep alive…”

Although during my adult life, my relationship with Mum was not what it might have been, I have many good memories, and am grateful for many things – during my childhood she was always there for us, with a hot meal on the table when we would arrive home hungry from school; she was always taking us out for walks, outings to the seaside with our little friends, and providing memorable birthday parties and so on. I learnt my home-making skills from her and am so grateful for the knowledge passed down through the generations from mother to daughter, so often lost these days when economic pressures make it necessary for mothers of small children to be so often out of the home in paid employment.

My hubby

All through this year my hubby has been far too busy, rushing around and hardly being at home. This has made him very tired when he has been home, dropping straight off to sleep in front of the TV etc.! I had been on at him for taking on too much, and the need to remember that he is no longer 30 years old! Then, at the end of November, he slipped and fell, and broke his leg, and he has been immobilised since then, walking with difficulty on crutches and not being allowed to put his foot on the ground. It has been touch and go whether he would need it pinned but they seem to think he’s doing OK for now, but he’s going back to the fracture clinic in four weeks’ time and they will make the final decision then. He is going to be in plaster for a long time, it seems. During this whole time he is unable to drive, and we have been very stuck, but our wonderful friends, neighbours, people from church and family have been very supportive and helpful, taking us out when necessary for hospital appointments and other engagements, doing odd bits of shopping and helping with things at home.

02 Lily Wrapped in Blanket 27-12-17

One friend said it was a good thing he was immobilised for a while because it would make him stop and rest a bit! Also, being unable to rush around all the time, he now has time to sort through all Mum’s papers and deal with things following her death.

I have found this whole period a great strain because I can deal with our normal life OK, managing what I have to do and factoring in the necessary rest times, but with my hubby so out of action, I have not only had him to look after, but have also had to do a lot of the things that he would normally be doing, and there have been times when having to keep constantly on the go, and simply having too much to do, it has all got too much for me and I’ve lost the plot and thrown a wobbly. I find that with my ME brainfog (and probably residual chemo brain – this has definitely affected my memory and concentration as well) that I tend to cave in under too much stress and don’t deal with it too well. I have also been carrying the anxiety about my present state of health, not to mention the stress associated with Mum’s death and all the extra things to do because of that, and then Christmas in the middle of it all.

I yearn for a period of peace and quiet and our lives returning to some sort of normality.

Health Issues

It has been another significant year for me, health-wise. In 2015 I was successfully treated for bowel cancer, and throughout 2016 I enjoyed better health than I had done for years, with the eradication of my ulcerative colitis after the removal of my entire colon. My ileostomy was very settled and easy to manage throughout the year, and I believed that this would be the story of the rest of my life, but in the autumn of that year I developed a parastomal hernia.

At the end of January this year, this caused an obstruction which necessitated emergency surgery and a two-and-a-half week stay in hospital, very poorly, and taking quite a long time to recover. A simple sutured repair of the hernia was performed by a general surgeon and as anticipated, this failed, and by the autumn the hernia had returned, and it is now in the same state that it was at the beginning of the year, causing me to be fearful of another blockage, and history repeating itself before my specialist colorectal surgeon can perform a proper repair and insert a reinforcing mesh.

I was due to see him before the year’s end, but this has not happened, and I now have to wait till mid-January to see him. I am hoping that now that the hernia has returned, and knowing my history, he will be prepared to have me in for elective surgery before it causes me another obstruction.

My system remains free of cancer, which is something on the plus side. I have seen the oncologist twice during the year and she is very pleased with me. I continue to suffer from peripheral neuropathy as an ongoing side effect of the six months of chemo I had in 2015, and this may or may not clear up; whatever happens, it is a small price to pay for survival!

Diet

I began the 5:2 diet in the summer of 2014. I had to take a break from the diet throughout 2015 while undergoing cancer treatment, but I resumed it in 2016, and this year I reached my target weight, having lost a total of 4 1/2 stone, and losing 10 inches around my waist! I have a tremendous sense of achievement over this as it proves that it can be done, and through diet alone as well, because with my ME I am unable to take sufficient exercise to make any difference to weight loss.

I am absolutely delighted to have been able to get rid of clothes that are now too big for me (trousers and leggings that wouldn’t stay up!) and to have an excuse to buy some new things, but above all, to be able to get into some old favourites again! For years my friends were telling me to get rid of these clothes because I should be realistic and accept that I’d never again be as thin as I once was, but I have proved them wrong. I had a lot of clothes that I really loved, and couldn’t bear to part with, and they are now wearable again. This makes me feel good, good, GOOD!!

Here’s me in my Afghan Nomad Dress (which I made years ago – definitely in the 1990s as this photo was taken when we lived in Plymouth:

Afghan Nomad Dress 4 - Spread Skirt

And again, on Christmas day this year:

05 My Christmas Outfit

Here are my “before and after” pics – the first was taken in 2013 (the year before I started the diet) and the second was taken this May. I  can’t believe I looked like that…….

Weight Loss Comparison, 2013-2017

Kitties

Another significant, and sad event during this year was the death, only three weeks apart, of our beloved old kitties Beatrice and Phoebe.

Beatrice and Phoebe Cuddled Up on Bed 19-2-06

Phoebe, aged nearly 14, developed bowel cancer and had to be put down; she had also suffered from grand mal epilepsy for the last couple of years of her life, which was extremely distressing. After she died, Beatrice, nearly 17, seemed utterly lost without her, despite the fact that they were never that close. She lingered in all Phoebe’s favourite spots as if looking for her to return, and went completely off her food, until she became so weak and obviously heart-broken and grieving, and she was put down three weeks later. We knew that both of them, being in poor health, would die this year, but we never thought it would happen so close together.

Then followed six weeks with no kitties in the house. This is only the second time this has happened to us in over 30 years of marriage, and it was very hard!

We found our new babies online, and at the end of July we drove over to west Dorset to collect them. Amazingly, they were born on our wedding anniversary (24th May)! We won’t forget their birthday in a hurry.

Here they are at 5 weeks, when we were first introduced to them (we couldn’t have them till they were 9 weeks old).

15 Kittens

This is what they look like now – I can’t believe how much they have grown!

03 Together on Cat Tree 28-12-17

Lily and Ruby are now (unbelievably!) seven months old, and so much part of the family that we cannot imagine life without them. They are an utter delight, full of personality, and so pretty too! I’ve done lots of blog posts about them – far too many to provide links for, and I have also made numerous videos of them which are on my Youtube channel.

House

Back in March we discovered dry rot under the kitchen floor, which was a worrying thing because we knew it would be very expensive to deal with.

04 Rot in Bottom Cupboard 25-3-17

It turned out to be only in one small isolated area and although costly, a lot less so than we’d been led to believe, which was a huge relief. Work began in April.

01 Original Cupboards Closed 25-3-17

It meant that the old-fashioned cupboard in the kitchen had to come out (it was a pain to use anyway, so no great loss) and we then had to wait until July before the carpenter was free to come and make me a beautiful walk-in pantry.

During this time I used the kitchen in Mum’s flat (which occupies half the downstairs of the house) – very small and cramped, but perfectly adequate!

08 Decamping into Flat Kitchen 1 8-4-17

The new pantry completed:

16 Finished Pantry Door Closed 7-7-17

46 Pantry Complete - Gen View 24-7-17

The whole unpleasant matter of the dry rot turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the new pantry has made my life so much easier, and I continue to be thrilled to bits with it. I made some extra shelves to house all my supplies, and I made some decorative labels to go on my jars, and the whole thing looks fantastic!

Food

Considering what else has gone on, I’m happy to say I have been able to do some baking and cooking this year. I find this very therapeutic.

03 Loaf Sliced, Detail

Baking for Cancer Cakeathon

I went on a bread baking day too (my hubby won the ticket for that).

01 Blue Basket of Bread

Finally, I cooked my first Christmas dinner for over ten years.

Christmas Dinner 2017

For our annual family get-together after Christmas, I made four puddings:

02 4 Puddings (Annotated)

Cancer Group

Our monthly cancer Cakeathon continues but we are now meeting here at my home instead of at the cancer support centre. Numbers have dropped off somewhat over the last few months because people have been busy with other things. I bake regularly for these meetings. One of our members had a coffee morning in aid of Macmillan’s this year and several of us attended that, and we baked for it too. I am perpetually grateful for all the wonderful friends I have made through getting cancer.

Bible Study Group

This has been ongoing too – our numbers remain small but they are so faithful and I am grateful for that! We completed our course on the Tabernacle, and have done occasional sessions on the Feasts of the Lord to coincide with the calendar dates on which these fall, and we began a major course on Prophecy, interrupted by a short course on Salvation (since the subject was raised by one of our members – we are very flexible about what we do!) – to be completed in the New Year. There is a lot of work involved in preparing the sessions, including designing the PowerPoint slides (which are creative and fun to do) but I find it very fulfilling, and just lately it has been something which has encouraged and built me up in the middle of a lot of troubling events.

03 The Messianic Line from Eve to Jesus

03 Blind Chance or Design

Art

As a result of everything that has gone on this year, I have found it very hard to find the time, energy and concentration to do much art at all, and my studio has lain neglected, a sad, dust-gathering dumping ground, for far too long. I have got new stash which has been sitting around for months not even opened. I hate the fact that it is always my creativity which suffers the most when the pressures of life encroach. When time has become available, I have found that I am too tired to do anything, which is an ongoing frustration.

However, I have managed to achieve something!

Mamhead Album completed:

01 Front Cover

This was a project I worked on for several months in 2016.

I made another little book as well, this year, called “Second Wind”:

01 Front Cover

which was my first attempt at a Coptic binding.

I had hoped to finish the other book I have been working on by the end of this year but with the pressures on me over the past few weeks, this hasn’t been possible. This is a book giving examples of all the different techniques you can use with Infusions.

WOYWW 420 21-6-17

I also made a selection of simple stamped cards to replenish my stash:

16 Six Completed Cards

I made a couple of cards for my hubby, one for his birthday and one for our anniversary, both mixed media with Infusions.

2 Cards for N - May 2017

I have done some Zentangle in the iPad Pro this year. This was my best piece.

Gold Fold

I did some other digital art using the Procreate app as well, including this picture, following along with a Youtube tutorial, and adding the silhouettes of some trees to make it my own:

Sunset with Trees

I also continued with some digital mandalas which I save as outlines, and can then colour  as I wish.

Lotus Mandala Pink

This year I acquired an excellent video editing app for the iPad Pro called Luma Fusion, and have been able to make a lot of videos (mostly of the kittens) to upload to Youtube. Very convenient, very user-friendly. One of the best things is being able to use the iPad as a video camera so no transfer of video from one device to another is necessary. All I have to do now is rig up the iPad over my work space instead of my normal video camera.

Continuing with my ongoing embroidery project to make drapes for the bed half-tester, I’ve done a few more pieces, including these:

12 Blue Piece with Red Flower Shape Close Detail

17 Primary Colours on Striped Background Detail

I’ve also done a bit of knitting, getting involved with a project at church to provide socks for the homeless.

04 Blue Socks Completed

07 First Rainbow Sock Completed

This was supposed to be completed by the end of November, but with everything else going on, I haven’t finished the rainbow pair yet. However, I have been reassured that the project is ongoing, and someone will make sure my socks, once completed, will find a recipient!

That’s pretty much the sum total of art done this year. Not a lot to show for a whole year, is it, but other things certainly have intruded in my life big time this year!

Looking back on last year’s annual review, it’s interesting, as always, to re-read my intentions for the coming year and see how well I’ve done. As usual, the answer is, not very well!! Perhaps I should cease from this unprofitable exercise because every year, I fail!

Here’s what I intended. And whether I succeeded.

  • Not making so many cards. Yes, but I didn’t do much else either!
  • Books. Yes, to a limited degree.
  • Boxes and 3-D objects. No.
  • Textiles in my mixed media work. No.
  • Felt. No.
  • Finish all those UFOs (UnFinished Objects). No, no, no. Hopeless! They remain UnFinished.

So as usual I didn’t do too well on the resolutions scale.

Oh, I can’t help myself – I’m going to list some of my intentions for the coming year, despite what I’ve just said!!

  • Finish the Infusions Mini-Album.
  • Start using my as yet unopened Distress Oxides.
  • Make more books.
  • Make more boxes.
  • Do more mixed media stuff and incorporate different materials including textiles.
  • Make some upcycled clothing from all the bits I bought in charity shops several years ago.
  • Definitely finish some of those lingering UFOs.

We shall see how well I do in the coming months!

After such a rollercoaster of a year, I am hoping for a more peaceful year ahead so that I can draw breath a bit, and get back to normal, and have more opportunity to develop my creativity. Also, now that Mum is no longer with us, maybe my hubby and I can have a bit more time together and go on more outings as the weather improves.

Wishing all my loyal followers and friends in Blogland and beyond a very happy and fruitful year ahead.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

WOYWW 447

First of all, I am really sorry not to have replied to the lovely comments I had on my blog last time I was on here. I shall endeavour to do so in the next few days. As you can imagine, with my mum dying, and my hubby’s broken leg, and then Christmas, I have had more than enough to cope with and time has been very short. At times I have become quite overwhelmed with everything and have lost the plot on more than one occasion. When things are normal, I can just about cope with what I have to do, but add another raft of problems and things start to go a bit pear-shaped chez Shosh.

However, over the past few days things have generally been better. We have had a quiet couple of days over Christmas with no visitors, and I was able to concentrate on the dinner and just spending time with my hubby and the kitties.

We have loved having everyone dropping in to see us, but it all takes up such a lot of time and I can find my schedule slipping alarmingly, and I begin to get a panicky feeling that things are slipping beyond my control. Sometimes I’ve just had to apologise to people and take myself off and get on with things, and leave them to socialise with my hubby, which has made me feel a bit rude but it was the only way to keep going. Another problem is that most people have no idea about not letting the kittens out into the house from the flat – they stand with the door open, and before we know it, Ruby has dashed off upstairs, or worse, into the kitchen and I’m terrified of her getting outside when people are in and out! I can’t blame them, because they don’t know our arrangements and their aim is to see my hubby and they aren’t concentrating on anything else, but on occasion this has happened when I am at some crucial stage with the cooking or I’m already multi-tasking more than my poor brain can cope with!

Once we are back to normal again and people aren’t in and out all the time, we will be able to give the kitties the run of the house as we were doing before. At the moment they are generally very content in the flat with my hubby – they have loved having him there all the time, with a nice big warm lap for them to sleep on, and I have been spending as much time as possible in there too.

Here is Lily, lying as she so often does these days – shameless hussy, everything exposed!!

02 Lily On her Back on N's Lap 22-12-17

She is the most soft, floppy and laid back kitty you could imagine. She’s as bad as my hubby – all she wants to do is sleep!

Here is Ruby being queen of the castle on top of the cat tree. This one’s full of life, and wriggles and fidgets when being cuddled, but purrs her head off the whole time!

12 Ruby Queen of the Castle on Cat Tree 24-12-17

Do you remember Beatrice the Computer Queen? Well, it seems that Lily is following in her footsteps! She has been helping my hubby on his laptop.

13 Lily the Computer Queen 24-12-17

Ruby, like Phoebe, isn’t a bit interested in the computer – she is more interested in having fun and generally being a really cheerful, enthusiastic kitty with no intellectual bent whatever.

Here are the latest videos of them. Can you believe they are now seven months old?

I have been doing lots of therapeutic cooking! On Christmas Eve I cooked a new recipe after watching Mary Berry on TV and just had to try her fish pie with soufflé topping. Here is the result.

Mary Berry's Fish Pie with Souffle Topping 24-12-17

The topping is done with cubed white bread and whipped egg white with a melted butter and cheese mixture. I used a combination of cod and salmon and chucked a few prawns in for good measure, and it was the most delicious fish pie I have ever tasted! This one’s definitely a keeper, and I don’t think Mr. Tesco will be persuading me to buy his “Finest” fish pie again! Thank you Mary!

My Christmas dinner was a triumph. It was the first I had cooked since 2006. That was my swan song, and I managed to prepare everything and did my best table decorations ever, but I didn’t really enjoy eating it because I was going down with a horrible flu-like illness and by tea time on Christmas day I was feeling so rough that I went to bed and didn’t get up for a week. I never bounced back from that, and it developed into the ME which has been with me ever since.

This year I was determined to cook a proper dinner again, with all the trimmings. OK, I did buy a Lidl Christmas pudding, but everything else I cooked from scratch, just for the two of us. I thought my hubby could do with spoiling, having broken his leg and been deprived of going out and doing all the things he wanted over Christmas. Here is the table, just as we were ready to sit down and eat.

01 Table Overview

Starting top left: crispy bacon and pigs in blankets. Top right: gravy, bread sauce, carafe of the delicious red wine which was given to us by our lovely neighbour. Middle, left to right: roast turkey, carved and ready to serve; three stuffings: chestnut, mealy (a traditional Scottish recipe made from oatmeal, a firm family favourite), and date and walnut; carrots and sprouts with whole chestnuts. Front row – the best roast potatoes I’ve ever cooked, after finding a tip online to par-boil them and then freeze them, and cook them from frozen, having tossed them in semolina. Crisp on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. I used Maris Piper potatoes, which, like King Edwards, are ideal for roasting. All laid up with my best china and silver on my favourite hand-embroidered tablecloth from my Scottish grandmother.

Here is a close-up of the decoration for the table napkins.

02 Table Napkin Decoration

This is the small table centre I made.

03 Table Centre Detail

These ribbon and paper decorations were made for my swan song Christmas table and I’ve used them on occasion in between. I can mix and match the different elements.

After we’d finished, we settled down to watch the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.

04 The Queen's Christmas Broadcast

I was delighted a few weeks ago to discover that because I’d lost so much weight, I was able to get into my Afghan Nomad Dress again! I made this many years ago and could never bear to part with it. The whole of the front of the bodice is covered with hand embroidery, and it has a very full skirt, and is made of several different fabrics, all in rich colours.

05 My Christmas Outfit

A bit difficult to photograph as a selfie –here’s an old photo of myself in it when I first made it.

Afghan Nomad Dress 4 - Spread Skirt

For Christmas this year, I braided my hair with ribbons and added some gold flowers. Here’s a back view.

06 My Hair, Back View

My hubby was thrilled!

Mum

In view of all our current difficulties, we decided to have Mum cremated privately before Christmas, and then to have a memorial service in mid-January. This means we’ve got more time to plan something really special, and also more people will be able to attend who might have been away at Christmas. There’s still quite a bit to sort out, and plans for the service are coming together nicely now, and once the Christmas dust has settled, I shall be able to get down to producing the order of service as I did for Dad’s funeral.

Health Update

At long last I have an appointment to see my surgeon – on 11th January. I was getting desperate, having been promised an appointment before the end of the year and hearing nothing, so I phoned his secretary, and she passed me on to the appointments department, who immediately referred me back to her! I was spitting tacks after this. Since the return of Miss Piggy, my hernia, things have got more worrying – it is now in the same state it was at the beginning of the year when it caused a blockage, resulting in emergency surgery and me being really poorly for ages, something I am more than anxious to avoid repeating at all costs. I am suffering quite a lot of skin irritation around Kermit, my stoma, and he has not been settled all year really, and things are now worse, not better, which has been very disappointing after having such a good year last year. Hopefully my surgeon will agree to go ahead and do a proper repair in the New Year.

Finally, here is what my hubby gave me for Christmas: a set of Derwent Graphik Line Painter pens. I’d seen some reviews of these on Youtube and was longing to get my hands on a set! They come in a lovely box with a slip cover.

06 Derwemt Graphik Line Painters

Hopefully in the coming year I shall get more time and energy to do a decent amount of art, after what has been a pretty disappointing year.

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