February 2010


Although i’m quite sure the big bad wolf didn’t have pupils quite like *this*!!

"my, what big eyes you have, grandma!!!" its hard to see, but if you look closely, you can see that the iris is very narrow and the pupil very very large...

I’ve been for my retinopathy scan this afternoon, and the optician has to take a photograph of the back of the eye. In order to do this, the optician has to put some eye drops in both eyes which make my pupils enlarged – with the result above (although this photograph was taken 2 hours after the eye drops went in). It also has the effect of making my vision somewhat blurry, and i’m oversensitive to light – okay today, which was overcast, but on a bright sunny day, it can be somewhat painful! I did ask if the optician could email me a copy of my photographs but sadly she couldn’t, their system isn’t set up to handle this.

The good news is that there seems to be no signs of retinopathy or any other problems. She did say i have a freckle on the back of my right eye, but that’s nothing to worry about. They’re exactly like normal freckles, just.. on the back of the eye rather than on the face! Otherwise, very healthy, which is a huge weight off my mind. However, the photographs have to go to an independent assessor who looks at them, makes a decision as to whether they’re okay or not, and if their diagnosis agrees with the opticians, then no problem, i get a letter saying “all clear and see you in 12 months”. If the assessor disagrees with the optician’s diagnosis, then the scans go to a third person, a specialist, who, depending on the photographs and what they decide, may either ask me to go to the hospital to see a specialist, or to return to the options for another scan in 6 months or they’ll agree there’s nothing to worry about and i have the all clear and they’ll see me in 12 months. So i’m not 100% clear yet, i have to wait for the letter that should arrive in a couple of weeks, but i’m most of the way there.

I also asked the optician about a sort of ring that i sometimes see, on the eye, that slowly gets larger, flickering all the while, till it disappears over the course of an hour (a little like this). She said its probably an occular migrane (or retainal migrane)  – apparently its possible to have a migrane without the associated pain – Its not something i have to worry about, unless the frequency of it picks up (currently about once a fortnight, if not less), just something to keep an eye on (pun intended) for the time being.

So that’s all a huge weight off my mind…

Speaking of weight – its monday, and of course, this morning was my weekly weigh in. Another 2 pounds gone, I’m now 15 and a half stone, or 217 pounds, exactly 2 stone lighter than my documented heaviest back in April ’08 (although i think i may have been as heavy as 18 and a half stone at one point, i don’t have that documented…. although the nurse might. I’ll have to ask her). I also started my period this afternoon, so tomorrow is weigh in day for the menstrual weigh-in – last time i was 221 pounds (and yes, one day does make a LOT of difference at this time of month – its mostly to do with water retention caused by hormonal fluctuations, which is why i do the menstrual weigh-in on the second day of my cycle, as this weigh in eliminates any possibility of weight loss being down to hormonal fluctuations). I’ll let you all know how that one goes… (I’m hoping for 216 or even 215. 215 would be wonderful…)

Finally – I haven’t done any more parchment work over the weekend. I’ve had my nose solidly in a book, “The diet delusion” by Gary Taubes. I knew the low-carb diet was working for me – thanks to this book, I now understand *why* it works for me, the science behind it. I’m about half way through it – its fairly heavy going, but well worth it – and one i’d recommend to just about anyone who’s serious in using their diet to address health problems or even potential health problems – he points the finger squarely at carbohydrates & insulin rather than fats for problems like alzheimers, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Well worth a read – I’ll do a fuller review of it once i’ve finished wading through.

Yesterday was rather chaotic. I had decided to make a parchment card for Michiel’s Mom – she’d fallen and broken her arm a few days ago – and wanted to get it finished yesterday so i could pop it into the post today. I finally finished it at 1.30am last night – very very tired and rather grumpy, as when i was doing the perforations, the paper shifted, and as a result, when i tried to match up the perforations on the other side of the frame.. they didn’t match up. Arrrgh!!! I ended up sending it anyway because the middle of the frame was okay (the picture of the flowers) and if i was going to redo it i’d have been there at 6 am (i worked on it, with a break for dinner, for 8 and a half hours or so) or later. Not an option.

Parchment get well soon card - this was made from 2 seperate designs from "Parchment Craft" by Martha Ospina.

So i just have to hope she forgives me for sending a less than perfect card – but she knows i do crafting, and am still learning, so she probably will (she’s a lovely lady, she and i get on well, in fact, i get on well with both Michiel’s parents). Parchment craft is a huge thing over in the Netherlands, apparently, so it really wouldn’t surprise me if it turned out that she’s done it – or one of Michiel’s family has – and if they have, then i’ll definitely be tugging their sleeve for pointers!!

I used felt tip pens together with water to make the flowers and build up the various strokes. They're also embossed, as are the gold curliques on the frame around the flowers.

Still, i am pleased with the flowers – I still can’t draw for toffee but the beauty of parchment craft is that i can trace a line drawing like this, then colour it in my own way – and as i get more experience with shading, both with pens/pencils and with embossing, that’ll only help in terms of being able to draw designs of my own one day. I like the outer design of this card too – the curliques around the frame, perforations in the middle, and i’m sure i’ll repeat this in future with variations – different types of perforations, different colourings, different pictures inside the curlique frame, and different sizes of frame too – this was an A5 size card, once folded, and it would be good to do smaller designs as well.

Next project: I’m not sure. I would like another bookmark, i really like the one i made the other day, I’ve been using it the last few days with the books i’ve been reading. However, i do usually have more than one book on the go at any one time (which drives Michiel nuts – he can’t understand how i can do that), so i do really need another one. or two. And they’re good for gifts, too. I’m running out of parchment too – i have two large sheets left – so this kind of precludes any large projects. Although its the first birthday of another of Michiel’s nephews at the end of February, so i’ll have to do a card for that before very long. I’ll have to give it some thought i think, although there are some other things that are demanding my time as well – the kitchen needs a going over, I’ve bought a bookshelf to put in the kitchen for jars and things to go onto, and its still in its box – and there’s a load of laundry to deal with too!

for now, though, chinese stirfry tonight (made with quorn pieces – and lots of veggies, its a super healthy dish and one we both love, and i try to cook it at least once a week), the finale of “popstar to operastar” (which Michiel has been thoroughly enjoying) and i have a huge pile of books to work on from the library, including one i’m going to report on here, once i finish with it, “The diet delusion” by Gary Taubes which is very very interesting…

for my next parchment craft project i decided to make a small trinket box, from the same book as the bookmark in my last blog entry, filled with lavender. This was a much bigger project, taking 4 days in total, due to the intensive work on the panels. its not quite finished as i need to buy some special glue to stick it together – i tried stickybacked tape, but it doesn’t work very well, one seam keeps coming apart so i’ll redo it once i’ve got the glue. But for the photos, it worked pretty well… 🙂

trinket box made from parchment. Once completely finished, i plan to fill this with lavender - the holes in the side make it ideal for releasing the scent.

My next project: Michiel’s mum called this morning, she fell in the snow (they live in Germany and there’s still heavy snow there) and broke her arm, so i have to do a get-well-soon card. Parchment craft is a huge thing in the Netherlands so it has to be good! Not quite sure what i’ll do yet but i don’t have a lot of time to work on it so it’ll be simple, i think.

More photos behind the cut, as always!

(oh, and i lost another 2 pounds last week.. now at 219 pounds, or 15 stone, 9 pounds. I’m hoping to get to below 15 stone by the time i next see Cathy at the beginning of April…)

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There’s a unique satisfaction, contentment and happiness to be found in crafting – at least for me. I’ve spent 5 hours today (interrupted by dinner) working on a bookmark, using various parchment craft techniques, and i’m tired, but very content and satisfied. well… mostly. I made one boo-boo which means i can’t give this bookmark away as a gift, but that’s okay, i’ll keep it for me. That apart, i’m really pleased at my first real attempt to do something like this, especially given that i didn’t have some of the required tools – had to make do with what i had, and i thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of it – I’m looking forward to doing a lot more.

My first attempt at anything like this that has worked at all - i've tried a few times before but the result was always dreadful. This is much better.

The original pattern came from a book called “Pergamano Parchment Craft” by Martha Ospina, and can be found on page 46. You can see why i’m quite pleased with my version, although, as i said, there are mistakes.

The original - the page was glossy, and no matter how i shot it, i kept getting glare off something! This is the best i can do, i'm afraid. still, you can see most of the detail.

Its quite a good book and i’d recommend it to anyone looking to start out in this craft.  Couple close up shots are behind the cut, if you’d like to see. Oh, and the error? see the little crosshatching on the right? in the top section of that, you’ll see that there’s three cut out where there should only have been two. Not my idea – i was happily snipping away when the paper gave where it shouldn’t have and that was the result. This was about 3 hours into making it, and although i was pretty annoyed, i thought, well, now i’ve made a mistake, i can feel free to finish it and if i make another mistake, so what? this actually helped a great deal – for the remaining three hours i just enjoyed the process of crafting and learning and relaxed, a lot.

One of my cousins had a baby girl last week, so i had to do a card to go to that family. I chose to cover some pink card in vellum, which had footprints embossed into the vellum, with a pink bow on as well. I did an envelope to match – photo below. And yes, the address has been blurred out – i don’t think my cousin would want his name and address splurged all over the internet!

card to welcome my cousin's new baby girl to the family

I haven’t posted much about the diet recently. I’m still sticking to it, just not making the huge changes that i was at the beginning of the year. Breakfast is either a cooked breakfast – something like eggs and sausages, or boiled eggs with a ryvita or some burgen bread – or some greek yoghurt with fruit. Lunch is often a salad, or an open sandwich (with Burgen Bread, which is lower in carbs), or even some kind of salad rolls – I’ve experimented with making “sandwiches” with lettuce – or using those red peppers that come in jars, split open, filled with something like cream cheese or tuna mayor and rolled up again (I do like that). Evening meals are much the same as they always were, i’m just avoiding the carbs as much as i can, much as i have been doing. Its boring, but the net effect on my health is remarkable – i haven’t had heartburn in a week, where i used to be popping antacids several times a day – the spots have gone, and i’m still losing weight, although not as fast as i was in early January – I’m settling to 1-2 pounds a week now, but i think that’s better – slow and steady rather than fast, which gives my skin a chance to shrink with me.

Anyway. Here’s one of my lunches: corned beef, avocado & walnut salad. Low-Fat it ain’t, and the traditional nutritionists would probably have (pun unintended) a heart attack. The atkins lot would too – fruit and veg are carbs (all plant matter is full of carbs, when you get right down to it), so they’re forbidden on the atkins diet, i think (happy to be corrected!). But i don’t care. its my lunch and i thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onion in there too, with a few drops of oliveoil/balsamic vinegar dressing. Absolutely gorgeous.

Corned Beef, avocado and walnut salad. MMMmmmmmm.

With regard to making cards to sell (my last blog post), I’ve given the whole thing a lot of thought and decided not to pursue that route for now. I may still do it at some point – perhaps when the economy is better – but i certainly don’t want to do anything to annoy the benefits people, and i also don’t want to run the risk of destroying the love i have for crafting – I’ve never forgotten Dad saying to me that he used to love cooking before he worked as a chef – and after that, he hated it. I suppose i was looking not just for some validation that my work was good enough to be sold, but also for some kind of motivation to make more things, maybe make things that i don’t really have space for  or anyone to give them to. Having said all that i’m very enamoured of the parchment craft, i found a beautiful photograph the other day of a pair of baby shoes made from it, and even a doll’s evening dress (think barbie, rather than a big floppy dolly, and one that’s not meant for children) which was stunning. There are quite a few projects i want to try, but they all need very specific tools and the tools aren’t cheap, so i can only buy a few at a time. But i’m getting to the point now where i can do some things, and bodge the rest, as you’ve seen above (and below). If you’d like to see some other examples of parchment craft then there’s a member’s gallery at the Pergamano website, and lots on flickr

I’m not sure what to do specifically for my next project – I’ve got some birthdays coming up, for children – another one of my cousins has a boy, who will be 5, i think, and two of Michiel’s nephews also have birthdays (one about the same age as my cousin’s lad, the other a year old) – about a week apart – so i really have to get my skates on for those, as i have to allow about a week for them to get to the netherlands. Will have to pull my thinking cap on for suitable cards for them…

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Its been a while since i talked about cards, and even longer since i talked about non-christmas cards.. i haven’t given up on making them (quite the opposite – i just got done with one today, which is for a cousin of mine who had a baby girl last week), but i have been thinking.

There’s a website – a little like ebay – a marketplace website, which only allows the sale of handmade goods (or crafting materials). In fact, there’s several of them – Etsy being one, but that one works in dollars, which is unpopular with some people. There’s a British equivalent, which works in pounds, called Folksy, and i’m thinking of listing some cards there to see if they sell. There’s a catch: listing costs 20p per item, regardless of whether they sell, and if they do sell, Folksy will take 5% in commission.

What i can’t do is to make a whole lot – because i’m on benefits, i can only work either 16 hours a week or up to a certain amount in ££ before i start to lose money (either that, or earn a lot in order to go full time with this, but with cardmaking, that is just NOT going to happen – i wouldn’t earn enough for the time spent on it) – but if i can make a little bit, then i can put that money back into buying supplies for more crafting, plus it gives me an outlet – i mean, i can only send out so many birthday and xmas cards to family!!

This is also something i can do as and when – if i don’t feel well, or am too busy, then i’m not obliged to make anything. so in that respect, it fits in with my life very well.

The question is.. would they sell?

If you’ve not seen my card work before now, then please, follow the link to my flickr card section, have a look, and let me know what you think – and please, be honest!!!

I think i should get a gold star for doing goooood.. cos i did good! Just back from seeing Cathy (my Diabetic Nurse – *waves in case she’s reading this*) down at the surgery. It was a good appointment – I got stabbed (pnumonia jab), weighed (i haz officially lost 9 lbs since 28th Oct last year – and that’s on calibrated scales, although with clothes on), my feet checked (nerves and responses checked – all okay, no signs of neuropathy, which is excellent, and probably means my kidneys are okay as the two problems tend to go together), although they are a little on the dry side, so i have some cream to try with that, and instructions to look after my feet. My waist was measured, my height, my blood pressure (down, its now *exactly* where it should be) and Cathy was really really pleased with my FBGs/meal BG readings. We had some discussion over the high fat content of my diet, i pointed out that i’m losing weight, my BG is under control, my spots have cleared up, i feel great – can we keep doing this till the end of March, the low carb diet, and see what my cholesterol readings are like then? and she was cool with that (and Cathy is such a relief, after all the nightmare stories i’ve heard on diabetic forums about diabetic nurses and doctors… i don’t have to fight her! its great!).

She did confirm my thinking about one thing: if i maintain this level of control over my BG, then there is no harm (and quite a lot to be gained, in terms of mental health and happiness) in once a month, having anything i want, one meal, once a month (I’m already planning my first. 16th February, our anniversary, and pancake day. You think i’m passing up Michiel’s pancakes? not on yer nelly!). So i’m really really pleased with THAT, and it makes things much easier for me when i’m watching something like “Hairy Bikers”, i can think “ooh i’ll have that on my special meal” and of course, by the time the special meal comes around, i’ll probably have forgotten about it. it takes that pressure off, instead of thinking “i can never have that again!”

She’s also put me through for an appointment with an eye specialist. i’ve got to wait for them to write to me, with a pin number and a list of places i can go, but once i’ve had that, i can go and get my eyes checked properly, which is good. as i’ve said before my eyes are the one thing that *really* worry me about all this.

She’s also prescribed me some medication for heartburn. I was paying out for sugar free antacids, and asked if i could have them on prescription (as they’re expensive) and she had a word with a doc, who has prescribed me some other tablets to reduce the amount of acid in my stomach altogether. So i’ve to try those for a month, and see how i get on.

So, i won’t see Cathy again now till the beginning of April – when the daffodils are pushing up, as i said (although she misheard me, thought i said when SHE was pushing up the daffodils… errr.. nope!!), so i just have to keep doing this, keep doing the weight loss thing, and get going on the exercise thing and keep my BG under control… its all a lot easier said than done, but i feel .. i dunno. Healthier, i suppose, is the right word, than i have for a long long time.

And that’s good. And I’m good. Yep. Definitely. Gold Star. a biig shiny one!