Friday, December 31, 2010

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light;
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Excerpt from ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1849)

Happy Hogmanay all! Anybody have any exciting plans for tonight? I’m set to have my quietest New Year’s EVER! I’m not heading out anywhere, which’ll be the first time since I was a teenager, and neither am I going home to my Scottish mother’s house, which will actually probably end up madder than  any pub or party I’d have been going to anyway. It’ll always does between the crazy (in a good way) relatives and their wacky traditions. Instead I’m sitting in with himself, who’s all dosed up now too, and having a nice relaxing one. I’m rather looking forward to it, actually. Anyway, just wanted to wish you all the best for 2011 and let you know how wonderful it’s been getting to know you all over these past months. Here’s to another great year of blogging!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Little Late

Hi folks! How’re you all doing this evening? Still enjoying the festivities I hope. Sorry I’ve not been on here sooner to pass on season’s greetings and such things, and I’m even more sorry that I don’t actually have anything nice to share with you today either. I’ve been having a pretty vacant week, you see. I was lucky enough to have a lovely Christmas day, really lovely, but since Monday I’ve been laid up in bed with the winter flu. There seems to be a bit of an epidemic going around here since the thaw- which was pretty insane, I might add. One day last week it was -16C and in a matter of hours the temperature rose to +10C. Madness!

Anyway, I’m not going to complain too much as it’s the first time I’ve had the flu in years so I was kinda due a wee dose. Plus if there’s ever a week you want to be stuck indoors it’s this one- so many new books to read and cheesy films on TV.  It’s not very conducive to blogging though; not only have I been doing absolutely nothing and thus have nothing to chat to you all about, but also I didn’t even have the energy until today to turn my computer on so I’ve no quirky internet finds or links to share. All in all this a pretty pointless post really, except to say hello and to let you know that I haven’t abandoned the blog (heaven forbid!). Well, as I said, hope you all enjoying the rest this holiday week and for any fellow flu-zies out there just remember that a giant mug of hot whiskey and a couple of nurofen be the cure for all evils!*

*Please note that to be highly irresponsible and unsound medical advice, so if you’re probably better just ignoring it. Still, it makes you feel better! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

As If We Needed More Snow

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things,  but just look at what they can do when they stick together.”
Heard that quote somewhere the other day but I can’t remember where or who by… I suppose I could just Google it but I’m in the middle of baking attempt #2 and, to be totally honest, couldn’t be bothered. Anyway, I’m just stopping in quickly to share this great wee link for all those fellow procrastinators out there (let’s face it, if you’re reading this blog then you most certainly must have something better to be doing).  It’s a snowflake machine! I found it via the wonderful Black Journal last week and totally forgot about till I sat down for a cup of tea there. Give it a wee go, it’s great fun! I made loads of flakes when I first found it and copied and pasted them into Gimp to make textures and little pictures, like these three. They took about 15 minutes!  Well folks, hope you’re all having a relaxing, peaceful week. I’ll try to be back before Christmas but if not I wish you all the very merriest day!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Early Christmas Present!

 Two Winter Texture Trees
[Snow picture from last year, since it’s too cold and slippery to go out and take new ones!]

Hello folks! Hope you’re all having a great day and that you enjoyed the solstice yesterday. Did anyone see the eclipse? I was up bright and early myself but there was such a thick freezing fog all you could see here was a reddish tinge to the mist (which may just have been the sun rising now I think on it…) It would’ve been nice to have witnessed such a mystical event but ah well, there’s always next time. I think it’s supposed to occur again in around 80 years; the women in my family tend to live quite long though, so you never know. Something to aim for!

Anyway, I got some lovely news last night. I’d spent, no wasted, the evening baking a couple of things I’d never attempted before, which wasn’t the best idea since I’d planned on giving them out as gifts. I thought it would be grand since they were both simple looking recipes- peppermint creams and stained glass cookies- and to be honest they were really easy to make. They even seemed to turn out well too, looking exactly like in the pictures- which is why I wanted to make them in the first place, so pretty and festive!  Unfortunately they weren’t as pleasing to the taste buds as they were to the eye. The creams tasted more like toothpaste than sweets and the cookies lived up to their name as the ‘glass’ part in the middle was downright dangerous when bitten! I was all set to head off to bed in a foul mood until I went in and checked my emails. Instead I went to sleep with a smile on my face! It was all thanks to this girl, the most generous and wonderful Laura:

If you haven’t already crossed paths with Laura out there in the blogosphere,  let me give you a brief introduction. From the Pacific Northwest of the USA she is author of two of the most lovely blogs in the land- Gypsea Tree and Steam Spectre. The first is a little sanctuary of bohemian charm and inspiring wisdom, with pretty pictures to boot, while the latter is a must for anyone with a fondness for steampunk or Victoriana (which I imagine would be quite a lot of you!).  You’d think that would be enough to keep any girl busy, but not Laura who’s recently opened up a great wee Etsy shop called Gypsea Myth from which she sells her cosy knits with hand-crafted buttons. Like these: 

Aren’t they beautiful? And WARM! Just perfect for these artic conditions. Well folks, I’ve only gone and won one!  Yup, I think I’m the luckiest girl in blogland- every giveaway I enter I seem to win and each one more wonderful than the last! I even stopped commenting on giveaway posts for a while because I was feeling guilty about how lucky I’d been. That may sound weird but this is the first one I’d entered since the last time I’d won and look what happened! I don’t care that much though, I more excited than anything else. I’ve loved Laura’s knits since I first saw them and I’m over the moon to be getting one.  You really should go check out her shop, and her blogs. They were among the first ones I ever started following and really are not-to-be-missed. Plus she’ll be having another giveaway in a couple of months and you wouldn’t want to miss out!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Key To A Happy Life

Words of wisdom indeed. Just spotted that little plaque as I was sipping on a cuppa waiting for my bus yesterday and had to snap it to share with you. Here’s a pic of said cup too, just because I thought it was cute. I was in a lovely little old café by the station which I get the impression hasn’t changed  in decades, cups and all. I love places like that. 

Anyway,  what a difference 24 hours make. After all my smugness the last night about how organised and chilled out I was about the whole Christmas carry on, I’m now as stressed and frazzled as the next person. I didn’t even last the week! It’s all the snow’s fault too. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the stuff. Especially now when I’m at home all tucked up and cosy looking out on it’s magical brilliance and beauty.  But it didn’t bode well for the shopping yesterday.

There was already a good blanketing before I even set off in the morning, which to be honest I was quite selfishly pleased about. I don’t have a car and am well used to public transport, so all it really meant for me was that the shops were nice and quiet. There was none of the usual madness you’d expect at this time of year, which made for quite a pleasant and festive shopping experience. For a while. I hadn’t helped myself much by starting off in a book shop, going a bit overboard, and then having to lug my purchases around town all day (I’d forgotten to bring a backpack with me too; my arms are killing me today!). And then it started snowing again.

At first I got that usual thrill that always accompanies the sight of flakes falling and floating their way down from the sky. Ah, I love watching it tumble… I even get a little giddy when it’s snowing, probably a remnant from childhood when the longer it fell for the more chance there was for snowmen, sleighing and (most importantly) no school! The charm quickly wore off yesterday though when it went on and on and on. And on. It just kept getting heavier too and by the time I’d remembered that I actually HATE shopping and was making my way back to the bus it was about a foot thick on my head alone and all my paper bags were soggy and tearing apart.

It then took almost two hours to make the 30 minute journey home, while I sat there with the snow melting off me into a puddle on the floor. I’d my camera in my bag and amused myself by taking these snaps through the dirty bus window.  I know they’re dull and blurry but after running them through Poladroid I kinda like their retro feel. Plus, to me they really capture exactly how damp and dreary that ride home was.

Anyhow, to sum it up because I’m starting to drag on a bit here,  in the end my usual disorganisation shown through and when I reviewed the day’s work I realised I hadn’t got near to everything sorted out like I’d planned. That wouldn’t even be so bad if I thought I could get out of my house to get the rest of it finished, but now the snow’s stopped the freezing has begun and there’s going to be one giant block of ice on my front door in the morning. The same thing happened last week and the little laneway leading to our house became so slippery it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to walk on. So it looks like we could be stuck in here for the foreseeable future.

Any other time I wouldn’t even care but this is the one holiday when all those friends you haven’t seen since last year are back and when you really want to get out and have the craic. If things keep going as they are, though, I won’t be able to get up to the pub nor will they be able to call round for tea! And that’s if they actually get home; even if the airports manage to reopen, they’ll have a hard time traversing the bottle roads of Donegal. Do you know our local council have actually run out of salt? Seriously! Apparently they’re waiting on shipment from overseas but the boat it’s coming on is stuck in storms on the Mediterranean.  Don’t exactly know why they have to import salt to an island country, but that’s the modern world for you. For now the whole county is practically at a standstill and it’s promising to be a very quiet Christmas indeed. Oh snow, lovely as you are, please go away now. I want to see my friends!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Overplayed? Yup, but it still rocks!

So today I heard the song below for the first time of the season which, in our house as I’m sure in many others, means it’s now OFFICIALLY CHRISTMAS! I’m not religious and I’m as fed up with all the Xmas commercialism as the next person, but still, how can you help but love this time of year? It’s so sparkly and cosy and comforting.  And a wee bit stressful too I suppose, though I have to say I’m fairly chilled at the minute myself. I finally got the tree up yesterday and hopefully tomorrow I’ll get the last of my shopping done. Then all I’ve left is to finish/start making and baking the rest of my presents.  You could almost say I’m pretty organised for once. Ask me that again next week and you may get a very different answer, but for now all’s just warm and fuzzy. The snow even came back again after abandoning us for a few days! Sweet. Anyway, I hope you folks are all well and are having a lovely week. Me, I’m off back to being organised and stuff.(Which, incidentally, I've decided I rather enjoy and may even keep up into the new year. Maybe it really is the season of miracles!) 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reconnecting With an Old Love

Oh my! Has it really been a whole week since I last posted? I knew I was getting a bit slack here, but that’s a tad ridiculous.  The reason for my absence is equally pitiful too, so much so I even thought about inventing a more acceptable excuse to peddle. I couldn’t bring myself to lie to you lovely people though, so here’s a wee brief history to put my shameful story in context:
 Once upon a time, in the days before I discovered the wonderful realms of blogging, Flickring and Tumblring, I had another technological romance. My first true love in the computerized world- gaming. Yes folks, I was a bit of a gaming geek. In years gone by I would spend hours on end conquering ancient civilisations, exploring medieval castles, governing mega-cities, or building rollercoasters that would make your eyes pop out. It was everything a master procrastinator could wish for.

Over time this passion waned somewhat and I managed to wean myself off what I eventually came to regard as one of the most unconstructive pastimes imaginable. “They’re rotting your brain!” I’d chastise myself, “Go read a book instead!” And so it was that I was able to reclaim enough free time to pursue other endeavours such as this blog.  At least until this week, when, in a moment of weakness, I succumbed to my addiction once more and rekindled an old affair with possibly the greatest game this world has ever known- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. 
It was himself who’s to blame; he was wandering around the house one day humming the main motif from the game’s breathtaking soundtrack and the next thing I knew I was rummaging through my desk looking for the disc. Since then I’ve spent my evenings traversing the wild and varied landscape of Cyrodiil; visiting it’s walled cities, joining it’s guilds, foraging it’s woodland for rare fungi and elusive medicinal plants. I’m now as handy with a blade as I am masterful at all schools of magic; as good an armourer as an alchemist; and as devout an occultist as I am a pious pilgrim. Oh, just talking about it makes me want to cut this post short and get back to it!

No. I have to control myself! I wouldn’t mind only this will be my third  time playing it through. You’d think I’d have bored of it by now but nope, it really is that great. I can’t even use the auld ‘better off reading a book’ mindset to dissuade myself either, for Oblivion really is the closet you could ever come to actually living inside one. Honestly, the whole thing is like a well written and fully interactive fantasy novel. The story lines can change depending on the decisions you make too, and the virtual world is so vast and detailed it would take an eternity to tire of it.

Anyway, there you have it- the reason why I’ve been so anti-social online this past wee while. Pretty pathetic excuse really, isn’t it? Well at least I’ve recognised the problem now and can nip it in the bud. Wouldn’t want this particular obsession taking root again, especially not when I haven’t even started on the Christmas presents I’d planned on making. I’m extra poor this year and  really have to take the DIY route as far as I can; I’d bloody better get round to it! I’ve managed to gather up a list of other things-to-do a mile long over the past week too and catching up with all your blogs is high up there on it. So from Monday on there’ll be no more questing for me for a while.

For now, though, I need one last night with my cute but feisty little dark elf avatar. She’s sitting in there, all bored and lonely in my pc’s frozen memory banks, waiting for me to come and take her adventuring. How could I deny her one last outing when I’m going to be abandoning her for who knows how long? Poor wee thing… ;)

Well folks, hope you’re all having a lovely weekend and that it’s more productive then my own is promising to be. I leave you now with a short clip from the game’s intro, in case any of you wanted to get a little taster of what the hell I’ve been babbling about.  Or maybe you’re thinking about a gift for that gamer in your life? If you are then just make sure it’s someone you don’t want to see too often because if you buy them this they’ll likely disappear until July!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Your Five-A-Day, Crocheted!

Before I do anything today I really have to first say thank you so much for all your kind comments on my last post. With retrospect it really was all a bit whiney, so sorry too. Thanks and sorry! That’ll be the end of the medical chat for a while anyway, don’t worry.

Right, on to more pleasant subjects! Like these adorable crochet vegetables from Japanese artist jungjung. Maybe I’m a wee bit brain-dead today ’cause I’m finding it hard to put into words exactly why I love these delicate little beauties so much. They are just so cute and lovely!  Knowing they’re from Japan really adds to their appeal too, at least for me. There’s something about that country that has mesmerized me since childhood; their language, their culture, even just the fact their islands form the shape of a seahorse. Thinking on it, I’m surprised I don’t post more Japanese-related stuff here. A plan for the new year, me thinks!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Wee Bit of Snow, But Some Yucky Stuff Too

Hello! How’s everybody tonight then? I hope all you British Isle-anders are enjoying this unexpected winter wonderland. And to think just last week I was explaining to an American blog buddy that we never get snow at this time of year. In my face! It’s the best blanketing we’ve had for ages too; because we’re on the coast the salty air usually prevents us from getting more than an inch or two but at the minute there’s a good half foot of fluffy white powder out there. Just lovely!

It’s not so great if you have to go anywhere, though.  Yesterday I’d a hospital appointment for 11 o’clock and I had to leave at nine to make the normally 35 minute journey. Nightmare. I wasn’t too pleased with what my doctor had to say either. I was expecting to be told I needed another operation for  an ongoing complaint which was fine- the sooner I get ‘the thing’ sorted out once and for all the better. I remarked as such to my surgeon who just smiled pleasantly, however, and informed me not to get my hopes up as there’s a high probability I’ll need another two or three after the next one! It’s really rather depressing to be honest.

You’re probably wondering what ‘the thing’ is. I suppose it’s about time I did offer some sort of explanation, but I must warn the squeamish among you to look away now. This is a tale only for those with a morbid fascination for yucky medical things.  It’s also pretty boring, with lots of self pitying moaning, so feel free to stop reading now unless you need some help falling asleep.


Anyway, it all started last June when I got this sudden, excruciating pain in my lower back. When I say lower back, I mean my lower, lower back. As in the region which makes this a worthy case for that‘Embarrassing Bodies’ show on Channel 4. I’d absolutely no idea what it could be and when I went to my GP he told me that it was a form of muscle strain common in young women and to see a physio once the pain subsided. Fair enough?

Not exactly. As the week went on the pain became worse and worse rather than improving. By the weekend I was in so much agony I was actually screaming. I went back to my doctor who told me that was expected with the type of injury he thought I had and he gave me a painkilling injection. The relief lasted for about 15 minutes. That night I started throwing up and by the time Sunday morning came I had a fever so bad I was seeing things. I couldn’t even keep a sip of water down. Himself was away that week for his brother’s stag do,  he was the best man, and I really didn’t want to ring and worry him so I tried to ride it out. By the time he got home the next night, though, I knew it was time to go to the hospital.

It turns out I didn’t have muscle strain at all, it was something called an ‘ischiorectal abscess’. It’s similar to pilonidal disease, which I hear is quite common, though it’s occurs in a slightly different place and while pilonidal abscesses are caused by ingrowing hairs mine was caused by a normally unproblematic defect I have with my tail bone (technically I don’t have one).  Apparently these things these things are torturously painful though not too serious if treated, but because my one had been left to develop for so long the poison in the infected area had spread into my bloodstream and given me sepsis.

I had emergency surgery that night and spent over a week in hospital being pumped full of so many antibiotics and pain relief some of the veins in my arm packed in. The wound from the operation was so large and they’d cut away so much flesh that it couldn’t be stitched up so I was left with a huge gaping hole, inches wide and deep. Getting it dressed was almost as painful as the abscess itself had been and I was even given a can of Entonox (gas they give women in labour) for when they were working on it. I’ve actually been told that it’s worse than childbirth, and had this verified by one of my nurses who’d had the same thing herself as well as having two children.

After that I had twice then once daily home visits from the district nurse for several months. When I went back to the hospital for a check up I was told it was healing well, and for a while it all seemed grand. It never really went away though and I’ve since developed a ‘sinus’ which is basically a tunnel from the original source of the infection onto the surface of the skin. It carries all the badness away, from what I gather. In reality what it means is that I get a mini-episode of the agony from the first abscess about twice a month. It sort of swells up and gets sorer and sorer for a few days until it bursts, which releases the pressure and relieves the pain. It’s never quite as bad as the initial uber abscess, but it still hurts. A lot.  So much so that when it flares up it makes sitting/walking/lying/doing-anything-except-standing-completely-still very, very sore and uncomfortable.

This has been going on for over a year now, so you can see why I’m anxious to get it sorted. I knew the operation that I’m due to have in the new year would involve much of the same as last time- open wound,  regular agonising dressings, months of recuperation- but I was taking solace in the fact that once that was all over and done with I’d never have to think of it again. But nooooo. I’ve that bloody surgeon yesterday stuck in my head, sitting smiling that smile of pity and knowing: “I’m sorry to tell you, but it can often take several operations to completly excise the infection. Until then it’s just going to keep coming back.’ Thanks doc, you’ve cheered me right up.  You never know, he’s probably wrong anyway. Doctors get it wrong all the time, sure that’s how I ended up in this situation in the first place!

Well folks, sorry to any of you who actually made it this far. I really didn’t mean to write so much, once I started it just sorted of all came out. Do you know I’ve never actually explained any of this to most of the people I know? It’s quite embarrassing, not your run-of-the-mill appendicitis or what not. I usually just say I’ve a back injury or something, rather than explain the pain in the ass it actually is! It’s been rather therapudic letting it all out though. Thanks for listening and I hope I didn’t put any of you off your tea!
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