Ornaments, as promised

I've seen a couple of things crocheted with wire recently, so I thought I would experiment with crocheting a mini wreath out of garden wire.
It's ok, but not as sweet as these mini wreaths made by my kids (ages 5 and 3) using buttons. I tied the bows for them. There's a tutorial on Martha Stewart's site.
Then I knocked out some wee felt ornaments (just two pieces of felt sewn together) to fill up the tree a bit.
We might have enough to fill the tree with handmade ornaments, once the previous years' efforts are thrown on, too.
Hopefully my husband won't come home early from work tonight, as I treated myself to some mince pies and now I'm in the mood to start putting up the decorations. I might even get around to baking the Christmas Cake this weekend.
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Whoa. I'm scaring myself now. This is not my usual procrastinating style. I'd better slow down before I start saying crazy things like "and then I'll write my Christmas cards so that they get to the UK on time"...
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Some good news about Diego: an x-ray has shown some improvement in his lungs. The bad news is that it looks like it is illegal to have an online raffle in California, so I'm going back to the drawing board for ideas.
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Translation of the day:
UK English: Mince pie = a sweet pie served at Christmas that contains mincemeat. Way back when, it used to be a spiced meat pie, containing some fruit, hence the name. These days it's just dried fruit and suet. Not a ground meat pie. Very tasty. I just had two.
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I had better get going: my husband came home early. *Sigh*

Hopefully she'll be a better cook than I am

My husband has already started asking me when he can use the computer to play his bloomin' computer game and I only logged on two minutes ago...
We just got back from my niece's 6th birthday party. Here's the wee apron I knocked out to go with the cooking for kids book that we gave her. Don't look too closely: I was still working on it an hour before the party was due to begin, so it's not the best topstitching I've ever done...

It's reversible - cupcakes on one side, pink squares on the other. I'm going to make a similar one for another niece, although I'm thinking of making a couple of changes to my basic idea. It was a nice and easy project, though. Hm, I wonder for how much longer my son will be willing to model pink aprons for my blog?
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The good news is that the smoky haze has cleared (I don't know who suffers more, the stir-crazy kids or me being stuck in the house with stir-crazy kids) and the weather is cooling off a little around here. I can finally wear jeans instead of shorts. It's still hard to get in the mood for the holidays when I don't even need a jumper (sweater) yet, though.

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The kids and I did sit down yesterday to make some ornaments (I'll show you next time) so hopefully things will start feeling more festive around here soon. I think I'll start decorating soon after Thanksgiving. I need some physical reminder that Christmas is fast approaching if I'm going to get started on Christmas present making...
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Translation of the day:
My sister-in-law's sister reminded me of this one today:
UK English: fag = cigarette in US English
UK English: faggot = a kind of meatball or a bundle of sticks in US English
US English: faggot (and the shortened form 'fag') = disparaging term for a homosexual man
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British folk tend to know the American translation, so this is more for the benefit of the Americans amongst you, so that you don't get offended when Brits 'pop outside for a fag' or offer you faggots for dinner...
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The bad news: one of the recent updates my friend posted on the site about 5 year old Diego: "Sorry I did not update yesterday. We needed to speak with family first. Diego may have some pneumonia but the main problem is the tumors in his chest have grown considerably. We have had some tough choices to make and for now we are going to continue fighting. He continues to have high fevers, heart rate and respiration. I will update when I can."
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I've been wanting to do something for them, besides occasionally subjecting them to my awful cooking. I am considering making a fabric dollhouse and doing some sort of online raffle for it to raise some money to go in the non-profit fund, but when I have contacted paypal for more details on the fees and charges that would be made against (hopefully) lots of small online payments, they have only sent an impersonal reply requiring that I have a paypal account and link my question to that account. I was wondering if any of you have had much experience with using paypal - or other forms - to receive payments, especially low monetary value ones. My e-mail address is over there on the left, if you want to contact me directly. Would people even be interested in winning one?
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Any other ideas would also be welcome. How any parent endures what they are going through, I don't know.
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Take care.

Aeroplanes and airplanes

Hello. Did you ever watch the Terminator movies? Remember how the machine became self-aware, decided that humans were a threat and decided to exterminate them? Do you think it's overly-paranoid on my part to wonder if my computer has become self-aware and then decided to just have some fun at my expense, just for giggles?
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My e-mail has gone a little nutty. People aren't always getting my messages, I'm not always getting theirs. When I have had a spare few minutes online, my feed reader has displayed a lovely colourful design and told me that service is temporarily unavailable - yet, when I am too busy to check it, it opens right up. Yahoo groups keeps teasing me that nothing is new, even when I know that is a downright lie. Even my new mouse likes to randomly highlight things and delete them - it double clicks on everything. Oh, and my camera battery charger died.
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That's the one complaint I have about my camera: you can not just buy a ready-charged battery for it at a shop. However, if you do live in Southern California, I definitely recommend buying a Nikon. After days of frantically searching for a receipt while envisioning my camera parts getting lost in the post (and ordering my kids not to do anything cute or clever while I was unable to record it) I found out that their repair facility is in El Segundo (by LAX). It was rather nice to just swing by and have a lovely lass just hand me a new charger on the spot. Thank you, Nikon.
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That doesn't completely excuse my lack of blog posting, but I haven't had much time this week. I've been holding wee babes, for starters. My newborn niece came to town for a visit and, remember those inconsiderate in-laws that weren't finding out the sex of their baby? They had their baby and it is another new niece for me. I hadn't realised how long it had been since I had last held a tiny baby - still, it's quite reassuring that I didn't get any daft ideas about wanting more kids...
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So blanket #3 is now cast on. Blanket #2 (for the nephew due early next year) just needs a border. I'm about to start the second of the two dollhouses that I'm making for others. I'm thinking of ideas for a couple of Christmas presents. But all I have to show you is my guilty pleasure: a scarf I'm knitting for myself, just because I felt like doing some knitting. The stitch pattern is from the boyfriend scarf in Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Book found at my local library, which was rather surprising, as I had thought that they had a policy of no craft books published since the bad 1970s hair days...

My camera is working, but new pictures will have to wait. The orange hazy glow from the sun is drenching everything, the air hurts to breathe, and the ash is floating down slowly like tiny snowflakes. I hope these recent wildfires are extinguished soon, without any loss of life.
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Translation of the day:
I usually try to avoid using certain words, in an attempt to stop this blog appearing in the results of dodgy google searches for distinctly non-craft-related sites. But these translations wouldn't be much use if I didn't at least make a feeble attempt to prevent you from making some rather embarrassing remarks to your neighbours on the opposite side of the Atlantic.
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For instance, when my American cousin visited us in England many years ago and playfully asked his 2 year old daughter 'where is your fanny?' , he probably was expecting a few gentle chuckles when his daughter put her head between her knees to look for it. Instead there was silence and a few worried looks being exchanged between the English company present.
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UK English: fanny = um, female body part, um, that begins with 'v', um, (still trying to avoid those google search results) female genitalia (clear now??)
US English: fanny = bum or buttocks in UK English
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In case you were wondering, no, the British do not call those wee pouch bags 'fanny packs'- we call them 'bum bags'.
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And if we were naming a plane, this probably wouldn't be a name we would chose:
And if we did, we wouldn't add a picture of a wee pig-tailed girl, unless we wanted the local police to suddenly be very interested in our whereabouts...
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Take care all.

Na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na

Batman!
and Robin!It's my little Dynamic Duo all dressed up for Hallowe'en.I really was lucky with finding fabric on sale for these 2 costumes - together they only ended up costing about $5, if you include the mask bought for 98 cents a few years back. I love it when the things that you are making are so tiny that you only need a quarter of a yard for a pair of shorts and sleeves. Actually, make that $6 - I did need to buy a new spool of black thread. Please don't look too closely at the pictures - they're designed to only last the one night...
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I did go into a little bit more detail than I had planned, though, as unfortunately my kids got hold of the pictures that I was using for inspiration. Suddenly I was getting all sorts of instructions and opinions, such as how the spikes on the arms were an essential part of the costume etc. Still, I saved some money, had two happy kids AND they lasted the night (which was actually touch and go - I used some bias tape handed down to me by my grandmother-in-law. I don't know how old the stuff was, but it was starting to disintegrate even as I sewed. Thank goodness it held itself together...)
I was a little nervous when my son bumped into other Batmans (batmen?) last night. I did wonder, is he going to look at their costumes, with their muscles and cool lines, and start thinking that he would have preferred one like that? But it turned out that he was pretty chuffed with his costume. Maybe I've got another year to go before my kids think the store-bought ones are cooler.
Here's our little jack-o'-lanterns. It turns out that those wee pumpkin carving saws, that you can buy at the supermarket for 50 cents the day before Hallowe'en, are wonder tools. Oh my, I'll never use vegetable knives / saws / steak knives / pen knives (pocket knives) / blunt butter knives again. I might even try a more interesting design next year, too
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Translation of the day:
UK English: chuffed = happy with, pleased, satisfied in US English
Make sure that you use the correct tense - it has all sorts of meanings when used without the '-ed' on the end...
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PS. Pictures taken indoors with bad lighting thanks to the rain - that only lasted the 5 bloomin' minutes that I was taking photos...

Diego

I feel a little nervous about tempting fate, but I know several families that go through so much hardship, that, when I'm having a rough day, I can always think of them and realise how lucky I am.
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Overnight lives can change, and just like that, your main purpose in life can change to that of a caretaker, researcher and advocate, all while dealing with your worst fears that you might - or will - lose a loved one.
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I lost an uncle to MND (Lou Gehrig's disease) back when I left for the States. I've already mentioned my little cousin that died recently. One of my in-laws had to have several brain surgeries about 4 years ago, that left her with balance and fine motor skills problems (ie. she can not walk unaided and things like writing or knitting are a struggle). A friend has a child with Angelman syndrome. Even my own parents had to deal with a child with TB (fully recovered now). The list goes on and on. And, of course, there's my friend whose child has cancer.
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Not only have they had to fight disease and illness, I've also had to watch them fight to get the resources that they need, the care that they need, the therapies that they need - and I keep wondering, why hasn't anyone made it easier? Why should a family going through this type of nightmare have to worry about anything other than their loved one? Especially here in the States, where we pay so much into health insurance, yet, without fail, everyone that I know that has needed care above and beyond the usual, has had to make multiple calls to their insurance to try to get it.
There's a paragraph or two in my sidebar about Diego. He's the 4 year old boy who has been fighting cancer since 2006. It did come back this year and he had to have his arm amputated. Then it showed up in his lungs and he also had to have yet another surgery this month to remove tumours in his brain. The great news is that a recent chest x-ray shows that the chemo is working!
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The not-so-great news is that their insurance officially denied their treatment at that hospital, telling them that they are responsible for a bill that is, at last count, $55,000. This is a family that has been careful with money - they bought a house that they could afford, taking a loan that was $100,000 less than what they qualified for, they do not have car payments - they own their cars, they go camping for their vacations.
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I'm a worrier. We've had unexpected car repair bills this year and ended up getting our bathroom redone, as the plumbing and electrical work had to be done anyway. What with the higher food prices, petrol (gas) prices and our utility bills all increasing their rates lately, I've been worrying about money being a little tight around here lately. But that pales in comparison to getting the news that you are responsible for a $55,000 bill - on top of all the other expenses that this disease has cost them.
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nb. His mum has finally been convinced to set up a non-profit fund to help with medical costs. I'll have no idea if any of you do donate, so there certainly isn't any pressure here, but just in case you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, the info is over there in the sidebar, as is a link to his caringbridge website, that his mum keeps updated with his progress.
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My daughter might have scribbled over my mantlepiece with a crayon, I might be putting off visiting the dentist until my savings account looks a little healthier, it might be quite a while before we can get the money together for a visit home, but I know how lucky I am.